Do Pharmacy Assistants Have To Be Qualified?

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Are you interested in pursuing a career as a pharmacy assistant?

 Perhaps you’re curious about the qualifications required for this role. Pharmacy assistants play a vital role in supporting pharmacists and ensuring the smooth operation of a pharmacy. In this article, we will explore the widely asked question, ‘Do you need qualifications to be a pharmacy assistant?

What is a Pharmacy Assistant?

A pharmacy assistant, also known as a pharmacy technician or pharmacy aide, is a healthcare professional who works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They play a vital role in supporting the operations of a pharmacy and ensuring the safe and efficient delivery of pharmaceutical services. Pharmacy assistants perform a range of tasks, including:

  • Medication Dispensing
  • Prescription Processing
  • Inventory Management
  • Customer Service
  • Administrative Duties
  • Compounding Assistance
  • Patient Education
  • Handling Cash Transactions
  • Adhering to Regulations

Do you need qualifications to be a pharmacy assistant?

In many cases, formal qualifications are not always required to become a pharmacy assistant. However, having relevant education and training can enhance your knowledge and improve your job prospects. Here are some basic qualifications you need to become a pharmacy assistant;

  • High School Diploma: Most pharmacy assistant positions require a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Post-Secondary Education: While not mandatory, completing a pharmacy assistant program or obtaining certification can provide a competitive edge. These programs are offered by colleges and vocational institutions and provide training in pharmacy operations, medications, customer service, and more.
  • On-the-Job Training: Many employers provide on-the-job training for pharmacy assistants. This training covers various aspects of pharmacy operations, including medication dispensing, inventory management, customer service, and pharmacy regulations.
  • Relevant Skills and Experience: Having relevant skills and experience in customer service, healthcare, or a related field can be beneficial when applying for pharmacy assistant positions. Skills such as attention to detail, strong communication, organization, and a basic understanding of pharmacy terminology are important.
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Pharmacy assistant salary:

The average pharmacy assistant salary in Canada is $42,159 per year or $21.62 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $33,150 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $46,824 per year.

Skills required to become a Pharmacy Assistant:

To become a pharmacy assistant, there are several skills that can be beneficial for success in the role. Here are some key skills required to excel as a pharmacy assistant:

  • Knowledge of Pharmacy Practices: Understanding basic pharmacy terminology, medication names, dosage forms, and common prescription abbreviations.
  • Attention to Detail: Being meticulous and precise when measuring, counting, and packaging medications to ensure accuracy.
  • Organization Skills: Managing inventory, maintaining records, and handling administrative tasks efficiently.
  • Communication Skills: Having excellent verbal and written communication skills to interact effectively with pharmacists, healthcare professionals, and customers.
  • Customer Service: Providing friendly and helpful assistance to customers, addressing their concerns, and ensuring a positive experience.
  • Computer Literacy: Proficiency in using pharmacy software systems, cash registers, and other relevant technology.
  • Math Skills: Being comfortable with basic mathematical calculations and measurements involved in medication dispensing.
  • Ethics and Confidentiality: Maintaining professionalism, ethical conduct, and patient confidentiality in handling sensitive information.
  • Problem-Solving: Being able to identify and resolve issues related to medication dispensing, inventory management, and customer service.
  • Adaptability and Learning Agility: Being open to learning and adapting to new pharmacy practices, regulations, and technology advancements.

How long does it take to become a Pharmacy Assistant?

The time it takes to become a pharmacy assistant can vary depending on the educational path you choose and your individual circumstances. Here are a few options and their typical durations:

  • On-the-Job Training: Some pharmacy assistants receive their training through on-the-job training programs provided by their employer. The duration of these programs can vary, but they generally range from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the tasks and the employer’s requirements.
  • Pharmacy Assistant Certificate Programs: Many vocational schools and community colleges offer pharmacy assistant certificate programs. These programs typically require completion of specific coursework and can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to complete, depending on the program structure and whether it is taken on a full-time or part-time basis.
  • Associate’s Degree Programs: There are also associate’s degree programs in pharmacy technology or pharmacy assisting that provide more comprehensive training. These programs typically take around 2 years to complete, as they include a broader range of coursework and often include clinical or externship components.

Do you need experience to become a Pharmacist?

Yes, in Canada, you need to have both educational qualifications and practical experience to become a licensed pharmacist. Here are the general steps to become a pharmacist in Canada:

  1. Obtain a Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm) or Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree from an accredited Canadian pharmacy school. These programs typically require completion of specific prerequisite courses and take about four to six years to complete.
  2. Complete a structured practical training program called an Internship or Pharmacy Residency. This practical experience provides hands-on training in various pharmacy settings under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. The duration of the internship or residency varies, but it is typically around one year.
  3. After completing the practical training program, you need to successfully pass the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) Evaluating Exam. This exam assesses your knowledge and understanding of pharmacy practice in Canada.
  4. Following the Evaluating Exam, you must complete the PEBC Qualifying Exam. This exam consists of a written component and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which evaluates your practical skills.
  5. Once you have passed the PEBC exams, you can apply for licensure with the provincial regulatory authority in the province where you wish to practice. Each province has its own licensing requirements, which may include additional assessments or examinations specific to that province.
  6. Upon receiving your license, you can begin working as a pharmacist under the regulations and guidelines set by the provincial regulatory authority.


In conclusion, while formal qualifications are not always mandatory to become a pharmacy assistant, they can certainly enhance your prospects and open up more opportunities in this field. 

Acquiring relevant certifications, completing specialized courses, or obtaining a diploma in pharmacy assistance can demonstrate your commitment and knowledge, giving you an advantage over other candidates.

However, it’s important to note that practical experience, interpersonal skills, and a strong work ethic are equally crucial in excelling as a pharmacy assistant. By combining the right mix of qualifications and qualities, you can embark on a fulfilling career path in the pharmaceutical industry and make a valuable contribution to the healthcare system.

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