As with most exams, the pharmacy tech certification exam is one requiring significant preparation. Covering three main subject areas, it consists of 90 questions. Those interested in taking the exam can find a number of testing centers which offer it across the country.
Although pharmacy tech certification is voluntary, pharmacy technicians may be encouraged by employers to become nationally certified. While no work experience is necessary to sit for the exam, applicants must have their high school diploma or GED.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED|
|Other Requirements||Must be 18 or older with no felonies or drug-related convictions|
|Exam Requirements||Exams offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) test knowledge of products, regulations, and best practices|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||9% for pharmacy technicians*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$30,723 for certified pharmacy technicians**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Certification Exam Information
Exam Application Requirements
In order to be eligible to take a national certification examination, technicians must be at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED. Candidates are not required to have completed a formal training program in order to sit for the examination.
Eligible pharmacy technicians must not have any felony or drug-related convictions. They also may not have had any suspension or revocation of any license or registration by a State Board of Pharmacy.
Types of Certification Examinations
There are two types of nationally recognized certification exams for pharmacy techs. Certification is available from either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). A pharmacy tech that earns passing scores on either national exam is considered certified. Re-certification is needed every two years, which requires 20 hours of continuing education, including pharmacy law.
The PCTE, or Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, is offered by the PTCB. The exam has 90 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within 110 minutes. The PCTE has questions concentrated in the areas of:
- Administration and management (12% of the exam)
- Medication and inventory control (22% of the exam)
- Patient service (66% of the exam)
The exam offered by the ICPT is called the ExCPT. There are over 600 testing centers in the U.S. where the exam can be taken. Passing this examination provides technicians with the CPhT (Certified Pharmacy Technician) designation. The questions that make up the ExCPT are divided into three categories, including:
- Regulations and technician duties
- Drugs and drug products
- The pharmaceutical dispensing process
Exam Tips and More
Pharmacy techs that plan to take a certification exam may wish to complete practice tests. With advanced preparation, candidates should be more comfortable with the format and content of the test. Sample tests for the PTCB can be found at www.ptcb.org. The ICPT offers sample tests available through www.nhanow.com.
Exam results are available right away from the ICPT examination, while the PTCB exam results are sent out within 3-4 weeks. Pharmacy techs that fail the exam are allowed to retake it after a waiting period of 1-2 months, depending on the examination. The PTCB allows up to three retakes, with a 6-month interval required between each attempt. Continued failure may require an appeal and approval process for a candidate to have another retake opportunity.
Pharmacy Technician Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The pharmacy technician occupation is fast-growing, with employment opportunities expected to increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicts the field will add 34,700 new jobs by 2024. The median salary for certified pharmacy technicians in January 2016 was $30,723 based on data from the PayScale.com.
To qualify for the exam, pharmacy techs need only a high school diploma or its equivalent. Passing the exam may require some study effort, and for those who do not pass right away, they can retest 3 times within a 6 month period without needing special permission.