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10/26/2001

State Regulation of Technicians Varies

Kate Traynor

Information gathered by ASHP’s Government Affairs Division indicates that 25 states require, or will soon require, some form of licensure, certification, or registration of pharmacy technicians.

Given this level of interest by various states, it is important for pharmacy technicians to understand the basics of professional regulation.

Although the three regulatory terms—licensure, certification, and registration—are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to recognize that the words describe different processes. ASHP accepts the definitions as follows:

Certification. This refers to a voluntary process by which an association or other nongovernmental agency recognizes that a technician meets predetermined professional qualifications. In the United States, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is the only organization that offers national certification to pharmacy technicians. Technicians earn PTCB certification by passing a standardized test.

Licensure. A license is a credential granted by a state or federal agency to document that a person meets the minimal government-specified professional requirements and is competent to engage in an occupation. Only people with valid, current licenses are legally allowed to practice the profession for which licensure is required. The agency that grants a license also has the disciplinary authority to revoke the credential.

Registration. Registration does not necessarily address a person’s competence to practice a profession. In legal terminology, registration is the process of making a list or being enrolled in an existing list. Thus, a registry of pharmacy technicians is simply a list of people who work as technicians in pharmacies.

States sometimes define these three terms differently from ASHP or use combinations of the three elements to legislate the regulation of pharmacy technicians. In Texas, Kentucky, and Utah, for example, a person must pass PTCB’s national certification examination before working as a pharmacy technician. Texas also maintains a registry of pharmacy technicians, but Kentucky and Utah do not.

Alaska and Wyoming require that pharmacy technicians be licensed to work in a pharmacy. Although Alaska’s license form asks applicants to describe their pharmacy education, state law does not require technicians to have any education beyond a high school diploma. By ASHP’s definition, Alaska’s form of regulation falls short of true licensure but is more complex than a registry.

Some states, such as Indiana, Louisiana, and South Carolina, require that pharmacy technicians have job-related training but do not necessarily relate the training to licensure or certification.

For information about the regulation of pharmacy technicians in an individual state, contact its board of pharmacy.