If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician or want to know more about the career, you might have come across the term ‘Certified Pharmacy Technician’.

You might have also wondered:

What exactly is a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

And how is it different from a Pharmacy Technician?

We’re here to answer all of such doubts and more.

In this article, we will also uncover-

  • How to become a pharmacy technician
  • How much a pharmacy technician earns
  • What do certified pharmacy technicians do
  • The difference between a pharmacy technician certificate and a certification
  • Where can you work as a pharmacy technician

So, let’s get started!

What is a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

A Certified Pharmacy Technician can be defined as an individual who is trained in assisting the pharmacists around a pharmacy.

Certified Pharmacy Technician

The main duty of Certified pharmacy technicians is to help pharmacists with dispensing medicines. These technicians usually work in hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and different healthcare facilities.

Two primary certifying organizations offer certification exams for aspiring pharmacy technicians, such as:

  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), which offers the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), and
  • The National Healthcareer Association (NHA), offers the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) Exam

The eligibility criteria for these certification exams is generally to complete an accredited pharmacy technician training program that is nationally recognized.

Learn more about this in the next few sections.

How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

Now that you know what a Certified Pharmacy Technician is, you might be thinking about how to become one and what the process is like.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can become a certified pharmacy technician-

#1 Attain your high school diploma or a GED

One of the best parts about pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician is that the educational requirements are very few.

You only need to complete your high school diploma or a GED to start the process of becoming one.

#2 Choose and enroll in an accredited training program of your choice

An essential first step in the process of becoming a certified pharmacy technician is to choose the right training program for you.

This is important because the right training program will equip you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and accreditation that you will require to become a competent pharmacy technician.

Finishing the right training program will also prepare you to handle the dispensing of different medications, processing prescriptions, and interacting with patients safely and accurately, which will make you shine in front of employers.

There are three main ways by which you can complete your pharmacy technician training, let’s take a look at them:

Option 1 – Getting an Associate’s Degree

Enrolling in an associate degree program is not a requirement for pharmacy technicians anymore, since you can now also opt for a certificate or diploma program.

However, there are some technician universities or community colleges that offer associate degree programs for aspiring pharmacy technicians.

Certified Pharmacy Technician

These programs usually offer a much more comprehensive education than its alternatives, and cover many additional subjects. This is one of the biggest advantages of an associate degree.

Holding a degree holds immense value in the eyes of employers, however, there are also many disadvantages of an associate degree.

For example, the main drawback is the very high tuition fees.

Another is the length of the program, associate degrees take a minimum of 2 years to complete.

Getting an associate degree can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000 on average, and that’s not including the expenses of living and travel if you have to move to another place for school. As a result, many students end up having to take out loans to pay for their education.

Another disadvantage of pursuing an associate degree is that you have to attend classes based on the university’s schedule. If you miss a few classes, it can be challenging to reschedule them, and sometimes you have to wait a whole year to retake the missed classes. This wastes both time and money.

Option 2 – Getting a Diploma

Completing your pharmacy tech training by obtaining a diploma is a good alternative to an associate degree.

Pharmacy technician diplomas are usually offered by community colleges or trade schools and can be completed in a year.

The main advantages of diplomas are that they are cheaper and allow you to complete your training much faster.

But, even so, the main disadvantage of a diploma is that you will still need to attend scheduled classes, and if you’re an individual with other obligations such as work or family, this might cause a hassle for you.

So which is the best training program that minimizes all the disadvantages?

Let’s find out.

Option 3 – Completing an Online Training Program (Most Recommended)

One of the best and most recommended ways of completing your pharmacy technician training is to go for an online training program.

These programs are considered to be the best because of the many advantages they offer, such as being highly affordable, allowing flexibility so you have the option of learning from anywhere and at any time, and offering a self-paced program wherein you can decide your own pace and time schedule.

Apart from these, one major advantage that online training programs offer is externship opportunities once you finish the program.

This is especially helpful for pharmacy technicians since they need hands-on practical experience with different medications and prescriptions before they officially enter the workforce.

Read more about the Pharmacy Technician Online Training program here.

#3 Apply for Certification Exams

After you choose, enroll in, and complete your chosen pharmacy technician training program, you will now need to get certified.

How do you do that?

As mentioned earlier, there are two certification exams (PTCE and ExCPT) that are legitimate and nationally recognized.

Both these exams have some differences in terms of syllabus and exam pattern.

Choose the certification exam that is suitable for you and apply for the same,

#4 Gain Practical Experience Through Internships/Externships-

Externships are essential for pharmacy assistants because they offer hands-on experience, letting them use what they’ve learned in real-life situations.

