Psychiatric Technician

1. What is a psychiatric technician (PT)?

An entry-level health care provider who is responsible for care of mentally disordered and developmentally disabled clients.

The licensed psychiatric technician is not an independent practitioner. Per Business and Professions code 4502, a psychiatric technician practices under the direction of a physician, psychologist, rehabilitation therapist, social worker, registered nurse, or other professional personnel.

2. What does a psychiatric technician do?

Section 2576.5 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) defines the psychiatric technician’s scope of service.

“The licensed psychiatric technician performs services requiring technical and manual skills which include the following:

  1. Uses and practices basic assessment (data collection), participates in planning, executes interventions in accordance with the care plan or treatment plan, and contributes to evaluation of individualized interventions related to the care plan or treatment plan.
  2. Provides direct patient/client care by which the licensee:
    1. Performs basic nursing services as defined in subdivision (a);
    2. Administers medications;
    3. Applies communication skills for the purpose of patient/client care and education; and
    4. Contributes to the development and implementation of a teaching plan related to self-care for the patient/client.”

3. What are the curricular requirements for a PT?

Per section 2586 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), a psychiatric technician program shall consist of not less than 1,530 hours (576 hours theory and 954 hours supervised clinical experience). The hours of theory and clinical experience shall include a minimum of each of the following:

Requirements Theory Hours Clinical Hours
Pharmacology 54  
Nursing Science 126 270
Mental Disorders 108 270
Developmental Disabilities 108 270

4. What is the course content for a PT program?

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology
  • Normal growth and development
  • Nursing process
  • Communication, both verbal and written
  • Nursing science, which includes:
    • Nursing fundamentals
    • Medical/surgical nursing
    • Communicable diseases, which shall include but not be limited to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
    • Gerontological Nursing
  • Patient education
  • Pharmacology, which includes:
    • Knowledge of commonly used drugs and their actions
    • Computation of dosages
    • Preparation of medications
    • Principles of administration
  • Classifications, treatment programs, and interventions for developmental disabilities.
  • Classifications, treatment programs, and interventions for mental disorders, which shall include addictive behaviors and eating disorders.
  • Leadership
  • Supervision
  • Ethics and unethical conduct
  • Critical thinking
  • Culturally congruent care
  • End of life care

5. Where are Psychiatric Technician Programs located?

Psychiatric technician programs are located within community colleges, adult education, regional occupational programs, hospitals, and private schools.

Use the DCA license search to find California approved psychiatric technician programs. Click on the “License Type” search box and select “Psychiatric Technician Approved Program.”

6. Where are PTs employed?

  • State hospitals
  • Day treatment centers
  • Developmental centers
  • Acute care facilities
  • Acute behavioral health facilities
  • Outpatient behavioral health facilities
  • Correctional institutions
  • Memory care facilities
  • Group homes
  • Psychiatric hospitals and clinics
  • Psychiatric technician programs
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Long term care facilities
  • Home health outpatient programs
  • Educational institutions
  • Geropsychiatric centers
  • Residential care facilities
  • Assist with law enforcement
  • Vocational training centers

7. What is the typical salary range of a PT?

The average pay range in California runs $22 - $42 per hour or $46,000 - $81,000 per year.

As of 2022, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a psychiatric technician in California was $61,050.

8. Methods of Entry-level Access as a Psychiatric Technician

Requirements for psychiatric technician licensure are specified in the psychiatric technicians’ regulations. There are four methods by which one may qualify for the licensure examination. Each method is designed to provide an individual access into the job market as an entry-level practitioner.

Method #1: Graduation from a California approved psychiatric technician program.

Method #2: Completion of equivalent education.

Method #3: Completion of equivalent education and experience as follows:

1,530 Hours of Theory**
(576 Hours)
(954 Hours)
Pharmacology 54 hours minimum  
Nursing Science 126 hours minimum *270 hours minimum
Mental Disorders 108 hours minimum *270 hours minimum
Developmental Disabilities 108 hours minimum *270 hours minimum

*9 months of paid work experience may be substituted for clinical hours in each category.
**Education and experience must have been completed within 10 years prior to the date of application.

Method #4: Completion of education and experience as a corpsman in the United States military.

  • Proof of having completed an Armed Forces course involving neuropsychiatric nursing and an Armed Forces or civilian course from an approved school in the care of the developmentally disabled client.
  • Proof of having completed at least one year of verified full time paid work experience, including at least six months in a military clinical facility caring for clients with mental disorders and at least six months in a military or civilian clinical facility caring for clients with developmental disabilities shall be required. Verified full time paid work experience in a civilian clinical facility for treatment of clients with developmental disabilities may be utilized, in part, to satisfy application requirements.

Psychiatric Technicians