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Retail Pharmacy Assistant: Job & Career Information

Mar 26, 2019

Retail pharmacy assistants are also known as pharmacy technicians, and they aid pharmacists in retail grocery and drug stores by filling prescriptions sent in by physicians. Learn about the training, skills, salary and employment outlook to see if this is the job for you.

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Career Definition for a Retail Pharmacy Assistant

Pharmacy assistants who work in retail settings frequently receive prescriptions via phone, fax or email. They count or measure pharmaceuticals to fill the prescriptions; label them with the appropriate contents, instructions and warnings; and consult with pharmacists before dispensing the medications to patients. Retail pharmacy assistants also complete office tasks, including filing, communicating with insurance companies and keeping records. They are always supervised by pharmacists, and the tasks they are legally able to complete vary according to state laws.

Education Pharmacy technician programs available in vocational schools and community colleges
Job Skills Quick learning, typing, outgoing, teamwork
Median Salary (2017)* $29,860 (in food and beverage stores), $29,500 (in pharmacies and drug stores), $31,320 (in general merchandise stores)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 12% for pharmacy technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A career in retail pharmacy assisting does not have formal education requirements, but some vocational schools and community colleges offer pharmacy technician programs that can help entrants to the field. Some states require that pharmacy assistants complete a certification exam offered by either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Training programs often include courses in pharmaceutical nomenclature and use, office skills and relevant regulations.

Skills Required

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board recommends that retail pharmacy assistants be quick learners, good typists and outgoing individuals who are good at working in teams and helping customers. Retail pharmacy assistants must also be mindful of the confidential nature of their work and respect patients' privacy.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that the job outlook for pharmacy technicians will be good from 2016-2026, with positions growing at a rate of 12%. Though automated pill-counting machines will relieve them of some of their tasks, pharmacy technicians will continue to take on the tasks formerly completed by pharmacists in order to cut medical costs.

Pharmacy technicians working in food and beverage stores earned a median wage of $29,860 in 2017, pharmacy technicians in other general merchandise stores earned $31,320 and pharmacy technicians in pharmacies and drug stores made $29,500, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Look into these other options for careers in pharmacy and healthcare:

Pharmacist

These professionals must earn a Pharm.D. degree from an accredited program and then earn licensing by passing two exams. Pharmacists dispense medications and give advice to patients; they also may supervise pharmacy technicians or assistants. From 2016-2026, 6% employment growth was expected by the BLS, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Pharmacists earned a median salary of $124,170 in 2017, according to the BLS.

Medical Assistant

Although no formal education requirements exist in most states, future medical assistants may choose to attend programs taking 1-2 years to complete and might also earn certifications preferred by some employers. These assistants complete both clinical and administrative tasks in the offices of physicians and other healthcare providers. The BLS anticipates 29% employment growth, from 2016-2026, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. In 2017, medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $32,480, per the BLS.

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