Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification: 5 Critical Facts

Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

Pharmacy technicians play a vital role in pharmacies and other healthcare settings. Their main duties include preparing medications, maintaining patient profiles, accepting prescription requests, measuring drug dosages, and other critical tasks related to dispensing medications. With the growing demand for pharmacy technicians, many aspiring pharmacy techs wonder whether they need a license or certification for this career. Here is an in-depth look at the key differences between pharmacy technician license vs certification.

Want to expand your knowledge on pharmacy technician questions? Explore our in-depth article: Pharmacy Technician Questions: 9 Important Differences

Pharmacy Technician Certification

Pharmacy technician certification is a credential that demonstrates one’s knowledge and skills in the field. While national certification is voluntary in most states, it has become an increasingly important step for pharmacy techs. The two main national certification programs are:

  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Certification
  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Certification

To qualify for PTCB or NHA certification, one must have a high school diploma and no felony convictions. The certification exams test pharmacy calculations, medication knowledge, pharmacy law and regulations, sterile and non-sterile compounding, pharmacy quality assurance, and more. Certification must be renewed every 2 years by completing continuing education credits.

Many employers now prefer or require certified pharmacy techs. In fact, some states mandate national certification for licensure (explained below). Certification demonstrates competence and knowledge without needing to obtain a license. It also helps pharmacy techs stand out in the job market and qualify for higher pay.

State license: This is issued by the state in which you want to work. The requirements for obtaining a state license vary from state to state, but they typically include completing a training program, passing an exam, and meeting certain experience requirements.

— Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

Pharmacy Technician License

A pharmacy technician license is a legal requirement to work as a pharmacy tech in some U.S. states. Specific licensing regulations vary by state. For instance, Alaska, California, Florida, Virginia and other states mandate licensure for pharmacy technicians.

To become a licensed pharmacy tech, candidates typically must:

  • Complete an accredited training program
  • Pass a pharmacy technician certification exam
  • Submit fingerprints for a background check
  • Apply and pay a fee for state licensure

After meeting these requirements, the state board issues a pharmacy tech license. This legal credential allows you to legally work as a pharmacy technician in that state. It must be renewed every 1-2 years by completing continuing education.

Some states require national certification (PTCB or NHA) to qualify for a pharmacy tech license. Renewing state licensure may also require maintaining national certification.

National certification: This is issued by a non-governmental organization, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The requirements for obtaining national certification are similar to those for obtaining a state license.

— Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

License vs Certification – Key Differences

Now that we’ve explained pharmacy technician certification and licensure, what are the key differences? Here is a comparison:

  • Certification is voluntary in most states; licensure is required by law in certain states. Anyone can get nationally certified, while only some states mandate licensure.
  • Certification demonstrates knowledge and skills; licensure grants legal authority to work as a pharmacy technician. Certification shows qualification but is not needed to work in most states. Licensure is the required credential in states that regulate pharmacy techs.
  • Certification involves passing an exam; licensure requires exam passage plus other steps. These include training, background checks, fees, and often national certification.
  • Certification is nationally standardized; licensure varies by state regulations. All certified pharmacy techs pass a national exam like PTCB or NHA. Licensing requirements differ among states.
  • Renewal requires continuing education for both; some states also require re-certification. Maintaining certification and licensure involves staying up to date through CE credits.

In summary, national certification is more universal while state licensure is mandated by law in certain states. Certification demonstrates knowledge, and licensure grants legal authority to work.

License vs certification – which is better?

The best option for you will depend on your individual circumstances. If you want to work in a specific state, you will need to obtain a state license. If you are interested in working in multiple states, or if you want to have a more portable credential, you may want to consider obtaining national certification.

— Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

License vs Certification – Key Facts

Issued byState board of pharmacyNon-governmental organization
RequirementsVaries by stateTypically include completing a training program, passing an exam, and meeting certain experience requirements
CredentialState license numberCertified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
PortabilityOnly valid in the state in which it was issuedValid in multiple states
RecognitionRecognized by most employersRecognized by many employers
BenefitsIncreased job opportunities, higher pay, opportunities for advancementIncreased job opportunities, higher pay
CostsVaries by stateTypically between $100 and $500
Time to obtainVaries by stateTypically a few months

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about pharmacy technician license vs certification:

Do I need a license or certification to become a pharmacy technician?

  • Certification is recommended for most pharmacy techs to demonstrate their qualifications. Licensure is required by law in some states like California, Virginia, Oregon. Other states have voluntary licensure. Check your state laws.

What’s better – PTCB or NHA certification?

  • Both PTCB and NHA are accredited national certification programs. PTCB is more common, but employers accept either one. Compare exam details to decide which suits you.

If I’m certified, do I need a pharmacy tech license?

  • It depends on your state laws. Most states allow certified pharmacy techs to work without licensure. But some states (CA, FL, VA etc.) require licensed pharmacy technicians.

Can I transfer my pharmacy tech license to another state?

  • Pharmacy technician licenses are state-specific and do not transfer to other states. You would need to apply for a new license if moving to a state that requires licensure.

What are the steps to get licensed as a pharmacy technician?

  • Typical steps include: graduate from a PTCB-recognized training program, pass the PTCB or NHA exam, apply for your state license, undergo a background check, and pay licensing fees. Requirements vary by state.

Do I need to renew pharmacy technician certification or licensure?

  • Yes, both certification and licensure require periodic renewal. Certification renewal involves completing continuing education credits. License renewal may require re-certification and other steps, depending on your state.


Whether to get certified or licensed as a pharmacy technician largely depends on your state’s regulations. Voluntary national certification through PTCB or NHA reflects your knowledge and qualifications. Required state licensure grants legal authority to work as a pharmacy tech in certain states. Consult your state board’s laws to determine the proper credentials for your pharmacy career.


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