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In order to work as a pharmacy technician in most states, you will need to either be licensed or have a certificate.

In fact, only seven states and Washington D.C. do not have regulations over who can and cannot work as a pharmacy tech and 16 states require certification to work as a pharmacy tech. Attaining professional credentials in the field often depends on your state's pharmacy board as well as state legislation regarding the field.

For that reason, there is no universal pathway to the profession.

Pharmacy Tech License vs. Certification

Differentiating between a pharmacy technician license and certification is essential. Pharmacy technician certification indicates successful completion of a proficiency-based exam, signifying your knowledge and skills in the field. On the other hand, a pharmacy technician license demonstrates state authorization to perform pharmacy technician duties. While certification validates your competence, obtaining a license is a legal requirement enforced by the state. Both credentials are valuable, with certification showcasing expertise and a license granting official permission to practice as a pharmacy technician.

Certification Explained

There can be confusion as to the difference between being certified and licensed. To be a certified pharmacy technician, you simply need to pass a qualifying exam given by either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Once you pass the exam, often your state will need you to be fingerprinted, submit to a background check and pay any associated fees.

To sit for the PTCB exam, you will need to have a valid application with your state's pharmacy board. That means that you will need to have already submitted your fingerprints, background check and be current with any applicable fees. While there is no requirement for a formal secondary education, you will likely need to have the knowledge and experience that a formal education can offer. The knowledge you gain in a pharmacy tech program will be vital to attaining any national certification.

The NHA, on the other hand, requires that you complete a pharmacy tech training program prior to applying to sit for the exam. You also need a high school diploma or a GED. While an AA with a Pharmacy Tech diploma will be of great help in the job market, you can sit for the exam with a valid certificate of completion. The NHA does not require that you apply for state licensure. Therefore, if your state does not regulate pharmacy techs, this might be the best option for you. That is, when you pass the NHA exam, you will have a nationally-recognized credential that will open the doors to fantastic job opportunities.

Licensure Explained

In states that require licensure, there is often a preference of one agency over another, but the majority will recognize the PTCB credential, which is the older of the two. However, it is vital that you check with your pharmacy board prior to sitting for an exam. When making your choice between exams, you may want to consider the possibility that you might move in the future. If your state offers a choice, the PTCB may be preferred, as it is most likely to be acknowledged by other state pharmacy boards who will want to see a national certification prior to licensure.

If your state does not regulate who can or cannot work as a pharmacy technician, you can be nationally certified, but not licensed. If that describes your status, you might be called in to interview with pharmacies, but they may require full licensure as a condition of employment. In states that do not require either certification or licensure, holding a national certification will help you stand out among the other applicants. Many national and regional retail chains may have a corporate policy that requires some credentials, even if they are not required by the applicable pharmacy board.

Preparing for Certification

If you have decided to embark on a career in pharmacy, it will benefit you to begin your career path with a strong education. Regardless of which agency you decide to sit with to take your qualifying examination for certification, you will need a vast body of knowledge under your belt so that you can pass the test. That knowledge is best gained through formal education. Without it, your independent studying will not have the necessary focus and you are likely to have a very difficult time indeed. Further, when you can show an employer a certificate or full diploma to go along with national certification or state licensure, they are bound to take note.

For that reason, it is recommended that you find a pharmacy tech program in your local area. Alternately, there are online programs for pharmacy technician. Since most traditional campus programs will have an externship program, and other employment assistance protocols, make sure that your online program has something equivalent. In fact, the NHA requires a full year of experience before you can sit for their exam, so discuss job placement and externships with your admissions counselor or your academic advisor.

When you start your search for the best pharmacy tech program, make sure that the programs you consider are accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP.) That will help you in the job market, as you will have the depth of knowledge that employers appreciate and value. When you can step up with the insights that help clients in those crucial moments of their rehabilitation, your value to the pharmacy will not go unnoticed.

Associate Degree

You might also find that your desired pharmacy tech program is affiliated with a community college that grants 2-year associate degrees. Though not necessary, it will be to your advantage to go ahead and complete the associate degree. The extra coursework will broaden your general field of knowledge, as well as your expertise in pharmacy. With a broader education, you will find that your level of communication rises.

Further, with an associate degree, you can easily apply to complete a four-year degree if you decide to go that route in the future. You might need a bachelor's if you wish to go into management or to pursue a career as a pharmacist. The more education you have, the more your career will be enhanced.

Get Started

Attaining a certificate and license as a pharmacy technician can be the first step to a brilliant career that can take your life in many great directions. Passing any rigorous professional test is something that you can put on your resume with pride for the rest of your career. This level of accomplishment is something that everyone will place in high esteem.


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