Becoming a Psychology Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a psychology technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a psychology technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Psychology technician Career

Psychology technicians help to assess individuals with various mental conditions. Such a position may appeal to you because you can help patients with psychological problems and you can engage in a variety of job duties. However, you may not like having to seek continuing education and training to maintain your employment, or the fact that you will always need to be supervised to interact with patients. Read about the pros and cons of this career to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of Being a Psychology technician
Help patients who have psychological problems*
Engage in a variety of job duties (data collection, administering tests and counseling)*
Opportunities to assist in research*
Decent wages (mean annual salary of about $46,000 in 2011)**

Cons of Being a Psychology technician
Continuing education may be required when employed*
Work cannot be performed independently, you will need to be supervised*
May have to work directly with hospital patients*
May have to perform physically strenuous tasks such as lifting, standing and bending*

Source: *The Mississippi State Personnel Board, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Psychology technicians assist in providing a variety of psychological services to residents of a hospital or institution. These services include individual and group counseling, psychological assessments and behavior management. They observe clients or patients, collect data and make reports to other personnel. They may assist in research, act as liaison between residents and treatment teams and attend continuing education training. They may also perform other duties such as participating in programs and joining treatment teams. Psychological technicians may utilize computers in recording data and conducting research. Many psychology technicians work with disabled veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological afflictions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for workers in this field in May 2011 was around $46,000. From 2010-2020, the BLS reported that job growth in this field is expected to rise by almost 12%, about average among all occupations.

Education and Training Requirements

Workers in this field typically must have a bachelor's degree in a relevant social or biological science, such as psychology. Some universities may offer psychology degrees with special options designed to prepare graduates to work as psychological technicians. In addition to studying core topics in psychology, students in these programs can study topics such as psychological testing, abnormal psychology and clinical psychology. These topics can be supplemented by study in other fields, such as sociology, social work or human ecology. In addition to education, psychological technicians must have skills in areas like:

  • The ability to communicate clearly and effectively
  • The ability to work as a member of a team
  • Skills in collecting data and making reports
  • Must be able to do physical tasks such as lifting objects, exerting force, standing and bending
  • Must have good vision and coordination

Job Postings from Real Employers

While most employers require a bachelor's degree and work experience, some employers may allow you to substitute work or educational requirements with other types of qualifications. Relevant work experience includes technical work experience under the guidance of a professional psychologist. It is also common for employers to allow candidates to substitute work experience with certain types of educational achievements, such as earning a graduate degree in psychology. If you wish to get a better sense of the kinds of jobs available to psychological technicians, see the following job postings that were open during April 2012:

  • A healthcare system in Massachusetts was hiring a psychology technician with a bachelor's degree and either one year of work experience or sufficient educational qualifications beyond the bachelor's degree level, such as graduate work. Job duties included collecting and summarizing data on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, preparing reports on research findings, organizing and participating in training sessions and using computer software to perform statistical procedures.
  • A medical center was seeking a psychological technician in Pennsylvania. This job required a bachelor's degree and at least two years of technical work experience. This employer was willing to allow their experience requirement to be substituted by additional educational credentials, such as a graduate degree. Job duties included participation in the initiation of study protocol and establishing operating procedures and policies. Workers were also expected to monitor the progress of program activities, report problems that arise, and keep track of important study deadlines.
  • A medical center was hiring a psychology technician in Washington. This job required a bachelor's degree and either one year of relevant work experience or a master's degree in a related field. Job duties included analyzing telehealth data, tracking population health trends, and providing project management support to staff members and the supervisor through the evaluation and analysis of operations. Other job duties included composing reports and recommending ways to improve operations.

How to Stand Out in the Field

You may be able to stand out in this field by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology from a university that provides a specialty option for psychological technicians. You can also stand out by earning a master's degree in psychology, which may be preferred by employers if you have no work experience. In a master's degree program, you can specialize in an area such as clinical and social work that may be relevant to the job duties involved in psychological technician positions. You can also stand out in this field by having relevant military experience; many employment positions offered through the government or military give preference to veterans of the U.S. Military.

Alternative Career Paths

Psychiatric Technician

If you feel passionate about helping people with psychological afflictions but want to engage in the daily operations involved in caring for a variety of patients, then you may wish to become a psychiatric technician. Psychiatric technicians care for patients who have developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. They observe the behavior of patients, assist patients with various activities such as bathing and eating, monitor the vital signs of patients and write reports. Most workers in this field earn certificates from postsecondary institutions in fields such as mental health or psychiatric technology. They must also undergo on-the-job training before they are allowed to work without being directly supervised. Psychiatric technicians who practice in Arkansas, California, Colorado and Kansas must earn licenses. The BLS reported in May 2011 the mean annual wage for psychiatric technicians was around $31,000. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in this field is expected to rise by about 15%, about as fast as average among all occupations.

Registered Nurse

If you enjoy caring for patients and assisting physicians, but aren't interested in psychological work, then you may enjoy a career as a registered nurse (RN). RNs coordinate and provide care for patients who have various medical needs or health problems. They help perform medical procedures and diagnostic tests, operate medical equipment and educate patients on how to manage their injuries and illnesses. RNs can specialize in a specific health condition such as diabetes, a specific group of people such as the elderly, or a specific work environment such as emergency departments or elementary schools. According to the BLS, in May 2011 the mean annual wage for RNs was a bit over $69,000. Job growth in this field is expected to rise by 26% between 2010 and 2020, faster than average among all occupations.

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