A pharmacy technician is a healthcare provider who works closely with a pharmacist to complete pharmaceutical and administrative related tasks. Most pharmacy techs will report directly to a licensed pharmacist.

As a result of a pharmacist shortage, the merit of a certified pharmacy technician has increased as this role may pick up some of the administrative duties previously performed by pharmacists, though the pharmacist must review and approve prescriptions and drug dispensing. Often candidates who are certified with the local or national pharmacy board are viewed positively when it comes time to help fill positions that have vacancies.

What is certification?

Becoming a certified pharmacy technician is not required for most positions. However, it will provide significant merit and allow you to apply for jobs that would prefer certified candidates. Certification means that the Technician has a high school diploma or GED, and has passed the ExCPT exam.

Two organizations provide certification; Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The main difference between the certification from PTCB and the NHA is PTCB certification requires only a high school diploma and a passing score on the ExCPT exam. The NHA requires applicants to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, have completed a training program or have one year of work experience and pass the ExCPT exam. Once the tech is certified, they must meet continuing education requirements every two years to maintain certification.

Comparing ExCPT and PTCB: Key Differences and Similarities

When comparing ExCPT and PTCB, there are a few notable distinctions to consider. The PTCB exam lasts for 2 hours, consisting of 90 questions, while the ExCPT exam extends to 2 hours and 10 minutes with 100 questions. These variances highlight the differing lengths and question quantities between the two exams.

However, both ExCPT and PTCB aim to assess and certify the competence of pharmacy technicians. They cover similar content areas, including pharmacy law, calculations, drug information, and pharmacy operations. Both exams hold significance in the field and contribute to the professional growth of pharmacy technicians.

It's important to understand the specific requirements and preferences of your state or employer to determine which certification is the best fit for your career goals.

Who needs certification?

Some states and employers mandate that all pharmacy technicians are certified. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia regulate pharmaceutical technicians. You should always check with your state board to see if you live in an area that requires certification. If you happen to live in a state that does not require certification, it may be to your benefit to get certified regardless. Compared to non-certified technicians, CPhT's report better promotional opportunities according to the BLS.

Skills and abilities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow as fast as average for all careers through 2032—5.6% for pharmacy technicians. Employment growth for pharmacy techs is limited says the BLS, but still anticipates around 25,900 new openings, mostly resulting from the need to replace workers who leave the job, advance or decide to exit the field entirely and retire.

In recent years, vaccinations provided by a pharmacist instead of the doctor have been on the rise. Often pharmacy technicians will be asked to carry out a greater part in store management.

Since many pharmacies are now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is an increased need for technicians willing to work nights and weekends. Most positions will request applicants that meet the following skills:

  • Listening Skills: Pharmacy technicians communicate daily with pharmacists, patients, and other healthcare providers.  It is imperative that a technician listens carefully and understand customers' as well as healthcare provider's needs.
  • Customer Service: Pharmacy technicians will regularly interact with patrons. It is important that a technician's aim is to be helpful and well-mannered to assist in the understanding and disbursement of prescriptions and medical devices.
  • Math Skills: Pharmacy technicians will need to understand basic math concepts to ensure accurate pill counts and proper medication mixing.
  • Detail Oriented: Serious health implications can result from mistakes in filling prescriptions. Pharmacy technicians should be educated and pay attention to detail to aid in contraindications or life-threatening mistakes.
  • Organizational Skills: Some times of the year will be much busier than other. It is important that a pharmacy tech can juggle the many responsibilities they are required to be a reliable and competent tech.

How does a program prepare you for certification?

The accrediting party for pharmacy technician programs is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). ASHP certified programs are available through many colleges and professional training schools. On average, a certificate programs can be completed within nine months to a year. Some student will choose to pursue an associate's degree if their educational goals later include a bachelor's degree.

Coursework often provides applicable and technical instruction in the following subjects:

  • Pharmacology, pharmaceutical law, and ethics
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Healthcare systems
  • Drug calculations
  • Healthcare Terminology

Relevant and applicable job training

Most programs will provide technicians the opportunity to gain job-specific clinical experience. While researching programs be sure to ask what job training they provide, such as clinicals and internships. Clinical experience will vary from one program to the next. Schools may have partnerships with a retailer or hospital to provide internships of clinical experience. A student may also search job board websites like Indeed or LinkedIn for possible internships to gain hands-on experience.

Maintaining certification

Every two years certified pharmacy technicians are required to apply for re-certification. Technicians will provide documentation of 20 hours of continuing education and pass the re-certification exam.


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