Retail Pharmacy Assistant: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a retail pharmacy assistant, also known as a pharmacy technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Retail Pharmacy Assistant?

A retail pharmacy assistant is a pharmacy aide who works for a licensed pharmacist in a drug store, grocery store, department store or other general retail setting performing administrative tasks. These tasks include answering phones, accepting prescriptions to be filled, inputting insurance information and ringing up prescriptions. You may also update patient records, stock shelves, unpack deliveries and label medications. See the table below for more information about entering this career field.

Degree RequiredH.S. diploma or GED at minimum; postsecondary education options include certificates, diplomas and associate's degrees
Education Field of StudyPharmacy aide
Key SkillsInterpersonal, ability to follow directions, computer literacy, administrative
CertificationCertification or registration is typically required; this varies by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)0.3% for pharmacy aides*
Median Salary (2015)$24,450*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Retail Pharmacy Assistant Do?

This position can require working weekend and evening hours. You'll need to be able to stand for long periods of time, and you'll need good communication skills and a personable demeanor in order to deal with customers. You will assist a licensed pharmacist in taking patient prescriptions, updating patient records on the computer, ringing up prescription sales, and answering phones. You may stock shelves, label medications, and unpack deliveries.

What Are the Training Requirements?

Retail pharmacy assistants often have no postsecondary education and learn the skills they need on the job; however, the requirements for this career are determined by each state's board of pharmacy. Generally, you'll need to have a high school diploma or GED and have a clean criminal record. Some states will require you to pass an exam and pay a fee to register with the board of pharmacy, while other states mandate that you to complete a formal training program. Pharmacy boards, as well as employers, can also require that pharmacy aides obtain certification from the National Healthcare Association or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

What Are My Formal Training Options?

Many 2-year colleges offer certificate and diploma programs specifically for aspiring pharmacy assistants. You can generally complete a pharmacy technology program within one year. Classes often cover topics like anatomy and physiology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacology and dispensing principles. You'll also complete a practicum that allows you to gain experience working under a licensed pharmacist. Additionally, some schools offer 2-year associate's degree programs in this major, which require you to complete a more extensive core of pharmacy technology courses in addition to general education courses.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

The demand for pharmacy aides is expected to grow by 0.3% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate of growth is faster than average. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for pharmacy assistants was $35,745 as of 2017. Pharmacy assistants who work for healthcare facilities may earn higher wages.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in administrative work in the healthcare field, you might also think about becoming a medical secretary. Like pharmacy assistants, these workers perform basic clerical tasks, like answering phones, and they also handle billing and insurance claims processing. Alternatively, you might be interested in becoming a dispensing optician, a job where you would help fit clients with eyeglasses and choose frames and contact lenses. To become a medical secretary or dispensing optician, you need to have earned a high school diploma, but a postsecondary certificate may improve your job prospects.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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