Pharmacy Technician Certification

Job demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow faster than average by 2022, and one way that job candidates could stand apart when it comes to employment or job opportunities is through certification. While many other factors come into play when employers make decisions about hiring, certification shows that you have met the specific knowledge standards established by certifying organizations and that you should be capable of making job-related decisions in your field.

Currently, there are two pharmacy technician certifications available. The first is the CPhT offered through the National Healthcareer Association (NCA), which has certified more than 450,000 allied health professionals in the past 25 years, including in other allied health fields beyond pharmacy tech. The other pharmacy tech certification available, also called the CPhT, is offered through the Pharmacy Tech Certification Board (PTCB), which was founded in 1995 by a number of different organizations, including the American Pharmacy Association, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and others. Both certifications are nationally-based and may be required in some states for pharmacy technicians to become certified, registered, licensed or capable of working there.

Requirements for Certification

The NHA: The NHA reports that certification requirements vary by state, and it best to know what is needed in your state so that you can take the needed steps toward certification. The fee to enroll for its exam is $105 and applicants can register online by creating a username and password. Students do need to be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED, and have completed a pharmacy tech training program or have at least 12 months of work experience, which has been completed within the past 36 months, to be eligible.

The PTCB: To obtain certification through the PTCB, candidates must have a high school diploma, or equivalent; comply with all of PTCB’s policies, including following its Code of Conduct; and obtain a passing score on its pharmacy technician certification exam. You can apply online to take pharmacy tech certification exam. Its $129 cost covers both the application and the cost to sit for the exam. Applicants register by enrolling with a username and password, and then use this account to later log back-on. A list of state requirements for certification is featured on the PTCB website and can provide more information about the process for applying for the exam.

Certification Preparation & Exam

The NHA: A wide assortment of study materials are available on the National Healthcareer Association website to help candidates prepare for the pharmacy technician certification exam. This includes an online practice test, a math calculation test, and even $15 flash cards. A $199 learning resources package features a learning manual, workbook tutorial, flash cards, math calculation practice assessment and more whereas an online certification prep package, at $56, includes five learning models to help candidates prepare for the pharmacy technician certification exam. Also included in the $56 package are practice drills, audio narration and three case-study videos, as well as a practice test. Students have 2 hours and 10 minutes to take the 120-multiple choice question test, which includes 20 pretest questions. They can register for their exam at PSI Exams. Candidates who do not pass their exam after the first or second attempt, must wait 30 days to re-test. Those not passing after their third time need to wait 12 months. Most exam results will be available to students within 48 hours if not sooner. A 21-page handbook available on the NHA website provides more information for candidates with information about taking and preparing for the Certified Pharmacy Technician Exam.

The PTCB: The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board website provides information about preparing for its particular pharmacy tech certification exam and other details, such as special testing accommodations and the prices for certification and testing. Once candidates are approved to take the exam, they have 30 days in which to provide any supporting documentation and 90 days in which to take the test. Candidates unable to take the test or who wish to withdraw their application receive a refund minus administrative fees. The computer-based exam is administered through PearsonVUE sites available nationwide. It is a two-hour multiple-choice exam consisting of 80 scored questions and 10 unscored questions. The questions fall in nine different knowledge domains, with the most questions asked about the medication order entry and fill process. To prepares, students can:

  • Take the tutorial offered by PearsonVUE. However, this is not PTCB specific, but still does allow students to experience the feel and function of the exam come test day.

  • Take PCBT’s practice test, which is built upon the same knowledge domains as the actual pharmacy tech certification exam, although it will have none of the same questions. The practice test costs $29 and consists of 90 questions.

A passing score of 1,400 is needed on the PTCB exam. Scores are available online approximately one to three weeks after the test has been taken. Those who have passed will have their certification sent to them four to six weeks later.

Value of Certification & Specialization

There can be much value in obtaining CPhT certification. The National Healthcareer Association notes that employers may prefer or require their employees to obtain certification, giving them the peace of mind in knowing that they have the needed training and qualifications. “Certification indicates that you have met a nationally recognized measure of competency,” the website reads, but it also can demonstrate commitment to a selected profession, provide a competitive edge while looking for employment, and increase the potential for career advancement, better earnings and improved opportunities.

The PTCB also notes there are many benefits to recertification, reporting, as the NHA does, that many employers may prefer or require employers to have certification. Among the benefits it notes are: career growth, better employment opportunities, prestige among co-workers, potential for increased earnings, and possession of a respected credential. The CPhT also shows that those certified have validated proof of achievement and knowledge. “PTCB’s certification program enables technicians to work more effectively with pharmacists to offer safe and effective patient care and service,” the website reads.

Licensing Boards

Some states may require pharmacy technicians to be certified by passing the certifying exam offered either through the NHA or PTCB. States may also require other steps for employees to become certified that go beyond just taking an exam. For example, 29 states now require pharmacy techs to be listed on a state registry and another eight require pharmacy techs to be licensed. Again, the PCTB lists some of these state requirements on its website. Contacting the state board of pharmacy of the state in which you intend to work can help you to understand the exact requirements.

Renewal and recertification is also an important part of employment as a pharmacy tech. These processes can vary by state, too, but there are very specific processes in place to recertify through the NHA or PTCB. With the NHA, for example, recertification, costing $40, is required every two years and necessitates completion of 20 continuing education units. At least one of these hours must be in pharmacy law. A recertification guide on the NHA’s website provides many more details about the process.

Recertification through the PTCB is also $40. To be eligible for recertification, candidates must complete 20 hours of continuing education, one of which must specifically be in pharmacy law and another that must specifically be in patient safety. Continuing-education programs available through Accredited Council for Pharmacy Education-providers with a designation of ‘T’ should quality as pharmacy-tech specific education. Non-accredited CE programs may also be accepted, but must have program objectives related to the competency outcomes outlined in the organization’s certification exam blueprint.

Barry Franklin
Barry Franklin Editor

Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of MedicalTechnologySchools.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also met his wife.