Be a Retail Pharmacy Assistant: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a retail pharmacy assistant. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career as a retail pharmacy assistant.

Should I Become a Retail Pharmacy Assistant?

Retail pharmacy assistants perform administrative duties and inventory management for pharmacies in retail locations. They have less complex responsibilities than pharmacists and generally focus on counting or measuring medications, working as cashiers or clerks who handle money, performing clerical duties, ordering supplies, maintaining patient files, preparing insurance claims and providing customer service. Work schedules might include nights and weekends, since many pharmacies are open during all hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No formal education beyond a high school diploma may be necessary, though postsecondary programs are available
Experience No experience is required for entry-level positions
Key Skills Retail pharmacy assistants should have strong customer service and organizational skills; additionally, they should pay close attention to detail, familiarity with inventory management, accounting, drug compatibility, label-making, patient record and prescription processing software, retail pharmacy assistants may use filling or sealing auger dose machines and balances, blenders and mills for measuring and mixing medications
Salary (2014) $23,200 yearly (median for all pharmacy aides)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Consider Postsecondary Training

Though not all retail pharmacy assistant positions require any formal education beyond a high school diploma or equivalent, aspiring pharmacy assistants may choose to enroll in certificate or associate's degree programs to gain an advantage in the job market. Pharmacy technician programs are available through community colleges and vocational schools, and typically last 2 years or less. Typical coursework includes medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, computer skills, pharmacy techniques and pharmacy law and ethics. These programs may specifically prepare students to become certified.

Success Tips:

  • Pursue volunteer opportunities. Volunteering at a local hospital, healthcare facility or pharmacy is a great way to develop the skills needed in this field. Volunteering in these locations may help develop skills in managing inventory, using computers and navigating interpersonal relationships.
  • Complete an internship. In addition to coursework requirements, many pharmacy assistant programs offer credit for internships or may require an internship. An internship at a pharmacy is a great way to gain hands-on experience and make important contacts for future employment.
  • Develop key customer service skills. Customer service skills are essential for retail pharmacy assistants, since they may help to answer basic customer questions and act as a liaison between their pharmacist and customers. Students in pharmacy technology programs may wish to find employment as counter attendants or other entry-level positions in order to sharpen these interpersonal skills.

Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training

Once hired, many employers do require that their employees complete on-the-job training programs.

Step 3: Obtain Certification for Advancement

While not required for employment as a pharmacy assistant, certification can be beneficial for career advancement and increase prospects for employment. Certification exams are available through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To sit for these certification exams, the applicant must possess a high school diploma or equivalent, and there may be formal education or experience requirements in some cases. Full disclosure of criminal conduct may also be required. Certification exams may test knowledge in customer service, inventory control and pharmacy management. Re-certification is required every 2 years and requires 20 hours of continuing education.

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