How To Become a Pharmacy Assistant (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 25, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

To become a pharmacy assistant, you'll need a high school diploma or a GED. A pharmacy assistant helps to process prescriptions, answer the phone and perform data entry tasks. Working as a pharmacy assistant is a good way to get experience in pharmaceuticals. In this article, we define what a pharmacy assistant is, their responsibilities and how to become one.

What is a pharmacy assistant?

A pharmacy assistant helps the pharmacist by handling pharmacy-related duties in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and retail pharmacies. Pharmacy assistants have different roles from pharmacy technicians. Technicians have more responsibilities and need more advanced studies.

What does a pharmacy assistant do?

A pharmacy assistant is responsible for processing prescriptions for patients. They're usually under the supervision of a pharmacist. Their duties are mainly administrative and clerical. These duties include:

  • Ordering medical supplies

  • Maintaining the records of delivered medications

  • Delivering medicines to other sectors of the hospital

  • Selling over-the-counter medicines

  • Maintaining inventory and stocking shelves

  • Answering questions customers may have

  • Labeling medications properly

  • Preparing insurance claim forms

  • Directing questions related to medications, prescriptions and side effects to the pharmacist

  • Answering incoming calls

  • Answering emails and messages

  • Typing and printing out prescription labels accurately

How to become a pharmacy assistant?

Becoming a pharmacy assistant doesn't require extensive education. However, graduating from high school is a prerequisite. Here are other steps to follow:

1. Get a high school diploma

Most states require a high school diploma or GED for a pharmacy assistant position. Pharmacy assistants gain their knowledge and experience through on-the-job training under the supervision of a pharmacist. This training helps you gain clerical and technical skills and also teaches you how to work professionally with customers.

Related: 9 Jobs for High School Graduates

2. Take online courses

Apart from graduating high school, taking courses in physiology, mathematics or anatomy can increase your chances of getting hired as a pharmacy assistant. There are online courses at the International Career Institute (ICI) that offer a pharmacy assistant diploma. The courses offer you opportunities to learn from qualified and experienced professionals. Subjects you may learn include:

  • Medical terminology: Students will learn medical terminology and pharmacology definitions.

  • Human anatomy and physiology: Learn about the skeletal system, nervous system, muscular system, digestive system, cells, tissue and physiology.

  • Nutrition: Learn how to eat healthily and about special diets, vitamins and minerals.

  • Common illnesses: Gain knowledge about common conditions and diseases like colds, asthma, ulcers and acne.

  • History of pharmacy: Students learn about the origins of pharmaceutical stores and their evolution over time.

  • Customer service in retail pharmacy: Learn how to interact with customers on the phone and face-to-face and also how to deal with a difficult or angry customer.

  • Sales in retail pharmacy: Students learn how to communicate effectively when selling products to customers.

Another great online source where you can earn a diploma is Robertson. Their school offers a program that prepares students for a career in pharmaceuticals. Subjects their pharmacy assistant programs offer include:

  • Mathematics: Students learn basic math calculations that pharmacy assistants use in hospital and retail pharmacies

  • Foundations: Students learn about theory, laboratories, pharmacy procedures and practical sessions that help students transition from amateur to professional.

  • Science: Students learn about human anatomy, pharmacology, medical terminology and physiology that helps them identify different classifications of drugs that treat various medical conditions.

Related: 34 Online Training Programs To Advance Your Career

3. Develop your skills

One of the biggest responsibilities of a pharmacy assistant is dealing with customers. It's important to have the ability to write and communicate clearly. It's helpful to develop mathematical skills because you may have to perform calculations to determine the prices of medications. Skills you need to build are:

  • Technical skills: Pharmacy assistants should have accurate data entry skills for receiving and confirming prescription orders. Pharmacy assistants are required to find the digital orders and confirm a customer's insurance coverage, and if a customer has a written prescription, a pharmacy assistant has to obtain and verify the customer's information and record it in the computer system.

  • Observant: When it comes to processing prescriptions, it's important to be accurate and attentive. A pharmacy assistant needs to dispense medication at the correct dosage, so they need to be attentive when typing the customer's information into the computer to avoid mistakes.

  • Communication skills: Customers interact with pharmacy assistants regularly, so it's important to be an active listener, empathize and use clarity to relay information to the pharmacist.

  • Problem-solving skills: When dealing with coworkers and customers, it's important to have problem-solving skills to resolve any conflicts that may occur.

  • Self-control: It can be stressful to work in a pharmacy because it requires standing for long hours and performing multiple tasks with accuracy. It's important to maintain self-control when confronted with stressful and tense situations.

  • Organizational skills: Pharmacy assistants are responsible for stocking shelves with medicines, maintaining inventory and other retail tasks. Having organizational skills that ensure you keep everything in order and follow the right protocols is helpful.

  • Customer service: Answering questions customers may have about their medication is part of a pharmacy assistant's job. Providing customers with answers that educate and inform them more about their medications plays a part in providing them with quality service.

Read more: How To Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

4. Gain experience

A great advantage of becoming a pharmacy assistant is that you don't need to have any certification or special training like pharmacy technicians. However, experience can help increase your chances of getting a job. You can either work at a hospital or a local drugstore to acquire the knowledge you need or take a part-time job in a pharmacy.

Read more: How To Get Job Experience (With Tips)

5. Start a job search

Search for a pharmacy assistant position in a pharmaceutical organization, hospital, outpatient clinic or nursing home. Research job opportunities on a hospital's websites or use the American Pharmacist Association website to find available job postings. You can also inform your friends and industry contacts that you're looking for a pharmacy assistant job. Your friends may be aware of opportunities and your industry contacts can give you good tips on how to navigate your job search.

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