After finishing your training, you’ll have the chance to do an externship in a nearby clinic, hospital, or pharmacy to gain practical skills.

Certified Pharmacy Technician

Even online programs with accreditation usually provide externship opportunities once you finish their courses. This makes them a great option compared to other programs.

#5 Sit for the Certification Exam-

After you are done with your training program and have gained relevant experience through an externship, you are ready to sit for the certification exam.

#6 Apply for Jobs

Now that you are a certified pharmacy technician, you can start applying for your desired jobs.

How Much Does a Certified Pharmacy Technician Make?

The next thing that must have crossed your mind is how much Certified Pharmacy Technicians make.

And do certified pharmacy technicians earn more than uncertified ones? Let us answer that.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income of pharmacy technicians is $36,740, or $17.66 per hour.

One important thing to note here is that the above-mentioned salary figures are not rigid across the states, and may differ based on many influencing factors, such as years of experience, location of job, and certifications, to name a few.

Now, coming to the do certified pharmacy assistants earn more, to answer shortly, yes they do.

This is mainly because employers highly prefer certified candidates, who know what they are doing, and hence are ready to offer them higher salaries.

Do You Have to Be a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

Still uncertain about whether you should get certified as a pharmacy technician or not?

Well, Obtaining a pharmacy technician certification is a requirement in nearly 17 states across the country, such as Texas, Illinois, Maryland, and more.

So it is always recommended to check before you apply for jobs in your state if they require certification or not.

In a survey conducted by the NHA, it was revealed that almost 90 percent of employers either require or insist on pharmacy technician certification.

In states where certification is required, you will need to get certified as a pharmacy technician. Even for states that do not require certifications, employers generally prefer pharmacy assistants who are certified.

Certified Pharmacy Technician

What is the Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician Certificate and a Certification?

Are you confused about the terms “Medical Assistant Certificate” and “Medical Assistant Certification”?

Let us clear up this common dilemma for you.

Although the terms may sound similar, they have a crucial difference. When you complete a medical assistant training program, you receive a Medical Assistant Certificate, which is an educational credential showing you finished the program.

On the other hand, a Medical Assistant Certification is earned after passing a certification exam. So, the certificate is based on completing the training, while the certification is achieved by passing a specific exam.

Where Can I Take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam?

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), and you can take the exam at various testing centers across the United States.

Pearson VUE has numerous testing centers located in various cities and states, making it relatively accessible for aspiring pharmacy technicians across the country.

On the other hand, if you want to take the ExCPT exam offered by the NHA, you have the option of choosing between giving an in-person exam at NHA-approved testing centers or an online remote proctored exam.

How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician Without Going to School?

There are many benefits to becoming a certified pharmacy technician, and you might wonder if it’s possible to do so without attending a traditional school.
Know more: How To Become a Pharmacy Technician Without Going To School

The answer is yes!

You can become a certified pharmacy technician with no previous pharmacy education by enrolling in an online pharmacy technician training program.

Opting for an online program provides flexibility in your study hours, and since most of these programs are entirely online, you can learn from anywhere, avoiding the need to attend physical classes.

Moreover, online training programs not only prepare you for certification exams but also award you a certificate upon completing the course.

This way, you can achieve your goal of becoming a certified pharmacy technician through the convenience of online education.

Where Can You Work as a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

Once you become a certified pharmacy technician, you can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, such as:

  • Retail Pharmacies: Assisting in medication dispensing, inventory management, and patient service.
  • Hospital Pharmacies: Preparing and distributing medications within hospital settings.
  • Clinics and Outpatient Facilities: Supporting medication management and patient care.
  • Long-Term Care Facilities: Assisting with medication administration for residents.
  • Mail-Order Pharmacies: Processing prescription orders and preparing medications for delivery.
  • Specialty Pharmacies: Handling and dispensing specialized medications.
  • Pharmaceutical Companies: Roles related to drug research, manufacturing, or quality assurance.
  • Government Agencies: Employment in government healthcare facilities.
    Read more: Where can Pharmacy Technicians Work

where does pharm tech works

Will Your Certification Be Valid Across the Country?

This is another common question aspiring pharmacy technicians are always confused about.

Let’s look into it.

Yes, pharmacy technician certification is generally valid across the United States.

Most pharmacy technician certifications, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT), are nationally recognized and widely accepted by employers in different states.

This means that once you become a certified pharmacy technician, your certification is transferable, and you can seek employment in various states without the need to reapply for certification in each state.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that some states may have additional requirements or regulations for pharmacy technicians, so it’s always a good idea to check the specific requirements in the state where you plan to work.

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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.