Psychiatric technicians may also be referred to as mental health assistants or mental health technicians. They typically work in hospitals, nursing care facilities or mental health clinics. Individuals interested in pursuing psychiatric technician careers often begin by enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in an applied psychology program.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts modest but ongoing job growth for psychiatric technicians in the coming years. Higher employment growth is expected in residential facilities for individuals with substance abuse issues, mental illness and developmental disabilities, due to the trend of using these facilities as an alternative to hospital treatment. Demand will grow as the population ages and more mentally disabled adults need care.
Psychiatric technicians care for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed individuals, following physician instructions and hospital procedures. They may work as part of a team, monitoring patients’ physical and emotional well-being and reporting to medical staff. Psychiatric technicians help patients dress, bathe and groom themselves. They engage patients in educational and recreational activities and accompany them to therapy and treatment.
A psychiatric technician may observe and record patient behavior and provide a behavioral role model for patients using mental health techniques. Some serve as liaison between the patient and his or her family. Often, psychiatric technicians record patient histories, plan for discharge and placement, and make visits to the patient’s home.
Salaries vary for psychiatric technician jobs. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for psychiatric technicians was $28,140 in May 2009, with the middle 50% earning between $22,500 and $36,270. While the lowest 10% made about $18,140, the top 10% brought in $50,140. Bachelor’s degree holders often start out around the middle of that salary range, and can improve their marketability and attain higher earnings with additional experience and education.
Education and training requirements for psychiatric technician jobs vary; some states require psychiatric technicians to be licensed. Entry-level positions are available to applicants with an associate’s degree. Many employers give preference to candidates holding a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology, and are more likely to consider bachelor’s graduates for senior-level or management positions.
The first step for individuals interested in a psychiatric technician career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology. Coursework typically includes lifespan development and psychology, learning and motivation, multicultural issues, social psychology and abnormal psychology.
An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:
Psychiatric technicians spend their careers working with individuals in need of mental healthcare. Performing the job well takes understanding, discretion and a desire to help people. Strong communication skills and the ability to remain calm in intense situations are also necessary attributes for this occupation. If you aspire to help others and possess these characteristics, you may be well suited to a career as a psychiatric technician.