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Psychiatric Technician Education Requirements and Career Information

Working as a psychiatric technician requires little to no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Psychiatric technicians assist in the care of patients with mental illness. A high school diploma may be sufficient in some states, but a certificate of associate's degree is commonly required. In addition, certification is optional in most states.

Essential Information

Psychiatric technicians assist psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals in treating patients with mental illnesses. Although not required in all states, psychiatric technicians typically hold a certificate or associate's degree; some may hold bachelor's degrees. On-the-job training is provided following employment. Licensing is required in a few states. Certification is voluntary and available at four levels.

Required Education Minimum requirements vary by state; most technicians hold certificates, but associate's degrees are also available
Licensing and Certification Licensing is mandatory in Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Kansas; voluntary certification available through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5%
Median Salary (2015)* $31,140

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Psychiatric Technician Education Requirements

Requirements to be a psychiatric technician vary from state to state. Some states, including Arkansas, California, Colorado and Kansas, require psychiatric technicians to be licensed. Some states allow individuals to become psychiatric technicians with high school diplomas, certificates or associate's degrees.

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) offers a voluntary national certification examination for technicians in states that do not require licensure, as the organization acknowledges that taking the exam will better prepare psychiatric technicians for greater career opportunities.

There are various psychiatric technician, mental health technology and related certificate and associate's degree programs that prepare individuals for licensure and work as psychiatric technicians. Topics covered as part of a psychiatric technician program may include abnormal patterns of behavior, treatment of psychiatric disorders, medication administration, planning intervention strategies, substance abuse, case management and pharmacology. Students also learn about interviewing and counseling patients with a range of developmental disabilities or mental illness.

Career Information

Working under the supervision of doctors, psychiatrists, registered nurses and other healthcare professionals, psychiatric technicians work with emotionally or developmentally disabled individuals. Psychiatric technicians must be prepared to deal with individuals suffering from various forms of mental illnesses or distress, such as dementia, psychosis and depression.

Typical job duties include assisting with patient treatment plans, administering medication, keeping patient records, obtaining a patient's family history, running group therapy activities and assisting doctors with exams. Psychiatric technicians also monitor patients' emotional and physical well-being and assist with basic personal care and hygienic responsibilities.

Psychiatric technicians work in settings that include residential treatment programs, psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, adult residential facilities, substance abuse programs, day treatment programs, state correctional facilities and public health service programs.

Armed with just a high school diploma and some on-the-job training, you can become a psychiatric technician in some states. Postsecondary certificate and degree programs are available and required in some states. Professional certification through the AAPT is used in all states except Arkansas, California, Colorado and Kansas, which have their own mandatory licensing procedures.

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