Anterior pituitary corticotroph cells are a central component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis essential for the neuroendocrine response to stress. Corticotrophs are excitable cells that receive input from two hypothalamic secretagogues, corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) to control the release of adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH). Although corticotrophs are spontaneously active and increase in excitability in response to CRH and AVP the patterns of electrical excitability and underlying ionic conductances are poorly understood. In this study, we have used electrophysiological, pharmacological and genetic approaches coupled with mathematical modeling to investigate whether CRH and AVP promote distinct patterns of electrical excitability and to interrogate the role of large conductance calcium- and voltage-activated (BK) channels in spontaneous and secretagogue-induced activity. We reveal that BK channels do not play a significant role in the generation of spontaneous activity but are critical for the transition to bursting in response to CRH. In contrast, AVP promotes an increase in single spike frequency, a mechanism independent of BK channels but dependent on background non-selective conductances. Co-stimulation with CRH and AVP results in complex patterns of excitability including increases in both single spike frequency and bursting. The ability of corticotroph excitability to be differentially regulated by hypothalamic secretagogues provides a mechanism for differential control of corticotroph excitability in response to different stressors. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.