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Is Certification Required to Work as a Pharmacy Technician?

While becoming certified isn’t required by law, it’s becoming the industry norm.

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Home » Pharmacy Technician » Certification

While certification is not always needed to work as a pharmacy technician, the requirement is becoming more and more common. Even in states that do not have certification requirements, earning yours may advance your career and increase your earning potential.

Pharmacy technician certifications show that you have the needed skills and knowledge to meet job requirements. Certifications show employers, at a glance, that you have the expertise they’re looking for.

Earning certification entails studying for and passing a standardized exam from a credentialing board, then maintaining the credential—usually through continuing education.

How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician

Demand for pharmacy technicians is growing nationwide. To differentiate yourself—and make yourself potentially more competitive for jobs and increased pay—consider becoming a certified pharmacy technician.

Getting certified involves passing the exam given by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). This milestone demonstrates that you have the fundamental knowledge to begin working as a pharmacy technician.

You have several options when it comes to the types of certifications you can earn:

Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT):

Granted by the PTCB and NHA, it’s designed for entry-level technicians to show their knowledge of medication safety and patient care.

Certified Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician (CSPT):

Granted by the PTCB, this certification demonstrates your expertise in preparing combinations of medications tailored for individual patients.

Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv):

Granted by the PTCB, the CPhT-Adv requires at least three years of professional experience plus completed certificate programs or a combination of certificate programs and certifications.

Not all states require pharmacy technicians to be certified, “but there is a growing expectation that you earn a national certification,” explains Glen Gard, CPhT, CSPT, director of sterile compounding compliance at the infusion services company Option Care Health.

Why are Pharmacy Technician Requirements Changing?


You might wonder why certification requirements are becoming the industry standard. The trend can be attributed to several factors, Gard says.

On one hand, as healthcare practices and pharmacology become more nuanced and complex, pharmacy technicians need to rise to meet those higher standards.

Secondly, pharmacy technicians are taking on some tasks that formerly were pharmacists’ responsibility. For instance, pharmacy technicians in many places can now administer vaccinations. As pharmacy technicians take on more responsibility, certification requirements become more common.

What Does Pharmacy Technician Certification Entail?

Before earning your certification from the PTCB or NHA, you’ll need to complete an educational program. Your education options to become a pharmacy technician vary, from a certificate or diploma program to an associate degree or even training provided by an employer. Programs include the basics you’ll need on the job—and to pass the certification exam—including medical terminology, math needed for pharmaceutical calculations and measurements, anatomy and physiology, and drug classifications.

After completing an accredited (and therefore certification board-recognized) education program, you’ll need to meet these certification requirements:

  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or foreign equivalent
  • Have no felony or drug-related convictions
  • Are not under any restrictions from any state board of pharmacy

To keep your pharmacy technician certification current, you must renew every two years. Renewals require 20 hours of continuing education credits, including at least one hour in pharmacy law.

Certification by State

“There is not a single national certification requirement for pharmacy technicians, but the field is beginning to standardize,” Gard explains.

Before deciding on a path for education, training, and certification, research the state where you plan to work. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has links to pages that detail each state’s requirements. Below is a summarized version of the requirements to work as a pharmacy technician in each state.

