Everything to Know About Being a Pharmacy Assistant

Are you interested in joining the rapidly growing healthcare field? If so, then the position of pharmacy assistant might appeal to you. The pharmaceutical industry is quickly outpacing other areas of healthcare, so there are and will continue to be many openings within this field. Read on to find out all about the career of a pharmacy assistant.

What is a pharmacy assistant?

A pharmacy assistant primarily works as a member of a team under the supervision of a registered pharmacist. Depending on the size of the pharmacy, you may be responsible for ordering and clerical duties, as well as work with medicines with the help of the licensed pharmacist.

Pharmacy assistants need to develop distinct qualities and traits necessary for this type of career. Although there are no set entry requirements to become a pharmacy assistant, on-the-job learning and additional career training, courses, and certifications can help you advance your pharmaceutical career and strengthen the essential skills.

Good literacy skills, basic computer skills, and mathematical knowledge are required. Customer service skills are also necessary, as often the pharmacy assistant is the first person a customer speaks with and the person who can immediately help with their prescriptions.

A successful pharmacy assistant will also have these qualities:

  • A sense of responsibility
  • Be detail-oriented and focused
  • Able to understand the law and medication guidelines
  • Be interested in science and people’s health
  • Able to clearly explain instructions to customers
  • Work well with a team
  • Able to understand and execute instructions
  • Be discreet
  • Able to efficiently multitask
  • Be an adaptive learner.

What do pharmacy assistants do?

Pharmacy assistants are the glue that holds a pharmacy together. As team players, pharmacy assistants are responsible for a vast array of job duties to assist both the customers and the pharmacist.

These are the types of responsibilities carried out by a pharmacy assistant:

  • Prepares and dispenses prescriptions
  • Uses computer systems to generate labels and lists, and to order, organise, and maintain medications and supplies
  • Answers questions from customers either on-site or by phone and directs them appropriately
  • Receives, loads, and unloads deliveries and properly stores them
  • Prepares billing information for medications
  • Operates the cash register
  • Gives patients information and educates them about their medications
  • Maintains electronic patient files and information
  • Packages and arranges shipments to customers
  • Refers further customer questions or issues to the pharmacist
  • Sells over-the-counter medications
  • Places orders for drugs per the pharmacist’s direction.

Pharmacy assistants may also be responsible for additional duties if they work as part of a healthcare team in community pharmacies or hospitals. In these cases, a pharmacy assistant may also need to make deliveries to different parts of the hospital.

The position of a pharmacy assistant is different from that of a pharmacy technician. Where a pharmacy assistant may be hired with only a high school diploma, a pharmacy technician must have advanced certifications, including on-the-job training, completion of a pharmacy technician program, registration, and accreditation. The pharmacy technician is responsible for more hands-on work such as mixing and compounding medications, calling doctors for prescription medication refill authorisations, processing insurance claims, and consulting with the pharmacist on drug interactions and reactions.

How can you become a pharmacy assistant?

With just a high school diploma, you can apply for a pharmacy assistant position. However, to make yourself a more attractive candidate in a competitive field, you should consider taking additional courses or achieving certifications that separate you from the rest of the potential applicants. By enrolling in a course to learn more about becoming a pharmacy assistant, you also show potential employers your interest and dedication to the position.

A pharmacy assistant course will help you to understand more about medical laws and terminologies, nutrition, human anatomy, customer service skills, common illnesses, risk management, and pharmaceutical sales.

What other career options are available for pharmacy assistants?

After completing a pharmacy assistant course and obtaining a job, how can you progress your pharmaceutical career? There are a few steps you can take to move up the ladder quickly, such as becoming a dispensing assistant, team leader, or supervisor.

To become a dispensing assistant, you must obtain a NVQ level 2 dispensing assistant qualification, which typically takes 6 – 12 months to complete. After this step, you may progress further to a pharmacy technician position or toward becoming a pharmacist.

Start your pharmacy assistant career today!

Is the field of science and medicine calling you? Begin your career by enrolling in the International Career Institute’s Pharmacy Assistant course and start your professional development now.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.