written by: Robyn Broyles•edited by: DaniellaNicole•updated: 2/24/2009
Pharmacy technicians are expected to be in high demand over the coming decade. Although some pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training, obtaining pharmacy technician certification can improve a candidate's job prospects.
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What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists, who are experts in prescription drugs. Pharmacists have at least a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree, but new pharmacists have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm. D.), which is a graduate-level degree. Pharmacy technicians are able to enter the field with much less education and training than pharmacists, and their responsibilities are lighter.
Pharmacy technicians do tasks such as counting pills, mixing medications, and labeling bottles. In retail establishments such as grocery stores and retail pharmacies, they perform administrative and customer service duties, such as answering phones and ringing up transactions of prescription medications. In institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes, they may prepare each patient's daily medications and deliver medications to patients.
Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. The prescriptions they fill must be checked by the supervising pharmacist for accuracy before they are given to patients. Pharmacy technicians also do not provide advice to patients about medication options, side effects, or other drug information.
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Pharmacy Technician Certification
The only formal education requirement for pharmacy technician certification is a high school diploma or G.E.D., but candidates must pass a knowledge test. Aspiring pharmacy technicians can obtain this knowledge either through a formal classroom program or through self-study and/or on-the-job training. To be certified, a person must not have any drug-related convictions. In the United States, two different organizations can provide pharmacy technician certification: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT).
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PTCB Pharmacy Technician Certification
The PTCB administers a computerized multiple-choice test of 100 questions. A passing score is 75 or better. As of April 2009, this test will be available in continuous testing format at centralized testing centers. The test covers inventory control, pharmacy calculations, assisting pharmacists, and the administration of pharmacy practice. To maintain their certification, pharmacy technicians must receive 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The PTCB test is endorsed by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).
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ICPT Pharmacy Technician Certification
The ICPT administers a certification test called the Exam for Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). The ExCPT is offered in continuous testing format at centralized testing centers. The exam consists of 110 multiple choice questions, 10 of which are being "pre-tested" for future exams and are not included in the final score. The passing score is calculated by statistical methods, but the candidate is notified whether they passed or failed immediately upon completion of the test. ICPT certified pharmacy technicians must receive 20 hours of continuing education, including at least 1 hour of pharmacy law, in order to be recertified every two years. The ExCPT is an accredited test recognized by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA), and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
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ICPT website (nationaltechexam.org)
"Pharmacy Technicians." Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-2009, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Available at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos252.htm
"Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Unveils New Testing Features For 2009." Medical News Today. Available at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/136909.php