What Does a Pharmacy Tech Do?

What Does a Pharmacy Tech Do?

Are you ready to go right into an amazing healthcare career? Some programs take years of higher education and thousands in student loan debt before you can get started.

You can become a pharmacy technician in less than a year, however, depending on your state’s requirements and programs. Even higher education programs average only around one to two years.

This allows your healthcare career to take off without the average $300 to $400 in student loan payments each month. If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy tech and want to learn what they do, where they work, and how they get certified, this guide is for you!

What Is a Pharmacy Tech?

Pharmacy technicians play a critical role in healthcare. While medical professionals such as doctors and nurses may prescribe or administer medications, they don’t have time to constantly manage an entire medication inventory or fill prescriptions for all their patients.

A dedicated pharmacy handles this process for them. These healthcare spaces are managed by pharmacists, who are resident experts in medication management.

Pharmacists also teach, train, and supervise pharmacy techs, who perform many of the daily tasks within the pharmacy. A pharmacy would be an expensive and overworked place to maintain without pharmacy techs.

Pharmacy Tech Duties

Pharmacists, patients, and insurance companies rely on pharmacy techs as a key link in the healthcare chain. General pharmacy tech duties include:

  • Inventory management

  • Customer service

  • Processing insurance claims and billing

Pharmacy techs may also have different or additional duties depending on where they work. For example, a retail tech processes payments at the counter, while a hospital tech is more likely to be found prepping IV bags.

Inventory Management

Pharmacy techs help maintain a well-stocked pharmacy. This can include:

  • Inventory tracking

  • Restocking supplies

  • Repackaging wholesale medications

  • Removing expired or outdated products

  • Reordering new supplies

  • Maintaining automatic dispensers

Patient care is seriously impacted if a pharmacy is constantly running out of stock. Many patients have chronic health issues and cannot skip one day of meds. As a pharmacy tech, you help patients fill their prescriptions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Customer Service

Like other health-related careers, a pharmacy tech supports patients so they get the best care. Patient care duties include:

  • Confirming prescription orders

  • Accurate prescription filling

  • Clear and concise medication labeling

  • Verifying potential drug interactions

  • Explaining medication instructions to patients

  • Making patients aware of possible side effects

  • Answering questions with accuracy

A pharmacy tech protects patients by making sure every order is accurate, safe, and appropriate. They also help patients understand how to take their medication safely, and what side effect signs to watch out for.

Insurance Liaison

Pharmacy techs act may also act as billing liaisons between patients and insurance companies. These duties include:

  • Ensuring accurate billing and coding

  • Charging patients the correct co-pay

  • Helping patients fill out insurance forms

  • Resolving insurance claims

Many patients would be unable to afford their prescriptions without accurate insurance bills, claims, and co-pays. They may also become frustrated with insurance providers who aren’t always straightforward with their processes and policies.

As a pharmacy tech, you can help patients understand their insurance and their payments. Insurance companies also rely on you for accurate information so they don’t over or under pay for prescriptions.

Pharmacy Tech Career Paths

Becoming a pharmacy tech is just the first step. There are so many different career paths, you may have difficulty picking just one.

Pharmacy techs have many specialties (skill areas) they can work in. Official certifications include:

  • Sterile compounding

  • Nonsterile compounding

  • Product verifications

  • Medication history

  • Controlled substance diversion prevention

  • Hazardous drug management

  • Immunization administration

  • Point-of-care testing

  • Medication Therapy Management (MTM)

Not every specialty must have an official certification, however. It depends on where you work and your state’s requirements.

Retail chain and hospital tech jobs are popular options, but pharmacy techs are in demand in many other work areas. These include:

  • “Corner store” (independent) pharmacies

  • Specialty clinics

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Assisted living homes

  • Military bases

  • Educational centers

  • Prisons and jails

  • Compounding pharmacies

Your pharmacy tech career doesn’t have to stop there. Additional areas of expertise and workplaces will open up as you advance in your field.

Pharmacy Tech Advancement Opportunities

Like career paths, there are many advancement paths for pharmacy techs. They can advance in their current job title to positions like supervisor or manager.

Advancement also comes with a substantial pay boost in average annual salary (via Salary.com):

  • PT Entry-level: $37,217

  • PT Senior-level: $43,790

  • PT Supervisor: $63,153

  • PT Team Leader: $63,200

Pharmacy techs also have the option to level up to pharmacist. The average annual salary for a pharmacist is currently $144,327. A pharmacist operations manager averages $161,720.

