What Are the Steps to Get a Pharm Tech Certificate?

By Roxy FavrettoLast Updated Sep 23, 2020 11:51:00 PM ET
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If you're looking for a healthcare career that doesn't require clinical responsibilities but you want to help people, becoming a pharmacy technician might be the path for you. It's a field that's known for job security, constant learning on the job, and steady earnings that average more than $16 per hour or around $34,000 per year. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster than average job growth for pharmacy techs, making it a good option for anyone looking to break into the healthcare field.

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You’ll be even more competitive in the field if you become certified. If this path sounds like something you’re interested in, learn about the main steps you need to take in order to get certified as a pharmacy tech and start working.

Check Off the Educational Requirements

You don’t need a college diploma to become a pharmacy technician, but you do need to have a high school diploma or your GED. Additionally, to become certified, you need to complete an accredited training program in pharmacy technology. This is a program that's typically available at local vocational schools and community colleges, but you can also find them online.

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You’ll have to choose between certificate and degree programs. The length of a certificate program is typically one year or less. An associate degree program lasts longer, usually around two years. Both types of formal training programs cover topics like pharmacy law, ethics, medication dispensing methods, and medication names and uses. Many pharmacy technician programs also give students a chance to earn hands-on experience while completing clinical hours in a pharmacy.

Apply for Certification

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is the governing organization that awards credentials to pharmacy techs, and it's also the entity that provides accreditation to school to verify that their courses meet certain standards. To apply for your certification, you need to meet the PTCB's eligibility requirements, which include completing a PTCB-approved training program. There's also an option for technicians who weren't able to complete a PTCB-approved program but have worked for at least 500 hours as a pharmacy technician. 

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You'll also need to be licensed in your state if you live in one of the states that require it, and it's vital to look into this before pursuing certification. Your school will likely discuss the licensing process with you if your state requires pharmacy techs to earn them. 

You can apply for PTCB certification online. If approved, you'll get an email allowing you to schedule your exam date and time. The certification exam is given throughout the year at Pearson Professional Centers across the country. Keep in mind that, during the application process, you'll have to disclose any criminal past you may have or any actions that were filed against your state-issued license.

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Prepare for Your Certification Exam

There are resources available to help you get ready for the test. Pearson VUE has a tutorial that lets you get more familiar with how the test itself works. You can also access practice exams and prep materials through the PTCB.

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On the day of your scheduled exam, expect to spend around two hours taking the test. You'll need to get to the testing center around 30 minutes before your appointment. Make sure you bring valid photo identification for the check-in process. This computer-based test has 90 multiple-choice questions, and your official score will be available within three weeks or so. If you pass, you'll be able to download your certificate or order a paper copy. If you fail, you'll be able to retake the exam after 60 days.

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Maintain Your Certification

The PTCB requires you to renew your certification every two years to keep the credential. You’ll be notified about your renewal date and can apply for renewal within 60 days of your certification’s expiration date. If you miss your window for renewal, you'll have to apply for reinstatement of your certification before you'll be able to resume your status as an actively certified pharmacy technician.

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To renew, you'll need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education by attending in-person courses or activities or by completing online courses that meet recertification requirements. These include hourlong modules on both patient safety and pharmacy law.

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