Psychiatric & Mental Health Technician

Despite the many advances that have been made in recent decades our understanding of mental health, and that of those working in the field, continues to grow every day. The professionals that work in mental healthcare are compassionate as well as deeply curious about how to serve their patients and foster the best possible outcomes.

Psychiatric and mental health technicians are a vital part of the treatment process in many mental health settings. It should be noted that though these professionals can be referred to by either term, psychiatric technician is the more common position and the job for which the most certifications and degree programs are offered. Psychiatric aides are also often grouped into these categories but usually have less experience and less education than psychiatric technicians. Many technicians may start as aides – largely assisting with the daily living functions of mental health patients – and become technicians once they gain enough experience to move up.

A psychiatric technician works closely with mental health treatment teams to improve patient outcomes. The specific tasks of a psychiatric technician can vary widely depending on the clinical setting. Some technicians may spend the majority of their time helping severely disabled patients with basic living functions, including feeding, dressing, and bathing. Those psychiatric technicians with more training may have more clinically focused tasks such as interviewing new patients, monitoring patient progress, and helping to determine treatment plans alongside other mental health professionals.

Psychiatric and mental health technicians are not federally licensed, although a few states do have licensing requirements through their respective boards of nursing. In most states, entry-level jobs as psychiatric technicians or aides are available without any type of certification or even specific education. However, there are still academic programs available for those that want to have a head start in the job market.

The job outlook for mental health technicians is not as strong as some other healthcare professions. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data (BLS 2017) the expected growth rate is a bit slower than the average for all jobs, at just 6 percent (compared to 7 percent for all jobs). Still, there are opportunities for technicians who want to gain experience in the mental health field and who are willing to work odd hours in order to gain the satisfaction that only comes from making a real difference in the lives of others.

Degree & Certification Programs

In many states, entry-level work as a psychiatric and mental health technician does not require any type of degree or formal training. However, in order to advance through the field, obtain higher levels of certification, and widen job one’s job prospects, it can be a good idea to seek out formal training in the form of a degree program. These programs can provide a good foundation in basic anatomy and biology as well as the beginnings of psychiatric training that will be necessary to rely upon in a technician job. Some programs offer associate of science (AS) degrees while others culminate in certification with no degree. It should be noted that even the lowest level of certification possible from the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) requires a high school diploma or GED to be eligible.

The following is a selection of psychiatric and mental health technician training programs in the U.S.:

  • San Bernardino Valley College (AS): At San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino, California students can enroll in a one-year program to become eligible for the California Psychiatric Technician licensing examination. Students will take courses in psychiatric technology, nursing science, and behavioral science. To earn the optional AS degree, students must also take required core classes.

  • Cypress College (Certificate): The psychiatric technician certificate program at Cypress College in Cypress, California consists of 53 credit hours, including prerequisites and electives. Students have the option of completing additional general education courses in order to earn their AS degree.

  • Pueblo Community College (Certificate): With four campuses across western Colorado, the Pueblo Community College program is ideal for residents of that region. At just two semesters, this psychiatric technician certificate program is also quite brief. Students will learn the basics necessary to work as a psychiatric technician in Colorado including basic nursing skills and psychiatric concepts.

 

 

