Mental Health Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
What are the pros and cons of becoming a mental health technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a mental health technician is right for you.
View available schools

Becoming a Mental Health Technician: Pros and Cons

Mental health technicians assist patients who have a variety of mental health problems - from traumatic brain injuries to developmental disabilities - in both clinical and therapeutic settings. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons for this career.

Pros of Becoming a Mental Health Technician
Satisfaction from helping improve the mental health of others*
Full-time employment typical (40 hours per week)**
Vital member of the medical team**
Certificate programs can be completed in two years or less*

Cons of Becoming a Mental Health Technician
High injury rate due to physically strenuous job (i.e. lifting patients)*
Nights, weekends and holiday shifts common*
Risk of patients becoming violent*
Some positions require bachelor's degree***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Association of Psychiatric Technicians, ***Eating Recovery Center.

Career Information

Job Description

Mental health technicians, also known as psychiatric technicians, are important members of a healthcare team who treat mentally ill or developmentally disabled patients. As a mental health technician, you may be responsible for performing basic nursing tasks, such as monitoring vital signs, administering medications and assisting patients with personal hygiene.

You may also admit and interview patients, keep records of patient conditions and help design and implement treatment plans. Mental health technicians often interact with patients more regularly than other staff members, and can therefore have a significant impact. They are employed in places such as mental treatment facilities, prisons, hospitals, geriatric facilities and military psychiatric facilities.

Salary Info and Career Prospects

In May 2014, the meanannual salary of mental health technicians was $35,160, according to the BLS. Employment opportunities for mental health technicians were expected to increase by 5% between 2012 and 2022, which was about as slower than the average for all occupations. The BLS also stated that there is a long-term trend towards non-hospital based treatment due to the fact that it allows patients more freedom and is more cost effective. Therefore, jobs are likely to be available in residential treatment facilities.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a mental health technician, you'll likely need a certificate or associate's degree in psychiatric or mental health technology. Such educational programs can be found at technical schools and community colleges. Coursework may include biology, medical terminology, counseling, pharmacology, human development and psychology. Programs generally include supervised work experience. You can complete a mental health technology program in anywhere from one semester to two years, depending on the program. However, you may need a bachelor's degree in psychology or sociology to secure some positions.

On-the-job training may also be needed before you can begin working without supervision. As a trainee, you'd work under the supervision of an experienced mental health technician and may also attend lectures and workshops. This training may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

Licensure and National Certification

As of 2011, California, Kansas, Arkansas and Colorado are the only states that require mental health technicians to be licensed in order to practice. The specific requirements for licensure vary with each state, but you'll usually need to pass an exam after graduating from an accredited program. In states that don't require you to have a license, you can elect to earn national certification through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians.

Job Posts from Real Employers

Mental health technicians may find employment in a variety of settings and with various populations. The following job postings from April 2012 show some of the skills and educational requirements employers are looking for.

  • A recovery center in Denver, Colorado, that specializes in treating people with eating disorders is looking for a psychiatric technician with a bachelor's degree in psychology or sociology. Job duties include assisting with snacks and meals, leading groups and eating with patients to demonstrate healthy behavior. Though not required, a master's degree is preferred.
  • A healthcare organization in Salt Lake City, Utah, needs a psychiatric technician to help with basic nursing care, such as leading conversation groups and activities. The technician will assist with observing and documenting patient behavior, assessing new patients and taking vital signs. A bachelor's or associate's degree is required, but the equivalent number of years of experience may also be accepted. A basic life support card is also required.
  • A residential treatment facility for special needs children and adolescents in California is searching for a licensed psychiatric technician with at least two years of related experience. Processing psychotropic medication authorizations, administering medications and scheduling psychiatric appointments are just some of the listed job duties.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

While enrolled in your mental health technology program, you can gain relevant experience by working as a mental health aide. Many aide positions only require a high school diploma, according to the BLS. This may help you secure a mental health technician job after you graduate since many employers request previous related experience. Another way you can prepare for a job is to obtain a basic life support card or CPR certification while still in school since these may be required by your employer.

Develop Related Skills

You can also help give yourself an employment edge by developing certain skills considered valuable in this field. Courses in communication or speech can assist you in building the listening and speaking skills needed to interact with patients. Many jobs require mental health technicians to keep electronic records or perform other tasks utilizing a computer and software programs; therefore, taking computer classes may be wise. Completing accounting courses may help your resume shine as well, since technicians may be responsible for billing duties. Lastly, staying physically fit can be particularly beneficial in this highly active line of work, especially since you may need to react quickly to uncooperative, unpredictable or aggressive patients.

Alternative Career Options

If becoming a mental health technician doesn't sound like the perfect match for you, there are other career options that involve some of the same skills or duties. The following are just a couple alternative career choices.

Social and Human Service Assistant

As a social and human service assistant, you can still have a career helping people in need. However, instead of performing clinical duties, you'd help people find programs and services to help improve their situations. Under the supervision of psychologists or social workers, you could work with the elderly, children, veterans, immigrants, the homeless, people suffering from mental illness and more.

