Pharmacist Vs. Physician Assistant

The work pharmacists and physician assistants do is complementary because pharmacists will dispense the medications physician assistants prescribe. Their primary duties are very different, however. Read on to learn more about how these healthcare careers differ.

Comparing Pharmacists to Physician Assistants

Pharmacists and physician assistants both work in healthcare and both may provide medical information to patients, but most of their general duties are different. Pharmacists usually work in pharmacies or research facilities and help develop drugs or educate people about the medicine they're taking. Physician assistants provide care for patients with all types of medical issues and may set broken bones, assist with surgeries or prescribe medication to patients who are ill.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Pharmacists Doctor of Pharmacy $122,230 6%
Physician Assistants Master's degree $101,480 37%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Pharmacists vs. Physician Assistants

Pharmacists specialize in the medications used to treat diverse illnesses and issues, while physician assistants help physicians diagnose and treat patients. Pharmacists are usually responsible for preparing prescriptions. They explain to patients how to take medication, and they also check the patient's records to make sure the patient can take the medication safely. Physician assistants look after people who are ill or injured and provide medical treatment for their issues. They work under the supervision of a physician and are able to diagnose and treat issues of a limited scope.

On a basic level, pharmacists and physician assistants are both responsible for the care they provide to their patients. They may both be involved with educating patients about health issues and giving patients immunizations. Both pharmacists and physician assistants have to maintain records related to their work.


Pharmacists typically work in pharmacies, retail stores or hospitals, and they may work daytime, evening and weekend shifts. They are required to have a doctoral degree in their field and to be licensed. They work with medications and ensure that prescriptions are accurately filled. Pharmacists who work in medical facilities are more likely to provide care directly to patients by determining what medications patients should receive. Those who work in the pharmaceutical industry may focus on producing new medications, overseeing clinical trials or marketing existing products.

Job responsibilities of a pharmacist include:

  • Vaccinating patients
  • Reviewing patient records to identify potential drug interactions
  • Educating patients about how to take their medication
  • Providing general health advice to patients
  • Filing insurance paperwork
  • Ordering stock when needed

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants perform many of the same duties as medical doctors. They are responsible for providing health care and treatment to patients. They may also need to confer with medical doctors in some cases to comply with medical treatment regulations. In order to become a physician assistant, it's necessary to earn a master's degree in this field. Physician assistants must also be licensed. They commonly work in doctors' offices, hospitals and medical clinics. Work schedules may vary depending on their place of employment, and it's common for physician assistants to have to work shifts any time of day or night, any day of the year.

Job responsibilities of a physician assistant include:

  • Talking to patients about their symptoms
  • Reviewing medical records
  • Referring patients for medical tests
  • Determining a diagnosis and treatment plan
  • Assisting with surgical procedures
  • Prescribing medications

Related Careers

Those considering a career as a pharmacist may also be interested in applying their knowledge to the research and development of medical treatments, while those thinking about being physician assistants may want to consider the benefits of completing a medical degree and becoming a medical doctor. Learn more about these other career options through the information linked to here.

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