If you want to become a pharmacy technician, you need to know the difference between getting a certification and being licensed.
Pharmacy technician certifications are given to employees or students who pass some kind of competency test. Issuing organizations can set their own standards for knowledge or skill requirements.
Pharmacy technician licenses are given by state or federal governments and give you legal permission to perform certain tasks or roles. For pharmacy technicians, licensing usually requires a baseline of knowledge, passing a background check, and passing a drug screen.
Every state has different requirements for pharmacy technicians, with some requiring certification and licensing, some requiring one or the other, and others having no formal requirements.
This guide goes over the differences between a pharmacy technician license and certification, which states require each, and more.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Overview
Getting a pharmacy technician certification shows that you have enough knowledge about pharmaceuticals to pass a certification exam. Certification exams are designed to test your knowledge and skill level, and many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified.
State and federal agencies do not regulate certification training or exams.
A pharmacy technician certification can be earned by attending a training program and passing a certification exam. Several different organizations provide pharmacy technician certifications including CPhT from PTCB and ExCPT from NHA.
Certification courses can be completed online or through a community college. You may even choose to get an associate degree as a pharmacy technician, but this is not required for certification.
Pharmacy technician training programs generally last between 4 months and 2 years depending on the type.
All-in, going through training and getting your pharmacy technician certification costs between $400 and $40,000, depending on the training program you choose. Online programs tend to be cheaper than in-person programs and getting a degree is by far the most expensive.
Pharmacy Technician License Overview
A pharmacy technician license is obtained through your state government and gives you legal permission to work as a pharmacy technician. Some states require you to submit proof of certification with your application for licensure.
Every state differs in its pharmacy technician licensing requirements. Usually, you will have to submit proof of certification, submit to a criminal background check, pass a urine drug screen, and pay a fee.
Getting your license shows that the state regulators feel you can safely handle potentially dangerous medications and controlled substances. Most licenses are granted about 30 days after you submit your application.
Which States Require Pharmacy Technicians to Be Certified and/or Licensed
Each state has different requirements for certification and licensure of pharmacy technicians. Some states require only on-the-job training, while others require certification and licensure.
Do I Have to Get a Pharmacy Technician Certification In Order to Get Licensed?
You may or may not have to earn your certification, depending on what state you live in. Some states require that you submit proof of certification with your application for a license. Others only require you to fill out the application information and pay the fee.
Even if your state doesn’t require certification, most employers prefer to hire certified pharmacy technicians.
How to Get Your Pharmacy Technician Certification & License
Most people can get their pharmacy technician certification and license in just a few months.
Getting your pharmacy technician certification requires you to:
- Earn your high school diploma or GED. Before you can begin a training program or start working as a pharmacy technician, you will have to have your high school diploma or GED.
- Choose a pharmacy technician training program. Decide what type of training you want to attend, online, in-person certificate, or a degree program. From there, make sure you find a program that is accredited and has a high exam passing rate. You can see some of the cheapest pharmacy technician training programs here or learn about how we can help you get your pharmacy technician certification online here at Stepful.
- Complete your education. Most certification courses take anywhere from 4 months to 2 years to complete. Some states will allow you to start working while you are in your training program.
- Register for your specific certification exam. Most training programs are structured around a specific certification. Almost every state that requires certification accepts the NHA’s ExCPT exam. Most exams can be taken in a testing center or via an online proctor. service.
- Take and pass your test. You do not need to bring any notes or a calculator to your exam. You should be able to see your results immediately after you submit your exam.
- Maintain your certification. After you pass your test, make sure that you renew your certification on time. This usually requires some continuing education and a renewal fee.
Once you are certified, you can apply for a license. While every state is different, you will usually have to:
- Submit proof of your certification. After you pass your exam, you’ll receive official results within a week or two. You can submit your passing results to your state pharmacy board along with your license application.
- Pass a background check. Most states require a background check for pharmacy technicians. If you have a violent or drug-related criminal history, you may be denied a license.
- Pass a drug screening test. Since you will be dealing with controlled substances, you will often have to pass a drug screening test before you can get a pharmacy technician license. Some employers conduct random drug screenings for their pharmacy technicians.
- Pay a licensing fee. Every state requires a small fee to submit a license application. This usually costs between $15-$90.
- Wait for your license. After you submit your application, your license should arrive within about 30 days.