|Program Levels||Certificate programs, associate degree|
|Field(s) of Study||Behavioral health|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent; volunteer work a plus|
|Program Length||1 year for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degrees|
|Licensure/Certification||Voluntary certification available|
|Program Format||Typically divided into three categories of coursework: theory, practical training, and experiences in service learning|
|Possible Careers||Behavioral health technician, case manager, social worker|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||5% growth|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)||$36,280 (for psychiatric technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Behavioral health programs teach students how to assist licensed counselors and therapists working in mental health clinics and other inpatient settings. Such training usually comes in the form of certificate and associate's degree programs. Both programs generally require applicants to have a high school diploma and volunteer work can put you ahead of the competition. Now let's learn more about these programs.
Certificates in Behavioral Health
A certificate program of behavioral health provides students with a basic overview of the field and trains students to assist people with social, personal, mental health or family problems. Such a program is designed to prepare future behavioral health technicians, case managers and family services advocates. Students enrolled in the program learn the basics of group and individual counseling, child advocacy, case report writing and communication skills. Core courses are generally divided into theory, practical training and experiences in service learning. Some course topics may include:
- Introduction to human relations
- Ethical counseling
- Child and family advocacy
- Therapeutic intervention
- Case report writing
- Violence and abuse issues
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Associate's in Behavioral Health
Associate's degree programs are similar to certificate programs in that they both have the end goal of producing behavioral health technicians and related professionals. But these programs can also prepare students to enroll in bachelor's degree programs in counseling or health education, which can lead to more advanced roles, such as in social work. Core coursework in these programs is similar to that of certificate programs. You may also take upper-level courses in case management practice, human development and high-risk populations, as well as practicums and laboratory components. Associate's programs often have general education requirements in addition to these core behavioral health courses.
Graduates of certificate and associate's degree programs in behavioral health go on to work as behavioral health technicians, also known as psychiatric technicians, in a variety of settings. These professionals often work in county or city health departments, mental health clinics, inpatient facilities and community counseling services.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for psychiatric technicians was expected to increase by 5% between 2014 and 2024. This is an average rate of employment growth compared to other professions in the nation. As of May 2015, these technicians earned an average salary of $36,280 per year. Those in specialty industries, such as substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals, earned the highest average salary for such technicians, at $48,460 per year.
Keep in mind that behavioral health technicians may increase their employment opportunities and salary potential by earning professional certification. For example, the state of Florida offers the Certified Behavioral Health Technician credential to those who pass an exam.
Behavioral health programs come in the form of certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs, and they prepare students for careers as behavioral health technicians, case managers and even social workers in mental health clinics and other settings.