How to Become a Psychiatric Technician

Written by

George D. Baker


August 14, 2014


Psychiatric technicians help institutionalized patients struggling with mental illness. To become a psychiatric technician, some training and even certification is needed. Research psychiatric technician salary information based on federal statistics.

Psychiatric technicians play an important role in mental health teams, as it is their mission to provide the compassion and attention to improve the lives of their patients and ensure that they receive quality care. Patients who struggle with mental illness or developmental disabilities rely on professionals to care for them and ensure that they receive appropriate care and experience the best quality of life possible.

What does a psychiatric technician do?

In general, the job title of “Psychiatric Technician” applies to a wide variety of mental health workers who have not yet completed a Master’s or Doctorate degree. Psych techs typically work in institutional settings with people who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. Under the supervision of a healthcare professional, psychiatric technicians assist patients with personal care and hygiene, administer medications, help patients participate in individual and group activities, and monitor patient progress. Psychiatric aides perform similar duties, but the education requirements are less, and there is more on the job training involved.

Depending on their level of certification and their employer, some psychiatric technicians provide additional services, such as keeping records, admitting patients, and participating in treatment planning. Read on to find out how to become a psychiatric technician.

What training does a psychiatric technician need?

Psychiatric Technician jobs vary by state. To become a psychiatric technician, some training is needed. If you live in California, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado, you will have to become a licensed psychiatric technician before being eligible for employment in most hospital and medical settings. While you might have to obtain a license in the other 46 states, it is still a good idea to consider certification if you really want to become a psychiatric technician. The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) is a recognized organization that helps aspiring mental health workers become nationally certified psychiatric technicians (NCPTs). For those seriously considering beginning a psychiatric technician career, many mental health experts recommend reading The Mental Health Worker: Psychiatric Aide (Clinical Allied Healthcare Series) as a starting point. This book will prepare you with essential knowledge needed to perform most mental health jobs, and may help you ultimately decide whether this sometimes challenging career path is a practical fit for you.

Some states allow psychiatric technicians to enter the field with only a high school diploma or an Associate of Applied Science in Mental Health Technology or Medical Assisting. In order to be eligible for increased salary opportunities and advancement, psychiatric technicians need to complete college courses or obtain a degree, in a field related to mental health or developmental disabilities and to complete examinations for different levels of psychiatric technician certification.

Voluntary certification is offered through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) and is available at four levels. Psychiatric technician certification level 1 requires a high school diploma or GED and completion of an exam. Level 2 requires completion of 30 semester hours (or 40 quarter hours) of college courses and one year of experience working in the mental health or developmental disabilities field. Level 3 requires 60 semester hours (or 80 quarter hours) of college courses and two years experience, and level 4 requires a bachelor degree in a related field and three years of experience. Levels 2, 3, and 4 also require successful completion of essay examinations. Certified Psychiatric Technicians generally earn higher salaries and enjoy more advancement opportunities than those without certification or licensure.

While taking the steps to obtain certification, license or an advanced degree in psychiatric technology will certainly set you up for a career as a psychiatric technician, most preparation is still acquired through on-the-job training.

What are the prospects for a career as a psychiatric technician?

Entry level healthcare positions including psychiatric technician jobs are expected to increase by 28% by 2016. This is significantly faster growth than entry level occupations in other fields.

Psych Tech Salary: How much do psychiatric technicians make?

The average psychiatric technician salary varies depending on a number of factors, including geographical location, experience and level of certification. The median base salary for psychiatric technicians across the United States is between $25,000 and $32,700, with the highest 10% earning more than $36,700. Psychiatric aide salary ranges between $22,800 and $29,200.

Various psych tech certification levels allow psychiatric technicians to enter the field with relatively little education and allows for career advancement as they gain experience and education. Psychiatric technician careers give caring individuals with stable personalities the opportunity to directly impact the quality of life of mentally ill people, making this a great choice for people who enjoy helping others and seeing the fruits of their labor on a daily basis. Those interested in becoming a psychiatric technician should also research the related careers of psychiatric nurse and psychiatric aide.

Becoming a Psychiatric Technician Requires Training, Start Today

Are you serious about becoming a Psychiatric Technician? Then you need to get the required skills and training to do it! To start your new career, first you must decide what school you want to enroll in, so you need to gather info about potential schools. Use the  College Mouse Degree Search tool  to find the right course and college for you, and get started towards your new dream job today! If you want more personalized assistance, call (888) 389-7996 TOLL FREE to speak with a college advisor, who will help you find the best college for you. After you sign up for your course, make sure you fill out and submit the FAFSA so you can take advantage of any financial aid currently available to you!

Written by:  George D. Baker

George D. Baker is a long-time contributor to College Mouse. Now retired, Mr. Baker volunteers at adult education programs in his local community.

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