Pharmacy technicians are healthcare providers who work closely with pharmacists and are responsible for various pharmacy-related works including, but not limited to:
- Medicine management
- Dispensing prescription drugs
- Administrative duties
- Managing inventory
- Medicine preparation
- Patient awareness
- Order processing
As a pharmacy technician, your job roles are limited by your experiences and the requirements of your employer. However, performing administrative tasks, dispensing medicines, and managing inventory are basic requirements of a certified pharmacy technician.
The minimum eligibility to work as a pharmacy technician depends on the requirements of the state. For example, the states of Hawaii, Delaware, and Pennsylvania don’t require any certifications, but Alaska, Alabama, and Washington require both certification and licensing.
To start your career as a pharmacy technician and work as a nationally certified professional, earning a CPhT certificate through Pharmacy Technician Certified Board (PTCB) exams is recommended.
How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician
1. Complete Your High School Diploma
The minimum eligibility criteria to work as a certified pharmacy technician is to complete your high school diploma or something equivalent to it. This is non-negotiable. You can’t become a pharmacy technician without a high school diploma.
Although not necessary, if you earn your diploma certificate in pharmacy from a PTCB-recognized program where lab hours and clinical experiences during training are recorded, you can appear for the exam without going through the hassle of gaining 500-hours of mandatory training.
The pharmacy technician programs cover various technical and practical domains of pharmacy, including:
- Federal laws
- Medical terminology
- Math and calculations
- Pharmacy ethics
These recognized programs allow students to gain on-the-job clinical experience without enrolling in postsecondary programs.
2. Get Experience Working for a Retail
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 21.59% of pharmacy technicians work in a retail establishment, whereas only 1.20% work in Medical source and surgical hospitals. The difference between hourly mean wages is also not very defined between retail and hospitals. Following your diploma, if you aren’t enrolled in a PTCB-recognized program, working for a retail establishment will give you the most exposure as a pharmacy technician.
Since you need to take the PTCB exam to become a successful certified pharmacy technician, gaining experience through working for a retail or hospital establishment is critical. As retail setups usually set a lower bar for freshers than hospitals, they should be more convenient for you.
3. Understand the PTCB Exam
On January 1, 2020, PTCB issued a newly redesigned curriculum. The nine-knowledge-domain system was replaced by a four-knowledge-domain system after that. PTCB now focuses mostly on pharmaceutical and technician practices.
The new knowledge domains are as follows:
- Regulatory laws surrounding healthcare
- Patient safety procedures
- Order Management
The syllabus is divided into four knowledge categories based on their relative relevance. The medication domain receives 40% of the weightage. Patient safety (26.25%), order management (21.25%), and regulatory standards (21.25%) follow.
During 110 minutes, 90 multiple-choice questions are asked. Math and medicine are two of the most crucial domains. Depending on the question set, you may receive a varying amount of mathematical questions.
The candidates are scored using a scaling method ranging from 1000 to 1600. To become qualified, you must gain at least 1400 points.
4. Gather Study Materials for PTCB Exam
It’s much simpler to pass the exam if you use study resources created for the PTCB exam. For your convenience, the study materials include information on the most often prescribed pharmaceuticals, allergic reactions, correct storage, dose, and math problems.
Study resources are a one-stop destination for everything you need to pass the PTCB test. They spare you the trouble of having to obtain the information yourself. They also provide quick and precise solutions. You might be able to address the difficulties if you go the long road, but it will cost you valuable time.
The top study resources also include a complete study guide and practice questions.
5. Keep a Schedule
The best method to get your PTCB certificate is to study smartly. If you spend 8 hours a day studying the federal requirement, you will lose out on other vital subjects such as medications and patient safety. Plan your study strategy based on the importance of each domain. If you only have 8 hours to study every day, spend 3 hours on medications, 2 hours each on patient safety and order management, and the rest on federal regulations.
If you can’t take on every domain every day, divide the week into the same proportions. However, cramming the same material over and over for an entire day makes it difficult to retain the key ideas.
As soon as possible, establish a routine. Train yourself to stick to a daily regimen until it becomes second nature. Making and keeping to a timetable trains your brain to absorb and remember information it wouldn’t otherwise.
If you don’t set a timetable, you won’t stick to it. Plan your timetable around your current employment if you have one. Don’t allow your plans to get in the way. If you plan to quit your work to concentrate more on the PTCB test, make the scheduling changes after you’ve left the job, not before.
6. Take PTCB Practice Tests
Official PTCB practice tests are paid sample exams that give you the feel of the online exam format and questions that you’ll encounter on the real exam. The PTCB practice exams are $29 a piece and include a 90-question format with a time restriction of 110 minutes. Even though the sets aren’t assessed, you may check the accuracy of each question once you’ve finished the exam.
During the PTCB practice tests, you get a hint of what to expect and if you are ready to take on the challenge. As most individuals need to pass the test on the first try, preparing yourself through revisions and practice tests is critical.
7. Take the PTCB Exam
To take the PTCB exam, you need to make an appointment with the authorities at VUE by logging in to your account or calling them directly. You can find the appointment details here and the guidebook here. In case of a missed appointment, the $129 fee is forfeited. But withdrawals in case of emergency are subjected to review.
The Bottom Line
Becoming a certified pharmacy technician requires you to become certified through PTCB. Your job responsibilities as a pharmacy technician include management, medicine handling, and patient handling. Complete your high school diploma, gain experience, and understand the PTCB exams to start your preparation for it. During preparation, gather study materials, keep a tight study schedule, and take PTCB practice tests to crack the exam on the first try. To appear on the exam, book an appointment with the VUE authorities.