Understanding the Role of Pharmacy Assistants in Alberta: Your Questions Answered

Patient looking at medicinal documents with Pharmacy assistant - Understanding the Role of Pharmacy Assistants in Alberta: Your Questions Answered 

In the pharmacy sector, beyond the recognized role of pharmacists, there are many key players that ensure operations run smoothly. One such role is that of the pharmacy assistant. But what does a pharmacy assistant do, exactly? In this guide, we’ll explore the responsibilities and importance of pharmacy assistants in Alberta, providing a comprehensive look for those considering a career in healthcare. 

What Is a Pharmacy Assistant? 

A pharmacy assistant plays an integral role in the healthcare industry, particularly in community pharmacies. They provide support to pharmacists and technicians in various pharmacy operations, ensuring the smooth functioning of the pharmacy. While specific duties may vary depending on the pharmacy and their level of experience, pharmacy assistants generally perform administrative tasks, assist customers, and help with medication compounding and dispensing, as well as inventory management.   

What Does a Pharmacy Assistant Do? 

Pharmacy assistants are responsible for various tasks such as operating the cash register, maintaining patient records, organizing prescription medications, and ensuring proper drug storage. They also assist customers with medication questions, provide over-the-counter medication recommendations, and handle third-party insurance claims.   

What’s the Difference Between a Pharmacy Assistant and a Technician? 

In Alberta’s pharmacies, pharmacy assistants and technicians have distinct roles. Pharmacy assistants, typically requiring a diploma, handle tasks like operating cash registers, maintaining records, and offering customer service. Pharmacy assistants are able to compound and dispense non-sterile compounds. They may undergo on-the-job training or attend pharmacy assistant programs.  

Conversely, pharmacy technicians require more formal education and certification. They ensure that all procedures are met when supervising pharmacy assistants. A pharmacy assistant may not release a prescription to a patient in the absence of a pharmacy technician or pharmacist directly supervising the activities they are performing. 

How Much Does a Pharmacy Assistant Make? 

The average annual salary for pharmacy assistants is around $38,000 to $45,000, depending on factors such as experience, education, and the location of the pharmacy. Entry-level pharmacy assistants may start with a salary of around $30,000, but with experience and additional training, they can earn higher wages. Some pharmacy assistants also have the opportunity to work part-time or on a per-hour basis, which may affect their overall earnings.  

It’s important to note that these figures are approximate and can vary based on individual circumstances and the specific pharmacy’s policies.   

How Do You Become a Pharmacy Assistant in Alberta? 

To become a pharmacy assistant in Alberta, one typically needs a high school diploma or equivalent. That said, most employers prefer candidates who’ve completed a post-secondary pharmacy assistant program. Practical experience and optionally obtaining certification can further enhance job prospects. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Assistant? 

Overall, it can take approximately six months to one year to become a qualified pharmacy assistant in Alberta, including the time spent on education, gaining experience, and potentially obtaining certification. It’s important to note that these timelines are estimates and can vary depending on individual circumstances and opportunities available.   

Learn more about the Pharmacy Assistant program at ABES College by calling our team today! We would be happy to walk you through your options!

Patient looking at medicine with Pharmacy assistant - Understanding the Role of Pharmacy Assistants in Alberta: Your Questions Answered

Are Pharmacy Assistant Jobs in Demand? 

According to the latest data from the Government of Alberta, the employment prospects for pharmacy assistants in the province are positive.  This occupational group is forecasted to have above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2019 to 2023, with 169 new positions expected to open up each year. This demand can be attributed to several factors, including population growth, healthcare access improvements, and an aging population requiring more medications.   

What Can’t a Pharmacy Assistant Do? 

In Alberta, pharmacy assistants are not authorized to perform tasks that require the professional expertise and knowledge of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. This includes tasks such as mixing sterile compounds, providing medical advice, and counseling patients on medication use. Only licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are permitted to perform these duties to ensure patient safety and adherence to regulations.   

What Are the Hours Like? 

Pharmacy assistants in Alberta usually work around 35 to 40 hours per week, during regular business hours, though this can vary based on the pharmacy’s operations. For example, hospital pharmacies will likely require night and weekend shifts.  

Is it Worth it to Become a Pharmacy Assistant in Canada? 

Yes! Being a pharmacy assistant in Canada offers a rewarding career in the pharmaceutical industry. They play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of pharmacies and delivering efficient customer service.  

With a livable salary and minimal entry requirements, the role of a pharmacy assistant is an attractive career option or a stepping stone to other opportunities. 

Interested in Becoming a Pharmacy Assistant in Alberta? 

Pursue a Pharmacy Assistant diploma from ABES college and embark on a fulfilling journey in the healthcare industry. Our admissions team is here to help—contact us today