Pharmacy Technician Salary

Which Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam Should You Take: PTCB or ExCPT?

January 10, 2013 | By: Site Contributor

Do you have to be certified?

Many aspiring pharmacy technicians are confused by the possible differences between the two exams. However, there’s no need to obsess over it. Here’s the information that you need to know when choosing which exam to take.


The exam offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is called the PTCE (Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam). This was the first exam designed to certify pharmacy technicians, and for many years, it was the only one. Because of this, it has much wider name recognition. Up until recently, all the states that actually required techs to pass an exam required this exam by name.

The other option for people seeking certification is the Examination for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). This exam was established by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) a few years ago. At first, only a few states accepted it. Now, it is recognized in most parts of the United States.


The main difference between the two exams is the registration fee. The PTCE costs $129, while the ExCPT is slightly cheaper, at $105. Other than that, the exams are pretty similar in terms of the content they cover and the end result for pharmacy technician candidates. In fact, in 2008 a court ruled that both exams were equal, and should be nationally recognized as such.

Both exams test have questions on the theory and practical topics which combine to test the candidates’ ability to perform the daily tasks of a pharmacy technician. This includes topics like math (in relation to dosage calculations), pharmacy law, compounding, and the most common drugs (along with their contraindications).

Does it Matter?

If the exams are so similar, does it matter which one you decide to take? The short answer is yes, although it depends on where you live and what your career goals are. Although legally the exams are equal, they are not the same.

Some states still do not recognize the ExCPT. In addition, some employers have their preferred exam. The general rule is that the PTCE is the first choice of hospitals and other large employers, while the ExCPT is better for finding work in a commercial pharmacy (at Wal Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and similar places).

That’s because a lot of employers still consider the PTCE to be the more difficult exam. Some people think that the PTCE has more math questions, and trickier questions about drugs. So the common thinking is that if a potential employee is good enough to pass the PTCE, they’re good enough to hire. When deciding which exam to take, you should contact the hospitals you want to work at, and simply ask which certification they prefer.