our everyday life

Classes to Become a Pharmacist Assistant

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier

A pharmacist assistant provides assistance to pharmacists by stocking medications, filling prescriptions and interacting with patients. If you are interested in this career, completing a college certificate program will prepare you for a starting position. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that pharmacist assistants earned an annual median salary of $28,400. Many programs offer online completion options. Be sure to check the certification guidelines required by your state to ensure the program you select will meet the required qualifications.

Administrative Basics

An overview class on pharmacy administration is one of the first classes you will take. This class will help you understand how a pharmacy works and the functions of each staff member. A pharmacy administration class will also cover maintaining inventory and accounting practices. You will learn about insurance carriers and billing issues in a health care systems course. Critical to navigating the pharmaceutical environment is a strong understanding of the language used. A medical terminology class will help you learn the terms associated with medical prescriptions and some relevant side effects.

Health & Wellness

Your program will include a few courses related to the human body. This will provide you with the background necessary to communicate with patients and medical personnel. Plan on taking courses that cover the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems. You will also enroll in an anatomy and physiology class. A nutrition class will give you working knowledge of how dietary choices impact human biology.

Pharmacology

Expect to take a course about pharmaceutical calculations. In this class, you will learn about converting prescribed medications, preparing and packaging medications for children, and mixing medications on-site. Similarly, a pharmacology course will expose you to compounding rules and specific mixture directions based upon manufacturer guidelines. Finally, many programs include a basic chemistry course to help you understand the chemical composition of drugs and potential interaction issues.

Externship

An externship serves as a capstone to your certificate program. You will be placed in a pharmacy setting and have the opportunity to put your classroom learning into action. Many programs will create a progressive externship that allows you to experience a variety of different settings. For example, you may serve in a hospital setting, clinical pharmacy or commercial operation. Learning from seasoned professionals will help you feel more prepared when you take your certification exam. In some cases, an externship can also lead to a paid position upon graduation.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images