Pharmacists also have many specialization areas they can choose from, as they are considered experts in their field. These specialties include:

  • Ambulatory care

  • Cardiology

  • Critical care

  • Emergency Medicine

  • Geriatric

  • Infectious diseases

  • Nuclear

  • Nutrition

  • Oncology

  • Pediatric

  • Psychiatric

  • Organ transplants

No matter what career or advancement you choose, you’ll have to meet certain certification and education requirements. This means meeting all the initial requirements to become a pharmacy tech, and then fulfilling the requirements for your specialty or job title.

Pharmacy Tech Requirements

Pharmacy tech requirements can be tricky to navigate, as there’s no national standard. Standards are set by your employer and your state board. However, many states use national certifications available through various organizations, including:

  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

  • Board of Pharmacy Specialists (BPS)

  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)

Each state has resources to help you go step-by-step through their required licensing and certification. You can also use online resources, as long as you verify the information is current with your state board.

Some states don’t require anything beyond on-the-job training and registration. In these cases, certification and educational programs are used to give your resume a hiring boost above other techs in your field.


If required, your initial state certification will generally be through the PTCB or the NHA. Your employer may require additional certifications, especially if you’re working in a specialty field.

Once you pass the requisite PTCB or NHA exam, you’re officially a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT). The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) certifies both programs, so they are officially recognized in all 50 states.


PTCB is generally the most popular certification option, often referred to as the “gold-star” standard. It administers the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).

To qualify for the PTCE, you must:

  • Complete PTCB education/training or,

  • Have an equivalent amount of work hours

Official PTCB education and training are available through recognized programs. If your state doesn’t require official certification to work in your field, 500 hours of work experience can be used to fulfill this requirement instead.

Applicants take the PTCE at available Pearson VUE testing centers. The exam includes:

  • Medications

  • Federal requirements

  • Patient safety

  • Quality assurance

  • Order entry and processing

Like other healthcare-related exams, you must study and be well-prepared to pass the PTCE. Not only does each re-test cost $129, but the waiting time increases from 60 days to six months after your third failed attempt.

2. NHA

The NHA offers its own Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) exam. This option is popular with retail techs. ExCPT eligibility criteria are similar to the PTCE:

  • Complete formal education/training or,

  • Have equivalent work experience

The NHA recognizes training and education programs that are accredited or through a state-recognized institution. The work-equivalency requirement is 1,200 hours.

The exam is administered through affiliate schools or a PSI testing center. Exam areas include:

  • Overview of duties

  • Laws and regulations

  • Drug classifications

  • Frequently prescribed medications

  • Dispensing Process

  • Medication safety

  • Quality assurance

Like the PTCE, it’s in your best interest to pass the exam on the first try. Each retake is $115, and the wait time goes from 30 days to one year after the third failure.


Many community colleges, universities, and trade schools offer pharmacy tech programs. Some of these programs are even available online.

Your state board will determine which educational programs count towards their requirements or not. California allows you the option to complete educational requirements through ASHP’s courses, for example.

Soft Skills

In addition to certification and education, you’ll need essential soft skills to be a pharmacy tech. These include:

  • Customer service

  • Conflict management

  • Problem-solving

  • Verbal communication

  • Written communication

  • Attention to detail

  • Organization and planning

Pharmacy techs are also expected to maintain a high degree of ethics and integrity, as they work with medications and controlled substances. They also have to maintain patient confidentiality.

Mastering the PTCB Exam

The PTCB exam isn’t required in every state. You will still want to take it eventually, however, to increase your marketability to employers.

Official PTCB study materials are available, but they come with a relatively high price tag. You can cut down on study costs by using free online resources first. These include:

It’s important to have a robust use of study tools. Passively reading study material is one of the least effective methods for study. Take advantage of tools that stretch your memory recall and your related reading and pharmacy-related math skills.

Take the Leap into Your Pharmacy Tech Career Today!

Becoming a pharmacy tech is a faster and easier process compared to other healthcare fields. You may even get started working as a pharmacy tech right away, depending on your state.

If you want to stand out to employers, mastering the PTCB is essential. Give your career the boost it deserves by preparing for the exam with our first-rate online study tools, at no cost to your wallet! Create your free account today.

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