Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Psychiatric Technician Jobs

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Top 3 Psychiatric Aide Jobs

  • Psychiatric Nurse - Residential Support Services Home Care - Chelsea, MA

    Participates as a key member of the behavioral health team including supervision of Home Health Aides and the in-home services they provide • Uses

  • Psychiatric Aide - State of Montana - Butte, MT

    Observes and records patient data such as behavioral observations, vital signs, symptoms, etc. Obtains routine lab samples not requiring laboratory

  • Psychiatric Aide - Kaiser Permanente - Wailuku, HI

    Take temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, height and weight. Monitor seclusion/restraint status. Record observations/findings in

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What Psychiatric Technicians and Aides Do[About this section] [To Top]

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, clean environment.

Duties of Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

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 bedlinens
  • 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 and behavioral disorder counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and mental health 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 for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Psychiatric technicians hold about 67,900 jobs. Psychiatric aides hold about 77,300 jobs.

The industries that employ the most psychiatric technicians are as follows:

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 40%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 21
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 12
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 6
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 3

The industries that employ the most psychiatric aides are as follows:

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 38%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 27
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities 9
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 7
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 4

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

Because their work requires many physically demanding tasks, such as lifting patients, psychiatric technicians and aides have high injury and illness rates.

Psychiatric Technician and Aide Work Schedules

Psychiatric technicians and aides may work full time or part time. Because hospitals and residential facilities are open at all hours, many psychiatric technicians and aides work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Psychiatric Technician or Aide[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides near you!

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

Psychiatric Technician and Aide 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.

Some psychiatric technicians also 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.

Psychiatric Technician and Aide 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 also may attend workshops, lectures, or inservice training.

Work Experience

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

Important Qualities for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

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 be able to 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 be able to stay calm in stressful situations.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states do not license psychiatric technicians. California is one of the larger states that does. For 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.

Psychiatric aides are not required 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 Technician and Aide Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians is $31,140. 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 $20,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,690.

The median annual wage for psychiatric aides is $26,190. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,860.

The median annual wages for psychiatric technicians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $39,750
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 31,220
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 31,100
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 26,610
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 22,800

The median annual wages for psychiatric aides in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; private $29,620
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private 28,530
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities 25,540
State government, excluding education and hospitals 25,030
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities 21,540

Psychiatric technicians and aides may work full time or part time. Because hospitals and residential facilities are open at all hours, many psychiatric technicians and aides work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of psychiatric technicians and aides is projected to grow 5 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as 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 in residential facilities is expected to rise so that these workers can 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.

More psychiatric technicians and aides will be needed in residential treatment facilities and in outpatient care centers to care for patients with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse problems. There is a long-term trend toward treating psychiatric patients in community-based settings rather than in hospitals. These settings allow patients greater independence, and they are often more cost effective.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Such reform will expand coverage of mental health disorders to millions of people, and more technicians and aides will be needed to provide mental health services for them.

Employment projections data for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Psychiatric technicians and aides 145,200 152,800 5 7,600
  Psychiatric technicians 67,900 71,400 5 3,500
  Psychiatric aides 77,300 81,400 5 4,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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