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

In this article...

So, you’ve considered all of your options and decided that a career as a pharmacy tech is right for you?

Well, congratulations! You’ve chosen a rewarding job with great benefits. Now all you need to do is pass your pharmacy tech exams and get certified…

But did you know that there are two different types of certification to choose between?

That’s right, there are two different certificating bodies for pharmacy technicians in the US: The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, which offers the PTCB exam, and the National Healthcare Association, which offers the ExCPT exam.

Now, don’t worry if you’re not sure which exam is right for you. We’re here to break it down for you. 

And before you can decide which exam is the best fit for you, it helps to understand a little more about each exam and organization. Let’s start by looking at the PTCB:

What is the PTCB?

The PTCB is an independent organization that was founded in 1995. It was the first certifying body for pharmacy technicians and is recognized in all 50 states

According to their website, the PTCB  was created in order to:

 Advance medication safety by credentialing technicians who are qualified to support pharmacists and patient care teams in all practice settings.

And to gain PTCB certification, applicants must:

  • Reside in the United States of America or its territories (US)
  • Complete a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program or equivalent work experience
  • Full disclosure of all criminal and State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions
  • Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies
  • Pass the PTCB exam

Also known as the PTCE (Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam), the PTCB exam tests an applicant’s knowledge in four key areas:

  • Medications                       
  • Federal Requirements                    
  • Patient Safety and Quality Assurance   
  • Order Entry and Processing 

Passing this exam allows the pharmacy technician to carry the status of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT).  And if you want to see some examples of the questions you might be asked, you can try our free practice test now.

What is the ExCPT?

The ExCPT stands for the ‘Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians.’ 

It is a relatively new examination 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, unlike the PTCB, the NHA doesn’t specialize in working with pharmacy technicians. Instead, they offer certification in a wide range of areas, from medical billing to patient care. 

Now, in order to be eligible to take the ExCpt, a person must:

  • Possess a high school diploma or GED/high school equivalency AND
  • Completed a pharmacy technician training or education program within the last 5 years

Or alternatively, a person must:

  • Possess a high school diploma or GED/high school equivalency AND
  • 1 year of work experience with at least 1,200 hours of supervised pharmacy-related work within the last 3 years

And the exam itself covers:

  • Overview and Laws
  • Drugs and Drug Therapy
  • Dispensing Process
  • Medication Safety and Quality Assurance

But, is there really much of a difference between the PTCB and ExCPT exams? Let’s find out:

What’s the difference between the PTCB and ExCPT exams?

When it comes to pharmacy tech exams, the PTCB and ExCPT have a lot of similarities.

Both are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), both exams are computer-based and cover broadly the same content, and both use multiple-choice questions.

Now, it’s true that there are some minor differences. For example, the PTCB exam lasts for 2 hours and includes 90 questions. While the ExCPT, on the other hand, lasts for 2 hours and 10 minutes and includes 100 questions. 

But overall, both are similar when it comes down to the exam-taking experience.

Now, that’s all well and good, but you might be wondering whether both qualifications are accepted everywhere in the country.

So, let’s take a look:

Which states accept the PTCB and ExCPT?

OK, so you’d be forgiven for imagining that both the PTCB and ExCPT are accepted everywhere in the country. After all, they are both accredited by the NCCA, right?

Well, actually only the PTCB is recognized in all 50 states. 

You see, while ExCPT is accepted almost everywhere, Wyoming, Indiana, and Louisiana still only accept PTCB.

Confusing, huh? 

So which should you choose?

Based on the information above, you might think that it doesn’t matter which certificate you choose. After all, both exams are relatively similar. And, unless you plan to practice in Wyoming, Indiana, or Louisiana, both are seen as equally valid by pharmacy boards…

But there are some pretty strong arguments for choosing the PTCB exam over the ExCPT qualification. And it mainly comes down to reputation.

You see, as a longstanding organization that is dedicated solely to certifying pharmacy technicians, the PTCB exam is generally viewed more favorably than its newer cousin. And this reputation appears to be particularly important to hospitals and large organizations. 

This means that not only is your career more open geographically (you never know, you might get the urge to relocate to New Orleans or Indianapolis!), but you also have a better shot at securing a job with a wider range of employers.

And when you have the choice between taking two pretty equal exams, it makes sense to choose the one that is seen as the gold standard.

But wait, isn’t the PTCB harder to pass than the ExCPT? Let’s find out:

Is the PTCB harder than the ExCPT? 

OK, this rumor has been going on for a while. But I’m going to level with you:

The PTCB is no harder than the ExCPT. They are both equally as difficult as one another. And with our PTCB Hero study guide, you’ll fly through your PTCB exam anyway!

But you might want to keep the fact that the PTCB exam isn’t actually any harder than the ExCPT on the down-low. You see, as long the PTCB has the reputation of being the hardest exam, it will continue to look better to employers. And that’s a real win for PTCB certified pharmacy technicians.

Shh, we won’t tell if you don’t!

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

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