Mental Health Technician: Career, Outlook and Education Info

Research what it takes to become a mental 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 Mental Health Technician?

Under the direction and supervision of a psychiatric nurse, psychologist or psychiatrist, a mental health technician provides care to mentally ill and emotionally disturbed patients. This entails a variety of duties, including helping with admitting and discharging patients, administering medications, monitoring patients' vital signs, observing patients' behavior and keeping records of patients' conditions. Mental health technicians may also lead recreational activities for patients and assist them with everyday activities, such as eating or bathing. When necessary, these professionals will assist in restraining a patient. The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a mental health technician.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate, associate's degree
Training Required On-the-job training or internship may be required
Education Field of Study Psychiatric technician
Licensure and/or Certification 4 states require licensure; 4 levels of professional certification are available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% increase (for psychiatric technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,140 (for psychiatric technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Duties as a Mental Health Technician?

Your specific care duties might include monitoring patient behaviors, emotions and physical conditions; recording patient vital signs, such as temperature and blood pressure; administering medications; providing direct personal interaction with patients; encouraging patients to take part in social activities; helping patients maintain personal hygiene; and leading therapy sessions. You also confer with superiors about patients and assist with the implementation of treatment plans.

Where Could I Work?

Your potential employers include psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities, residential mental retardation centers and substance abuse facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( State agencies, general medical hospitals and family services providers are also potential employers. About 67,900 people worked as psychiatric technicians in 2014. By 2024, employment was projected to rise five percent to 71,400 workers total.

Job growth was expected to be driven by an increasing population of elderly patients and their need for mental health services. Opportunities at residential facilities are expected to be strong due to an ongoing trend in favor of residential care over hospital care. The median salary of psychiatric technicians in May 2015 was $31,140.

What Education Is Available?

Employers might arrange training for you informally on the job, or you may opt for formal education through classes, workshops and lectures. You may also learn through a combination of the two. You could also complete a mental health certificate program at a community college or vocational school. A small number of schools offer associate's degree programs as well.

Certificate and associate's degree programs impart foundational knowledge in psychology and mental health treatment. These programs develop your capacity to provide individual care to patients. Courses may address theoretical topics, such as psychology, abnormal psychology and human development, as well as develop practical skills, such as conflict prevention, case management and counseling techniques. Some programs include a fieldwork experience, internship or clinical practicum.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers include licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and medical assistants. These positions typically require at least a postsecondary nondegree award, like a certificate. LPNs and LVNs provide basic nursing care, such as monitoring patients, keeping health records and changing bandages. They must work under a registered nurse (RN) or doctor. Medical assistants typically specialize in performing either administrative or clinical duties, depending on their place of work. They can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, including hospitals and doctors' offices.

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