How Can I Become a Health Care Technician?

Explore the career requirements for health care technicians. Get the facts about education requirements, job outlook and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Health Care Technician?

A health care technician, also known as a nursing assistant, helps nurses and physicians provide basic care. They can get jobs in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, or at long-term care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living centers. When working at residential facilities, they help patients with daily activities like bathing, eating and transportation. They also consult with patients about their health concerns and record their vital signs. In some states, they may also dispense prescription medications.

The following table provides information for this career:

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required Formal education program or on-the-job training at a nursing care facility, continuing education
Certification Nursing aide certification required, specifics vary by state
Job Growth (2014-24) 18% (for nursing assistants)*
Average Salary (2015) $26,820 (for nursing assistants)*

What Type of Education and Training Is Required?

To become a health care technician, also called a 'nursing aide' or 'patient care technician', you must have a high school diploma and complete either a formal education program or on-the-job training at a nursing care facility.

Vocational, technical and community colleges offer formal education and certificate programs for health care technicians. The length of these programs varies, and most include both classroom instruction and laboratory practice. In these programs, you take courses in anatomy, nutrition, healthcare ethics and electrocardiography.

Some nursing care facilities provide new employees with training from a licensed nurse or senior patient care technician. The length of training varies depending on the home's location. Sometimes, you may need to supplement your training with workshops or lectures.

Do I Need To Complete Any Additional Requirements?

After completing the required amount of state-approved training either through an education program or your employer, you will need to pass a competency exam to be certified as a nursing aide. There are several exam options for certification. You can sit for your state nursing board's certification exam to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA) or you can take the patient care technician certification exam from a national organization, such as the National Healthcareer Association.

State exam requirements vary, so you should check with your state's nursing board for specific information. National exam requirements are more standard. According to the National Center for Competency Testing, requirements for the patient care technician certification exam are a high school diploma and completion of an approved patient care technician education program or at least one year of qualifying experience in the field (www.ncctinc.com).

Where Can I Work As a Health Care Technician?

As a health care technician, you can work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, medical labs and home health care organizations. Your professional opportunities may also increase if you choose to pursue specialized training in a particular area of health care. For example, some education programs provide you with special training in elderly patient care, electrocardiography or phlebotomy. This training can take place during a formal education or certificate program, or in your place of employment as on-the-job training.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in helping people who are elderly or disabled with their daily activities, you might also consider becoming a home health aide. Instead of working at a dedicated medical facility, you would help take care of clients who are living independently in their own homes. Home health aides need no formal education, but a high school diploma may improve your job prospects. Another possible technician job in the healthcare field is a position as a pharmacy technician. These workers assist pharmacists with dispensing prescription medications to individuals and medical professionals. A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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