The Fast Path To Getting Your Pharmacy Technician Certification

The Value of a Pharmacy Technician Certification

If you want to work in pharmacy as a technician in the United States you may have concluded that getting a pharmacy technician certification will be beneficial to your career, or you have been advised that indeed you must be certified before you even get started. Or you may already have a certification that needs to be renewed. Here you will find ways to best approach those worthy tasks and get (back) to work or move on to an even better job.

Pharmacy Technician Certification

“CPhTs have been tested on major elements critical to patient care and safety, pharmacy administration, medication and inventory control systems, and mathematics and computations. Because of their training and certification, pharmacists and employers of pharmacy technicians are increasingly relying on CPhTs so that pharmacists can better serve patients and spend more time in direct patient care activities.” – John A. Gans, Pharm.D., Executive Vice President & CEO, American Pharmaceutical Association

Two U.S. organizations issue a pharmacy technician certification and you may want to choose between them or get both certifications. We will help you sort that out too. And beyond the national qualification are the requirements of state boards of pharmacy to abide by.

According to statistics gathered by one of the certification agencies, as of this writing, 42 states regulate pharmacy technicians. Of those, 16 states also think that it is a good idea for the sake of patient safety for such technicians to have a certificate and so have required it for licensure while the rest do not. In addition to increasing patient safety, having a certification on your resume is likely to give your pharmacy technician salary a boost as well.

How To Obtain Your Pharmacy Technician Credential

If you haven’t done so already your first step should be to visit the board of pharmacy of the state where you (will) practice for their full list of pharmacy technician certification requirements.  When state boards regulate the practice of pharmacy within their borders they will require pharmacy technicians to register with them or issue a pharmacy technician license in order to practice in the state. In addition to governing and prescribing appropriate and ethical technician behavior, boards continue to assess and evaluate the licensing of pharmacy technicians and evaluate the impact of current regulations and the need for new regulations.

Assisting the state boards of pharmacy is the international and impartial body, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), whose mission is to assist its member boards in bringing about uniform standards of practice that best protect the public health. According to NABP’s 2011 Survey of Pharmacy Law, more than 80% of states register, license, or require that their applicants have a pharmacy technician certification.

So right at the start by understanding your state board of pharmacy’s rules (and quite possibly the rules of NABP) you will learn a lot about the expectations in your state for pharmacy techs. In fact more than a few states require a certification in order to grant a license to practice in the state.

The process by which you can earn the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) credential is managed by two national organizations. One is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) in Washington, D.C. The other is the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) located in Kansas. The PTCB sole focus is on pharmacy technician certification, while NHA offers certification in ten allied health professions including pharmacy technicians.

Both certification agencies require an application to take the two-hour pharmacy technician certification exam wherein you must satisfy eligibility requirements and pay some nominal fees. Once the application is accepted you will schedule an exam with an approved testing company that has locations throughout the United States and elsewhere, or with your school, and take the exam for the pharmacy technician certification online. After finishing the test you will know your pass-fail status either immediately or when you receive your official results in the mail a few days later.

As a way to cover the pharmacy technician certification exam costs if you are currently employed as a technician you should ask your employer if costs to study for and take the test can be reimbursed. It is not uncommon for employers to reimburse the costs of the exam in order to encourage to you get certified.

To prepare for the examination you should first review the three-part content outline and required knowledge bases which are revealed during the certification application process, and perhaps go through the official practice is that both certification agencies offer.  Other more in-depth versions of a pharmacy technician certification practice test can be purchased. That will set you on the education and training path you need to follow in order to fill in the gaps between your knowledge and what the exam calls for.

Instruction and training that is specific to the certification exam is available in more than one variation of a pharmacy technician certification book, manual or course that each certification agency offers (but does not endorse) as effective test preparation resources.

Education and Training For The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

So what about the education and training necessary for becoming certified? The only education eligibility requirement to take the pharmacy technician certification exam is to possess a high school diploma, or equivalent educational diploma, for example a GED or a foreign diploma. No other education credential is needed.

And in some states it is possible for pharmacy technicians to start their careers will little more than a high school education. However, in order to actually pass the exam, you will most likely need to take on a bit more learning in a formal associate degree program, a specialized pharmacy technician training program, or on-the-job training.

If you’ve been on the Internet recently you’ll notice that quite a few pharmacy technician schools are advertised and there is even a college pharmacy technician course or two offered that claim to allow you to pass the pharmacy technician certification exam. In this day and age in addition to traditional on campus learning your chances of finding an online pharmacy technician program are very good and which you may prefer depending on your employment or family situation.

If you are leaning toward enrolling in an educational or training program that would prepare you for pharmacy technician certification your time and money will be better spent by only considering those that are accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which focuses solely on the pharmacy technician training program, or the courses approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which happens to have qualified both PTCB and HNA.  And you should select schools and trainers that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education whose job it is to qualify pharmacy education providers.

It can take between 6 months and 2 years of study to finish the specific training that would prepare you to handily pass the pharmacy technician certification exam. Training programs consist of about 240 hours of study, including field work. Education and training costs in general range from $500 to $6,000 plus, depending on the school, courses, or degree program you choose.

Also if your ultimate career goal happens to be a licensed pharmacist, before enrolling in any degree or vocational program you should check into how the credits for courses designed to meet pharmacy technician requirements would transfer to an accredited Pharm D school.

Keep in mind that many employers also provide pharmacy technician certification study programs, especially those that have partnered with either the PTCB or NHA. In fact it is estimated that most technicians are trained on the job through a pre-defined curriculum or training manual or by a supervising licensed pharmacist as a preceptor.

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Choosing The Pharmacy Technician Certification Agency

Which Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam Should You Take?

You have weighed the pluses and minus of taking either the PTCB exam or HNA exam and you have decided to earn a pharmacy technician certification in order to take advantage of the benefits that the CPhT credential provides.  This must mean that you have decided to increase your commitment to your chosen profession, or increase your ability to work anywhere in the U.S., or improve your employment prospects or earning potential, or any of the above.  Or you may simply know that to work as a pharmacy technician in your state you need to be licensed and to be licensed you need to have a pharmacy technician certification. We will discuss your certification options, the PTCB exam, the HNA exam, what the prerequisites are, and what you can expect at the end of it. Continue reading

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