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Pharmacy Assistants


Pharmacy Assistants


What’s Needed:

  • Pharmacy technicians may go through a one-year certification process at a vocational school or receive on-the-job training.
  • Many employers prefer formal training but it is not necessary in all states.
  • Internships are often part of pharmacy technician programs.

What you study:

Because pharmacy aides must sharpen their organizational skills programs usually focus on them as well as on pharmaceutical terminology and processing. Coursework may include:

  • Pharmaceutical mathematics
  • Introductory pharmacology
  • Record keeping
  • Chemistry for pharmacy technicians
  • Pharmacy law and ethics
  • Communication

Video Overview

A quick intro into the work of pharmacy assistants. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.

A Day in the Life

Counting pills and pouring liquid medicines are also part of your daily work.

As a pharmacy technician working in a local drugstore you arrive about half an hour before the pharmacy counter opens for the morning. The pharmacist on duty is there before you so you say hello and take a quick inventory of bottles caps and jars as you prepare to start the work day. It’s getting close to flu season so you expect to be busy. After restocking the prescription bags and checking the label printer it’s time to open the window and greet your first customers.

Organization is vital to a pharmacy.

Only one person has been waiting and she’s just picking up a refill on a prescription the pharmacist prepared yesterday. As you’re completing her transaction you hear an incoming fax the first of many you’ll get throughout the day. Doctors’ offices and hospitals fax prescriptions to your pharmacy as a convenience for patients and it’s your job to organize them for the pharmacist. In some cases you may also prepare the prescriptions under the pharmacist’s directions.

Double-checking everything is part of your system.

As you expected your day is becoming busier near lunchtime. You spend most of your morning on the phone calling in refill requests to doctors’ offices entering new prescriptions into the system and ringing up customers. At one point the pharmacist directs you to reconstitute an antibiotic suspension while he compounds another medication; it’s a common task and one you enjoy. Counting pills and pouring liquid medicines are also part of your daily work but you’ve had more paperwork than preparation today.

Before lunch you wash your hands thoroughly something you’ve gotten in the habit of doing regularly because of the number of sick people who interact with you. It’s as much for their protection as yours and so are the gloves you wear while preparing medications. When you return you have a shipment of medications to receive record and stock. You’re responsible for ensuring that every medication is accounted for and in its proper place. Organization is vital to a pharmacy.

The rest of your afternoon goes by quickly as you count and label prescriptions while your fellow pharmacy aide handles the cash register. The pharmacist relies on you to add the necessary patient precaution labels on bottles and you have a system that makes the work go smoothly. Double-checking everything is part of your system. You’ve worked in the pharmacy long enough to know many common medications by sight but you check with the pharmacist or with a reference guide if you have any questions.

As your shift ends you give the arriving shift any information they need. Some retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies are open 24 hours a day but your location closes when the drugstore shuts its doors for the night. You’re headed home on time.

Certifications and Licensing

Certification as a pharmacy technician is voluntary in some states and mandatory in others. Most states also have continuing education requirements to maintain certification. A background check is also part of certification in some states.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Full-time and part-time work is available for pharmacy technicians. Most aides work conventional shift lengths but as more locations offer 24-hour pharmacy service those shifts may occur at any hour. This flexibility is useful for pharmacy assistants who prefer overnight or afternoon shifts.

Work location:

Pharmacy aides work exclusively in retail pharmacies medical centers and hospitals. Technicians usually stay in one place although those who work in hospitals may deliver prescriptions to various locations within the hospital complex.

