Pharmacy assistants perform administrative duties in a pharmacy, from helping dispense medications to answering phones. They work under the supervision of pharmacists and they work directly with patients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that pharmacy technicians do not need formal training to find work and that a high school diploma is the minimum required education. However, completing a formal degree program can expand job opportunities and earnings potential.
Pharmacy assistants complete a variety of clerical and customer service duties in both private pharmacies and clinical care settings, such as hospitals and medical centers. Pharmacy assistants deliver medication to patients and they may fill orders by measuring, mixing, packaging and labeling medicines according to the pharmacist's instructions. Administrative duties may include managing inventory, maintaining computer records for prescriptions and preparing invoices or filing paperwork. Customer service duties may include operating the cash register, answering phones and helping people with simple questions.
Associate degree programs are available to give pharmacy assistants formal training that can improve their marketability and earning potential. These programs typically take two years to finish, attending full time. The curriculum may include courses in medical terminology, healthcare laws related to pharmacy, interpersonal communications, sterilization techniques and pharmacy calculations. Coursework prepares students to perform administrative tasks related to customer service and to help dispense medications.
A certificate program for pharmacy assistants provides a basic foundation for the knowledge and skills required for the job and is typically completed in about one year. At Atlanta Technical College, for example, the certificate program is 35 credit hours. Coursework includes basic mathematics, anatomy and physiology, pharmacy calculations and medical terminology. At West Georgia Technical College, students also take 35 credit hours including courses such as Pharmacy Technology Fundamentals, Principles of Dispensing Medicines and Pharmacology.
Jobs for pharmacy assistants are expected to grow as the overall healthcare demands grow with an aging population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 32 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than average for other industries. The average salary was $28,400 in 2010. Formal training can help make pharmacy assistants more competitive and command a higher salary.
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