The BLS says that entry-level employment may be found with just a high school diploma, but some employers do prefer to hire those with additional education or experience. Certificate or associate's programs in a social science, behavioral science or human services can be beneficial in securing a job. However, pay is not very high in this field - the BLS reported that the annual median salary was $29,000 in May 2011. On the other hand, job growth was expected to increase faster than average for all occupations, at a rate of 28% between 2010 and 2020.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse

As a psychiatric-mental health nurse (PMHN), you'd perform clinical duties as mental health technicians do, but you'd have more responsibility. You may be responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating treatment for patients with varying degrees of mental illnesses. Employment can be found with a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in registered nursing. You'd also need to become licensed. However, if you go for a master's degree, you could become a psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurse, or PMH-APRN. In this position, you are able to make diagnoses and prescribe medications to patients.

All registered nurses made a median annual salary of $66,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Job growth for all nurses was expected to increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020, which was considered faster than average for all occupations. On the downside, you may have to work long or irregular hours as a nurse.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor Of Education - Leadership
      • Doctor of Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • DBA: Healthcare Management
      • DBA: Marketing
      • DBA: Project Management
      • DBA: Human Resources
    Master's
      • MA: Communication
      • MS: Criminal Justice
      • MA: Professional Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Public Policy - Public Administration
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Developmental Psychology
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Industrial Organizational Psychology
    Bachelor's
      • BS: Psychology
      • BS: Psychology - Christian Counseling
      • BS: Interdisciplinary Studies
      • BS: Early Childhood Education in Interdisciplinary Studies
      • BS: Elementary Education in Interdisciplinary Studies
      • BS: Information Systems
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • MS - Entertainment Business (Campus)
      • MS - Game Design (Campus)
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Creative Writing for Entertainment (Campus)
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Marketing
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • BS in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master of Public Health
      • MBA: Human Resources
      • MBA: Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
    Certificate
      • Medical Assisting Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration Certificate
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
      • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Walden University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
      • PhD in Criminal Justice - General
      • PhD in Criminal Justice - Online Teaching in Higher Education
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment & Evaluation
      • PhD in Education - Learning, Instruction & Innovation
      • PhD in Psychology - Teaching
    Master's
      • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
      • MS in Education - Self-Designed
      • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Literacy (Grades PreK-6)
      • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Mathematics (Grades K-6)
      • MS in Education - Mathematics & Science (Grades K-8)
      • MS in Education - Mathematics (Grades 5-8)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Independence University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Information Systems (MS)
      • Nursing Administration (MS)
      • Nursing Education (MS)
    Bachelor's
      • Accounting (BS)
      • Business Administration (BS)
      • Business Administration - Human Resources Emphasis (BS)
      • Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis (BS)
      • Business Administration - Technology Emphasis (BS)
      • Health Services Management (BS)
    Associate's
      • Medical Assisting (AOS)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Business Administration
      • B.A. in Psychology
      • B.S. in Legal Studies
      • B.S. in Business Administration / Accounting
      • B.S. in Finance
      • B.S. in Management / Entrepreneurship
    Associate's
      • A.S. in Criminal Justice
      • A.S. in Legal Studies
      • A.S. in Management
      • A.S. in Accounting
      • A.S. in Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice in Visionary Leadership
    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Advanced Accounting
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Health Care Administration
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Leadership
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Project Management
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
    Bachelor's
      • Communication Studies, B.A.
      • Criminal Justice, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S.
      • B.S. Applied Psychology: Biblical Studies
    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice, A.S.
      • Psychology, A.S.
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
      • Business Administration, A.S.
      • Health Care Administration, A.S.
      • Human Resource Management, A.S.
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Residential Electrician
      • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
      • Career Diploma - Wildlife/Forestry Conservation
      • Career Diploma - Plumber
      • Career Diploma - Administrative Assistant
      • Career Diploma - Bookkeeping
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Florida Tech

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Applied Psychology
      • BA in Business Administration/Management
      • BA in Criminal Justice
      • BA in Accounting
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Child Advocacy
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Clinical Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Applied Psychology
      • AA in Criminal Justice
      • AA in Accounting
      • AA in Business Administration
      • AA in Healthcare Management
      • AA in Management

Featured Schools

Liberty University

  • Doctor Of Education - Leadership
  • MA: Communication
  • BS: Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • MS - Entertainment Business (Campus)
  • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Medical Assisting Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Walden University

  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - General
  • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
  • MS in Education - Self-Designed

What is your highest level of education completed?

Independence University

  • Information Systems (MS)
  • Accounting (BS)
  • Medical Assisting (AOS)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • B.S. in Business Administration
  • B.A. in Psychology
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice
  • A.S. in Legal Studies

Education Level:

Colorado Christian University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice in Visionary Leadership
  • Criminal Justice, M.S.
  • Communication Studies, B.A.
  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?