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Gaining training and accreditation as a certified pharmacy technician is a relatively straightforward process, and access to the required course work and exam is readily available through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and other sites.
The prerequisites for taking the pharmacy technician certification exam are simple, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists noted. Basic requirements include a high school diploma, GED or foreign equivalent, and a record free of any felony or drug-related convictions.
The test itself is administered by PTCB via computer and consists of 90 multiple-choice questions on such topics as assisting pharmacists in serving patients; maintaining medication and inventory control systems; and pharmacy practice administration and management. There are testing locations around the United States, and the exam is now offered year-round. Applicants can take the test as many times as needed to pass and earn the designation of CPhT. Practice tests are available for a fee at PTCB.org.
Beyond basic certification, a growing menu of training courses await techs who want to go further in career advancement or specialize in a particular area of expertise. The National Pharmacy Technician Association, for instance, now offers certificate programs in such areas as sterile product preparation and aseptic technique, drug compounding and most recently, the proper handling of hazardous drugs, also referred to as chemo certification.
That new course teaches pharmacy technicians the latest standards and recommendations on how to prepare, manipulate, store and dispose of hazardous drugs. “Employers are looking for individuals with accredited training and certification in preparing and handling hazardous drugs,” said NPTA founder and CEO Mike Johnston.
Those specialty courses may herald a wider set of changes in the pharmacy tech certification process overall. In March, PTCB began surveying pharmacists and other pharmacy stakeholders to gather feedback on proposed changes to the PTCB certification program, which has “remained largely unchanged since the organization’s founding in 1995,” according to Megan Sheahan, PTCB’s director of professional affairs.
Among the recommendations proposed by the group: “creation of specialty pharmacy technician exams and additional requirements for PTCB certification, such as requiring a minimum period of practical experience, criminal background checks and completion of an accredited education program.”
The Pharmacy Technician Information Center, an interactive website at PharmTechInfoCenter.com, offers a handy resource for techs looking at training program options. Techs can use the site to find a training program, get tips on the certification process from PTCB and learn more about career options.