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Psychiatric Technician

Job Outlook: 12% (Much faster than average)

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What Psychiatric Technicians and Aides Do About this section

Psychiatric technicians and aides
Psychiatric aides and technicians work as part of a medical team, under the direction of physicians.

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care and monitor their patients’ conditions. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe and clean environment.

Duties

Psychiatric technicians, sometimes called mental health technicians, typically do the following:

  • Observe patients’ behavior, listen to their concerns, and record their condition
  • Lead patients in therapeutic and recreational activities
  • Give medications and other treatments to patients, following instructions from doctors and other medical professionals
  • Help with admitting and discharging patients
  • Monitor patients’ vital signs, such as their blood pressure
  • Help patients with activities of daily living, including eating and bathing
  • Restrain patients who may become physically violent

Psychiatric aides typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients’ behavior and location in a mental healthcare facility
  • Help patients with their daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing
  • Serve meals and help patients eat
  • Keep facilities clean by doing tasks such as changing bed linens
  • Participate in group activities, such as playing sports and going on field trips
  • Help transport patients within a hospital or residential care facility
  • Restrain patients who may become physically violent

Many psychiatric technicians and aides work with patients who are severely developmentally disabled and need intensive care. Others work with patients undergoing rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction. The work of psychiatric technicians and aides varies with the types of patients they work with.

Psychiatric technicians and aides work as part of a medical team under the direction of physicians and with other team members, who may include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, counselors, and therapists. For more information on the counselors and therapists they may work with, see the profiles on substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and marriage and family therapists.

Because they have such close contact with patients, psychiatric technicians and aides can have a great deal of influence on patients’ outlook and treatment.

Work Environment About this section

Psychiatric technicians and aides
Psychiatric technicians may monitor patients’ vital signs, such as taking their blood pressure.

Psychiatric aides held about 59,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of psychiatric aides were as follows:

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 39%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 23
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 7

Psychiatric technicians held about 82,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of psychiatric technicians were as follows:

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 40%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 13
State government, excluding education and hospitals 8
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 7
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 5

Psychiatric technicians and aides may spend much of their shift on their feet. Some of the work that psychiatric aides do may be unpleasant. They may care for patients whose illnesses make them disoriented, uncooperative, or violent.

Injuries and Illnesses

Psychiatric technicians and aides have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Their work requires many physically demanding tasks, such as lifting patients. They also work with patients who may be physically uncooperative, which can cause injuries.

Work Schedule

Psychiatric technicians and aides may work full time or part time. Because hospitals and residential facilities operate 24 hours a day, many psychiatric technicians and aides work nights, weekends, and holidays

How to Become a Psychiatric Technician or Aide About this section

Psychiatric technicians and aides
Psychiatric technicians observe patients’ behavior and listen to their concerns.

Psychiatric technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate, and aides need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Both technicians and aides get on-the-job training.

Education

Psychiatric technicians typically have a postsecondary certificate. Often, they have experience as a nursing assistant or a licensed practical nurse and have completed postsecondary education in nursing.

Other psychiatric technicians may have a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree in psychiatric or mental health technology. These programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools and include courses in biology, psychology, and counseling. Psychiatric technician programs may include supervised work experience or cooperative programs, in which students gain academic credit for structured work experience.

Psychiatric aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Psychiatric technicians and aides usually have a short period of on-the-job training before they can work without direct supervision.

Training may include working with patients while under the close supervision of an experienced technician or aide. Technicians and aides may also attend workshops, lectures, or in-service training.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Psychiatric technicians typically need clinical experience, which can be gained by working in occupations such as nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Because psychiatric technicians and aides spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should be caring and want to help people.

Interpersonal skills. Psychiatric technicians and aides often provide ongoing care for patients, so they should develop a rapport with them. Gaining such rapport makes psychiatric technicians and aides better able to treat their patients and evaluate their condition.

Observational skills. Technicians must watch patients closely and be sensitive to any changes in behavior. For their safety and that of their patients, they must recognize signs of discomfort or trouble among patients.

Patience. Working with the mentally ill can be emotionally challenging. Psychiatric technicians and aides must stay calm in stressful situations.

Physical stamina. Psychiatric technicians and aides must lift, move, and sometimes restrain patients. They must also spend much of their time on their feet.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states do not require psychiatric technicians to have a license. California is one of the larger states that requires a license. In those states which license them, technicians usually are required to complete an accredited education program, pass an exam, and pay a fee to be licensed.

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians offers four levels of certification for psychiatric technicians. The certifications allow technicians to show a high level of professional competency. Requirements vary by certification.

Psychiatric aides are not required to be licensed.

Pay About this section

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Psychiatric technicians

$33,780

Psychiatric technicians and aides

$32,020

Psychiatric aides

$31,110

 

The median annual wage for psychiatric aides was $31,110 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,690.

The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians was $33,780 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,120.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for psychiatric aides in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private $33,680
State government, excluding education and hospitals 31,950
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 28,060

In May 2019, the median annual wages for psychiatric technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $45,280
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 34,340
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 33,550
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 30,360
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 29,240

Psychiatric technicians and aides may work full time or part time. Because hospitals and residential facilities operate 24 hours a day, many psychiatric technicians and aides work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook About this section

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Psychiatric technicians

13%

Psychiatric technicians and aides

12%

Psychiatric aides

11%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Overall employment of psychiatric technicians and aides is projected to grow 12 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Cognitive mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, are more likely to occur among older persons. As the nation’s population ages and people live longer, demand for psychiatric technicians and aides is expected to increase because these workers will be needed to care for patients affected by such disorders.

Psychiatric technicians and aides also will be needed in correctional facilities, to care for the aging prisoner population and for those with mental health issues.

Employment projections data for psychiatric technicians and aides, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Psychiatric technicians and aides

142,300 159,800 12 17,500

Psychiatric technicians

29-2053 82,800 93,800 13 11,000 Get data

Psychiatric aides

31-1133 59,500 66,000 11 6,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about psychiatric technicians and aides, visit

American Association of Psychiatric Technicians

O*NET

Psychiatric Aides

Psychiatric Technicians

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