Pharmacy assistants, or technicians, assist licensed pharmacists in dispensing medication. Day-to-day tasks may include taking patient prescription information, counting medication, labeling prescriptions and taking payment. Some states allow technicians to learn on the job. Degree or certificate programs in pharmacy technology are required in other states.

Requirements for Certification

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers a certification exam and determines certification requirements for pharmacy assistants. Those requirements include a high school diploma, successfully passing a background check, compliance with board policies and a passing score on the exam. The exam assesses knowledge in assisting the pharmacist in serving patients, maintaining medication and inventory control systems, and participating in the administration and management of pharmacy practice.

Courses for a Certificate Program

A pharmacy assistant certificate program is a noncredit program that prepares students for work in a pharmacy and for taking the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam. Certificate programs in the California State University system require 50 hours of coursework and include instruction in medical terminology, reading and interpreting prescriptions, and defining generic and brand name drugs. Students also learn about calculating dosages, IV flow rates, drug compounding, dose conversions, dispensing of prescriptions, inventory control, and billing and reimbursement.

Courses for an Associate Degree

An associate degree requires two years of study and provides a more in-depth focus on medical vocabulary, pharmacy practice, pharmacy calculations and records management. Additional courses in pharmacy law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sterile products, ethics, communications, pharmacology and pharmacy technology may be offered to complete the degree. Courses in general studies, such as English, humanities, mathematics and science, may be required to complete the degree program.

Other Required Skills

Certificate and degree-granting programs may include clinical experience as part of the curriculum. As the student gains on-the-job training, customer service skills and a professional attitude are important to the role as a pharmacy assistant. In addition, accuracy, organization and timeliness are emphasized in programs such as the one at North Seattle Community College.

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