Pharmacy Technician vs. Medical Records Coding: Which Career is Right for You?

Boxing gloves with pharmacy and records icons 

So you’ve been thinking about a career in the growing healthcare industry. You’ve heard that certain fields are booming and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Perhaps you want to get in the game as quickly as possible and are looking for a way to complete your education in two years or less.

In an effort to answer your burning questions, we profiled two career paths that are growing fast and dominating the job postings: pharmacy technician and medical records coding. The best part about both of these careers is that you can be qualified to do both in two years.

If you are deciding between these two in-demand careers, here’s what you need to know.

Pharm tech vs. medical coding: education and certification required

There is no national requirement for pharmacy technician certification but many employers lean toward candidates that studied in formal programs. The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) through AHIMA for medical records requires completion of an accredited diploma or six months of experience.

Bottom line: A certificate or diploma will be enough to get you started in either field. You can set yourself apart from the competition by completing an industry-recognized certificate for a pharmacy technician or complete an accredited medical coding program that will prepare you for the CCA exam.

Pharm tech vs. medical coding: Job duties and location

Pharmacy technicians have some face-time. They take customer orders but also work behind the scenes to manage the distribution of medication and collate information about each patient. Medical records coding and billing experts work more behind the scenes. They work primarily with the processing of records as opposed to spending time interacting with patients.

Bottom line:When making a choice between these two careers, think about the amount of time you want to spend interacting with people. A career as a pharmacy technician may be better for you if you like to be out front interacting with your community. On the other hand, if you prefer less interaction with people and like to focus more on computer software and solving logistical problems you may be better off pursuing a career in medical records coding.

Pharm tech vs. medical coding: Skills needed

Pharmacy technicians:
  • Prescription filling
  • Scheduling
  • Mathematics
  • Patient care
  • Packaging
Medical records coding and billing:
  • Medical coding
  • Health information technology
  • ICD-9-CM coding
  • Medical records
  • Health information

Bottom line: Job postings for pharmacy technicians indicate more soft skills focused on patients such as scheduling and patient care. Medical records job skills weigh heavier on the specific industry knowledge needed for medical coding and health information.

Pharm tech vs. medical coding: Median salary and career outlook

Pharmacy technicians make an average of $29,320 and the industry is expected to grow by more than 29 percent through 2020. Medical records coding and billing experts make an average salary of $34,160 with industry growth projected as high as 28 percent through 2020.

Bottom line: Both careers are expected to have above-average growth for the foreseeable future. Your decision between the two careers can be based on the best fit for you with regard to education, location and skills.

Pharm tech vs medical coding: Making your decision

Now that you have all the information in front of you, take a look at which career is the best fit for your individual skills, personality and lifestyle. If you see yourself working hands-on with customers go the route of pharmacy technician; but if you want to stay behind the scenes, medical coding is your calling.

If neither of these options is the right fit, check out the Rasmussen College healthcare career outlook for additional help on finding the best fit for you in the growing medical industry.

You’ve got the material you need, now start taking the steps toward your future!

*Source: (analysis of 31,375 pharmacy technician job openings and 67,440 medical records and health information technician job openings, Sept.1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013)

Katy Katz

Katy is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys creating engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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