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What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Psychiatric Technician?

Psychiatric technicians help patients living with mental health problems. To work in this field, you usually need to complete a postsecondary program along with on-the-job training. There are also different levels of certification that you can obtain to advance your career.

Basic Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that psychiatric technicians typically earn a postsecondary certificate before entering the workforce (www.bls.gov). Associate's degree programs are also available. Depending on the type of program you choose, your studies could last anywhere from one semester to two years. Coursework could include nursing science, psychology, medical terminology, psychopharmacology, and developmental disabilities. In addition to traditional classroom coursework, psychiatric technician programs often include some type of supervised work experience.

Even if you complete a formal education program, you will likely need to complete some on-the-job training before you can work unsupervised. During your on-the-job training, you'll work with an experienced technician and gain experience working with patients. Your training might also include workshops and lectures.

Important Information About This Occupation

Median Salary (2018) $32,870
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6%
Continuing Education Required in order to renew license
Online Availability CEU for renewal available online

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview

As a psychiatric technician, you'd work alongside a medical team to provide therapeutic care to people suffering from mental illness or developmental disabilities. You'd be responsible for leading therapeutic and recreational activities, as well as observing your patients' behavior and listening to their concerns. You could also help patients with daily activities such as eating and bathing, help admit and discharge patients, administer medications under the instructions of a doctor, monitor patients' vital signs and restrain violent patients.

Your exact duties would depend on the type of patients you work with. For example, some psychiatric technicians work with individuals with extreme developmental disabilities, while others work with people undergoing rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse.

Licensure Info

As of 2013, only four states required licensure for psychiatric technicians. Though exact requirements vary by state, the licensure process typically involves graduating from an accredited program, passing an exam and paying a fee.

Optional Certification and Advancement

If your state does not require licensure, you may consider earning optional certification to demonstrate your proficiency level to prospective employers. The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians has developed four levels of certification (www.psychtechs.org).

Each level requires you to pass a basic open-book exam containing 201 multiple choice questions. Your certification and advancement after passing the basic exam depend upon the amount of education and experience you've acquired. For levels 2-4, you also need to pass a practical exam, which includes essay questions based on specific work situations you may encounter; you may take this test with the basic exam or independently. The levels of certification include:

  • Level 1: You must have a high school diploma or GED
  • Level 2: You must also have 480 hours of postsecondary education plus one year of field experience
  • Level 3: You must have 960 hours of college or university education plus two years of psychiatric field experience
  • Level 4: You must have a bachelor's degree in a mental health or developmental disabilities field plus three years of field experience.

Certified psychiatric technicians may decide to further their careers by completing higher education to become nurses or counselors.