The career of a pharmacy assistant has no formal entry requirements and can offer individuals a fulfilling workplace to assist in improving public health. These professionals have a varied role in helping various aspects of the running of a pharmacy, working as a member of a team to provide the optimal care to patients through the provision of medications and relevant advice.
A pharmacy assistant works as a member of the pharmacy staff team under the management and direction of a registered pharmacist. Their working environment of a pharmacy assistant is inside a pharmacy.
There are many different tasks and responsibilities that a pharmacy assistant may be expected to do as a part of their role. These include:
- Taking in prescriptions to be processed by a pharmacist
- Handing out medications to patients
- Assisting in the dispensing process
- Generating stock lists and medicine labels
- Ordering new stock and pharmacy items
- Receiving and putting away deliveries
- Answering questions and concerns of patients
- Delivering medications to other health centers
- Offering advice and suggestions for over-the-counter medications
- Packing, assembling and labeling medications
- Manufacturing medicines that are not ready-made
- Referring patient questions to the pharmacist
An individual suitable for working as a pharmacy assistant is likely to have good people skills and be able to communicate effectively with others, as this is a prominent feature of their role.
Common characteristics of pharmacy assistants include:
- Attention to detail
- Ability to understand medical law and guidelines
- Follows instructions as directed
- Interest in health
Pharmacy assistants should also have good literacy, numeracy and information technology (IT) skills, as these are essential for their daily tasks.
Education and experience requirements
There are no specific entry requirements that must be met in order for an individual to practice as a pharmacy assistant. However, there are educational programs to prepare individuals to work as a pharmacy assistant, which may give people a competitive edge in the workplace.
Some pharmacies may require a certificate of high school qualification completion. Additionally, some pharmacies may prioritize relevant work experience in a customer service role, as the skills are largely transferable to a pharmacy assistant position.
Training and development
A member of the pharmacy team usually gives a new pharmacy assistant the training they require to practice. As such, most assistants learn the health guidelines, how to use the IT systems and the appropriate patient interaction skills when on the job.
As they gain more work experience, they may learn more about the medicines dispensed in the pharmacy and help the pharmacist with more complex tasks, such as the manufacturing and dispensing of medications.
Depending on the country of practice, there are various levels of recognized education levels and qualifications of pharmacy assistants.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all pharmacy technicians in 2015 was $30,410 and the median hourly rate was $14.62.
Employment opportunities for pharmacies are increasing, and there is expected to be an increase of 9% in available positions from 2014 to 2024. This above-average increase is largely linked to the aging population and greater reliance on medications in most developed nations.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)