Why Math is Important for Pharmacy Technicians?

Why is math important for pharmacy technicians? There are, as any pharmacy technician can tell you, a number of things that pharmacy technicians need to be good at to do the best possible job, and math, at least certain aspects of it, is one of those things.

Math is important for several reasons, but the number one is ensuring that a prescription is accurate. A single slip with 'the numbers' can result in incorrect dosing that can have grave consequence for a patient. There are other important reasons that good basic math skills are a must for pharmacy technicians though and so this is what we are going to take a closer look at here.

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How Much Math is There in Pharmacy?

The most important area in which pharmacy technicians use math is when it comes to dosing calculations. Getting these numbers right every time is a must, as we mentioned previously. Counting dosages in general is important too. This is not just for patient safety reasons either.

Most health insurance companies have a limit on the amount of, or number of pills, they will cover for a patient in any given period and will not usually cover any more until it is the right time. This means that while shorting a prescription two pills out of 100 might seem like a very small thing to a layperson every pharmacy technician knows that it may be very detrimental to the patient, for whom two missed doses can be a real problem.

Pharmacy techs also may have to do some copay calculations. The insurance software will usually tell them the basic copay amount due but as medication costs rise an increasing number of patients make use of other coupons and discounts to help offset those costs and it is often the job of a pharmacy technician to check and validate these discounts and then figure those that are valid into the final cost. 

What Kind of Math Do You Need to Know for Pharmacy Technician?

A pharmacy technician does not need to be a math genius, but they do need to know the basics, especially when it comes to certain types of math, including all the following:

Algebra and Basic Accounting Skills

Basic accounting skills are a must for pharmacy technicians. They are not only often responsible for charging patients the right amounts of money for their prescriptions but also for things like inventory management and actually counting pills into containers.

Robots do often do the basic counting for you when working as a pharmacy technician but as a quality control measure you will usually be required to double-check the amounts these robo-counters dispense.

When it comes to inventory even a few missing pills or doses can be a real problem, especially when it comes to narcotic medications and other highly controlled substances. So, those basic accounting skills will be needed at inventory time too.

Algebra is often not many people's favorite aspect of high school math but for a pharmacy tech a basic understanding of it is a must. Dosing calculations are often expressed as algebraic calculations and if you are interested in becoming a compounding pharmacy technician then a strong understanding of the discipline is certainly called for as you will be part of team that is actually mixing and creating medication doses. 

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Math Calculation for Pharmacy Technicians helps trainee pharmacy technician students with the key math skills needed and continues to be an invaluable reference tool for established PT's already working in the field. 

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Here is a collection of useful compounding math videos for the pharmacy techs. 

Alligation Method

Conversions and Measurements

Perhaps one of the most important things that a pharmacy technician must know, or learn, is how to work with different measurement systems and conversions. This can be a special challenge for US based pharmacy technicians as the USA is one of the few countries in the world that has not adopted the metric system as a standard.

However, it is a standard in most aspects of medicine. So, as a pharmacy tech quickly discovers that medications are usually measured in liters and millilitres, and powdered medications and pills in grams and kilograms. You'll want to study all of the different pharmacy conversions to prepare for the PTCB exam or the ExCPT exam offered by NHA.

Most patients however only understand teaspoons, ounces or drops, so it's the pharmacy staff - including the pharmacy technician - who must make the conversion calculations to ensure that patients are instructed to take the right about of the medication that is being prescribed. Any mistake can be dangerous, so having an excellent grasp of conversions and measurements is a must. 

Here are sample conversions to measurement systems a tech would work with:

Solid Measurements

Sample conversion from gram to milligram and milligram to gram:

Unit A: gram

Unit B: milligram

Conversion: 1 g = 1000 mg

Converting A to B: A x 1000 = B

Converting B to A: B/1000 = A


Sample conversion from fluid ounce to tablespoon and tablespoon to fluid ounce.

Unit A: fluid ounce

Unit B: tablespoon

Conversion: 1 fl. oz = 2 tbsp

Converting A to B: A x 2 = B

Converting B to A: B/2 = A


There's only two conversions here a tech would deal with. 

Convert From

Convert To


Degrees Celsius

Degrees Fahrenheit

°C x (9/5) + 32 = °F

Degrees Fahrenheit

Degrees Celsius

(°F – 32) x (5/9) = °C

Here is a useful collection of concentrations and dilutions videos for pharmacy tech students. 

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What Other Key Skills Does a Pharmacy Technician Need?

Pharmacy Technicians do need to possess - or learn - a number of specialist skills, with some of the most important being soft skills. Computer skills are important as almost every aspect of a working pharmacy in the 21st century is computerized, especially when it comes to health insurance billing and patient records.

Accuracy is a must as is the ability to work quickly. Most pharmacies are very busy places, and everything often needs to be completed quickly without sacrificing accuracy. As the demand for pharmacy services increases this becomes even more important and is something would be pharmacy technicians should be aware of.

A full working knowledge of the HIPAA privacy regulations and how they are applied are additional things US based pharmacy technicians are required to master, as failure to do so can cost them their job and earn the pharmacy they work for a penalty too.

When it comes to soft skills, customer service is very important for a pharmacy technician, as is good old-fashioned patience. Those who come to a pharmacy are often actively sick or injured, and so may not be the easiest people to deal with.

Insurance issues can anger people quickly too and, even though they may be nothing to do with you, and call for a conversation between the patient and their insurance company and/or medical provider it's often the pharmacy tech who is the object of a frustrated patient's misguided anger. 

Also Related: Pros and Cons of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

Is Pharmacy Tech School Hard?

If you have a high school diploma or GED, and basic math and computer skills getting through pharmacy technician school is not prohibitively hard but it's no walk in the park either. You will need to be committed to your studies and willing to put in the work. You'll also need to be willing to ask your instructors for extra help if you need it. And, in order to pass, you will need to do additional study before taking the PTCE or ExCPT certification exam.

Almost all PTCB approved training programs do set minimum guidelines for admission that include things like testing for basic math, English and computer skills. So if you pass them and gain admission to one of these programs, it means these schools think you have what it takes to become a pharmacy technician, it will just be up to you to put in the work to make it happen! 

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Get information on Pharmacy Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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