PTCB vs. ExCPT Exam Differences – Which Is Right For You?

Certifying exams for pharmacy technicians evaluate an individual’s knowledge and skills related to performing tasks related to their position. Many states require pharmacy technicians to be certified in order to be licensed and legally permitted to work. In most cases, passing an exam is required to become certified. There are two certifying exams for pharmacy technicians, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) exam. Once certified, a pharmacy technician is granted the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).

About the ExCPT exam

The ExCPT is required to complete the Pharmacy Technician Certification Program and become certified with the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The exam is overseen and administered by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, which is part of the NHA. The ExCPT exam is offered at PSI/LaserGrade Test Centers across the United States and can be scheduled online via NHA.

About the PTCE exam

The PTCE is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Completion of the PTCE is required to become a certified pharmacy technician with the PTCB. Candidates can apply for the exam online ( or by phone (1-866-902-0593). Exams are offered year-round at Pearson VUE test centers across the country for general applicants. Exams can also be completed at DANTES military test centers for service men and women and their families who are interested in certification as pharmacy technicians.

There were 279,852 active PTCB CPhTs across the US at the end of 2014. All fifty states including DC accept PTCB certification.

Comparing PTCE vs ExCPT - Main Differences

The ExCPT and the PTCE are computer-based exams. Both certification programs and exams offered by the NHA and the PTCB are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). In order to either exam, candidates must be at least 18 years of age. Completion of a formal education or training program is not required for either the ExCPT or the PTCE, although employers and certain states may require you to also complete a state-approved pharmacy technician education program. Candidates must hold a valid high school diploma or equivalent (for example, a GED). While the PTCE costs $129, the fee for the ExCPT exam is $105.

Question: A customer walks into a pharmacy and asks the pharmacy technician to recommend an OTC cough syrup for her one year old son. What should the pharmacist tech do?

Answer: Given the situation, the technician should ask the customer to wait and notify the pharmacist to speak with the customer.

What Would You Do?

Both the ExCPT and the PTCE are nationally recognized exams and are equally challenging. Although they are structured differently, questions in each assess similar competencies. The ExCPT exam features 110 questions, while the PTCB exam includes 90 questions over a two-hour period. All questions for both exams are multiple choice questions and the exams are two hours in duration. In both cases, pharmacy technicians must complete continuing education to remain certified.

The PTCE is divided into three areas related to the main job functions of a pharmacy technician. Most of the questions (66%) relate to assisting pharmacists in serving patients. Questions also relate to maintaining medication and inventory control systems (22% of the questions) and pharmacy administration and management (12% of the questions).

Like the PTCE, the ExCPT exam is divided into three general areas. Exam questions focus primarily on the dispensing medications (52% of the questions). Additional questions relate to pharmacy regulation and technician duties (approximately 25% of the questions) and drugs and drug products (approximately 23% of the questions).

Deciding which pharmacy technician certification exam is right for you?

In order to determine which exam to complete, you should confirm which organization is recognized by your local state board of pharmacy. In certain states, either the NHA or the PTCB is recognized as the certifying organization of choice for pharmacy technicians. The PTCE is more widely recognized by states across the country as it has been in existence for longer than the ExCPT and is therefore more established.

Regardless of which exam you complete, being certified by the PTCB or NHA provides employers assurances that you are qualified to work safely and effectively with medications and prescriptions, with licensed pharmacists, and in a pharmacy setting. Completing these exams enhances your employability and promotion opportunities by providing employers with independent verification that you meet the requirements needed to provide adequate patient care and service. In many cases, employers look for certification when employing pharmacy technicians.

State by State Certification Requirements

Research what the certification requirements are in your state from the map below:

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