This guide contains information on how to become a psychiatric technician, including required education, training opportunities, salary expectations and advice from a real technician.
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What Does a Psychiatric Technician Do?
Psychiatric technicians observe and treat mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed patients. Many psychiatric technicians work in various environments, including residential treatment centers, psychiatric facilities, homes, crisis units, residential mental health facilities, and related health care settings, such as drug or alcohol treatment centers.
Being a psychiatric technician requires technical knowledge and intersocial skills. Some typical n duties and responsibilities include:
Monitor patients’ physical and emotional well-being and follow physicians’ orders and hospital procedures.
Assist with oral medications and hypodermic injections.
Help with rehabilitation, which may include caring for a patient’s hygiene, such as bathing and changing her clothes.
Observe patients' behavior and interact with them.
Collaborate with doctors and psychologists to rehabilitate patients.
Collaborate with health care professionals to plan or provide treatment.
Promote patient wellness and work with them to foster independence.
Administer tasks, such as providing intravenous and non-intravenous medications to patients.
How Do You Become a Psychiatric Technician?
Demand for psychiatric technicians is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 9% growth through 2031, amounting to 12,500 new job openings over the next decade.
The profession's faster-than-average growth is driven primarily by an increased need for psychiatric technicians in residential settings, such as those specifically designed for treating substance abuse. This job growth is also due to the positive development of community-based residential treatment centers.
If this optimistic job growth appeals to you, follow these steps on how to become a psychiatric technician.
Step 1: Find a postsecondary certificate or associate degree program.
According to our research and the BLS, most employers want qualified candidates with a postsecondary training program in the mental health field. We recommend that you narrow your focus on certifications or associate degrees in the following specialties:
- Psychiatric technology
- Mental health technology
Step 2: Get certified.
Although voluntary, the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) offers four levels of certifications and access to member-exclusive job boards and networking events that can help you find a job. The first level of certification only requires a high school diploma.
Step 3: Pursue additional certifications.
Again optional, qualifying for one or more certifications will encourage you to develop additional skills that make you a valuable job candidate. It can also help you earn a higher salary and improve on-the-job performance. AAPT’s advanced certifications require the following:
- Level 2: At least 30-40 hours of technical school, college or university courses and one year of practical experience in mental health and developmental disabilities.
- Level 3: At least 60-88 hours of technical school, college or university courses and two years of experience in the mental health field.
- Level 4: A bachelor’s degree in a mental health, developmental disabilities or nursing program and a minimum of three years experience in the mental health field.
Step 4: Apply for open psychiatric technician jobs.
Any successful job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume highlighting your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, review our psychiatric technician resume examples.
Once your resume is complete, search online for job opportunities. As you look for psychiatric technician openings, make the most of your professional network, including people you met at internships or community college.
When applying for jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you would bring to the role. Take a look at a psychiatric technician cover letter sample for help.
Psychiatric Technician Skills
Being a psychiatric technician means working closely with patients, so he should have strong communication skills. Since the position is physically and emotionally draining, you should have a strong desire to help people and a great deal of patience.
Because they contribute to the health and well-being of patients, psychiatric technicians could benefit from experience as medical assistants or nurses.
Technical and hard skills:
Insights from a Psychiatric Technician
To get a better idea of what to expect of the Psychiatric Technician profession, we asked experts in the industry and here is what they had to say.
What should someone consider before becoming a Psychiatric Technician?
As any job related to health care, time schedules are diverse meaning you might have to cover night shifts or sometimes be on call. With regards to mental health care, workers are so exposed to different patient behavioral problems that this often has negative side effects on the mental health of the actual professionals.
What is the common career path for a Psychiatric Technician?
A High School Diploma is the minimum requirement for becoming a Psychiatric Technician but is not the preferred one. If you want to become a Psychiatric Technician it would be a good idea to attend a post-secondary training program such as an associate's degree in arts or sciences or a bachelor's degree in a related field. The higher your education level the higher the probability of getting a job. To become certified though, you must take a written exam covering the topics of mental disorders and developmental disabilities.
What type of person excels in this job?
Empathetic and patient people who genuinely care for the mental wellbeing of other people. Professionals who can adapt to different scenarios and apply psychological treatments accordingly.
What are some of the most important skills for Psychiatric Technicians to have?
Empathy, patience, emotional resilience, professionalism and the desire to help improve the mental health of their patients.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Psychiatric Technician?
The most rewarding aspect is being a part of an industry devoted to helping people improve their mental health problems.
How Much Do Psychiatric Technicians Get Paid?
Psychiatric Technicians are typically paid on an hourly basis, with the median hourly wage in the United States being $14.97 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid Psychiatric Technician makes about $10 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn around $29.00.
Top 10 States for Psychiatric Technicians Salary
Psychiatric Technicians in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.
Psychiatric Technicians Resources
We compiled this list of additional resources to help you continue exploring a career as a Psychiatric Technician.
American Association of Psychiatric Technicians
A nonprofit organization that administers a voluntary national certification examination to test knowledge of psychiatric technology.
California Association Psychiatric Technicians
CAPT is the professional association for approximately 14,000 state-licensed Psychiatric Technicians who work in California programs serving people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
A website for bipolar patients, with an emphasis on psychiatric technicians
A Mental health writer and a founder of Project Hope & Beyond, an online community for persons with treatment-resistant depression and other chronic mood disorder.
Tackles misconceptions about therapy and mental illness, often reframing issues people have long misunderstood. Holmes also offers tips on how to live a happier life and reduce stress.
Psychiatric Technician Review
This is book 1, which tackles issues related to anatomy, physiology, fundamentals of nursing, nutrition, medical terminologies, and abbreviations.
Psychiatric Technician Review (Medical Surgical Nursing Book 2)
Book 2 in this series, this book explores medical surgical nursing, anatomy, definition of the different diseases and body conditions, assessment and data collection, and diagnosis and treatment.
Psychiatric Technician (Passbooks)
This book prepares you for your certification test by using practice exams.
The Mental Health Worker: Psychiatric Aide
Aspiring healthcare workers learn the skills necessary to work in an entry-level position in a psychiatric or mental welfare setting.