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Pharmacy technician schools throughout Canada enable caring and detail-oriented individuals to learn skills for assisting pharmacists with important work. It's the kind of role that lets you help people recover from illnesses and live more comfortable lives. And it's one that usually involves a variety of fascinating tasks that keep your days active and interesting.
Why Pharmacy Technicians Are Essential
Prescription drugs are used extensively in modern medicine, especially in western countries like Canada. As a result, the pharmacy industry serves millions of people every year by giving them access to safely prepared medications that their doctors have prescribed. But the volume of dispensed pharmaceuticals is so big that pharmacists alone cannot usually handle the workloads by themselves.
In Canada, more than 10,035 licensed pharmacies existed at the beginning of 2016.* But that number has the potential to rise significantly as the nation's population of older people increases at a rapid pace. Just look at these statistics from 2005, which show that the country's pharmacies, on average, filled:
- 14 prescriptions for every Canadian over the course of a year**
- 35 prescriptions for every person between the ages of 60 and 79**
- 74 prescriptions for every person aged 80 and older**
The Role of Pharmacy Assistants and Technicians
These professionals are vital within most of today's pharmacies. They usually take care of a large variety of supporting tasks that enable the pharmacists they work with to focus on ensuring patients receive appropriate advice and the right medications at the right doses. Some of those tasks include:
- Maintaining up-to-date and accurate prescription records
- Keeping track of a pharmacy's inventory of supplies and medications
- Helping to fill prescriptions by preparing medicinal compounds and portioning out, bottling, and labeling the correct pharmaceutical drugs
- Providing customer assistance to pharmacy patients
It's important to understand that, in many parts of Canada, there is now a difference between a pharmacy assistant and a pharmacy technician. A lot of provinces regulate pharmacy technicians and allow them to carry out more responsibilities than pharmacy assistants. In those provinces, a licensed or certified pharmacy technician may have the added, independent authority to:
- Transcribe verbal prescriptions from doctors
- Receive prescriptions from, or transfer prescriptions to, other pharmacies
- Perform all final checks on prescriptions to ensure they are complete and that medications have been prepared and packaged properly
These are tasks that could previously only be performed by licensed pharmacists. At the start of 2016, Canada had at least 6,601 licensed pharmacy technicians. About 68 percent of them were in Ontario.* But that number should grow as more and more pharmacists look to expand their own roles into clinical care and hand off some of their traditional responsibilities to certified pharmacy techs.
On average, pharmacy assistants in Canada earn about $13.86 per hour. However, many of them make over $18.80 per hour (roughly $41,217 per year for full-time work) after enough experience.***
In contrast, the average hourly wage of certified pharmacy technicians is about $15.45. And, with experience, they can earn as much as $23.81 or more per hour, which equals a full-time salary of over $52,323.***
Many Canadian pharmacies also provide their employees with benefits like dental and supplemental health insurance.
Education and Licensing Requirements
Becoming a pharmacy assistant usually involves only a small amount of vocational training. In fact, a lot of Canadian programs take only about five to 10 months. And pharmacy assistants don't currently require any licensing or certification.
To become a pharmacy technician, you may need slightly more schooling, but a number of programs still take less than one year. And they tend to include a period of supervised training within an actual pharmacy.
To get your certification as a pharmacy technician in provinces like Ontario, BC, Alberta, and Nova Scotia, it's important that you graduate from a school that is recognized by the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs. You will then need to pass some licensing exams, such as those conducted by the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada.
Find Out Where You Can Train for Your Pharmacy Career
It's easy to locate an accredited vocational school in Canada that offers the kind of pharmacy assistant or pharmacy technician program you need. Simply use this site to search for a school with your postal code. It's fast and completely free!
* National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, website last visited on October 26, 2016.
** Statistics Canada, website last visited on April 7, 2017.
*** PayScale, website last visited on September 21, 2017.