Licensed Psychiatric Technician: Licensure and Credential Information

Sep 17, 2019

A psychiatric technician certification is generally awarded to those who complete mental health education and field work experience, followed by an examination. Continue reading for an overview of the qualifications for certification, as well as job growth and salary info for a few career options for certified professionals.

Psychiatric technicians provide therapeutic care to people with developmental disabilities or mental illness. They need at least a high school diploma, and are required to be certified. There are four certification levels, each requiring different levels of education and experience in the field.

Essential Information

A career as a psychiatric technician requires certification through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT). Each level of certification involves some education as well as increasing amounts of mental health experience, as well as passing a certification examination. Recertification is required every 1-3 years, depending on the job and location. Additionally, a handful of states require licensure in the field.

Required Education High school diploma, some college
Other Requirements Each of the 4 levels of credentialing require increasing amounts of college coursework and mental health field work experience, followed by an examination
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12%
Median Salary (2018)* $32,870

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensing Requirements for Becoming a Psychiatric Technician

Only a few states require licensure for psychiatric technicians. Requirements varied among these states, but typically included some college coursework and an examination.

To become licensed in California, students need to attend a state-approved psychiatric technician program, provide transcripts of their grades and report any misdemeanor or felony convictions. Colorado administers separate tests to students studying to work with the developmentally disabled or the mentally ill. Before registering to take one of these exams, Colorado students must complete a mandatory, state-approved psychiatric training program.

Arkansas psychiatric technicians must graduate from an approved nursing program and submit to a criminal background check before registering for the state licensing exam. Psychiatric technicians in Kansas need to have a high school diploma or GED and complete a state-approved mental health technology course. Additionally, they usually have to register to take the licensing examination within two years of graduation from the mental health course.

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

From 2018-2028, employment of psychiatric technicians was expected to increase 12%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This rate was much faster than average compared to all other career fields. The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians as of 2018 was $32,870, per the BLS.

Credentialing Information for Psychiatric Technicians

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) offers voluntary certification examinations for professionals in the field. In some instances, certification from AAPT is required for employment. Certification also can be helpful for those working in states where licensing is not mandatory because it shows knowledge in the field of psychiatric treatment.

Certification Requirements

There are four levels of certification offered by the APPT. For Level 1 certification, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED. Individuals seeking Level 2 certification must have completed at least 480 hours of college courses in any field, as well as worked in the mental health field for a minimum of two years. Level 3 requirements are the same as Level 2, except 960 hours of college courses are necessary. A bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience as a mental health worker are required for Level 4 certification.

Certification Exams

Regardless of what level of certification a person is seeking, passing the Level 1 exam is required. Level 1 is a multiple-choice, open-book exam that covers entry-level knowledge, such as medical terminology and basic nursing techniques. Technicians are allowed to take the exam at home or in a school environment. In addition to passing the Level 1 exam, individuals seeking certification at Levels 2, 3 or 4 must complete an essay exam on situations that they might encounter in psychiatric settings.


Psychiatric technicians can renew their certification on a 1-, 2- or 3-year basis, depending on the fee they choose to pay. Recertification requires 12 hours of continuing education or on-the-job training.

Psychiatric technicians may complete college training and field work as they move through the certification process. It is possible to pursue Level 1 certification with a high school diploma or GED; however, Level 4 certification requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum of three years of experience as a mental health worker. Certification must be renewed every 1-3 years.

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