Retail Pharmacy Assistant: Job & Career Information

Retail pharmacy assistants are also known as pharmacy technicians, and they aid pharmacists in retail grocery and drug stores by filling prescriptions sent 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 vocation schools and community colleges
Job Skills Quick learning, typing, outgoing, teamwork
Median Salary (2015)* $28,730 (in grocery stores), $29,220 (in department stores), $29,750 (in general merchandise stores)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 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. Department of Labor (BLS) expects the job outlook for retail pharmacy assistants will be good from 2014-2024, with positions growing at a rate of 9%. Though automated pill-counting machines will relieve them of some of their tasks, retail pharmacy assistants will continue to take on the tasks formerly completed by pharmacists in order to cut medical costs.

Retail pharmacy assistants working in grocery stores earned a median wage of $28,730 in 2015, pharmacy assistants in other general merchandise stores earned $29,750 and retail pharmacist assistants in department stores made $29,220, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

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


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 2014-2024, 3% employment growth was expected by the BLS, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Pharmacists earned a median salary of $121,500 in 2015, 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 health care providers. The BLS anticipates 23% employment growth, from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. In 2015, medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $30,590, per the BLS.

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