PTCB's CPhT Certification Program

If you are looking for a rewarding career with a high rate of pay and growth potential, you should give serious consideration to becoming a certified pharmacy technician.  This healthcare career provides job stability, gives you the opportunity to help those in need and proves quite rewarding in a number of other ways.

However, you are likely wondering, “how long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?”, what it will cost and what other steps are necessary.  For one, you must obtain PTCB CPhT certification in order to work as a pharmacy technician.  Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about PTCB CPhT certification in order to become a pharmacy technician.

Eligibility Requirements for PTCB CPhT Certification

Certain eligibility requirements must be met in order to apply for this certification.  PTCB CPhT certification requires the candidate complete either an education/training program recognized by the PTCB or have sufficient experience working as a pharmacy technician.At a minimum, the candidate must have 500 hours working as a pharmacy technician in order to be eligible for applying for PTCB CPhT certification. However, this alternate route is primarily for those who have work experience as a pharmacy technician and were not able to partake in the PTCB-Recognized Education/Training.

Aside from completing an education or training program recognized by the PTCB or demonstrate the equivalent of experience in the field, the applicant is also required to have a passing grade on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, known as the PTCE, and be fully compliant with all of the PTCB Certification policies. Furthermore, the applicant must also provide complete disclosure of criminal actions as well as actions pertaining to State Board of Pharmacy registration or license.

At this point, readers are likely wondering about what, exactly, constitutes a PTCB-recognized education or training program. Those applying for CPhT and are within 60 days or less of finishing an education or training program recognized by the PTCB will prove eligible to sit for the PTCE. However, certification for PTCB CPhT is not granted until the individual provides sufficient proof of training or education to the PTCB. Only specific documents are accepted for proof.

As an example, a letter from the training or education provider that details the candidate’s name, the title of the training or education program and the completion date must be provided on that organization’s letterhead.Another form of acceptable documentation is a copy of the certificate of the completion showing the individual’s name, completion date and training/education program title.


PTCB CPhT Exam Fee

It costs $129 to take the exam and apply for certification.Pay the required amount and PTCB will email you, stating you are now authorized to schedule your exam.


How to Apply and Schedule

The first step is to create a PTCB Account on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board located here:  Log into your PTCB Account and apply for certification.  Once the application is approved, an email will be sent stating you are now permitted to take the exam.  At this point, you are to schedule the specific time for your exam.

Exam appointments can either be scheduled on the web at Pearson’s website or by phone.  If you prefer to schedule your appointment by phone, dial at 866-902-0593.  The exam is provided throughout the entirety of the year at nearly 1,500 professional centers and military sites across the nation.

About the Exam

The exam is taken on a computer.  Exam-takers are provided with 90 multiple choice questions.  However, some of these questions are unscored.  All in all, 80 of the questions are scored while 10 remain unscored.  The questions that are not scored are randomly placed at various points throughout the exam.  These questions are not revealed to be unscored. 

The entire exam takes about two hours to complete.  There is an initial brief tutorial that takes about five minutes.  The exam itself takes 110 minutes.  A post-exam survey is also provided, taking up another five minutes.  It is particularly interesting to note an unofficial exam score is shown on the exam-taker’s computer screen after he or she completes the survey following the exam.  A printed copy of this unofficial result might also be provided at the site of the exam.  It will take between two and three weeks for an official score to be added to the exam-taker’s PTCB account.

Exam Content Outline

Approximately 40% of the exam consists of questions pertaining to medications.  Medication brand names, generic names and classifications are covered.  The therapeutic equivalence of medications is also covered.  Exam-takers must know the most common drug interactions including the potentially life-threatening interactions as well as contraindications.  Prospective pharmacists must be aware of medication strengths and appropriate dosages, the forms of dosage, the routes of administration, length of drug therapy and special handling strategies. 

Knowledge of medication side effects both severe and common, allergies and other negative effects are also tested.  Additional exam material covered in the medications section includes incompatibilities and the proper storage of medication in terms of temperature, light and restricted access.  NTI medications, meaning narrow therapeutic index, are also covered.  Finally, the medications section of the exam asks questions pertaining to drug stability such as insulin, vaccinations, injectable and oral suspensions. 

The exam also covers federal requirements for the handling as well as the disposal of pharmaceutical substances that qualify as both hazardous and non-hazardous.  The federal requirements for DEA controlled substances as well as other controlled substances in terms of refills, transfers, etc. are also featured in exam questions.  The FDA’s requirements for recalls and federal requirements pertaining to restricted medication programs and processing medications are also covered.

The exam touches on patient safety including quality insurance.  Everything from medications that are high-alert to LASA (look alike, sound alike) medications, strategies for err prevention pharmacist intervention and procedures for event reporting are included in exam questions.  Even subtleties such as standards for hygiene and cleaning and common prescription errs are touched upon.

About one-quarter of the exam includes questions pertaining to order entry and processing.  The procedures necessary to identify and return medications, compound non-sterile items and pinpoint/return medications are also covered.  This section includes questions centered on compound ointments, suppositories, liquids, mixtures, emulsions and non-sterile products.  Exam-takers should understand sig codes, formulas, ratios, proportions and conversions pertaining to medication supply, dosage, quantity, dilution, concentration, etc.  Even the equipment and supplies necessary for the administration of drugs will be tested.  Examples include injectable/oral syringes, diabetic supplies, spacers, unit doses and package size.  Exam-takers must understand the basics of lot numbers, National Drug Code (NDC) numbers and expiration dates. 


A CPhT is permitted to apply for renewal as soon as his or her application window opens.  The application window opens two months before the expiration of the current certification.  However, those who fail to recertify by the expiration date are not officially certified.  These individuals are required to apply to be reinstated within one year of the expiration of the certification to return to active status.


There is a $49 CPhT recertification fee to be paid every two years.  There is also an $89 CPhT reinstatement fee.  Additional fees include a reprocessing fee of $10 and a late application processing fee of $25.  The late application fee is applied to recertification applications received following the application deadline.  This deadline is the initial day following the month of the certification expiration.  The late application fee is tacked on to the recertification application fee.  The reprocessing fee is added in each instance of the application being returned to the applicant so corrections can be made.