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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.
Certificate vs Certification
- A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
- A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.
In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.
Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.
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.
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:
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 Required||Licensing/Registration Required||State Board|
|Alabama||No||Yes||Alabama Board of Pharmacy|
|Alaska||No||Yes||Alaska Board of Pharmacy|
|Arizona||Yes||Yes||Arizona State Board of Pharmacy|
|Arkansas||No||Yes||Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy|
|California||No||Yes||California State Board of Pharmacy|
|Colorado||Yes||Yes||Colorado State Board of Pharmacy|
|Connecticut||No||Yes||The Connecticut Commission of Pharmacy|
|Delaware||No||No||Delaware Board of Pharmacy|
|Florida||No||Yes||Florida Board of Pharmacy|
|Georgia||No||Yes||Georgia Board of Pharmacy|
|Hawaii||No||No||Board of Pharmacy|
|Idaho||Yes||Yes||Idaho State Board of Pharmacy|
|Illinois||Yes||Yes||Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Pharmacy Division|
|Indiana||No||Yes||PLA Indiana Board of Pharmacy|
|Iowa||Yes||Yes||Iowa Board of Pharmacy|
|Kansas||Yes||Yes||Kansas Board of Pharmacy|
|Kentucky||No||Yes||Kentucky Board of Pharmacy|
|Louisiana||Yes||Yes||Louisiana Board of Pharmacy|
|Maine||No||Yes||Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, Board of Pharmacy|
|Maryland||No||Yes||Maryland Board of Pharmacy|
|Massachusetts||No||Yes||Board of Registration in Pharmacy|
|Michigan||No||Yes||Michigan Board of Pharmacy|
|Minnesota||No||Yes||Minnesota Board of Pharmacy|
|Mississippi||Yes||Yes||Mississippi Board of Pharmacy|
|Missouri||No||Yes||Missouri Division of Professional Regulation|
|Montana||Yes||Yes||Montana Board of Pharmacy|
|Nebraska||No||Yes||Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Licensing Division|
|Nevada||Yes||Yes||Nevada State Board of Pharmacy|
|New Hampshire||No||Yes||Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, Board of Pharmacy|
|New Jersey||No||Yes||New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy|
|New Mexico||Yes||Yes||New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department|
|New York||No||No||Office of the Professions, Pharmacy Division|
|North Carolina||Yes||Yes||North Carolina Board of Pharmacy|
|North Dakota||Yes||Yes||North Dakota Board of Pharmacy|
|Ohio||No||Yes||State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy|
|Oklahoma||No||Yes||Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy|
|Oregon||Yes||Yes||Oregon Board of Pharmacy|
|Pennsylvania||No||No||Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy|
|Rhode Island||No||Yes||State of Rhode Island Department of Health|
|South Carolina||No||Yes||South Carolina Board of Pharmacy|
|South Dakota||Yes||Yes||South Dakota Board of Pharmacy|
|Tennessee||No||Yes||Tennessee Board of Pharmacy|
|Texas||Yes||Yes||Texas State Board of Pharmacy|
|Utah||Yes||Yes||Utah Board of Pharmacy|
|Vermont||Yes||Yes||Office of Professional Regulation, Pharmacy|
|Virginia||Yes||Yes||Virginia Board of Pharmacy|
|Washington||Yes||Yes||Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission|
|West Virginia||No||Yes||West Virginia Board of Pharmacy|
|Wisconsin||No||No||DSPS Pharmacy Examining Board|
|Wyoming||Yes||Yes||Wyoming State Board of Pharmacy|
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.”