Do You Have To Be Certified To Work as a Pharmacy Technician?
If you’re wondering whether you need the official certification to practice as a pharmacy technician, you may have encountered some conflicting information. The short answer is that in some states certification is required but there are several states that do not require pharmacy technician certification. Whilst certification still remains largely a voluntary process, as of April 2015, in 23 states, it may be necessary to obtain PTCB Certification.
The better answer, however, is that if you have the time and money to get certified, you should do it if you want to unlock the career advancement opportunities and increased earning potential that comes from being certified. Here’s why.
State requirements for certification
Regulations for pharmacy technicians provided by each State Board of Pharmacy vary from state to state, but some rules are the same no matter where you go. Here are the basics that you need to register with most states in order to begin working as a pharmacy tech.
- High School Diploma (or GED)
- Criminal Background Check
- Application to the State Board (along with a fee, which usually runs $30 to $50)
- Photo ID
- Training (this could be a training program, or an internship, depending on the state)
Every State is Different
The bad news is that the training requirements and certification or licensure process is different in every state. In Ohio, for example, all you need to do is fulfill the basic requirements from the list above, and pass a state-approved examination (in this case, the NHA's ExCPT or PTCB). Arizona, on the other hand, accepts only the PTCB. It also requires that pharmacy technicians be of “good moral character,” have on-the-job training, and complete 20 hours of continuing education in the area of pharmacy law in order to get re-certified.
The requirements for practicing in the state of California are much more open-ended. There, you must prove that you are qualified to do the job, but there are several ways to do this. You can get an associate’s degree in pharmacy technology, receive certification from a board recognized examination, or complete any other program that includes 240 hours of practical experience plus 240 hours of coursework that meets their guidelines.
Employers Have a Preference
The reality is that no matter what the state regulations say, every employer has its own preference for certification. Some small town pharmacies aren’t concerned with official certification. They think that as long as someone has proved over several years that they can do the job, there’s no need for that employee to take the examination. This also means that an employer can request that you get certified, even if the law doesn’t have that requirement.
Some employers even have a favorite examination. Hospitals tend to favor the PTCE, which is perceived as being more difficult because it has a higher percentage of math questions. Commercial pharmacies, especially the big names like CVS and Walgreens, usually prefer the ExCPT. If you can find out what your state’s guidelines are, and take your future employer’s wishes into mind, then you should know whether to take the exam and become certified (CPhT). Find this information out by selecting the state you intend to work in from the map below.
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