Deciding whether or not to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician is a big choice. Many prospective students wonder – is pharmacy tech school hard? The short answer is that while pharmacy technician programs do require studying and hands-on work, they are very manageable for most students with the right determination and support.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at what’s involved in pharmacy tech training, including the coursework, externships, certification exams, and more. We’ll also provide tips for succeeding in pharmacy tech school and advice for choosing the right program.

What Will You Study in Pharmacy Tech School?

Basic Science Courses

Pharmacy tech school curriculum typically includes a range of basic science courses. These courses provide the foundation for understanding the human body, diseases, and drug interactions. Students may study subjects like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and pharmacology.

Understanding these concepts is crucial for pharmacy technicians to effectively assist pharmacists in dispensing medications and advising patients on their proper use.

Math Courses

Math skills are essential for pharmacy technicians to accurately calculate dosages, measure medications, and maintain inventory. In pharmacy tech school, students can expect to take math courses that focus on pharmaceutical calculations.

These courses cover topics such as unit conversions, proportions, percentages, and algebraic equations. Developing strong math skills is vital for ensuring patient safety and preventing medication errors.

Pharmacy Law and Ethics

Pharmacy technicians must have a solid understanding of the legal and ethical aspects of their profession. In pharmacy tech school, students will learn about federal and state regulations governing the practice of pharmacy.

They will study topics like drug classification, controlled substances, prescription labeling requirements, and patient confidentiality. Additionally, students will explore ethical dilemmas they may encounter in the pharmacy setting and how to navigate them with integrity.

Pharmacy Software and Technology

In today’s digital age, pharmacy technicians need to be proficient in using pharmacy software and technology. In pharmacy tech school, students will learn how to navigate pharmacy information systems, process prescriptions electronically, and update patient profiles accurately.

They will also receive training on medication dispensing machines, automated medication packaging systems, and other technological tools commonly used in pharmacies.

Pharmacy Practice and Lab Skills

Pharmacy tech school will provide hands-on training in various pharmacy practice and lab skills. Students will learn how to accurately measure and compound medications, prepare sterile products, and handle hazardous substances safely.

They will also gain experience in inventory management, prescription processing, and insurance billing. These practical skills are crucial for pharmacy technicians to perform their duties efficiently and effectively.

For more information on pharmacy tech school curriculum, you can visit reputable websites like or

What is the Pharmacy Tech Externship?

The pharmacy tech externship is a crucial component of pharmacy technician training programs. It provides students with real-world experience in a pharmacy setting, allowing them to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom.

During the externship, students work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist or experienced pharmacy technician to gain hands-on experience in various aspects of pharmacy operations.

Duration and Requirements

The duration of a pharmacy tech externship can vary depending on the program and state requirements. Typically, externships last for a few weeks to a few months. Prior to starting the externship, students are usually required to complete a certain number of classroom hours and pass specific coursework.

Additionally, they may need to pass a background check and provide proof of immunizations.

Tasks and Responsibilities

During the externship, pharmacy technician students are exposed to a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. They may assist with medication dispensing, inventory management, prescription processing, compounding medications, and providing customer service.

They also learn about pharmacy laws and regulations, patient privacy, and the importance of accuracy and attention to detail in pharmacy operations.

Benefits of the Externship

The pharmacy tech externship offers numerous benefits to students. It allows them to gain practical experience and develop essential skills in a real-world pharmacy setting. The hands-on experience helps students become more confident and comfortable in performing their duties as pharmacy technicians.

It also provides an opportunity to network with professionals in the field and potentially secure employment after graduation.

Furthermore, the externship gives students a chance to observe and learn from experienced pharmacists and technicians, who can provide valuable mentorship and guidance. This mentorship helps students understand the importance of professionalism, ethical conduct, and patient-centered care.

Finding an Externship

Pharmacy technician programs often have partnerships with local pharmacies or healthcare facilities to provide externship opportunities for their students. Students can also proactively reach out to pharmacies in their area to inquire about externship opportunities.

Additionally, online resources and job boards can be useful in finding externship opportunities. It is important for students to research and select a reputable and accredited externship site that aligns with their career goals.

How Difficult is the PTCB Exam?

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam is the national certification exam for pharmacy technicians in the United States. It is designed to assess the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties of a pharmacy technician effectively.

As with any professional certification exam, the difficulty level varies from person to person and depends on several factors.

Content of the PTCB Exam

The PTCB exam consists of 90 multiple-choice questions that cover various topics related to pharmacy practice. These topics include pharmacy law and regulations, medication safety, pharmacology, pharmacy calculations, inventory management, and billing and reimbursement.

The exam also includes questions on pharmacy technician duties, such as medication compounding and sterile product preparation.

While the exam covers a wide range of topics, it is important to note that the PTCB provides a content outline that lists the percentage of questions for each topic area. This outline can help candidates focus their study efforts on areas that are more heavily weighted on the exam.

Difficulty Level and Pass Rates

The difficulty level of the PTCB exam is subjective and can vary depending on an individual’s prior knowledge, study habits, and level of preparation. However, it is worth noting that the PTCB exam has a pass rate of around 70%, indicating that a significant number of candidates are able to successfully pass the exam.