Recommended Websites

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Pharmacy Technicians ? Future pharmacy technicians will find a general overview of the job at this site. Although it is not a comprehensive guide to the profession the Occupational Outlook Handbook does provide detailed salary information and job demand statistics in one convenient place. It is an excellent initial resource for prospective pharmacy aides.
  • National Pharmacy Technician Association ? As the largest professional association for pharmacy technicians the NPTA provides an in-depth look at the profession. Visitors will find detailed information about finding accredited schools the certification process and career advancement. The site’s continuing education programs are an especially valuable resource.
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists ? One of the largest professional organizations for pharmacists also welcomes pharmacy assistants. The ASHP focuses primarily on pharmacists and pharmacy aides who work in a hospital or clinical setting. Career services continuing education and frequently updated drug information are highlights of the extensive site.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
ALBirmingham – Hoover$19650$16K – $27K2300.05%
ALHuntsville$17800$16K – $20KN/AN/A
ALMobile$21460$16K – $30K1300.08%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$18110$16K – $22KN/AN/A
ARFort Smith$19000$16K – $29K600.06%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$19120$16K – $25KN/AN/A
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$20290$17K – $26KN/AN/A
CABakersfield – Delano$19090$17K – $29K2000.07%
CAChico$28610$23K – $47KN/AN/A
CAFresno$21450$18K – $28K800.02%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$21870$18K – $35K24500.06%
CAMadera – Chowchilla$21280$18K – $27K600.15%
CAMerced$20750$17K – $24KN/AN/A
CAModesto$25570$18K – $37KN/AN/A
CANapa$49090$29K – $58K400.07%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$27260$20K – $53K3000.03%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$22600$20K – $27KN/AN/A
CARedding$23010$20K – $30KN/AN/A
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$26040$19K – $40K8500.07%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$27980$23K – $48K6800.08%
CASalinas$21020$18K – $32KN/AN/A
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$27020$20K – $43K5300.04%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$25040$19K – $37K4600.05%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$27740$18K – $39K4600.05%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$27350$18K – $36K400.04%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$26640$18K – $43K9200.07%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$23500$18K – $33K600.04%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$23890$20K – $48K900.11%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$34820$21K – $55K1000.06%
CAStockton$29160$19K – $57K1000.05%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$24250$18K – $55KN/AN/A
CAVisalia – Porterville$19880$17K – $24KN/AN/A
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$31040$25K – $44K500.00%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$23100$18K – $39K900.02%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$20830$18K – $29K1500.03%
CTNorwich – New London$22640$20K – $35KN/AN/A
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$23830$17K – $38K6600.03%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$18460$16K – $27K700.02%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$18520$16K – $23K400.03%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$23360$20K – $30KN/AN/A
FLJacksonville$26990$18K – $38K1300.02%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$20570$17K – $28K600.03%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$20550$17K – $29K2300.02%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$19230$17K – $29KN/AN/A
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$18650$16K – $26K3000.03%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$18890$17K – $24KN/AN/A
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$18760$17K – $28K400.02%
FLPort St. Lucie$20070$17K – $23K600.05%
FLTallahassee$26090$20K – $31KN/AN/A
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$19740$17K – $27K4200.04%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$18440$16K – $27K2000.04%
GAAthens – Clarke County$18290$16K – $24KN/AN/A
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$19480$16K – $41K5300.02%
GAMacon$17670$16K – $19KN/AN/A
HIHonolulu$22210$18K – $30K1700.04%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$18730$17K – $23K600.03%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$21370$18K – $30K9100.03%
ILDecatur$21750$18K – $28K300.07%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$22300$19K – $28K500.01%
ILPeoria$18870$18K – $20KN/AN/A
ILRockford$21130$18K – $25KN/AN/A
INGary (Metro Area)$23140$20K – $30K300.01%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$22110$17K – $29K1400.02%
INSouth Bend – Mishawaka$21390$17K – $28K400.03%
KSLawrence$20150$16K – $24K300.07%
KSWichita$18380$16K – $23K900.03%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$24420$17K – $35K3500.06%
LABaton Rouge$20440$16K – $25KN/AN/A
LALake Charles$23140$18K – $29KN/AN/A
LAMonroe$18470$16K – $23KN/AN/A
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$18910$16K – $28K2100.04%
MABarnstable Town$24620$20K – $35KN/AN/A
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$23090$20K – $30K6300.04%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$21880$19K – $30K700.05%
MANew Bedford$23440$18K – $33K600.09%
MAPeabody (Metro Area)$23140$20K – $30K400.03%
MAWorcester$22240$19K – $29K800.03%
MDBaltimore – Towson$31390$20K – $38K2300.02%
MDBethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area)$21920$17K – $36K3500.06%
MEPortland – South Portland – Biddeford$18900$16K – $36K500.03%
MIDetroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area)$17620$16K – $22KN/AN/A
MIWarren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$25130$17K – $29KN/AN/A
MNDuluth$22390$19K – $28KN/AN/A
MNMinneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington$23120$17K – $31K5400.03%
MNSt. Cloud$29210$19K – $37K400.04%
MOKansas City$23070$19K – $35K2900.03%
MOSt. Louis$27030$17K – $38K3700.03%
NCCharlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill$19070$16K – $25K1300.02%
NCDurham – Chapel Hill$17820$16K – $25K900.03%
NCGreensboro – High Point$18420$16K – $24KN/AN/A
NCRaleigh – Cary$25720$17K – $32K1400.03%
NDBismarck$22130$17K – $28K600.09%
NDFargo$20830$16K – $26K1300.10%
NEOmaha – Council Bluffs$25910$17K – $45K800.02%
NJAtlantic City – Hammonton$18880$16K – $28K1300.10%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$18550$16K – $30K4600.09%
NJEdison – New Brunswick (Metro Area)$18910$16K – $28K4100.04%
NJNewark – Union (Metro Area)$21770$17K – $29K4100.04%
NJVineland – Millville – Bridgeton$28390$20K – $37K500.09%
NMAlbuquerque$24,910$21K – $36K1400.04%
NMSanta Fe$23,400$20K – $29KN/AN/A
NVLas Vegas – Paradise$17,820$16K – $22KN/AN/A
NVReno – Sparks$24,630$21K – $31K800.04%
NYAlbany – Schenectady – Troy$22,660$17K – $30K800.02%
NYBuffalo – Niagara Falls$20,760$16K – $33K1900.04%
NYNassau – Suffolk (Metro Area)$24,380$17K – $46K3200.03%
NYNew York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area)$21,250$16K – $34K1,4400.03%
NYPoughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown$22,880$17K – $32K500.02%
NYRochester$21,470$17K – $35K2900.06%
NYSyracuse$21,990$17K – $41K1400.05%
NYUtica – Rome$18,400$16K – $35KN/AN/A
OHCincinnati – Middletown$22,080$17K – $30K4900.05%
OHCleveland – Elyria – Mentor$18,670$17K – $29K3200.03%
OHColumbus$18,070$16K – $22K2200.02%
OHDayton$21,150$17K – $26K1600.04%
OHToledo$18,870$17K – $27K900.03%
OHYoungstown – Warren – Boardman$19,310$17K – $28K700.03%
OKOklahoma City$21,080$16K – $37K