Behavioral Health Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a behavior health technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Behavioral Health Technician?

Behavioral health technicians assist psychiatrists or other healthcare professionals specializing in the treatment of patients with mental disorders. For instance, they may work with patients who are struggling with drug abuse, alcohol or gambling addiction, eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. Duties may include administering medication, conducting therapeutic and recreational activities and monitoring vital signs and emotional symptoms.

Look through the table below for an overview of the career.

Degree RequiredPostsecondary certificate or degree is common
Education Field of StudyPsychiatric or mental health technology
Training Required On-the-job training period
Licensure RequiredOnly California, Arkansas, Colorado and Kansas require a license (as of 2014)*
Job Growth (2014-2024)5-8% for all psychiatric technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $31,140 for all psychiatric technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Behavioral Health Technician?

Behavioral health technicians tend to mentally ill or developmentally disabled patients according to directions from doctors or other medical professionals. Alternative job titles include psychiatric or mental health technician.

Working as a behavioral health technician, you'll personally interact with patients, including assisting them with personal grooming, housekeeping and recreational pursuits. You'll help plan and carry out treatment programs. You might give drugs to patients either via injections or oral doses. Your job duties will include observing patients' physical health and emotional state and relaying any abnormalities to doctors and other medical staff. You might subdue patients who are suicidal or violent.

Many types of employers hire behavioral health technicians. You could work at mental hospitals, psychiatric divisions in general hospitals and the military, residential treatment facilities, detention centers, long-term care institutions, drug and alcohol abuse programs and schools.

What Education Might I Need?

According to the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT), technicians may have a bachelor's degree or less education (www.psychtechs.org). A psychiatric aide is an entry-level position requiring less formal training than a psychiatric technician has at the upper levels, the AAPT said.

Can I Get a License or Certification?

The AAPT said most states don't require you to obtain a license to work as a behavioral health technician. You may seek credentials as a Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician (NCPT) from the AAPT. Getting certified is voluntary, but you might find that some employers require national certification. The NCPT designation is not sufficient to let you work as a behavioral health technician in those few states requiring a license, according to the AAPT.

The AAPT awards certification at four levels. You must pass an open-book test for all levels and pass an essay test for the second and higher levels.

You must be a high school graduate or have a GED to be eligible for the first level. For the second level, you must have earned a minimum of 480 hours of college courses in any major and worked a minimum of one year in the areas of mental health or developmental disabilities. For the third level, you'll need 960 hours of college courses in any major plus two years working with the mentally ill or developmentally disabled. For the fourth level, you must possess a bachelor's degree in the areas of mental health or developmental disabilities and have three years of relevant work experience.

You can also choose to seek voluntary certification in some states. For example, Florida offers a designation as a Certified Behavioral Health Technician.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a psychiatry technician, you could get a job as an assistant for a different kind of health professional in the healthcare field. For instance, as an occupational therapy assistant, you would help occupational therapists teach individuals with disabilities how to do exercises and other activities that can help them live more independently. Alternatively, as a physical therapist assistant, you would assist physical therapists with treatments like massage, and you would teach patients exercises to help them improve their strength and mobility. Both occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants need to have an associate's degree. All states require physical therapy assistants to be licensed, and most states require the same of occupational therapy assistants.

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