Mental Health Technician: Job Duties & Career Requirements

Find out what type of work a mental health technician performs. Learn about educational prerequisites as well as the necessary skills, employment outlook and salary info to determine if this is the right career choice.

Career Definition for a Mental Health Technician

Mental health technicians, also known as psychiatric aides or mental health assistants, work primarily in a supporting role to give care to mentally ill or emotionally disturbed patients. Mental health technicians work in hospitals or institutions under the direction of supervising mental health care professionals, such as psychiatrists or other medical doctors. Typical duties of a mental health technician include coordinating mental health care services, assisting in patient assessment, monitoring and documenting care, escorting patients and identifying the personal needs of patients.

Required Education High school diploma or relevant training/experience; a relevant associate's degree will improve job opportunities
Job Duties Include coordinating mental health care services, identifying the personal needs of patients, monitoring and documenting care, escorting patients and assisting in patient assessment
Median Salary (2017)* $31,670 (all psychiatric technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6% growth (all psychiatric technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Education

While it's possible to work as a mental health technician with a high school diploma or relevant training or work experience, a related associate's degree will improve your opportunities. An associate's degree in a field like mental health technology would typically take two years to complete and include coursework in psychiatric nursing, psychology and group dynamics. Experience in nursing or as a hospital orderly will also help qualify you for a career in mental health care.

Important Skills

To succeed as a mental health technician, it is important to be patient, flexible and able to deal with demanding situations. Because mental health technicians work as part of a team of caregivers, it is also important to have strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Economic and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychiatric technicians is expected to see a 6% increase between 2016 and 2026, with the creation of 3,900 new jobs during that time. The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians was $31,670 as of May 2017, according to the BLS.

Alternative Careers

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Licensed Practical Nurse

If providing quality health care to all types of patients in a hospital setting sounds appealing, then consider becoming a licensed practical nurse. These practical nurses help patients bathe and dress, take vital signs, change dressings, update medical records and sometimes perform duties such as placing catheters and starting IVs. To enter this profession, completion of a training program offered at a community college or technical school is required. States additionally require practical nurses to acquire licensure by passing the appropriate National Council Licensure Examination. A 12% increase in job opportunities is projected for licensed practical and vocational nurses during the 2016-2026 decade, with the creation of 88,900 new jobs expected, as reported by the BLS. The BLS also determined that licensed practical and vocational nurses earned a median yearly wage of $45,030 in 2017.

Mental Health Counselor

For those interested in helping the mentally ill get the treatment they need, a career as a mental health counselor may be a good option. Mental health counselors meet with clients and determine what is causing emotional and behavioral issues. Then they lay out a plan to help the client work through the problems, utilizing talk therapy techniques and other counseling methods. In order to provide counseling services, a master's degree in social work, psychology, therapy or counseling is required. All counselors must also meet state licensure requirements that include passing an exam and completing supervised clinical hours. According to BLS data, approximately 36,500 new jobs are expected to be created for mental health counselors between 2016 and 2026 at a growth rate of 23%. In May of 2017, the BLS reported that mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors received a median yearly income of $43,300.

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