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Pharmacy Assistant

Education and Training: High school; proficiency in mathematics, reading, and spelling
Average Salary: $9.66 per hour
Job Outlook: Good

Pharmacy assistants work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and are responsible for providing a variety of services in a pharmacy. Pharmacy assistants help pharmacists in providing medication and healthcare to the patients. They perform various clerical tasks and prepare the prescribed medication for patients.
Pharmacy assistants might even work as cashiers in certain retail pharmacies. They are responsible for answering phones, performing clerical functions, and handling money. In a hospital setup, pharmacy assistants are required to deliver medication to patients. They are also required to stock shelves in certain pharmacies.
Other tasks performed by pharmacy assistants include packaging and labeling units of medication for distribution to hospitals and authorized locations, coordinating the distribution of medical supplies, sorting and stocking pharmaceutical products, and sterilizing prescription bottles and containers. Pharmacy assistants are also required to type labels for prescriptions.

Education and Training Requirements

Pharmacy assistants need to complete their high school education. They should be proficient in mathematics, spelling, and reading. They need to have a strong background in chemistry and health education.
Some organizations prefer candidates having an associate’s degree in pharmacy technology or a one-year pharmacy certificate program.
Prior experience in operating cash register, interacting with customers, using computers, operating special equipments, and managing inventory is recommended. Pharmacy assistants are trained on-the-job. This training typically lasts less than 3 months.

Getting the Job

Pharmacy assistants need to be honest, detail-oriented, and alert. They need to be highly organized, dexterous, and observant. The nature of job is very monotonous. Therefore, they should have the patience to perform repetitive tasks accurately.
Pharmacy assistants need to have good interpersonal skills as they need to interact with healthcare staff and patients on a regular basis. They also need to be good team players as they need to work under the guidance of pharmacists. Pharmacy assistants need to be self-motivated and should be able to perform the tasks assigned without constant supervision.
To get a job as a pharmacy assistant, it is helpful to have knowledge of pharmaceutical terminology and commonly-used symbols. They need to be able to follow oral and written instructions.
It is important to note that pharmacy assistants should not have prior records of drug or substance abuse.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for pharmacy assistants are moderate. With an increase in the middle-aged and elderly population, who are dependent on prescription drugs, the requirement for pharmacy assistants will continue to increase. Moreover, with pharmacy assistants taking over some of the duties of pharmacists and technicians, the employment opportunities for pharmacy assistants will increase.
With experience, additional qualifications, and certifications, pharmacy assistants can move over to supervisory roles. The more motivated ones can pursue higher education to get trained as pharmacists.

Working Conditions and Environment

Pharmacy assistants work in clean, well-lit, and organized pharmacies. They need to stand for long hours and might be required to work under stressful conditions. They often need to climb ladders to retrieve supplies, and lift heavy boxes. Pharmacy assistants might be required to work in shifts spanning evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.

Salary and Benefits

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wages for pharmacy assistants were $9.66 in May 2008. This figure might vary depending on experience, educational qualifications, and the type of organization. An experienced pharmacy assistant can even get $14.26 per hour.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
7272 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 657-3000

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
2215 Constitution Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20037-2985
(800) 363-8012

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine