5 Steps to Become a Nationally Certified Technician

Many pharmacists are looking to national certification as a standard by which to accurately discern a pharmacy technician's knowledge.

Many pharmacists are looking to national certification as a standard by which to accurately discern a pharmacy technician’s knowledge.

Technician certification is now seen as so important that earning it has become a mandatory or optional licensure requirement in 29 states.

Regardless of state requirements, certification is still enormously beneficial, according to William Schimmel, associate executive director of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

“Employers place a considerable value on certification because it demonstrates your knowledge as a technician and your commitment to your role in the pharmacy,” Schimmel told Pharmacy Times. “As we see things change in the profession and advanced roles for technicians open up, certification will open a number of new opportunities.”

Schimmel said national certification also serves as a “portable credential.”

“If you have to move to a different state, you can take it with you to prove your knowledge.” he added.

Schimmel estimated that approximately 280,000 technicians are currently actively certified through the PTCB, and he advised current and future technicians interested in joining those numbers to follow these steps:

1. Determine Eligibility

Potential applicants should first ensure that they are eligible to become PTCB certified. Although there is no age minimum and pharmacy experience is not necessary, applicants are required to have a high school diploma or an equivalent educational degree, such as a GED.

Applicants must also disclose their criminal record and any actions taken against them by a state pharmacy board. Many offenses, especially drug-related crimes, are taken very seriously by the PTCB, though Schimmel said one black mark would not necessarily disqualify a candidate.

2. Prepare for the Exam

Perhaps the more noteworthy requirement of PTCB certification is a passing score on the organization’s Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).

To prepare for this exam, applicants should consider enrolling in a technician training course, especially one accredited by an organization such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists or the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education., Schimmel recommended.

There are a number of other resources available to help candidates study, including books, flashcards, and smartphone apps. The PTCB also offers a practice exam online, though Schimmel was careful to note that a passing grade on the practice test will not guarantee a similar score on the actual PTCE.

3. Apply Online

Applicants who feel that they are ready to take the exam will have to register online with PTCB and apply for certification.

The application and test cost $129, though many pharmacies will sponsor their employees and pay the fee for them. Those who require special testing accommodations will be able to request them on the application.

Once the application is approved, candidates have 90 days to schedule and take their exam through Pearson VUE. Applicants who need to reschedule or cancel their appointment with Pearson can do so up to 24 hours prior to the scheduled time of the exam, while those who wish to withdraw their application completely must do so within the 90-day period, after which most of the testing fee will be refunded.

4. Take the Exam and Await Results

As with any major test, applicants should make sure to get a good night’s sleep before the exam. On the day of the exam, plan to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled appointment and bring a valid, government-issued photo ID. All other personal items will have to be stored in a locker at the testing site.

Immediately following the exam, applicants will be given an unofficial test result, with the official results accessible online within 2 to 3 weeks. Those who passed the exam will receive their certificate in the mail 4 to 6 weeks after the test date.

Schimmel warned that the PTCE is very rigorous, and so it only has a 57% pass rate. However, those who don’t pass have 3 more chances to do so, though they must wait 60 days to take the test again, or 6 months after the third attempt.

Candidates must reapply and pay the fee each time they take the exam.

5. Maintain Certification

Certified technicians are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) every 2 years in order to maintain their certification. As of 2015, all CE credits earned must be specific to technicians.

The certifications of those unable to earn 20 CE credits after 2 years will expire, after which the technicians will have a 1-year reinstatement period to renew their certification. Technicians who fail to have their certification reinstated after that year will have to start from the beginning and retake the PTCE if they wish to become certified again.