Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification: Which Do You Need?

In this article...

Being a pharmacy technician is a varied and exciting career. The pay and benefits are good and it puts you at the forefront of helping your community. 

But if you’ve recently decided to follow this career path, you’re probably feeling a little confused, right?

You’ve probably seen terms like ‘pharmacy technician license’, PTCB’, and ‘certification’ banded around. But what do they actually mean?

And look, we get it. Entering a new field and unpacking all the jargon can be hard. Luckily, we’re here to help.

So, what exactly do you need in order to be a pharmacy technician?

Well, the short answer is: What you need to be a pharmacy technician depends on your state.

Helpful, I know! But don’t worry, we’re here to break down everything you need to know about pharmacy tech licenses and certificates. Starting with the difference between the two:

What’s the difference between pharmacy tech licensing and certification?

Pharmacy technicians hold a position of trust within society. They are responsible for storing, sorting, and supplying members of the public with prescription drugs. 

Because of this, the vast majority of states require that their pharmacy techs hold a license in order to practice their trade.

And in some, but not all of these states, a condition of getting your license is that you hold a nationally recognized certificate. The most common certificate is known as the PTCB, which we’ll come to later! 

You can see which states require a license, and which require certification and a license by checking out the color-coded map on the PTCB website.

In this handy graphic:

  • States that are colored orange have no requirements yet.
  • States that are colored blue require certification and a license.
  • States that are colored green require a license (but not certification).

OK, now you’re probably wondering what kind of requirements there are for getting your pharmacy tech license (apart from certification, of course!).

So, let’s take a look:

Pharmacy technician license requirements

The exact requirements for gaining your pharmacy tech license vary considerably between states.

In some states such as Kansas, you’ll just need to register with the appropriate governing body. While in others, you must complete approved training programs or have an associate degree before being given the all-clear to practice. 

Now, since the requirements for pharmacy techs are different depending on where in the country you hope to work, it’s important to check out the rules of your state as early as possible. That way, you can be sure of being on the right side of the law.

But legal requirements are only the start of the story. What about when it comes to getting a job? Do pharmacy technicians need to be certified in order to land their dream job or is a license enough?

Do pharmacy techs need to be certified?

As it stands today, twenty-four states require pharmacy technicians to attain national certification, either as a requirement to be registered or licensed, and/or to perform certain duties.

But even if you don’t work in one of these states, getting certified could be the difference between landing that job, and losing out to another candidate.

And that’s because a nationally recognized certificate (like the PTCB) shows a potential employer that hiring you would be a good decision. It makes you stand out as someone who will work hard to reach the top of their game, and it proves that you have the knowledge needed in order to handle drugs safely.

So, even if your state doesn’t require certification, choosing to pursue it might just be the best career move you ever make.

What is the PTCB?

OK, while you’ve been researching a career as a pharmacy tech, you’ve probably seen the acronym ‘PTCB’ banded around. And you might be a little confused as to what this organization actually does.

Well, PTCB = Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and their purpose is to advance medication safety by credentialing technicians who are qualified to support pharmacists and patient care teams in all practice settings.

In order to do this, they create and administer exams that test candidates’ knowledge of the four knowledge domains you need to master to be successful in this field. When you pass this exam – known simply as the PTCB – you’re a certified Pharmacy Tech!               

Pssst! Want to check whether you are ready to take your exam? Try our free PTCB practice test now. 

Is PTCB a national certification?

Yes! PTCB is a national certificate that is recognized in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

In fact,  formed by a collaboration of pharmacy societies and associations across the United States in 1995, PTCB became the first certification organization for pharmacy technicians.

And if you want to make sure that you pass your exam the first time, our PTCB hero study guide has all the information you need- 100% satisfaction guaranteed!

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

Michelle is Medical Hero's in-house expert on the PTCB exam and pharmacy technician careers.