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How Do I Become a Pharmacy Assistant?

Research what it takes to become a pharmacy assistant. Learn about job duties, education requirements and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Pharmacy Assistant?

A pharmacy assistant is also known as a pharmacy aide. Under the supervision of a pharmacist, they might help prepare medications by measuring out the prescribed amounts, packing them and labeling them. Pharmacy assistants also stock medicines and alert the pharmacist when supplies are low. They also serve customers directly, taking down their information and accepting payment for prescriptions. In addition, pharmacy technicians do clerical work like answering phone calls and processing insurance reimbursements.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a pharmacy assistant.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Answer phones; operate cash register and serve customers; stock shelves
Job Growth (2018-2028) -12%*
Median Salary (2018) $26,450*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Skills Do I Need to Become a Pharmacy Assistant?

Pharmacy assistants juggle the logistics of a pharmacy, so potential employers may take your organizational and computer skills into consideration. Previous experience in customer service, inventory, operating a cash register or volunteering in a healthcare setting may help prepare you to work in a pharmacy.

You may also need a basic knowledge of computers for processing prescriptions, inventory and insurance information. Language skills and attention to detail are essential for communicating with customers, answering calls and processing clerical work. Your job may also include doing many vital tasks without error, such as making labels for medications and checking expiration dates.

What Level of Education and Training Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you may only need a high school diploma for this position (www.bls.gov). Once hired, you might begin by shadowing an experienced staff member. You will most likely receive on-the-job training, which the BLS notes can last 3-12 months, to introduce you to the pharmacy rules, procedures and technology.

Where Can I Work?

Part-time and full-time jobs can be found in pharmacies or other healthcare settings, but the BLS reported that health and personal care stores accounted for about majority of the pharmacy aides positions in 2018. You may be required to work nights, weekends and holidays. If you work at a hospital, you may need to work overnight shifts. The BLS predicted a 12% decline in employment for pharmacy aides from 2018-2028.

What Duties Might I Have?

Pharmacy assistants focus on answering phones, stocking shelves and operating the register. Your duties can also include logging, storing and restocking medicine. You may spend much of the day on your feet, lifting boxes or helping locate supplies.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are looking for a healthcare job where you get to interact with patients more directly, you could consider becoming a nursing assistant. In this occupation, you would work at a hospital or long-term health facility, helping patients with basic daily activities, taking vital signs and sometimes dispensing medications. Alternatively, you could get a job as a medical secretary. Like pharmacy assistants, medical secretaries perform essential clerical duties and ensure proper insurance claims processing. They need to get a high school diploma in order to work, but completing a postsecondary certificate program can boost job prospects.