List of Psychiatric & Mental Health Technician Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website grads (2018)
CUNY LaGuardia Community College Long Island City New York www.lagcc.cuny.edu 127
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas www.lonestar.edu 117
CUNY Kingsborough Community College Brooklyn New York www.kbcc.cuny.edu 107
West Hills College-Coalinga Coalinga California www.westhillscollege.com/coalinga 90
Cuesta College San Luis Obispo California www.cuesta.edu 80
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin matc.edu 75
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton California www.deltacollege.edu 71
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas www.tccd.edu 69
McLennan Community College Waco Texas www.mclennan.edu 62
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Alaska www.uaa.alaska.edu 60
Napa Valley College Napa California www.napavalley.edu 58
Housatonic Community College Bridgeport Connecticut www.hcc.commnet.edu 56
Cypress College Cypress California www.cypresscollege.edu 55
Naugatuck Valley Community College Waterbury Connecticut www.nv.edu 53
Gateway Technical College Kenosha Wisconsin www.gtc.edu 50
Purdue University Fort Wayne Fort Wayne Indiana www.pfw.edu 49
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio www.cscc.edu 45
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee Wisconsin www.wctc.edu 38
Northern Essex Community College Haverhill Massachusetts www.necc.mass.edu 37
Gateway Community College New Haven Connecticut www.gatewayct.edu 36
Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland www.ccbcmd.edu 32
Middlesex Community College Bedford Massachusetts www.middlesex.mass.edu 31
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts San Mateo California www.gurnick.edu 30
Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom Lakewood Washington www.pierce.ctc.edu 30
Anne Arundel Community College Arnold Maryland www.aacc.edu 28
Porterville College Porterville California www.portervillecollege.edu 27
High Plains Technology Center Woodward Oklahoma www.hptc.edu 25
Northwestern Connecticut Community College Winsted Connecticut www.nwcc.commnet.edu 24
San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino California www.valleycollege.edu 24
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona www.pima.edu 23
Tunxis Community College Farmington Connecticut www.tunxis.edu 22
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake Wisconsin www.witc.edu 22
Mt San Antonio College Walnut California www.mtsac.edu 21
Western Technical College La Crosse Wisconsin www.westerntc.edu 21
Middlesex Community College Middletown Connecticut www.mxcc.edu 20
Houston Community College Houston Texas www.hccs.edu 18
Montgomery College Rockville Maryland www.montgomerycollege.edu 18
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland www.allegany.edu 17
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio www.tri-c.edu 17
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin madisoncollege.edu 15
San Jacinto Community College Pasadena Texas www.sanjac.edu 15
Mission College Santa Clara California www.missioncollege.edu 14
Atlantic Technical College Coconut Creek Florida www.atlantictechnicalcollege.edu 13
North Shore Community College Danvers Massachusetts www.northshore.edu 13
Belmont College St Clairsville Ohio www.belmontcollege.edu 12
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore Wisconsin www.swtc.edu 12
Three Rivers Community College Norwich Connecticut www.threerivers.edu 11
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada www.csn.edu 10
Hagerstown Community College Hagerstown Maryland www.hagerstowncc.edu 10
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin www.nwtc.edu 10
Wharton County Junior College Wharton Texas www.wcjc.edu 10
College of Southern Maryland La Plata Maryland www.csmd.edu 9
Norwalk Community College Norwalk Connecticut norwalk.edu 9
South Plains College Levelland Texas www.southplainscollege.edu 9
Alvin Community College Alvin Texas www.alvincollege.edu 8
Asnuntuck Community College Enfield Connecticut www.asnuntuck.edu 8
Hacienda La Puente Adult Education La Puente California www.hlpae.com 8
Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs Colorado www.ppcc.edu 8
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio www.sinclair.edu 7
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport Pennsylvania www.pct.edu 6
Massasoit Community College Brockton Massachusetts www.massasoit.edu 5
Wayne County Community College District Detroit Michigan www.wcccd.edu 5
Quinebaug Valley Community College Danielson Connecticut qvcc.edu 4
San Antonio College San Antonio Texas www.alamo.edu/sac 4
University of San Francisco San Francisco California www.usfca.edu 4
Yuba College Marysville California yc.yccd.edu 4
Barton County Community College Great Bend Kansas www.bartonccc.edu 2
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois www.cod.edu 2
Bunker Hill Community College Boston Massachusetts www.bhcc.mass.edu 1
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Hybrid & Online programs

While classroom sessions can be quite valuable, some people do not have the time or resources to commit to a full-time course load or may live outside of commuting range from an accredited program. In these cases, distance learning can be a great option. Some psychiatric technician online programs might include some hands-on experience in the form of a practicum that students can undertake at a location of their choosing while others may be entirely online.

  • InterCoast (Certificate): InterCoast offers a certificate for Mental Health Rehabilitation specialists, with courses both online or in a classroom. The program requires a GED for admittance and prepares students for entry-level work in the mental health field. The program takes a total of 720 hours over 40 weeks to complete.

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  • Midlands Technical College (Course): At Midlands Technical College, students can take an online course specifically designed to prepare them for a career as a mental health technician. No certificate or degree is offered at the completion of this 310-hour program, but students will learn the fundamentals required to start in the career.

