The Steps to Becoming a Pharmacy Technician and Taking the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE®)
So, you’re thinking about a career as a pharmacy technician.
Well, that’s awesome!
You are in good company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pharmacy technician workforce is currently made up of 402,500 people in the United States.
And don’t worry, there is plenty of room for you to find a steady job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47,600 new pharmacy technician jobs are expected in the next few years.
Let us cover the initial steps on this exciting career path together so you can get a better understanding of what you’re getting into.
We are talking here about your career for possibly the next 10 years, at the very least, and even the rest of your life. That is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.
Let’s get to it then.
How do you become a pharmacy technician?
Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program in pharmacy technology. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.
For more information, read How to Become a Pharmacy Technician.
What type of schooling does a pharmacy technician need?
Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and typically learn their duties through on-the-job training. The training periods vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.
Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.
What are the types of certifications and requirements needed to become a certified pharmacy technician (CPhT)?
Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way. Consult state Boards of Pharmacy for particular regulations. Requirements for pharmacy technicians in the states that regulate them typically include some or all of the following:
- High school diploma or GED
- Formal education or training program
- Continuing education
- Criminal background check
Some states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Even where it is not required, certification may make it easier to get a job. Many employers of pharmacy technicians will pay for employees to take the certification exam.
Two organizations offer certification. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification (PTCE) requires a high school diploma and the passing of an exam. Applicants for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and have completed a training program or have 1 year of work experience. Technicians must re-certify every 2 years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses.
How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?
Most pharmacy technician careers require the following training and certifications. Time estimates can vary depending on the school, and requirements can vary depending on the employer or state.
- High school diploma (up to 4 years) or GED (4 months)
- Postsecondary education program (Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree.)
- License/ certification – 1 hour and 50 minutes to finish the PTCE
- Continuing Education (20 hours of coursework every 2 years)
How much does it cost to become a pharmacy technician?
- $2,745 – Median In-State Public
- $10,980 – Median Out of State Private
What is the PTCE®?
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE®) is a computer-based exam administered at Pearson VUE test centers nationwide. PTCE was developed to determine whether individuals have demonstrated the knowledge necessary to practice as pharmacy technicians.
How many questions are on the PTCE?
There are 90 multiple-choice questions (80 scored questions and 10 unscored questions). Each has four possible answers, only one of which is the correct or best answer.
What are the categories on the PTCE?
The following is a list of knowledge domains and areas on the PTCE followed by the percent of content it takes up on the exam.
- Pharmacology for Technicians – 13.75%
- Pharmacy Law and Regulations – 12.50%
- Sterile and Non-Sterile Compounding – 8.75%
- Medication Safety – 12.50%
- Pharmacy Quality Assurance – 7.50%
- Medication Order Entry and Fill Process – 17.50%
- Pharmacy Inventory Management – 8.75%
- Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement – 8.75%
- Pharmacy Information System Usage and Application – 10.00%
How long does the PTCE typically last?
You get 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete the PTCE.
What is the passing grade needed for PTCE?
The scaled passing score for the updated PTCE is 1400, with a range of possible scores from 1000 to 1600.
How many times can you take the PTCE?
Each attempt costs money.
If you fail on your first try, you must wait 60 days to retake the exam. This 60-day window applies up to 3 attempts.
After your third attempt, you must wait 6 months for each attempt after that.
After four attempts, you must provide evidence of completion of acceptable preparation activities to PTCB for review and approval before applying for additional attempts.