What is the difference between PTCB and PTCE?

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Tthe most popular certificate for pharmacy technicians in the US is the PTCB. 

But wait, maybe you’ve heard the term PTCE being banded around too?  What does that mean?

In short, in the context of your pharmacy technician exam, they both mean exactly the same thing.

Let us explain!

What is the PTCB?

OK, first things first: what does the acronym PTCB stand for?

Well, the letters ‘PTCB’ stands for the ‘Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’. And this board is ‘The nation’s first and most trusted pharmacy technician credentialing organization’.

So, what’s their story?

Well, the PTCB was created by a collaboration of pharmacy societies and associations from all across the United States in 1995.

And since they were founded, the PTCB has committed itself to the advancement of medication safety. 

It has done this by certifying technicians who are qualified to support pharmacists in all settings. Including both hospital/clinic pharmacies and those in retail settings.

In a nutshell, the PTCB makes sure that the people they certify have all the knowledge they need to be good pharmacy technicians- wherever they work. And they take this job seriously!

In fact, the PTCB is something of a trailblazer in the pharmacy world.  It was the first organization to offer a unified standard for delivering medication safety and patient care for pharmacy technicians. And they remain the only nonprofit pharmacy credentialing organization to do this in the USA.

Becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)

In order to gain PTCB certification, hopeful candidates must complete an application, submit to a background check, and pass an exam.

And once all of these steps have been successfully completed, you earn the right to call yourself a PTCB CPhT.

Yes, that’s right, the pharmacy world sure loves its acronyms! And just to be clear, CPhT stands for Certified Pharmacy Technician.

But if the PTCB is an organization that uses its expertise to certify pharmacy technicians, what is the PTCE? 

Let’s take a look:

What is the PTCE?

PTCE stands for Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. So while the PTCB refers to the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, the PTCE refers specifically to the actual exam that must be passed in order to be certified by the PTCB.

Now, the PTCE is a computer-based exam that lasts for 2 hours and consists of 90 multiple-choice questions. And for most people, it is the biggest obstacle between them and gaining CPhT status.

The national average pass rate is only 58%, which means it can be considered quite a difficult test to pass. 

But don’t worry! All it takes to be successful is a little preparation. And with our PTCB Hero study package your chance of passing jumps all the way to 97%.


Where things get confusing is that the PTCE is often called the ‘PTCB exam’ or even just the ‘PTCB’ for short.

So try not to be caught off guard. These terms are often used interchangeably but it is usually easy to tell whether people are referring to the exam specifically based on the context.

For example: “I really hope I pass my PTCB on Wednesday!”  is clearly a statement about the PTCB exam.

While: “The PTCB is a great organization” refers to the board in general.

OK, so we now know the difference between PTCB and PTCE. 

So feel free to call the exam you’re studying for the PTCB, PTCE or anything else you like!

But is the PTCE the only exam available for pharmacy technicians? Let’s take a look:

Are there other Pharmacy Tech certifications? 

Yes, there is an alternative to the PTCE called the ExCPT. 

This exam is offered by the National Healthcare Association (NHA). And, like the PTCB exam, it allows successful applicants to carry the status of  Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT).

However, the PTCB exam (or the PTCE, if you prefer!) is usually considered to be a better option than the ExCPT by both applicants and employers.  

And you can read more about the difference between the two exams here:

PTCB vs ExCPT: Which Pharmacy Tech Certification Is Right For You?

OK, so now you’re probably wondering how to make sure that you pass your pharmacy tech exam, right?

How do I pass the Pharmacy Tech exam?

Regardless of whether we call it the PTCE, the PTCB exam, or just the PTCB, preparing to take your pharmacy technician exam can feel daunting.

But don’t worry, we’ve got all the information you’ll need to pass on your first time right here:

How To Study For The PTCB Exam: The “Pass First Time’ Method

Want to find out how much you already know? Try our completely free practice test now!

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

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