California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Psychiatric Technicians in California

May also be called: Behavioral Health Technicians; Mental Health Technicians (MHT)

What Would I Do?

Psychiatric Technicians provide nursing, psychiatric, and personal care for mentally impaired, emotionally disturbed, and developmentally disabled individuals by following physician instructions and hospital procedures. The goals of patient care include encouraging patients to develop work and social skills so that patients may participate in their community. To achieve these goals, Psychiatric Technicians may assist patients in therapeutic activities and teach strategies to achieve independence.

Psychiatric Technicians possess unique knowledge of their clients gained by providing direct patient care. This knowledge, when shared, supports collaboration between Psychiatric Technicians and other medical professionals to treat and rehabilitate patients successfully. Psychiatric Technicians may assist clients in rehabilitation and treatment programs, help patients with personal hygiene, and administer medications. Psychiatric Technicians use a variety of medical tools when providing patient care. These tools include:

  • Blood collection syringes
  • Blood pressure cuff kits
  • Electronic medical thermometers
  • Enema kits or accessories
  • Glucose monitors or meters
  • Medical syringes with needles
  • Urinary catheterization kits or accessories

In addition to medical tools, Psychiatric Technicians use inventory management, medical, word processing and spreadsheet software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Much of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for this job are important to many jobs. These include knowledge of the English language, oral comprehension and expression as well as deductive and inductive reasoning. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Monitor patients' physical and emotional well-being and report unusual behavior or physical ailments to medical staff.Problem Sensitivity
Provide nursing, psychiatric and personal care to mentally ill, emotionally disturbed or developmentally disabled patients.Deductive Reasoning
Observe and influence patients' behavior, communicating and interacting with them and teaching, counseling and befriending them.Psychology
Take and record measures of patients' physical condition, using devices such as thermometers and blood pressure gauges.Monitoring
Encourage patients to develop work skills and to participate in social, recreational, and other therapeutic activities that enhance interpersonal skills and develop social relationships.Therapy and Counseling
Collaborate with or assist doctors, psychologists, or rehabilitation therapists in working with mentally ill, emotionally disturbed, or developmentally disabled patients to treat, rehabilitate, and return patients to the community. Critical Thinking
Develop and teach strategies to promote client wellness and independence.Instructing
Restrain violent, potentially violent, or suicidal patients by verbal or physical means as required.Public Safety and Security
Aid patients in performing tasks such as bathing and keeping beds, clothing and living areas clean.Service Orientation
Administer oral medications and hypodermic injections, following physician's prescriptions and hospital procedures.Reading Comprehension
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Many Psychiatric Technicians work in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. Others work in residential facilities, offices of physicians, outpatient care centers, and individual and family service centers. The work setting is generally indoors, clean, and comfortable. However, Psychiatric Technicians providing care for patients at home may work in varied conditions. While providing care, Psychiatric Technicians must be able to assist patients to stand and walk. They must also be able to lift, support, and restrain patients when necessary.

Many of the aspects of the Psychiatric Technician's occupation may be stressful. They often work in close contact with others and with people who have diseases or infections. These individuals can be unpleasant, angry, or physically aggressive. However, using protective or safety equipment such as gloves can reduce risks. Similarly, following proper procedures for behavior management can reduce the stress of dealing with difficult situations.

Psychiatric Technicians work full time and part time. Full-time schedules are usually based on a 40-hour workweek. Evening and night shifts as well as weekend and holiday hours are available because patients often need around-the-clock care.

The California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (CAPT) serves as both a professional association and a labor union for many Psychiatric Technicians.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Psychiatric Technician will appeal to those who enjoy a high level of contact and communication with patients and medical professionals. Those who like assisting others and promoting learning and development may find the occupation satisfying. Psychiatric Technicians tend to gravitate toward clients with either mental disorders or developmental disabilities. This specialization may increase job satisfaction.

