How to Become a Pharmacy Assistant

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If you’re looking for a career change or perhaps you want to start working within a role you’ve always been keen on, the new year is a good time to start working towards these goals. A fresh start in a new career can often provide people with a renewed sense of belonging and achievement within their career and can be quite fulfilling.

If you’re looking to work in the pharmaceutical industry, becoming a pharmacy assistant is a great place to start. Becoming a pharmacy assistant is both a very important and rewarding role to be established in. Pharmacy assistants help the pharmacist to order, prepare and dispense medications to clients. Customer service is also a key component to working within this field, as you are often the face of the pharmacy and will be a key person that customers will relate with when needing help with their prescriptions.

There are a few things that a pharmacy assistant will be involved in, including:

  • Speaking with customers and receiving prescriptions.
  • Dispensing prescriptions.
  • Using a computer system in order to create labels and care instructions.
  • Ordering more stock.
  • Receiving deliveries and ensuring their correct storage.
  • Some pharmacies will have a delivery service for hospitals and aged care facilities, where the pharmacy assistant will make such deliveries.
  • Selling medicines to customers.
  • Answering the questions and addressing concerns of customers, both face-to-face and via the phone.
  • Preparing medicines.
  • Referring further issues and concerns forward to the pharmacist.

As you can see, there are quite a few different things that a pharmacy assistant will be involved in within their role, so there is plenty to learn and understand if deciding you want to get involved within this career.

Some of the key personality traits and skills that will also help you within this kind of role are:

  • Being accurate and methodical.
  • Be a responsible person.
  • Have key attention to detail.
  • Understanding (or willing to understand) certain laws and guidelines to do with medications.
  • Able to understand and carry out instructions.
  • Have an interest in people’s health and concerns.
  • Able to explain instructions to customers.

While there are no set entry requirements to be an entry level pharmacy assistant, there are some courses and certifications that will assist you in progressing your pharmaceutical career. To work as a pharmacy assistant, employers will expect good literacy, numeracy and IT skills. Your potential employer may ask for any recent qualifications earned or your GCSE results. Working in a customer service role will also help in achieving a position as a pharmacy assistant, even if you have no prior experience within a pharmacy.

Alternatively, you can undertake a course in understanding more about becoming a pharmacy assistant. The ICI UK pharmacy assistant course will help you to understand more about customer service skills, medical terminology, human anatomy, nutrition, risk management, common illnesses, sales in a pharmacy environment, and provide a background insight into pharmaceutical careers in general. If you have no experience working as a pharmacy assistant, this course will certainly help to get your foot in the door and give potential employers  an idea of how interested you are in working within this field. Showing a potential employer that you have taken initiative to get ahead in your career and work as a pharmacy assistant will look very positive on your resume.

To further your career and become a dispensing assistant, you will require a level 2 knowledge and competency based dispensing assistant qualification. This often takes between 6 to 12 months to complete and will help to ensure you are competently trained to perform the duties of a dispensing technician. This is a great option for those who have started working as a pharmacy assistant and who now want to progress further beyond their basic duties. Becoming a pharmacy assistant means you can progress to other roles such as a team leader or supervisor. If you decide you would like to study further, you can also progress to become a pharmacist.

Pharmacy assistants working in the NHS will have a standard work week consisting of 37.5 hours per week and may include shift work. Entry level assistants will generally start in the NHS at band 2 or 3 of the Agenda for Change pay scale. There are many benefits of working within the NHS and you will join a team of other talented, passionate and committed individuals working towards improving the health of others. There are also pay enhancements for those working out of hours, shift work and overtime, which is quite beneficial. Annual reviews of your personal development also helps those wanting to progress their careers to be addressed and to gain access to assistance to achieve those goals. You may also be eligible for study leave if you choose to study a sponsored course whilst working as a pharmacy assistant.

Working as a pharmacy assistant has many benefits and will be very rewarding for those who love to help others. Being able to help customers with their health questions and refer them to the correct products and information can make you feel very validated within the industry. It’s a very interesting career path and will always provide you with new and exciting challenges.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a pharmacy assistant, enrol now through our website.

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Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.