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News & Info

Do All Pharmacy Technicians Need Certification?


Depending on which state you plan to work in as a pharmacy technician, you may be required to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National HealthCareer Association (NHA) Exam. While some states only require NHA or PTCB certification, others may require state and board-level certifications. Some states require no certification at the state or board level but do require successful completion of an education program.

Currently, there are 23 states – Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia – that require certification through either the PTCB or NHA. It is crucial to check your state’s requirements to ensure you meet the correct educational and accreditation benchmarks. You can access a complete list of states and a breakdown of their requirements through the link provided.

For states requiring board certification, the PTCB lays out specific requirements pharmacy technicians must obtain before sitting for the PTCE – including detailed work, educational, and background criteria. Once a student passes the PTCE, they will receive certification (CPhT) as a pharmacy technician through the PTCB. Explore what’s required to get your certificate below.


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Obtaining an education beyond a high school diploma or General Educators’ Degree (GED) is optional when becoming a certified pharmacy technician in some states. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while some states require completing a PTCB board-approved education – others only require a high school diploma or GED. These aspiring technicians can choose to enroll directly in on-the-job training programs or begin studying immediately for their licensure. However, many pharmacy technicians choose to receive some form of education – even if not required – before entering the field.


Benefits of Educational Training

Pursuing a degree or certificate as a pharmacy technician is ideal for someone seeking a focused or condensed understanding of the profession before entering the workforce. Most pharmacy technician certification programs offer enhanced learning in the skills required to become a pharmacy technician – including knowledge of medications, medical records, mathematics, and other core competencies pharmacy technicians use daily.


Education Plus Job Skills Training

Most of today’s pharmacy technician education programs do not just stick students in a classroom or provide online textbook readings. They combine guided lessons with on-the-job training for students to slowly immerse themselves in the field under the supervision of a practicing pharmacist. This way, students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom directly to the work they will be doing as certified pharmacy technicians.


Certificate Program Vs. Certification Exam

Even though a student may sit for and pass a pharmacy technician certification educational program, that may not provide them with the correct certification to practice as a pharmacy technician in their state. In some states, students must complete the PTCB certification exam, state certification exam, or both. The PTCB lists over 1,400 accredited pharmacy technician programs across the country that meet their qualifications for preparing students to sit for their exams. In addition, many certificate programs offer dedicated exam preparation courses to help prepare students to study, register for, and schedule their PTCB certification exam.


Job Training

For those unable or not required to attend an educational program, on-the-job training as a pharmacy technician is a great alternative. On-the-job training allows pharmacy technicians to work alongside practicing pharmacists while working in a pharmacy setting. While there, technicians in training will learn the day-to-day operations, tasks, and responsibilities awaiting them as a technician.


The Benefits of On-The-Job Training

Students who receive on-the-job training can learn and apply new skills simultaneously. Job training candidates are privy to insider tips and tricks of the industry, learning from practicing pharmacists and working alongside other technicians in the industry. While some educational studying may be required, job training provides a unique opportunity for aspiring technicians seeking an alternative to a traditional classroom or online education.


The Negatives of On-The-Job Training

While on-the-job training can be an alternative to traditional education – it may limit a student’s ability to obtain specific jobs in the future. Some employers or states may require their technicians to receive a formal education to apply. In addition, technicians who do not have a formal education may not receive the same promotional or salary opportunities as someone who does. While it often depends on the employer or state, not receiving a proper education may impact a student’s ability to find employment, receive higher pay, or climb the company ladder.


Earn-While-You-Learn Programs

Pharmacy technicians enrolling in Earn-While-You-Learn programs receive both classroom education and on-the-job training. Through an Earn-While-You-Learn program, students are hired by an organization to work as pharmacy technicians in training while receiving a guided education. Some organizations even pay a student’s tuition as part of the program.


Since the organization hires the student outright, they can make money while working in a pharmacy, performing the duties of a pharmacy technician. In addition, they gain real-world experience while learning core competencies within the industry. As part of the Earn-While-You-Learn program, the student usually enters a contract to work for the hiring organization for a predetermined timeframe following their successful completion of the program. This is an excellent opportunity for those looking for secure employment following certification.