A cooperative attitude, social perceptiveness, dependability, and good oral and written communication skills are highly valued qualities. The ability to remain calm and keep emotions in check will contribute to successful results when dealing with stressful situations.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The wages below reflect a pay differential for night shifts and overtime after eight hours.


The median wage in 2021 for Psychiatric Technicians in California is $61,626 annually, or $29.63 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefit packages may include medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as retirement plans, vacation, holidays, and sick leave. Some employers may offer tuition reimbursement for education.

What is the Job Outlook?

A growing, older population requiring increased mental health care for illnesses such as dementia and related diseases will contribute to employment growth for Psychiatric Technicians. In addition, prison reform has contributed to the use of Psychiatric Technicians to care for inmates resulting in employment opportunities in this area. The majority of the job openings will occur due to the need to replace workers who retire, transfer to other occupations, leave the labor force, or move.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Psychiatric Technicians is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Psychiatric Technicians are expected to increase by 8.7 percent, or 900 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Psychiatric Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

To enter the Psychiatric Technician occupation, specific education, training, fingerprint clearance, and licensing must be obtained. Three different training and clinical experience approaches may be used to obtain the required education to qualify for admittance to the licensing exam. Psychiatric Technicians may acquire their education from an accredited Psychiatric Technician program, complete education and experience as designated by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), or complete education and training as a corpsman of the United States Military.

Both the accredited Psychiatric Technician program and the equivalent education and experience approaches require a combination of 1,530 hours of classroom and clinical experience. Coursework and experience address areas of nursing science, mental disorders, developmental disabilities, and related content. Coursework in pharmacology is also required.

Education and training as a corpsman of the United States Military include completion of both a course in neuropsychiatric nursing and a course from an Armed Forces or an accredited civilian school in the care of the developmentally disabled. In addition, proof of one year of paid work experience is required. Work experience must include at least six months of experience working with clients with mental disorders in a military facility and at least six months working with clients with development disabilities in either a civilian or military facility.

Early Career Planning

The following classes may help high school students prepare for training as a Psychiatric Technician:

  • English
  • Math
  • Psychology
  • Science

Work Study Programs

Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) related to the Psychiatric Technician occupation include Health Occupations and Nursing Careers. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Psychiatric Technicians in the State of California are required by law to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and pay a renewal fee to maintain an active license.

Licensing and Certification

A license is required for Psychiatric Technicians practicing in California. The license is obtained from the BVNPT. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

A certification in blood withdrawal is not required to practice but is considered a desirable skill by many potential employers. The certification can be obtained from a BVNPT-approved provider. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Psychiatric Technicians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Psychiatric & Substance Abuse Hospitals62.8%
State Government10.3%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals7.5%
Residential Mental Health Facilities5.2%
Local Government2.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct applications to employers, such as psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, remain one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Check with the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians about hiring opportunities. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Psychiatric Technicians.

  • California Department of Corrections
  • Developmental Centers
  • Government
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Mental Health Services
  • Psychiatric Clinics
  • State Hospitals

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Whether employed in private industry or working for the State, working as a Psychiatric Technician may inspire interest in other mental health careers. With additional education, Psychiatric Technicians may pursue careers as psychiatric social workers or psychiatric nurses.

Psychiatric Technicians working in California State hospitals may advance into two separate positions. Requiring at least one year previous experience, Senior Psychiatric Technicians supervise teams of Psychiatric Technicians. Additionally, Technicians who obtain additional training, education or experience can become Psychiatric Technician instructors. Instructors educate Psychiatric Technician students by teaching, supervising on-the-job training, evaluating educational programs, and performing other related activities.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Psychiatric Technicians with links to more information.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational NursesGuide
Physical Therapist AssistantsGuide
Psychiatric AidesProfile
Recreational TherapistsGuide
Social and Human Service AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2053
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Psychiatric Technicians29-2053.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SER
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Psychiatric/Mental Health Services Technician 511502
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Psychiatric Technician123900