Psychiatric Aide: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a psychiatric aide. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and employment 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 Psychiatric Aide?

A psychiatric aide, also called a mental health assistant or a psychiatric nursing assistant, works with patients with mental illnesses. Your day could vary greatly depending on your place of work and the needs of that particular day, but in general, you help patients with everyday activities and help keep them safe. Psychiatric aides may help dress or bathe patients, as well as serve them meals and clean their living spaces. They also organize fun group activities or outings and provide transportation for the patients. These professionals usually work in teams of other aides and psychiatric technicians, as well as doctors, nurses and social workers. They may help restrain patients when necessary. See the table below for more information:

Education RequiredHigh school diploma or equivalent; mental health aide postsecondary programs available
Training Required On-the-job training is common
Key ResponsibilitiesHelping patients with daily living activities; record patient routines; lead or participate in group activities
Job Growth (2014-2024)5%*
Mean Annual Wage (2015)$28,170*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Psychiatric Aide?

As a psychiatric aide, your duties would include recording patients' daily routines, performing physical checks for harmful items, leading recreational activities and helping patients with dressing, eating and grooming. You would need to have a patient and compassionate manner in dealing with patients who have undergone emotional trauma or who have trouble interacting with other people. Because some patients may have a tendency toward violence, you would need to work well under pressure and react calmly but swiftly to adverse behavior. If you worked at a mental health facility, you might be employed during regular hours, or you might work overnight shifts.

What Education Do I Need?

Most psychiatric aides learn their skills on the job, so you could begin working in a mental health facility after completing your high school diploma. In high school, you should focus on classes in psychology, hygiene, health and social sciences. You also might be able to take training courses for mental health assisting in high school, and some vocational schools and community colleges offer classes for mental health aides. In a mental health training program, you might study the fundamentals of psychology and therapy, as well as learn counseling skills. Communication is also a key trait to focus on since interacting with doctors, patients and family members is important.

How Could I Advance My Career?

You might choose to enroll in an Associate of Applied Science in Mental Health program to further study the techniques of mental health therapy and psychology. You might also choose to attend a nursing training program to become a registered nurse, a position that comes with more responsibilities and additional career options.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2015, psychiatric aides earned a mean annual wage of $28,170. While the BLS noted that growth for this profession is projected to be average from 2014-2024, there may be increased demand for psychiatric aides as care for mentally ill patients moves outside of hospitals and into private facilities.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related professionals that also work closely with people and require only a high school diploma include childcare workers and social and human service assistants. Childcare workers take care of different aged children when their families are unavailable, like during the work day. They may feed or bathe the kids, as well as help with homework. Social and human service assistants work in different fields and may work closely with social workers to help people find various services in the community that they need.

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