School City State Website grads (2018)
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana www.ivytech.edu 766
Columbia Southern University Orange Beach Alabama www.columbiasouthern.edu 101
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta Maine www.uma.edu 94
Northcentral Technical College Wausau Wisconsin www.ntc.edu 71
Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell Pennsylvania www.mc3.edu 35
Anne Arundel Community College Arnold Maryland www.aacc.edu 28
Grand Canyon University Phoenix Arizona www.gcu.edu 13
InterCoast Colleges-Anaheim Anaheim California www.intercoast.edu 11
Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls Minnesota www.minnesota.edu 5
University of Maryland Global Campus Adelphi Maryland www.umgc.edu 3
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Core & Elective Courses

Required courses will vary from program to program, but there are certainly similarities among most psychiatric technician curricula. Some of these courses may include:

  • Introduction to psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Nursing science

Other programs may cover the same subjects, but group them together in larger courses with titles like "Psychiatric Technician I" for simplicity.

For those students attending a program that culminates in a degree, general education electives will be required. Psychiatric technicians may find it helpful to take courses in a second language, communication skills, or the arts as all can be useful in the course of the job.

In addition, many psychiatric technician students will be required to pass a background check with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as well as complete a CPR course prior to being awarded their certificate or degree.

 

Accreditation

There is no accrediting body specific to psychiatric and mental health technician programs. However, institutions of higher learning have more general accreditation that is good measure of the overall quality of the programs those schools offer. For instance, community colleges may earn their accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which is itself approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.

The accreditation process differs from one agency to another, but in general requires the school to undergo a thorough self-study of facilities, faculty, and curricula and compile a report on the findings. Upon completion of this report, representatives from the accrediting agencies will perform a site visit and decide whether or not to offer preliminary accreditation. For specific criteria, visit the website of the accrediting agency in question.

It is also important to note here that where a state requires certification, they may also require governmental approval of psychiatric tech programs. For example, the state of California Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) maintains a list of approved programs. In order to apply for licensure in California, graduates must have attended an approved school. Since these requirements can vary from state to state, it is important that applicants to a psychiatric technician program verify state requirements before pursuing a particular program.

 

Career Outlook

Psychiatric technician is not the fastest growing job, though there are still employment opportunities in the field. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for both psychiatric technicians and less experienced psychiatric aides is expected to grow by 6 percent through 2026 (BLS 2017).

However, it should be noted that these projections may change as more Americans gain access to healthcare that covers mental health treatment. The aging population will continue to need care for cognitive disorders that affect older adults such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The mean salary for a psychiatric technician is $36,070 annually. The top 10 percent of psychiatric technicians earn $59,600 or more while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $21,930. For psychiatric aides, those numbers are lower, with the mean salary coming in at $29,330, the top 10 percent at $43,270, and the bottom 10 percent at $19,520.

The highest paid psychiatric technicians work in specialty hospitals, followed by state government, assisted living facilities, local government, and nursing facilities.

Psychiatric and mental health technicians tend to specialize in either mentally ill patients or those with developmental disabilities. There is no wage or experience differential between these two tracks, but the specialization can be worthwhile for people who have a strong preference for one type of work or the other. Of course, technicians can also choose to specialize in different populations, from adolescents through older adults for an even narrower scope of practice.

Licensing & Certification

The AAPT offers four levels of certification for psychiatric technicians, depending on the education and experience of the person applying for certification. The requirements are as follows:

  • Level 1 requires a high school diploma or GED but no related experience in mental health.
  • Level 2 requires at least 480 hours of college or university work in any field as well as one year of work experience in mental health or developmental disabilities.
  • Level 3 requires at least 960 hours of college or university work in any field as well as two years of work experience in mental health or developmental disabilities.
  • Level 4 requires a bachelor's degree in a mental health or behavioral sciences field as well as three years of work experience in mental health or developmental disabilities.

Certification at all levels consists of a multiple choice exam while applicants for the upper three tiers must also submit an essay portion.

Further, as of 2018, four states require their own licensing for psychiatric technicians. These states are California, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado. The specific licensure requirements are different for each state and should be reviewed thoroughly by anyone who plans to work as a psychiatric technician in any of those locations. The following resources should help: