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Psychiatric Aide: Career Info & Requirements

Read on to learn what a psychiatric aide, also known as psychiatric nursing assistant, does. See what the education and training requirements are, and learn about job prospects and earning potential.

Career Definition for a Psychiatric Aide

Many psychiatric aides work in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals or state government facilities, while others work in residential health facilities or group homes. Psychiatric aides help mentally or emotionally impaired individuals with their personal hygiene, meals, socialization, and recreation, and they assist in medical care under the supervision of technicians or nurses. Additional job duties include monitoring patients' behavior, cleaning facilities, and transporting patients to hospitals or care facilities.

Required Education Usually, a high school diploma plus on-the-job training and a driver's license
Job Duties Include monitoring patients' behavior, cleaning facilities, transporting patients to hospitals or care facilities, helping with personal hygiene, and assisting with patients' medical care
Median Salary (2017)* $27,110
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Most jobs for psychiatric aides require completion of high school, and many require a driver's license to aid in the transport of clients to outside activities or appointments. Psychiatric aides are usually well-supervised and are expected to learn their responsibilities while on the job. On-the-job training for this position can last from a few weeks to several months, and aides may attend workshops or in-service training seminars.

Skills Required

Working as a psychiatric aide can be physically and emotionally draining. Candidates must be patient, able to communicate clearly, and willing to follow directions. The chief reward for psychiatric aides will be the knowledge that they have helped improve the lives of people who desperately need help.

Career and Economic Outlook

Psychiatric aides are at the low end of the medical pay scale, with a median annual salary of $27,110 in May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of available jobs, published as 73,600 in 2016, is expected to increase by about 6% between 2016 and 2026, per the BLS. The average growth is projected to stem from the aging population and people living longer due to new medical achievements. In May 2017, the states with the highest employment for psychiatric aides were Texas, New York, and Florida.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Home Health Aide

Home health aides provide assistance with daily household and personal care tasks and offer companionship to people with chronic illnesses or age-related, cognitive, physical, or other impairments; they may also perform minor health-related tasks, like administering prescribed medication or measuring blood pressure. Home health aides typically work in clients' homes. A high school diploma is required. Training and certification requirements are common but vary by state and employer. On-the-job training is also common. Home health aides can expect employment growth of 47% from 2016-2026, per the BLS, and these workers earned median pay of $23,210 in 2017.

Nursing Assistant

Nursing assistants work for nursing and residential care facilities, hospitals, and home health care services. They help residents with day-to-day tasks like feeding, bathing, and dressing. They also assist patients in moving from beds to wheelchairs and back, monitor vital signs, and relay patient concerns to supervising nurses. Completion of a state-approved education and training program and the passing of an exam is required for employment; in some states, this qualifies nursing assistants for the title of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Basic Life Support certification is another common job requirement. The BLS reports that nursing assistant jobs are predicted to increase 11% from 2016-2026; these professionals earned median pay of $27,520 in 2017.


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