Psychiatric Technician: Job Duties & Career Requirements

Read about education and licensure requirements for a career as a psychiatric technician. Find salary and job growth data, as well as alternative career options.

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Career Definition for a Psychiatric Technician

Psychiatric technicians help mentally or emotionally impaired patients cope with everyday life, often in the setting of state hospitals, prison medical centers, private mental health facilities, or in regulated group homes. They help implement a physician's care plan by taking histories and vital signs, administering medications, observing the patients, and documenting their care. They assist patients in participating in recreational and social therapy sessions and in matters of personal hygiene.

Required Education Typically, a certificate program through a community college or technical school
Job Duties Include helping mentally or emotionally impaired patients with everyday tasks; taking histories and vital signs, administering medications
Median Salary (2017)* $31,670
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Psychiatric technicians typically complete certificate programs offered at community colleges or technical schools. These short-term programs consist of coursework in anatomy and physiology, psychology, pharmacology, and nurse science. These programs also include hands-on training through clinical rotations. Psychiatric technicians may choose to become certified through professional associations, such as the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians.

Licensing Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were four states that required psychiatric technicians to be licensed as of 2012. Typical licensing requirements for these states include completing an accredited psychiatric technician program, passing an exam, and paying a licensing fee.

Skills Needed

Working as a psychiatric technician is physically taxing and emotionally demanding. Candidates must be good listeners, able to communicate clearly, and willing to follow directions. Psychiatric technicians should have a desire to help people and a great deal of patience.

Career and Economic Outlook

The BLS projects employment of psychiatric technicians to grow at an average rate of 6% from 2016 to 2026. The same source published in May 2017 that the median annual salary for these technicians was $31,670. Additionally, the BLS reports that the top three states with the highest employment for psychiatric technicians were California, Florida and Texas.

Alternative Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Licensed Vocational Nurse

Those who like the work of psychiatric technicians but want a career with better job growth and earnings potential may want to explore the career of a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), also called a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LVNs and LPNs monitor patients' vital signs and record this information, assist patients with daily activities and convey patient health information to registered nurses and doctors.

LVNs and LPNs complete certificate or diploma programs in practical nursing before taking the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nursing. In May 2017, the BLS reported that LVNs and LPNs had a median annual salary of $45,030. Jobs for LVNs and LPNs are projected to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 12% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants and psychiatric technicians perform some of the same functions in the health care field, such as taking vital signs, monitoring patients, administering medication and helping with clerical tasks. Medical assistants, however, typically work in physicians' offices and also assist with patient exams.

Completing a postsecondary certificate in medical assisting is the common path to this career, but some medical assistants complete associate's degrees or learn on the job. Medical assistants can seek professional certification from a variety of organizations. In May 2017, medical assistants had a median annual salary of $32,480, according to the BLS. Although this median salary is slightly lower than that of psychiatric technicians, the projected job growth rate is considerably higher. The BLS projects jobs for medical assistants will increase by 29% from 2016 to 2026.

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