Psychiatric Technicians and Aides Jobs

What Psychiatric Technicians and Aides Do

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities.


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.

Work Environment

Psychiatric technicians and aides work in psychiatric hospitals, residential mental health facilities, and related healthcare settings. They may spend much of their shift on their feet.
Psychiatric aides held about 61,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of psychiatric aides were as follows:
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private42%
State government, excluding education and hospitals20
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities7
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities7
Psychiatric technicians held about 76,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of psychiatric technicians were as follows:
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private43%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private13
State government, excluding education and hospitals8
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities7
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers5
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.

How to Become a Psychiatric Technician or Aide

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 anursing 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for psychiatric aides was $29,180 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians was $32,870 in May 2019.

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$32,090
State government, excluding education and hospitals28,610
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities26,740
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities24,290

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$45,170
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals; state, local, and private34,040
General medical and surgical hospitals; private33,150
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities29,120
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers28,190

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

Overall employment of psychiatric technicians and aides is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for this occupation will be affected by the growth of the older population. Older people typically experience higher rates of cognitive illnesses than younger people do.
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.