Pharmacy Technician Certification Options (PTCB, NHA, CPhT, & More)

Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in getting medications to patients, keeping the pharmacy clean and organized, and managing customer payments. They help keep patients safe by ensuring that they are given the correct type of medication, the right doses, and avoid dangerous medication interactions. 

Most states require that you earn a certification before becoming a pharmacy technician. To become a certified pharmacy technician, you have to complete a training course and pass an official exam from a certifying organization.

The CPhT certification from the PTCB is the most commonly recognized pharmacy technician certification in the nation.

If you're interested in the PTCB's CPhT certification, check out our 4-Month Online Pharmacy Technician Program that prepares you to take the exam.

This guide will break down the different pharmacy technician certification options, how much they cost, what they require, and more. 

Pharmacy Technician Certification Options

There are many nationally recognized certification organizations for pharmacy technicians. Different training programs may focus on preparing you for a specific exam, but each organization requires candidates to have a basic understanding of medications and pharmacy law. 

Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

The PTCB was founded over 25 years ago and has become one of the most popular certifying agencies for pharmacy technicians. The CPhT from the PTCB is recognized in all states that require certification. 

Our 4-Month Online Pharmacy Technician Program here at Stepful helps prepare for you for the CPhT exam. It only costs $1,999 and includes an in-person externship, career coaching, and a 100% moneyback guarantee.

  • Eligibility: To be eligible for the PTCB certification, you must: reside in the United States of America, complete a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program or have 500 hours of work experience as a pharmacy technician, pass a background check, and earn a passing score on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. 
  • Cost of exam: The cost of the PTCB exam is $129. 
  • # questions on exam: 90
  • Renewal period: Every 2 years
  • Renewal requirements: To renew your CPhT, you must complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) every 2 years, including 1 hour in pharmacy law and 1 hour in patient safety. There is a $20 recertification fee that must be paid every 2 years. 

Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) – ExCPT exam

The National Healthcareer Association is another well-known certifying agency. They provide credentialing services for pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, medical assistants, and more. You can become a Certified Pharmacy Technician by passing the ExCPT exam

  • Eligibility: Candidates for the NHA's ExCPT certification must have a high school diploma and either complete an approved pharmacy technician training program or have 1,200 supervised hours of pharmacy-related work in the last 3 years.
  • Cost of exam: $125
  • # questions on exam: 100
  • Renewal period: Every 2 years
  • Renewal requirements: Complete 20 hours of continuing education and pay a $55 renewal fee. 

>> Read More: Taking a Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam Without Going to School

Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv) from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

If you want to improve your resume, get a promotion, or ask for a higher salary, you may want to get a CPhT-Adv certification from the PTCB. This certification does not require an exam, but you must meet certain criteria and send in an application to the PTCB. 

  • Eligibility: A candidate must hold an active PTCB CPhT Certification and have completed at least 3 years of work experience as a pharmacy technician within the past 8 years, and at least 4 PTCB Assessment-Based Certificate Programs or 3 Certificate Programs and the Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician Certification. 
  • Cost of certification: $49
  • Renewal period: Every two years 
  • Renewal requirements: Meet both the CPhT CE requirements and complete an additional five 5 hours of CE in any pharmacy topic for a total of 25 hours of continuing education. In addition, you must pay a $49 recertification fee. 

PTCB vs NHA Pharmacy Technician Certification

Both exams offered by the PTCB and NHA will allow you to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician. While the exams are slightly different, they both cover similar topics. 

While the PTCB exam is more widely recognized than the NHA, all 50 states accept both the PTCB certification and the NHA certification as part of their licensing requirements. In addition, there is no difference in salary between pharmacy technicians who are certified by the PTCB or the NHA exams. 

The PTCB exam is slightly more expensive upfront, at $129. The NHA exam costs $125. The renewal costs for the 2 certifications are also slightly different. For one, the PTCB recertification fee is only $20 per 2 years, while the NHA recertification fee is $55. 

Both the PTCB and NHA require 20 hours of continuing education be completed every 2 years. However, the PTCB is more specific in its requirements, and one hour must be completed in pharmacy law and one hour in patient safety. 

The PTCB offers many certifications that you can get in addition to your CPhT. These include: 

  • Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv)
  • Billing and Reimbursement Certificate
  • Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Certificate
  • Hazardous Drug Management Certificate
  • Immunization Administration Certificate
  • Medication History Certificate
  • Medication Therapy Management Certificate
  • Nonsterile Compounding Certificate
  • Certified Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician (CSPT)

The NHA offers other certificates that are unrelated to being a pharmacy technician such as the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certfication.

The PTCB exam has a passing rate of 71%, while the NHA exam has a passing rate of 64%

Overall, the PTCB is probably the better choice for CPhT candidates. Since it is less expensive to recertify, has a higher exam passing rate, and more advanced certification options. 

Choosing Which Pharmacy Technician Certification is Right For You

When choosing which pharmacy technician certification you should get, there are a few important things to keep in mind. 

First of all, you should look at whether or not your state's pharmacy board will accept your certification. If your state requires pharmacy technicians to be licensed, you’ll need to ensure that you get the correct certification. 

In addition, consider the cost of the exam and recertification fees. Exams that are less expensive up-front may have more expensive yearly or biannual fees. 

Next, look at the exam passing rate for the exam you would like to take. A higher passing rate means that the test is probably easier. If you struggle with exams or have test anxiety, it will make a big difference if you are able to choose an easier exam. 

How to Choose a Pharmacy Technician Training Program

There are many pharmacy technician training programs to choose from. Keeping these things in mind will help you choose the best one for you. 

Accreditation 

Whatever type of program you choose, make sure you pick one that has been accredited. Most certifying organizations require testing candidates to complete training at an accredited program. 

In addition, accredited programs have to meet certain requirements to show that they provide high-quality education and training to their students. 

Certification

Most training programs are structured to prepare you for a specific certification exam. Make sure you choose a program that will prepare you to get the certification you want. Some programs even include the certification exam fee as part of their tuition. 

Cost

Always look at the cost of a program before you enroll. Make sure you ask about additional fees as well as the cost of required books, supplies, and exam preparation materials. 

Costs vary considerably across pharmacy technician programs, with degree programs costing tens of thousands of dollars, and online programs just a few thousand. 

Check out our guide to the cheapest pharmacy technician programs to see some options that won’t break the bank.

Length

Pharmacy technician training programs that takes two years to complete doesn’t make sense for someone who needs to start working to support themselves right away. 

Some pharmacy technician programs can be completed in as little as 4 months. These accelerated programs are great for people who can commit to a lot of study in a short period of time. 

Degree vs. Certification 

You will have to decide whether you want to earn an associate degree or a certificate only when choosing a pharmacy technician program. Keep in mind, most employers are only concerned about a certificate, and it may not be worth the extra time and money it takes to earn a pharmacy technician degree

Online vs. In-Person

Online programs are convenient, cut down on commute time, and are usually cheaper than in-person programs. However, some people learn better with the structure of in-person programs and like being in a face-to-face classroom environment. 

Is it Possible to Get a Job With No Experience or Certification?

In some states, it is possible to get a job as a pharmacy technician without experience or certification. Certification and licensure are not required in Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Those states and others allow for on-the-job training for pharmacy technicians, however, that doesn’t mean that every employer offers this.

Even if you live in a state that does not require certification, most employers prefer to hire certified job candidates. In fact, about 90% of employers either require or encourage certification for their pharmacy technicians. 

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