It is possible to begin a career as a pharmacy assistant with a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Completing a postsecondary certificate program can also help, and individuals interested in pursuing a career in this field should take math courses, study anatomy and physiology, or complete an internship to gain practical experience.
A pharmacist assistant, also known as a pharmacy technician, provides administrative support and non-medical customer service in retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Pharmacist assistants usually get training on the job. A high school diploma is usually required for employment; post-secondary education is an option through pharmacist assistant or pharmacy technology certificate programs at 2-year colleges or vocational schools.
|Required Education||High school diploma and on-the-job training OR completion of a pharmacy assistant certificate program|
|Projected Job Growth||9% for all pharmacy technicians from 2014-2024*|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)||$30,410 for all pharmacy technicians*|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Educational Requirements for a Pharmacist Assistant
A pharmacist assistant doesn't need to be certified to find entry-level employment. On-the-job training teaches customer service and clerical skills for supporting retail and clinical pharmacists. Most states require pharmacist assistants to have a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). An assistant must have a good grasp of mathematics, which may be found in high school math courses or taught in a certificate program.
A pharmacist assistant certificate program focuses on mathematics, anatomy and physiology, computer applications and the principles and ethics of the pharmaceutical field. Students participate in a practicum to acquire hands-on training in the field. Students must submit the results of a TB skin test and pass a background check before being allowed to participate in the practicum. Some schools require certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
A pharmacist assistant handles many of the customer service and clerical tasks at a pharmacy, allowing pharmacists to address medical concerns and dispense prescriptions. An assistant must have good record-keeping skills and the ability to communicate effectively with customers who may be in a stressful situation. Some pharmacist assistants may track inventory stock shelves. An assistant must have the ability to use cash registers and make transactions.
Employment for pharmacy technicians is expected to increase by 9% over the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which attributes job openings to more advanced medicine being used to fight diseases and an elderly population that is living longer and requiring more pharmaceuticals to maintain health longer. Advances in medicine leading to new medications are also expected to drive industry growth and increase the need for pharmacist assistants. Pharmacist assistants earned a median hourly rate of $14.62 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
The 9% job growth rate projected for pharmacy assistants from 2014-2024 is faster than average. Applicants who study anatomy and physiology, math and complete an internship or postsecondary certificate will be able to compete effectively for jobs in this field, although it is possible to begin a career with a high school diploma.