Pharmaceutical Assistant: Salary, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pharmaceutical assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certifcations to find out if this is the career for you.

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Medications save lives and improve the quality of life for people every day, and as a pharmaceutical assistant, you'll be a part of that work. Although you can get started right out of high school, it's advisable to complete specialized training through a college or university program, in order to improve your job prospects. You may also need professional certification to work as a pharmacy technician.

Essential Information

Pharmaceutical assistants, including aides and technicians, work under a licensed pharmacist in a variety of medical and healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes or retail pharmacies. Depending on the position, responsibilities range from customer service duties to mixing and dispensing medication. Several schools offer certificate training programs to help a graduate launch a career as a pharmaceutical assistant.

Education Requirements High school diploma for pharmacy aides; college training for pharmacy technicians
Other Requirements Professional certification for pharmacy technicians
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for pharmacy technicians; 0% for pharmacy aides*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $30,410 for pharmacy technicians; $24,450 for pharmacy aides*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmaceutical Assistant Education Requirements

Generally, pharmaceutical assistants require only a high school diploma to enter the field, though several states require registration of pharmaceutical technicians. Employers often prefer to hire technicians with previous experience in pharmacology, formal education or professional certification. Pharmaceutical aides have fewer requirements and often learn skills on the job.

Most pharmaceutical assistant educational programs offered through colleges and universities confer a certificate of completion to graduates. Classes may usually be completed in 1-2 full-time semesters. Programs may focus solely on pharmacy procedures, training students to enter the profession as a pharmaceutical aide. Others also incorporate training on drug identification and classification, basic chemistry, medication control practices and dispensary procedures. Students may participate in practical training through on-site experience in a local pharmacy.

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Pharmaceutical Assistant Job Duties

Pharmaceutical aides typically perform the administrative functions of a pharmacy, including updating patient records, answering telephones and stocking inventory. In a public setting, pharmaceutical aides may be responsible for assisting customers, cash handling and filing. Preparing and submitting insurance forms and claims may also fall under the duties of an aide.

Pharmaceutical technicians perform many of the functions of a pharmacist, but all work must be approved by a licensed pharmacist. Technicians may be responsible for receiving, preparing and packaging prescribed medications for patients. In addition to counting and weighing medicinal tablets, powders and liquids, technicians may also be required to mix pharmaceuticals and other drugs. Additional duties may include labeling, pricing and sorting patient prescriptions for authorization and distribution.

Pharmaceutical Assistant Regulations

Pharmaceutical aides typically do not require state-mandated licensure, certification or registration. However, many states do regulate technician positions. Professional certification, while optional, may increase a technician's employment opportunities and demonstrates a worker's proficiency. Pharmaceutical assistants may also be required to submit to background check prior to certification or employment.

Pharmaceutical Assistant Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that pharmacy technicians earned a median annual salary of $30,410 in 2015. The majority of workers were employed through retail health and drugstores, though the highest paid worked for the federal government. The BLS projected a 9% increase in pharmaceutical technician jobs between 2014-2024, which is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations (www.bls.gov).

As a pharmaceutical assistant, where you work and what your responsibilities are will depend entirely on how much training you complete. Those who earn a certificate and become a technician perform duties that more closely mirror those of a pharmacist, while pharmacy aides generally undertake more customer service tasks. Jobs are available in retail pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, and job growth for pharmacy technicians is predicted to grow by 9% from 2014-2024.

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