Receiving Certification

Depending on which state you plan to work in, you may be required to receive an independent board certification through either the NHA or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The PTCBs website offers a list of requirements all eligible students must meet before taking the exam – including educational, work, and background check requirements. The NHA website also includes specific conditions for becoming a CPhT through the NHA certification exam.


Certification Through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Background

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board was founded in 1995. The PTCB is a national oversight board that ensures aspiring and practicing pharmacy technicians meet the industry’s strict skill and ethical benchmarks. In addition, the PTCB credentials Pharmacy technician educational programs, training programs, and work programs. Aspiring technicians can search for PTCB-certified education and training programs through their national archives.


What To Expect on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

The PTCB certification exam (PTCE) is a 90-question, multiple-choice assessment that tests a student’s knowledge of matters and situations relating to the everyday tasks of a pharmacy technician. Questions include real-life scenarios and ethical situations a technician may face working in a pharmacy. The exam is typically administered in person and over the computer, with a time limit of 2 hours to complete the test successfully. The exam must be conducted in one sitting and without breaks. Once a student passes, they will receive their CPhT certification.


What is Required to Take the Exam?

All students must meet the minimal requirements to qualify for the exam. In addition to meeting the minimum requirements, an exam fee of $129 is required to sit for the exam. The PTCE guidelines listed below are updated as the PTCB’s conditions change starting in Jan. 2020


  • A student must complete one of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Boards recognized education/training programs or have a minimum of 500 hours of related work experience
  • Full disclosure of all criminal and State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions.
  • Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies.
  • Successful payment of $129


If a student fails to pass the PTCE, they can reapply for and repay to take the exam following a 60-day waiting period. Failure to pass the exam following three tries will result in a student being forced to wait a 6-months waiting period before re-applying to retake the exam.


PTCE Exam Preparation

To avoid having to retake the PTCB certification exam multiple times, knowing what questions will be on the test and how to prepare for them is essential. While educational programs provide a guided approach, on-the-job training students often rely on test banks, books, or study guides to help. A Pharmacy Technician Exam Prep course can help those in an educational or on-the-job training program understand what questions are offered on the PTCE and how to answer them. Exam preparation courses are short, focused, and cost-effective.


Pharmacy Technician Certification at the University of Providence

The University of Providence offers a hybrid Pharmacy Technician Certification program that combines in-person skills training with guided, online coursework. Designed for completion in just six months, our program teaches aspiring technicians core competencies in the skills and ethics required to become a certified pharmacy technician. Our new Pharmacy Technician Exam-Prep course prepares students to sit for the PTCE following an 8-week, 100% online course. UP offers two ways to earn your certificate.



The Earn-While-You-Learn program offers students a different way to earn their pharmacy technician certification. Through the Earn-While-You-Learn program, students can graduate debt free, be employed under contract following graduation, and be nationally certified as a pharmacy technician – all while getting paid. Earn-While-You-Learn positions are offered at participating locations in Washington and Montana through our partnership with PSJH and Benefits.


Traditional, Non-Earn Learning Opportunities

The traditional learning pathway is ideal for someone with a job waiting for them, uncertain about where they would like to work or live, or still weighing their opportunities. Students enrolled as traditional non-earn students will complete the same 24-week program through online study but instead partake in on-the-job training under a guided internship and weekend skills labs. Traditional students receive the same education as Earn-While-You-Learn students.


Requirements By States:

University of Providence States









Montana ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Washington ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Oregon ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
California ✔️
Alaska ✔️ ✔️ ✔️


Here’s the Bottom Line

Becoming a pharmacy technician offers a rewarding career with exceptional personal and career growth opportunities. Depending on your state, you may have to meet specific educational, board, and state-level certification requirements before becoming a practicing pharmacy technician. Learn more about the University of Providence’s Pharmacy Technician Program or apply to our pharm tech program today


Are you ready to earn your pharmacy technician certification?

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