It is important to approach the exam with a solid understanding of the content areas and to dedicate sufficient time for studying and preparation. Many candidates find it helpful to utilize study materials and resources, such as practice exams, textbooks, and online courses, to enhance their knowledge and improve their chances of success.

Preparing for the PTCB Exam

To increase your chances of passing the PTCB exam, it is important to establish a study plan and dedicate regular time for studying. Here are some tips to help you prepare effectively:

  • Review the PTCB Content Outline: Familiarize yourself with the topics and percentage of questions for each content area.
  • Utilize Study Materials: Use textbooks, online courses, and practice exams to reinforce your knowledge and identify areas that require further study.
  • Practice Time Management: Develop time management skills to ensure you can complete the exam within the allotted time frame.
  • Join Study Groups: Collaborate with other pharmacy technician students or professionals to discuss and review exam content.
  • Take Advantage of Online Resources: Explore online forums and websites dedicated to pharmacy technician exam preparation for additional study materials and tips from experienced individuals.

Remember, while the PTCB exam may pose a challenge, it is not insurmountable. With proper preparation, dedication, and a positive mindset, you can increase your chances of passing the exam and becoming a certified pharmacy technician.

Tips for Succeeding in Pharmacy Technician Training

Have Strong Study Skills

Pharmacy technician training requires a significant amount of studying, as you’ll need to learn about medications, dosage calculations, pharmacy law, and other important topics. Having strong study skills will greatly contribute to your success in the program.

Make sure to organize your study materials, create a study schedule, and find a quiet and comfortable place to study. Breaking down the material into smaller, manageable chunks and using mnemonic devices can also help with retaining information.

Ask for Help When Needed

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you’re struggling with a concept or topic. Your instructors and classmates are there to support you, so reach out to them for clarification or guidance. Additionally, many pharmacy technician programs offer tutoring services or study groups where you can get extra help.

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a smart way to ensure your success.

Gain Hands-On Experience

Pharmacy technician training programs often include practical experience in a pharmacy setting. This hands-on experience is invaluable as it allows you to apply what you’ve learned in a real-world environment.

Take advantage of every opportunity to practice tasks such as compounding medications, using pharmacy software, and interacting with customers. The more experience you gain, the more confident and competent you’ll become as a pharmacy technician.

Connect with Other Students

Forming connections with your fellow pharmacy technician students can be beneficial in many ways. Not only can you study together and share resources, but you can also support and motivate each other throughout the program.

Joining study groups, participating in online forums, and attending networking events can help you build a strong support system. Having peers who understand the challenges of pharmacy technician training can make the journey a lot less daunting.

Take Practice Exams

Practice exams are an excellent way to assess your knowledge and identify areas that need improvement. Many pharmacy technician training programs provide practice exams to help students prepare for the certification exam.

Taking these practice exams under simulated test conditions will help you become familiar with the format and time constraints. It will also allow you to gauge your progress and focus your studying on areas where you need the most improvement.

By implementing these tips, you can enhance your chances of succeeding in pharmacy technician training. Remember to stay motivated, stay organized, and seek support when needed. With dedication and hard work, you can excel in this rewarding field of healthcare.

Choosing the Right Pharmacy Tech Program

When considering a career as a pharmacy technician, one of the first decisions you will need to make is which pharmacy tech program to enroll in. The right program can provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this field.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right pharmacy tech program:

Look for Accredited Programs

Accreditation is an important factor to consider when choosing a pharmacy tech program. Accredited programs have met certain standards of quality and are recognized by professional organizations. This ensures that you will receive a comprehensive education that meets industry standards.

You can check the accreditation status of a program by visiting the website of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Consider Your Schedule

Another important factor to consider is your schedule. Many pharmacy tech programs offer flexible options, such as evening or online classes, to accommodate the needs of working professionals or those with other commitments.

It’s important to choose a program that fits well with your schedule and allows you to balance your other responsibilities.

Compare Costs

The cost of a pharmacy tech program is another crucial factor to consider. Tuition fees can vary significantly between different programs, so it’s important to compare the costs and determine what is affordable for you.

However, keep in mind that while cost is important, it shouldn’t be the sole determining factor. It’s important to weigh the quality of education and opportunities offered by the program against the cost.

Review Externship Opportunities

Externships provide valuable hands-on experience and can be a great way to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations. When researching pharmacy tech programs, be sure to inquire about externship opportunities.

Programs that offer externships can provide you with practical experience in a pharmacy setting, which can enhance your skills and increase your job prospects.

Evaluate Instructor Qualifications

The qualifications and experience of the instructors can greatly impact the quality of education you receive. Take the time to research the credentials of the instructors at the pharmacy tech programs you are considering.

Look for instructors who have experience working as pharmacy technicians or pharmacists, as they can provide valuable insights and practical knowledge.

By considering these factors and conducting thorough research, you can choose the pharmacy tech program that is the best fit for your needs and sets you up for success in this rewarding field.


While pharmacy technician school requires dedication, it is very achievable for motivated students. With proper preparation, a robust knowledge base, hands-on training, and the right amount of support, pharmacy tech students can gain the skills needed for a rewarding healthcare career.

Taking the time to choose the right program and utilize all available resources will set you up for success.

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