Psychiatric Technician Jobs & Career Guide

What is a psychiatric technician?

A psychiatric technician is an entry-level mental health professional who works under the direction of a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional to provide care and treatment to individuals who have mental or emotional disorders.

Their responsibilities may include monitoring and documenting patients’ behavior and vital signs, assisting with activities of daily living, administering medications, and leading group therapy sessions. They may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, and residential treatment facilities.

In order to become a psychiatric technician, individuals typically need to complete a post-secondary education program that includes coursework in psychology, nursing, and related fields. They may also need to obtain a certification or licensure depending on their state’s requirements.

Where do psychiatric technicians work?

Psychiatric technicians can work in a variety of settings, depending on their qualifications, experience, and preferences. Some of the most common workplaces for psychiatric technicians include:

  • Psychiatric hospitals and mental health clinics: Psychiatric technicians may work in hospitals and clinics that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
  • Residential treatment facilities: Some psychiatric technicians work in residential treatment facilities that provide long-term care for individuals with mental health disorders. These facilities may include group homes, halfway houses, and other residential programs.
  • Correctional & Government facilities: Psychiatric technicians may work in jails or prisons, providing mental health care to inmates who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders.
  • Community mental health centers: Psychiatric technicians may work in community mental health centers that provide counseling, therapy, and other mental health services to people in their local communities.
  • Private practices: Some psychiatric technicians may work in private practices.

What does a psychiatric technician do day to day?

Here are some common responsibilities for a psychiatric technician:

  1. Monitoring patients’ behavior: Psychiatric technicians are responsible for observing and monitoring patients’ behavior and mental status, and reporting any changes or concerns to the healthcare team. This may involve taking vital signs, assessing patients’ mood and behavior, and documenting observations in patient records.
  2. Administering medications: Psychiatric technicians may be responsible for administering medications prescribed by a psychiatrist or other healthcare provider, and monitoring patients for any adverse reactions or side effects.
  3. Assisting with daily living activities: Psychiatric technicians may help patients with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, and grooming, if they have difficulty doing these tasks on their own.
  4. Leading group therapy sessions: Psychiatric technicians may lead group therapy sessions for patients with mental health disorders, working with patients to develop coping skills, manage stress, and improve interpersonal relationships.
  5. Providing crisis intervention: In emergency situations, psychiatric technicians may provide crisis intervention services, working to de-escalate a situation and prevent harm to the patient or others.

How to become a psychiatric technician

Psychiatric technician is an entry-level role and as such the path to becoming one is less rigorous. That being said there are still a number of hurdles to clear. How long does it take to become a psychiatric technician? It can take anywhere from one to four years to become a psychiatric technician, depending on the specific requirements in your state and your own educational background and work experience.

The specific steps required to become a psychiatric technician will vary depending on the state in which you plan to work.

Education

Most states require that psychiatric technicians have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some states may also require completion of a post-secondary education program, such as a certificate or associate’s degree in psychiatric technology, nursing, or a related field.

Here are some states which require psychiatric technicians to complete a post-secondary education program:

  1. California: psychiatric technicians must complete a state-approved educational program in psychiatric technology, which includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience.
  2. Kansas: psychiatric technicians must have a certificate or degree in psychiatric technology or a related field, or have completed an equivalent training program that has been approved by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
  3. Louisiana: psychiatric technicians must have at least an associate’s degree in a mental health field, or have completed an equivalent training program that has been approved by the Louisiana Department of Health.
  4. Massachusetts: psychiatric technicians must have at least an associate’s degree in a mental health field, or have completed an equivalent training program that has been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
  5. New York: psychiatric technicians are strongly encouraged to complete a program in psychiatric technology, mental health technology, or a related field.

Licensing

Obtain any necessary licenses or certifications: Some states require that psychiatric technicians be licensed or certified to work in the field. Requirements for licensure or certification can vary by state, but typically involve completing an accredited education program, passing a certification exam, and meeting other eligibility requirements.

The exam that provides certification for psychiatric technicians is the Certified Psychiatric Technician (CPT) exam, which is offered by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT).

The CPT exam is a national certification exam that measures the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to provide safe and effective care to individuals with mental health disorders. The exam covers a range of topics, including mental health concepts and theories, pharmacology, therapeutic communication, and crisis intervention.

To be eligible to take the CPT exam, candidates must have completed a state-approved education program in psychiatric technology or a related field, and have at least six months of full-time experience or 12 months of part-time experience working in a mental health setting.

Passing the CPT exam demonstrates that a psychiatric technician has met the rigorous standards set by the AAPT, and can help them advance their career and increase their job prospects. Psychiatric technicians who earn the CPT credential are required to complete continuing education credits to maintain their certification.

