Pharmacy assistants are a vital part in the pharmacy field. They work under the supervision of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and play an integral role in both retail and institutional pharmacies. For those who may not be able to study pharmacy due to time and cost, becoming a pharmacy assistant is a great way to work in the industry in a short period of time. If this interests you, continue reading as we discuss the steps to jumpstart your career as a pharmacy assistant.
Before we dive into the steps you should take to become a pharmacy assistant, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities pharmacy assistants have.
Pharmacy assistants handle a lot of the customer service and clerical tasks of a pharmacy. They work directly with customers and perform many administrative duties. From helping prepare prescribed medication, counting tablets, and preparing labels to handing customer inquires in-person and over the phone, operating the cash register and stocking shelves, pharmacy assistants play an integral role in the efficiency of a pharmacy. While pharmacy assistants may accept orders, package prescriptions and prepare prescription labels, they do not work directly with medication.
Pharmacy assistants must be great with interpersonal communication, as they will likely be working with clients all day. They must be highly organized and work well in fast-paced and sometimes stressful environments. If this sounds like something you are interested, read on to learn the steps you should take to start your career as a pharmacy assistant.
1. Learn About the Field and Job Opportunities
Like anything, you should do research before you embark on your career path. Learn about the career field and the potential job opportunities before you begin your education toward that career. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities and the day to days of the job. Ask yourself, is this something I am passionate about? Is this something I want to do? If the answer is yes, it’s definitely worth exploring.
Talk to people who work in the field. Ask friends and family if they know anyone who is or has worked as a pharmacy assistant. Go out for coffee and pick their brain about the job and what it’s like. If you decide that becoming a pharmacy assistant is for you, consider the necessary skills you’ll need.
2. Consider the Necessary Skills
Unlike pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, pharmacy assistants mainly perform secretarial and administrative tasks. When considering this as a career, it’s important to have strong administrative and interpersonal communication skills. You should love working with people and have great customer service. Also, you should be especially efficient and detail-oriented. Many of the technical skills can be learned through education and on-the-job training, but having a passion for the job can’t be taught. If you feel like you have the base skills to become a pharmacy assistant, it’s time to research programs.
3. Research Pharmacy Assistant Requirements and Programs
While it isn’t required to have secondary education to become a pharmacy assistant, it is an opportunity to put yourself above your competition when looking for a job. Employers tend to favor applicants with some sort of pharmacy training or previous experience. Completing a diploma program is an incredible way to get experience. Before choosing a program, do some research and find a pharmacy assistant diploma program that works for you and your schedule. There are many options across Canada. For example, Robertson offers a Pharmacy Assistant Diploma Program at our Calgary and Edmonton campuses.
4. Complete a Pharmacy Assistant Diploma Program
Not only will a diploma program give you the necessary skills and education, it will also help you start your career upon graduation. Many colleges offer career services that will help you prepare for your job search and connect you with local employers.
At Robertson, the Pharmacy Assistant Program prepares students with the skill sets to work in any pharmacy setting. At Robertson, students who take the Pharmacy Assistant Diploma Program will:
– Gain theory, lab, and practicum experiences so you can transition easily into your new work setting.
– Be introduced to Community and Institutional Pharmacy procedures so you can be prepared to work in a variety of pharmacy settings.
– Learn the basic math calculations used by Pharmacy Assistants in retail and hospital pharmacies.
– Be introduced to basic human anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and medical terminology that will help you identify the major classes of drugs to treat different conditions.
5. Gain Useful Experience
One great aspect of completing a diploma program is that it typically includes some sort of work practicum. Many employers look for applicants who have real-work experience, and a work practicum is a great way to get experience in the field.
If you choose to study at Robertson, Pharmacy Assistant Diploma students take part in a full time work practicum where they work alongside industry professionals in a pharmacy setting. This is an incredible opportunity for students to meet and network with industry professionals and to figure out what type of pharmacy setting you want to work in.
If you don’t take a diploma program, there are many ways to get useful experience that will help you land a job. Since customer service and efficiency are important skills for the job, you can take online courses or find volunteer programs in business communication or medical terminology. You could also find a part-time job or internship in a retail pharmacy environment.
6. Begin the Job Search
Once you’ve taken all of the above steps, it’s time to begin the job search – this is the fun part! You are now prepared to apply everything you have learned and land yourself a job as a pharmacy assistant. The great aspect of starting your job search as a pharmacy assistant is that you can apply for jobs at a variety of places. For example, you can work with licensed pharmacists, at a community pharmacy, a clinic, or a nursing home, to name a few. You can search for opportunities in retail locations, medical facilities, or within the government.
Create a resume and cover letter
One of the most important parts of the job search is your resume and cover letter. It’s important that you create a resume that represents you as the best and most ideal candidate for the pharmacy assistant position you are applying for. It may seem like a daunting task, but there are easy ways you can highlight your skill sets and past job experiences that will help you get your foot in the door. Want to get your resume noticed? Check out our resume writing tips.
Prepare for an interview
With a great cover letter and resume, the next step is an interview. If you get an interview, this is a great sign! It means they want to meet with you in person and see what you are like and if you will fit in with their corporate culture. There are many ways to prepare for an interview, like practicing questions and answers and doing research on the company you’re applying for. If you’re struggling with preparing how to answer the tough questions, read up on the best way to answer the top interview questions here.
Consider these job search tips on how to conduct your job search:
1. Leverage Your Network
You should inform your close friends, family members, references, and any industry contacts that you’re job hunting. These individuals may be able to provide meaningful advice on how to conduct a job search, but also they may know of specific employers who are currently hiring.
A side note to this point is the importance of maintaining positive relationships with the professionals in your life. Even if it’s just a coffee every few months with a parent’s friend who works in the same industry, these types of conversations could lead to job opportunities at any point in your career.
2. Conduct an Overhaul on Your Social Media Accounts
While social media can be a valuable tool in forming new connections and marketing your personal brand, it can also be used by prospective and current employers to gain greater insight into a candidates level of professionalism.
Before you send off your resume, take a trip through your online profiles and ask yourself if there is any content on the account that you wouldn’t want an employer seeing. If there is, consider deleting it.This is also a good time to create a profile on career-based networking sites like Linkedin.
3. Build a Schedule
Our Career Services department always recommends for students and alumni to treat their job search like a full-time job, and like any job it’s helpful have a clear understanding of how you will breakndown your time.One way to go about this task is to purchase a day planner (if you don’t already have one) and account for the time you will spend each day searching for work. You can further breakdown this time by detailing the specific tasks you will perform to search for work.
For example, on day one, you may read through career blogs to learn more about resume writing, and on day two, you may do some preliminary research into the organizations you’re interested in applying at.
Whatever the tasks may be, accounting for them in writing will allow you to anticipate how long they will take as well as keep track of your progress. Find more job search tips in this blog post.
If you have a baseline knowledge in the above skill sets and are interested in beginning your career in the healthcare field, consider a career as a Pharmacy Assistant! This 26-week diploma program offered through Robertson College will provide you with the hands-on experience you need to succeed within this industry, and the opportunity to learn from instructors working within the field. Speak to one of our Admissions Advisors today to learn how you can begin your meaningful career as a Pharmacy Assistant.