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How to Become a Psychiatric Technician or Aide

Psychiatric technicians typically need postsecondary education, and aides need at least a high school diploma. Technicians and aides get on-the-job training before they can start working without direct supervision.


Psychiatric technicians typically enter the occupation with a postsecondary certificate. Programs in psychiatric or mental health technology are commonly offered by community colleges and technical schools.

Psychiatric technician programs include courses in biology, psychology, and counseling. The programs also may include supervised work experience or cooperative programs, in which students gain academic credit for structured work experience.

Programs for psychiatric technicians range in length from one semester to two years, and they may award a certificate or an associate’s degree.

Psychiatric aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Postsecondary courses in psychology or mental health technology may be helpful.


Psychiatric technicians and aides typically must participate in on-the-job training before they can work without direct supervision. This training may last for a few weeks or for several months.

Training may include gaining hands-on experience while working under the supervision of an experienced technician or aide. Technicians and aides may also attend workshops, lectures, or in-service training.

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 be able to develop a rapport with patients to evaluate their condition and provide treatment.

Patience. Working with the mentally ill can be emotionally challenging. Psychiatric technicians and aides must be able to stay calm and be helpful.

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


In 2011, four states—Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Kansas—required licensure of psychiatric technicians. Although specific requirements vary, states usually require psychiatric technicians to complete an accredited education program, pass an exam, and pay a fee to be licensed.

Psychiatric aides are not required to be licensed.

For psychiatric technicians and aides working in states that do not offer licensure, a national certification program is available from the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition