Health Care Technician: Job Duties & Requirements

Health care technicians assist doctors and nurses in various health care settings. Learn about the general duties of these technicians, find out what education, training and licenses are required for a career in this field, and explore some similar career options.

Career Definition for a Health Care Technician

Health care technicians are employed in almost every area of health care and have a wide range of skills, responsibilities, and certifications, depending upon their specialty. Health care technicians who work as patient care technicians (PCTs) help patients by changing dressings, taking vital signs, and re-positioning them. PCTs also bathe, groom and feed some patients. Health care technicians may also specialize in fields in which they have technical responsibilities, such as anesthesia, pharmacy, phlebotomy, laboratory testing, and radiology. Though some health care technicians work for pharmacies, mental health facilities, and doctors' offices, many assist physicians and nurses in hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and clinics.

Education Associate's degree, bachelor's degree, licensure and/or certification depending on the specific area of health care
Job Skills Bedside manner and communication, medical terminology, technical knowledge, physical strength, customer service, data entry and record keeping, bilingual a plus
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $42,190 (all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)
Job Outlook (2014 - 2024)* 16% (all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Most health care technician careers require an associate's degree from an accredited two-year patient care technician or medical assistant program. Employers typically require state nurse's aide certification in addition to basic life support and CPR certification. Technologist positions generally require a bachelor's degree in medical technology. Radiology technicians and technologists, also known as radiographers, need additional training, licensure, and certification in radiography. Certification programs are available in most specialties, from anesthesia to ophthalmology, and can enhance job opportunities.

Required Skills

Health care technicians who work directly with patients must have an excellent bedside manner and great communication skills, as well as medical knowledge, technical skill, and the physical strength to help patients in and out of bed. Health care technicians who work in diagnostic settings must have strong analytical skills and technical knowledge. Health care technicians who work in pharmacy settings or doctors' offices must have good customer service skills. Office skills, such as word processing, data entry, database management, and record keeping are also essential for all technician positions. Bilingual skills are required by many employers, especially for positions with extensive patient contact.

Financial and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts jobs for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians will increase by 16% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). Health care technician salaries vary by field. In 2015, the BLS reported that medical and clinical laboratory technicians had a median annual salary of $42,190, while the median annual salary for technologists was $60,520. The BLS also reported in 2015 that pharmacy technicians earned a median annual wage of $30,410 and radiologic technologists had a median annual wage of $56,670.

Alternative Career Options

Below are some similar career options to a health care technician:

Biological Technician

Those interested in a technician career who would prefer to work in a laboratory rather than directly with patients may want to explore the career of a biological technician. These technicians typically work in labs and spend most of their time testing and analyzing biological samples. Biological technicians need a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field. Jobs for biological technicians are expected to increase at a slower than average rate of 5% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for biological technicians was $41,650. Technicians who worked in the chemical manufacturing industry had the highest median annual salary of $47,760 in the same year.

Veterinary Technician

The career of veterinary technician is similar to that of health care technician, only vet techs work with animals instead of people. Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in animal hospitals and practices by taking samples of blood or urine, helping animals before and after surgical procedures, and taking x-rays of animals. These technicians complete either a two- or four-year degree in veterinary technology and may be required to obtain a license, depending on the state. The median annual salary for veterinary technicians and technologists was $31,800 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS expects jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 19% from 2014 to 2024.

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