The specific licensing requirements for psychiatric technicians can vary by state, and while many states do require some form of licensing or certification, some states may not have any specific licensing requirements for psychiatric technicians.

Here is a list of states that currently do not have licensing requirements for psychiatric technicians:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Florida
  5. Georgia
  6. Idaho
  7. Indiana
  8. Iowa
  9. Michigan
  10. Mississippi
  11. Montana
  12. Nebraska
  13. New Hampshire
  14. North Carolina
  15. North Dakota
  16. Ohio
  17. Oklahoma
  18. Pennsylvania
  19. South Carolina
  20. South Dakota
  21. Tennessee
  22. Texas
  23. Vermont
  24. Virginia
  25. West Virginia
  26. Wisconsin
  27. Wyoming

It is important to note that even if a state does not require licensing for psychiatric technicians, employers may have their own requirements for education, training, and certification. Additionally, some psychiatric technicians may choose to obtain voluntary certification from a professional organization, such as the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians, to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to the field.

Experience & Additional Education

Many employers prefer or require psychiatric technicians to have some prior experience working with individuals with mental health disorders. This experience can be gained through internships, volunteer work, or entry-level positions in the field.

Some psychiatric technicians may choose to pursue additional education or certifications to advance their careers or increase their job prospects. For example, a psychiatric technician may pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing or psychology, or obtain certification in a specialized area such as geriatric mental health.

Continuing Education

Most states require psychiatric technicians to complete continuing education credits to maintain their licenses or certifications (see our list of CE providers). This may involve attending conferences, workshops, or other training programs to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field.

Even if continuing education is not required by the state, many psychiatric technicians choose to participate in professional development activities to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field.

Finally, many employers will have their own continuing education requirements for psychiatric technicians, which may include attendance at in-service training sessions, participation in quality improvement projects, or completion of online training modules.

What career options are open to a psychiatric technician?

Here are some possible career paths for psychiatric technicians:

  1. Psychiatric nurse practitioner: Some psychiatric technicians may choose to pursue additional education and training to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. A psych NP is an advanced practice registered nurse who has specialized education and training in mental health care.
  2. Mental Health Therapist: With additional education and training, some psychiatric technicians may be able to become mental health therapists. Mental health therapists provide therapy and counseling services to individuals with mental health disorders, and may work in private practice or in mental health clinics.
  3. Social Worker: Psychiatric technicians who are interested in providing case management and social services to individuals with mental health disorders may choose to become social workers. Social workers help clients access resources and support services, such as housing and healthcare, and may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and social service agencies.

How much money does a psychiatric technician earn?

The average annual salary for psychiatric technicians in the US is $36,070.

The BLS reports that the highest-paying industries for psychiatric technicians as of 2020 were state government ($48,190), psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals ($39,360), and local government ($39,150). Psychiatric technicians who worked in residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities earned a median annual salary of $31,410.

See our psychiatric technician salary guide for more insights.

Which cities have the highest demand for psychiatric technicians?

Demand for psychiatric technicians is influenced by factors such as population demographics, healthcare access, and mental health resources in a given area.

Here are 10 cities with the highest demand for this position based on our internal data:

  1. Los Angeles, California
  2. New York City, New York
  3. Houston, Texas
  4. Chicago, Illinois
  5. Phoenix, Arizona
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  7. San Diego, California
  8. Dallas, Texas
  9. Miami, Florida
  10. Atlanta, Georgia

Latest Psychiatric Technician Job Listings

PositionCompanyLocationPosted
Outpatient Behavioral Health Medical Director – Denver, COAdventHealth Medical Group Denver, Colorado US05/29/2024
AdventHealth Porter Hospital is seeking an Outpatient Behavioral Health Medical Directorto join its team in Denver, Colorado. The Porter Centre for Behavioral Health is a comprehensive, well-regarded program with a diverse and dynamic team and AdventHealth Porter serves as the hub for behavioral health services for AdventHealth Rocky Mountain Region. AdventHealth is a national, not-for-profit, mission-driven hospital system with five acute care facilities in … More
Position
AdventHealth Porter Hospital is seeking an Outpatient Behavioral Health Medical Directorto join its team in Denver, Colorado. The Porter Centre for Behavioral Health is a comprehensive, well-regarded program with a diverse and dynamic team and AdventHealth Porter serves as the hub for behavioral health services for AdventHealth Rocky Mountain Region. AdventHealth is a national, not-for-profit, mission-driven hospital system with five acute care facilities in … More
Company
AdventHealth Medical Group
Location
Denver, Colorado US
Posted
05/29/2024