PTCB Certification: What to Know About the CPhT Exam

Becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is a great way to jumpstart your career. To do so, you must complete pharmacy technician program and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) CPhT exam. 

Most states require pharmacy technicians to earn their certification. Even if you live in a state that does not require certification, finishing a training course and passing a certification exam can help you stand out from other applicants and make sure you're prepared for the job.

The PTCB's CPhT certification is the most popular pharmacy technician certification in the nation and is accepted in all 50 states.

This guide goes over what the PTCB is, what’s on the CPhT exam, the requirements to take it, and everything else you need to know to get your PTCB CPhT certification.

Overview of the PTCB & CPhT Certification

The PTCB was established over 25 years ago and is the most widely accepted credentialing agency for pharmacy technicians in the United States. They were the first organization to set standards and create a certification exam for pharmacy technicians. They are also the only nonprofit pharmacy credentialing organization in the US. 

Getting your CPhT certification from the PTCB will help you land a job as a pharmacy technician whether or not you live in a state that requires it. Earning your certification may also help you earn more money and have a better chance of getting a promotion. 

CPhTs usually work in retail pharmacies or hospitals. They help patients get their prescription medications and organize the pharmacy. 

Here at Stepful, we have a Pharmacy Technician Training Program that prepares you to take the PTCB's CPhT exam. It is completely online, takes 4 months, and only costs $1,999.

More About the PTCB’s CPhT Exam

The PTCB’s CPhT exam covers the basic knowledge necessary to perform pharmacy technician duties safely. While not as challenging as advanced medical licensing exams, you will have to study and stay focused in order to pass. 

Requirements to take the CPhT Exam

In terms of education/experience requirements, there are two ways to qualify to take the exam:

  1. Complete a PTCB-recognized education/training program. There are over 1,400 programs that the PTCB recognizes that can help prepare you to take the test and work as a pharmacy technician. Here at Stepful, for example, we have a 4-month online pharmacy technician program that is recognized by the PTCB.
  2. Work 500+ hours as a pharmacy technician. If you have worked over 500 hours as a pharmacy technician, you may also be eligible to take the CPhT exam even though you did not attend school.

Other requirements to take the PTCB's CPhT exam include:

  • Reside in the United States or its territories
  • Disclose all criminal charges
  • Disclose any registration/licensure actions with state boards of pharmacy
  • Comply with all PTCB certification policies

What’s on the PTCB Exam & Requirements to Pass

The CPhT test covers the following information: 

Topic Description # Questions % Exam
Medications Generic names, dosage forms, drug interactions, contraindications 32 40%
Patient Safety and Quality Assurance Error prevention strategies, event reporting, cleaning standards, infection control 21 26.25%
Order Entry and Processing Compounding, expiration dates, medication returns, administration equipment 17 21.25%
Federal Requirements Controlled substance laws, handling hazardous medications, recall requirements 10 12.50%
TOTAL 80 100%

The PTCB exam consists of 90 multiple-choice questions, including 10 unscored questions. Students have 2 hours to complete the CPhT exam including the test tutorial and practice questions that are provided.

Students are not allowed to bring notes, scratch paper, or a calculator into the testing center. A calculator will be provided for the exam. 

Requirements to Pass the CPhT Exam

Every CPhT exam administered by the PTBC is slightly different. This exam was designed using criteria from the Standards for Educational and Psychological Tests, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), and the Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation (CLEAR).

Since each exam is different, some tests will be more challenging than others. To make sure that the passing standard is fair and equal for each student, exams are graded using a scaled score. This means that students given a more demanding test can pass with a lower score than students who take a slightly easier test. 

The scaled passing score for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is 1,400, with a range of possible scores between 1,000 and 1,600.

How Much the CPhT Exam Costs

The CPhT exam costs $129 for individuals. This includes both a $50 application fee and a $79 exam fee. Organizations that agree to cover the cost of the exam for their employees can get the $50 application fee waived

Renewal of your CPhT certification costs $49. Certifications must be renewed every two years. 

How to Prepare for the CPhT Exam

Before you can apply to take the CPhT exam, you must complete a formal pharmacy technician training program or complete 500 hours of work as a pharmacy technician. 

