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How Much Can A Pharmacy Assistant Make?

Updated on July 31, 2013

Here is the #1 question inside everybody's head.

Regardless of whether you might be a student taking a look at probable careers, an international pharmacy professional taking a look at the next best thing, aka "springboard" in the Canadian pharmacy business upon arriving in Canada, or maybe a Pharmacy employee simply just starting venturing out, you will really want to know this information.

What amount of money do you think you will be making?

Take note...I said Pharmacy Assistant. Not Technician. That is a whole different industry now.

The Truth:

*cue dramatic drum roll*

Not Much.

I can't point out how essential that you understand this. I'm talking from personal expertise. Do Not Expect Much.

The starting off salary of any Pharmacy Assistants varies between minimal salary and all around $13-$15 an hour.

There are many variables that will shape just how much you are able to likely start with:

1. City and Province

When i first commenced working in Toronto, Ontario--a metropolis and domain in excess of crazy competition--I started at $11 an hour. Which is how much someone working in Tim Hortons in Alberta makes.

When i relocated to Edmonton, Alberta, the starting salary intended for Pharmacy Assistants was $13 an hour, and that was 3 years ago.

Simply put, 1.)Ontario is full of people, all vying for jobs and 2.)While Alberta is not as populated as Ontario, the province is richer and the businesses that operate within it can offer higher wages.

Depending on where you choose to live, you may use this to your advantage. For instance, many less populated parts of Canada have 1-2 pharmacies at best, small towns, etc. Naturally, there will be no need for a pharmacy assistant in many of these small towns. But if you can manage to paint a different picture for the pharmacies in general--for instance, offer to deliver to patients using your car and only charge gas to your employer--if you can somehow create a "win-win" situation for your potential employer and yourself, go for it.

Likewise, as I mentioned, try to stay away from more populated areas such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary,etc. The level of competition for jobs in these cities ca be fierce, given how busy they are, and the last thing you want to do is put any kind of leverage towards your potential employer. Example: With more people to choose from and eager to work, an employer may not care much about your pitch, and will blow you off if you demand more than he is willing ti give, simply because there's plenty of fish in the sea to pick from.

2. Experience

In certain cases, you may be able to negotiate a higher starting wage depending on your years of experience. For instance, when I worked at a unionized environment, my wage was dictated by 2 things: Whether or not I had a diploma as a Pharmacy Technician, and how many hours of experience I had. This allowed me to obtain a starting salary of $20 per hour.

Likewise, having an official diploma from a public college, or even a vocational diploma from a private career college, will greatly increase your chances of obtaining a higher starting wage. This is because many pharmacists believe in integrity, and having someone who went to obtain proper education, who knows how critical the pharmacy industry can be in maintaining patient's health, will take extra measure towards doing his/her job right, and that extra level of understanding from a pharmacy assistant will put a pharmacist's mind at ease. It's better than hiring a cashier and training them to become a pharmacy assistant--I've seen someone with little to no medical basic know-how of drug interactions and potential allergies, and the results were less than stellar.

3.Type of Pharmacy

The type of pharmacy also matters. Simply put, a hospital will start you off in a higher wage. With the exception of a very small amount of privately owned pharmacies, hospitals will ALWAYS pay more. Hospitals in Canada are unionized AND municipally and provincially funded, granting them the liberty to offer more money.

For example, an ad for a Pharmacy Assistant position at a local hospital advertises a starting wage of $17 to start, and a maximum of $21 per hour as per collective agreement. That's a HUGE jump from the measly $13 many retail pharmacies offer.

Likewise, a long-term care pharmacy started me off at $15.50 per hour in 2010. The reason this is is because long-term care pharmacies operate at a different level of work than a retail pharmacy. It's actually more like a hospital pharmacy, but less restrictive.

4. Education, Education, Education

This will ULTIMATELY decide how high you can earn in this career. Simply put, an employed Regulated Pharmacy Technician will ALWAYS make MORE money than a working Pharmacy Assistant.

To be a Regulated Pharmacy Technician, you will have to spend A LOT of money, in the $5-8 THOUSAND dollar range. Add to that the yearly cost of liability insurance, College of Pharmacy yearly registration fees, and a slew of other fees still to come.

But the rewards of being a regulated pharmacy technician is pretty handsome; a starting position usually starts off in the low $20+ range. In many hospitals, starting salary for a regulated pharmacy technician is around $27 per hour, with a maximum of $31 per hour. Retail pharmacies have yet to embrace the necessity of having a regulated pharmacy technician, since it is usually long-term care pharmacies and hospitals that have a NEED for a regulated pharmacy technician's laundry list of responsibilities.

5. Your Pitch

For the sake of the critic who won't feature my hub as a "Featured Hub" even though it was already chock full of important, relevant content the first time around, I've included this extra. That makes 5, happy now?

The thing is, your pitch in the interview will dictate how much you can potentially negotiate for. Proper diction, having proficient language and conversational skills (a prerequisite to enter Canada is the ability to speak and converse in ENGLISH after all) and maintaining an open attitude and open ears are guaranteed techniques to help put the interview in your favor. Not looking your interviewer in the eye, focusing too much and boasting about your foreign credentials, and talking too much about money will definitely kill your chances of even getting a job. I speak from experience. I have seen this happen--an Indian pharmacist who interviewed for a pharmacy assistant position boasted too much about his Doctorate of Pharmacy, how he was an established pharmacist in India, how he will be a great talent because of his academic performance, etc. NOTHING he said established in my bosses' head a reliable, efficient, pharmacy assistant (which was the position he applied for, not pharmacist). In the end he wasn't hired. So keep your mouth shut, try to praise the interviewer and ask questions about the interviewer and not the company itself, and you'll be in a much, much better position.

Thinking of challenging the PEBC Exam and becoming a Regulated Pharmacy Technician?


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    • TheYoungDad profile image

      Retired Pharmacy Tech 3 years ago from Canada

      In all honesty, yes. Indian pharmacists are everywhere, and with that massive network there is very little chance you wont get a job. I say this because I see it happen. Indian student comes in with her mom, mom talks to the Indian pharmacist on duty, 2 weeks later the Indian student has a job. It's not implied racism, this is true--anecdotal, but true nonetheless.

    • profile image

      sushant 3 years ago

      so in all u'r tryn to say tht it's a decent choice fr an indian student to go under this course ?