Psychiatric Health Services Technician

If you find satisfaction in helping others and are interested in the mental health profession, you might want to consider a career in health services as a psychiatric technician. Keep reading to learn about job duties, earnings, education and licensing requirements for psychiatric technicians.

Is Working as a Psychiatric Technician for Me?

Career Overview

As a psychiatric technician, you'll help people with mental or emotional disorders and conditions, working under the supervision of psychiatrists, doctors, research psychologists and other mental health professionals. Depending on your level of training, you may perform a wide range of patient services, which might include holiday, night and weekend shifts.

For example, a psychiatric technician may start out as a psychiatric aide, helping patients in hospitals or treatment programs with daily living activities, such as dressing, eating, bathing and personal hygiene. In this position, you could also engage patients in social or educational activities. With more advanced training, you might conduct intake interviews, take medical histories, monitor vital signs and administer medications. Although potentially rewarding, a career as a psychiatric technician can involve working with potentially violent patients.

Employment and Salary Information

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for psychiatric technicians was $29,880, while psychiatric aides earned $25,120. The BLS also projected a slower-than-average increase in employment of 5% for psychiatric technicians and aides nationwide from 2012-2022. Due to an aging population, growth is likely to occur in residential facilities and prisons where patients are suffering from Alzheimer's and other related diseases. Insurance legislation and reform, leading to increased coverage, may have a positive impact of job growth (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Psychiatric Health Services Technician?

Educational Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for psychiatric technicians is a high school diploma. Undergraduate certificates for psychiatric health services technicians are most common, but associate's degree programs in human services and mental health are also available.

Curriculum

In an undergraduate certificate program, you'll explore mental health theories, standard treatment procedures and patient interview techniques. Clinical training and courses in human anatomy and learning disabilities might also be part of the program. Associate's degree programs may cover the symptoms and causes of mental illness, therapeutic methods and medical ethics. You might also study basic counseling skills or participate in practicums and internships, which can provide you with real-life experience in a medical setting.

Required Skills

To be successful as a psychiatric technician, you'll need to be emotionally stable, have good communication skills and be able to work as part of a team. Since psychiatric technicians spend most of their time on their feet, physical stamina and strength are also key to working in this position.

Certification and Licensing

As of May 2014, California, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas were the only states in the country that required psychiatric technicians to have a license. Licensure is not required for psychiatric aides. Voluntary certifications are available from the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians, which include four levels of credentials with increasingly advanced education and experience requirements. For the highest level of certification, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study, such as one related to mental health or developmental disabilities, along with at least three years of experience.

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