Programs like our Pharmacy Technician Program here at Stepful can be done online and are some of the most cost-effective ways to prepare for the CPhT exam. After you complete your training program, use practice tests, online videos, and flashcards to solidify your learning. 

Besides spending enough time studying before your test, make sure you get plenty of rest and eat a good meal before you go to the testing center. In addition, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find your exam room, park, and use the bathroom before your scheduled exam. 

CPhT Exam Statistics

Since the PTBC began providing certifications to pharmacy technicians, 788,887 people have become certified. At the end of 2022, there were 283,229 Certified Pharmacy Technicians in the United States. 

The overall pass rate for the PCBT’s CPhT exam is 70%. 

2003 had the highest passing rate at 81%, and 2014, 2015, and 2018 were the lowest passing years at a rate of only 57%. 

Renewing Your PTCB CPhT Certification

After you earn your PTCB certification, you’ll have to renew it every two years. Renewing your certification can be done by completing a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education courses. two hours must be in the subject of pharmacy law and one hour must be in the subject of patient safety. 

In addition to completing continuing education, pharmacy technicians must pay a renewal fee of $49. 

How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) Through the PTCB

There are several different pathways you can take to become a pharmacy technician. Typically, it’s possible to get your pharmacy technician certification in as little as 5 months and most programs cost a few thousand dollars.

Here’s how to specifically become a CPhT through the PTCB:

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED. Before you can start a training program, you will have to have a high school diploma or GED. 
  2. Choose a pharmacy technician training program. There are many different pharmacy assistant training programs you can choose from. You may choose to do an online or in-person certificate program, a community college diploma program, or even get an associate degree.
  3. Complete your coursework. Pharmacy technician programs cover information about basic anatomy and physiology, medication interactions and side effects, and pharmacy law. 
  4. Study for your test. Make sure you spend enough time studying and reviewing important material before your test. Taking practice exams is a great way to find out your weaknesses and strengths. 
  5. Pass your exam. Make sure that you get a good night's sleep before your test and arrive at the testing center early. You will be able to see your results immediately after you submit your exam. 
  6. Apply for jobs. Use websites like Monster, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter to find a job near you. Take your resume to a school counselor or trusted friend to look for ways to improve your chances of getting an interview. 
  7. Maintain your certification. Once you have found a new job, make sure you remember to renew your certification every two years. 

Alternatively, you can qualify for your exam by getting experience. These steps include: 

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED. Even if you do not plan on attending a training program, you will have to have a high school diploma or GED to start working as a pharmacy technician. 
  2. Find a job that does not require certification. Keep in mind that only a few states allow pharmacy technicians to work as pharmacy technicians without certification. These states include Hawaii, New York, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. 
  3. Work for 500 hours as a pharmacy technician. Make sure you record your hours and are able to submit proof of your work history to the PTCB. 
  4. Apply for your exam. Submit proof of your hours worked when you apply to take your PTCB exam. 
  5. Pass your exam. If you do not complete a training program, you may have to purchase extra study materials and work extra hard to pass your CPhT exam.  

What is a Certified Pharmacy Technician & What Do They Do?

A pharmacy technician always works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Their job is to help get the correct medications to patients and keep the pharmacy or workspace organized and running smoothly. 

Responsibilities of a certified pharmacy technician might include: 

  • Measure or count medication doses
  • Mix medication compounds
  • Verify prescription medications
  • Assist customers with their questions about medication
  • Handle insurance claims
  • Administer vaccines
  • Keep the pharmacy organized 
  • Manage the cash register and deal with billing 

Certified Pharmacy Technician Salaries & Job Outlook

In 2022, pharmacy technicians earned an average of $37,790 annually or $18.17 per hour. Indeed.com shows that Certified Pharmacy Technicians earn nearly $20 per hour or $41,600 per year. 

In 2022, there were about 459,600 pharmacy technician jobs across the United States, and job opportunities for certified pharmacy technicians are expected to increase by 6% between 2022 and 2032, which is similar to most other jobs in the United States. 

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