Do you enjoy chatting with people from all walks of life? Have you always been interested in vitamins or medicines, or maybe you simply love the idea of helping others?
If so, have you considered studying to become a pharmacy assistant?
Pharmacy assistants help customers with everything from smoking cessation to infant care and first aid supplies. Best of all, you can be qualified and working in as little as six months.
Here’s what you need to know about a career in pharmacy assistance.
Why choose pharmacy assistance?
In 2020, 39,200 people worked as pharmacy assistants as their main job. That number is expected to rise to 40,000 by 2025. The vast majority are female.
Community Pharmacy Assistant Teacher, Sheetal Kallada, says one of the perks about pharmacy assistance is the flexibility it offers. According to the Australian Government’s Job Outlook, less than half of pharmacy assistants work full-time (28%).
“The best part about this job is that it gives people options,” Sheetal says. “You can work part-time or evening shifts, depending on the lifestyle you want. Often our students are mothers who don’t want a full-time job or people coming from hospitality, where they have been doing long working hours.”
What does a pharmacy assistant do?
Pharmacy assistants sell pharmaceutical products in retail pharmacies. They play a really important role on the floor, liaising with customers and helping them to find what they need.
“Pharmacy is not like other retail where you have a customer who is shopping around and needing some help,” says Sheetal. “Customers may have a product request, so they know what they want to choose, or they may walk in with symptoms.
“The pharmacy assistants are the ones who will possibly assess the situation and decide if they need a pharmacist referral or whether you need to refer them to the doctor. There are many times, as pharmacy assistants, we help the customer with products.”
Common tasks may include:
- Accepting prescriptions for the pharmacist
- Offering information to customers about non-prescription medications, first aid supplies, toiletries and cosmetics
- Providing advice about the correct application and storage of medicines
- Processing payments and preparing sales invoices
- Promoting pharmaceutical goods and services
- Product placement and display
- Stocktaking and managing product inventories.
What attributes do pharmacy assistants need?
Pharmacy assistants must have good customer service and interpersonal skills. “In some instances, you build up such good rapport with regulars, you even get to know their pet’s name,” says Sheetal.
Being able to communicate with a wide variety of people is also important. You need to be able to understand what the customer is after and help them find it.
Pharmacy assistant courses
While you can work as a pharmacy assistant without formal qualifications, having a qualification with solid product knowledge is looked upon favourably by prospective employers.
Chisholm’s Certificate III in Community Pharmacy is a popular choice, as it allows you to develop the skills needed to thrive in a community pharmacy setting.
The course gives you confidence to help customers with a range of health care concerns, from how to treat a cold or allergy relief, to finding the right vitamins for their needs.
“People who enrol in the Certificate III can be pharmacy assistants who are already working in a community pharmacy and they want to just upgrade their knowledge,” says Sheetal. “They may have knowledge about things like stocktake, but they don’t have enough product knowledge.”
Once completed, there’s also the option to further your study with a Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy. This is beneficial if your aim is to work alongside the pharmacist in the dispensary (rather than on the floor).
Pharmacy assistant job opportunities
The Australian Government’s Job Outlook website lists pharmacy assistance as a “large occupation”.
“There is a lot of demand for pharmacy assistants,” Sheetal says. “During COVID, the employment rate for pharmacy assistants was higher than at any other time I’ve taught with Chisholm (I’ve been with them for 11 years).”
Sheetal says one of the great things about Chisholm’s course is that it includes practical placement.
“It means students can put all that learning into practice,” she says. “They’re actually working in a pharmacy, they see what the environment is like, they work in the dispensary alongside the pharmacist, and this is a great experience for them.”
Sheetal says it’s not uncommon for placement to lead to employment. “A lot of the students – more than 30% I’d say – actually get hired,” she says. “If they tick all of the boxes, we have a lot of employers hiring students during their work placements.”
Pharmacy assistant salary
According to the Australian Government’s Job Outlook, full-time workers on an adult wage earn around $874 per week. Earnings increase in line with experience.
Breaking it down further, Sheetal says the awards are slightly different depending on your qualifications and age. As a pharmacy assistant in 2021, the entry level hourly rate starts at about $22 per hour, increasing to $24 per hour for dispense technicians (those with a Certificate IV qualification).
“Overall, pharmacy assistance is an exciting career that can be very rewarding,” Sheetal says.
Keen to know more about community pharmacy? Enquire about the Certificate III in Community Pharmacy SIR30116 today.