Certification RequiredLicensing/Registration RequiredState Board
AlabamaNoYesAlabama Board of Pharmacy
AlaskaNoYesAlaska Board of Pharmacy
ArizonaYesYesArizona State Board of Pharmacy
ArkansasNoYesArkansas State Board of Pharmacy
CaliforniaNoYesCalifornia State Board of Pharmacy
ColoradoYesYesColorado State Board of Pharmacy
ConnecticutNoYesThe Connecticut Commission of Pharmacy
DelawareNoNoDelaware Board of Pharmacy
FloridaNoYesFlorida Board of Pharmacy
GeorgiaNoYesGeorgia Board of Pharmacy
HawaiiNoNoBoard of Pharmacy
IdahoYesYesIdaho State Board of Pharmacy
IllinoisYesYesDepartment of Financial and Professional Regulation, Pharmacy Division
IndianaNoYesPLA Indiana Board of Pharmacy
IowaYesYesIowa Board of Pharmacy
KansasYesYesKansas Board of Pharmacy
KentuckyNoYesKentucky Board of Pharmacy
LouisianaYesYesLouisiana Board of Pharmacy
MaineNoYesOffice of Professional and Occupational Regulation, Board of Pharmacy
MarylandNoYesMaryland Board of Pharmacy
MassachusettsNoYesBoard of Registration in Pharmacy
MichiganNoYesMichigan Board of Pharmacy
MinnesotaNoYesMinnesota Board of Pharmacy
MississippiYesYesMississippi Board of Pharmacy
MissouriNoYesMissouri Division of Professional Regulation
MontanaYesYesMontana Board of Pharmacy
NebraskaNoYesNebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Licensing Division
NevadaYesYesNevada State Board of Pharmacy
New HampshireNoYesOffice of Professional Licensure and Certification, Board of Pharmacy
New JerseyNoYesNew Jersey State Board of Pharmacy
New MexicoYesYesNew Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department
New YorkNoNoOffice of the Professions, Pharmacy Division
North CarolinaYesYesNorth Carolina Board of Pharmacy
North DakotaYesYesNorth Dakota Board of Pharmacy
OhioNoYesState of Ohio Board of Pharmacy
OklahomaNoYesOklahoma State Board of Pharmacy
OregonYesYesOregon Board of Pharmacy
PennsylvaniaNoNoPennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy
Rhode IslandNoYesState of Rhode Island Department of Health
South CarolinaNoYesSouth Carolina Board of Pharmacy
South DakotaYesYesSouth Dakota Board of Pharmacy
TennesseeNoYesTennessee Board of Pharmacy
TexasYesYesTexas State Board of Pharmacy
UtahYesYesUtah Board of Pharmacy
VermontYesYesOffice of Professional Regulation, Pharmacy
VirginiaYesYesVirginia Board of Pharmacy
Washington YesYesWashington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission
West VirginiaNoYesWest Virginia Board of Pharmacy
WisconsinNoNoDSPS Pharmacy Examining Board
WyomingYesYesWyoming State Board of Pharmacy

Certification Exams

Pharmacy technician certification tests are standardized and given on a computer. Two exams for pharmacy technicians are available:

The PTCB Certification Exam

Before taking the PTCB certification exam, you will need to complete a PTCB-approved education or training program, or have at least 500 hours of work experience. The test consists of 90 multiple-choice questions that cover the following areas:

  • Assisting pharmacists in serving patients
  • Maintaining medication and inventory control systems
  • Participating in the administration and management of pharmacy practice

You can take the exam in testing locations across the country. The test is offered year-round, so you can take it as soon as you feel prepared.

If you do not pass, you may retake the exam as many times as you need to earn a passing score. You’ll need to pay the exam fee ($129) each time you take it.

Once you have passed the exam, you’ll have earned the designation of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).

The National Healthcareer Association Certification Test

Aspiring pharmacy technicians can also earn their CPhT designation by passing the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) test. Unlike the PTCB exam, you’ll need to complete a pharmacy technician training program or have at least one year of work experience. Some of the topics you’ll be tested on within the 100 questions include:

  • Dosage and calculations
  • Drug names
  • Common medications

The exam registration fee is $115. The computer-based exam can be taken online or in person.

Both the PTCB and NHA designations of CPhT must be renewed every two years. Renewal requirements include a fee and completion of at least 20 hours of continuing education credits, including 1 hour of pharmacy law and 1 hour of patient safety.

Note, too, that exams require completion of a recognized education or training program. That is why it is so important to ensure the institution where you study is approved by the certification board.

What are Specialty Certificates?

All the different kinds of certificates for pharmacy technicians can be confusing. After earning your foundational certification—your CPhT—you can go on to acquire specialty certificate.

“If you want to specialize, you can earn specialty certificates, which helps open up opportunities to move into advanced roles,” Gard explains.

Specialty certificates are offered through the PTCB. They include:

  • Medication History Certificate
  • Technician Product Verification Certificate
  • Hazardous Drug Management Certificate
  • Billing and Reimbursement Certificate
  • Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Certificate
  • Immunization Administration Certificate

These niche certificates can pay off—literally. Gard says, “Specializing will increase your salary.”

Salary

As you consider different paths in healthcare careers, you’ll want to investigate what you can earn. The salary of pharmacy technicians varies. Your pay will be impacted by:

  • The setting in which you work (hospital, compounding pharmacy, long-term skilled nursing facility, etc.)
  • Rural vs urban vs suburban location
  • The state in which you work
  • Years of experience
  • Certifications

Careers

If you’re just starting your research on how to become a pharmacy technician, you might not realize the diversity of positions within the field. In fact, there are many careers you can pursue as a pharmacy technician.

Your day-to-day work often depends on the setting in which you’re employed. A technician in a compounding pharmacy, for example, will spend their time differently than someone in a home infusion services company.

The range of roles is exciting, Gard says, because you can customize your career to your passions. “It’s a really rewarding profession,” he says. “What you do makes a difference.”

catherine gregory

Written and reported by:
Catherine Ryan Gregory
Contributing Writer

glen gard

With professional insight from:
Glen Gard, CPhT, CSPT
Director of Sterile Compounding Compliance, Option Care Health