Certified Behavioral Health Tech: Salary and Career Facts

Behavioral health technicians and psychiatric aides play important roles in the care of mental health patients, providing daily assistance to patients and clinical staff. Find out what education and training you'll need, get information on certification requirements, and see the typical job duties for this profession. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Behavioral health technicians may be referred to more broadly as psychiatric technicians. These jobs are often at the entry level and require a minimum of a high school education, though technicians typically have a postsecondary certificate. As a behavioral health technician, you would provide clinical support to psychiatric professionals, such as behavioral disorder counselors and therapists.

Average Salary (2017)* $36,070 (all psychiatric technicians)
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 6% (all psychiatric technicians)
Licensing/Certification Only a few states require licensure for psychiatric technicians; some states may require passing a board certification exam. Four levels of certification are offered by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians.
Duties Assist individuals with mental or emotional disabilities

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Level of Education and Skills Will I Need?

You will need to obtain a high school diploma or the equivalent to work as a behavioral health technician. In states that require board certification, additional training or college credit hours may be required. Specific skills training is often provided on the job. You will need to be adept at:

  • Communicating with a diverse community of patients
  • Maintaining ethical treatment standards
  • Demonstrating a positive and professional attitude
  • Managing a variety of tasks issued by superiors

How Do I Obtain Certification?

You will need to apply for certification with your state's board of certification. If your state requires licensure, this is most likely done through your state's board of nursing. You will be required to pass an infectious disease screening and submit to a criminal background check. You may also be asked to successfully complete a comprehensive examination to test your aptitude and general skills knowledge. The examination tests clinical competency, professionalism, knowledge of patient rights, the legal code of ethics, patient safety and administrative skills.

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) offers four levels of certification depending on educational background and skill. Applicants with a high school diploma can apply for level 1 certification, while those with college credit hours or a degree can apply for level 2, 3 or 4 certification.

What Type of Work Will I Perform?

You will most likely work in either a hospital or residential care facility. Your main job duties will generally include assisting psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, clinical therapists and behavioral health counselors. This can involve:

  • Observing the behavior of patients
  • Handling therapeutic activities
  • Distributing medications
  • Monitoring vital sligns
  • Restraining physically violent patients

You may be asked to assist mental health patients in a variety of daily tasks, including dressing, eating and participating in recreational activities.

What Are My Career Prospects and Advancement Opportunities?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychiatric technicians is projected to increase by 6% from 2016 to 2026, which is as fast as average. However, if you wish to pursue advanced career opportunities like becoming a behavioral disorder counselor, you can expect a higher job growth of 23% within this time period. As of May 2017, psychiatric technicians earned an average salary of $36,070. During this time, behavioral disorder counselors, which includes substance abuse counselors and mental health counselors, made annual salaries of $43,300.

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