Behavioral health technicians are employed by a variety of organizations. They work for general hospitals, mental hospitals, community mental health centers, psychiatric clinics, schools, and daycare centers. They also work for the military, social service agencies, and residential and nonresidential centers like nursing homes and halfway houses, among others. Some work with individual patients in their homes. They may also be employed by correctional programs, juvenile courts, family service centers, and public housing programs. According to the Department of Labor, there are 82,800 psychiatric technicians and 319,400 behavioral disorder, substance abuse, and mental health counselors employed in the United States.
Many behavioral health technicians get a foot in the door through an internship or part-time job in a mental health facility, hospital, or related setting while in school. Those that do well may be hired for full-time work upon graduation. They learn about job opportunities through their school's career services office. Another way to find out about job openings is through participation in associations for mental health professionals. Students can find job listings on employment agency Web sites and by checking the Web sites of the mental health organizations that most interest them. Each state's department of mental health also shares employment information on its Web site.
Behavioral health technicians with years of experience and recognized success in their work may advance to become supervisors. They advance by furthering their education and securing certification and licensing in their field through professional associations. They may pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree to expand their knowledge and/or become more specialized in the behavioral health field. Other ways to advance include teaching at schools and writing for behavioral health journals.
Volunteer or get a part-time or summer job in a mental health clinic or agency to learn more about what's involved in behavioral health technician work.
You can get a sense of the types of employers and job duties by looking at employment postings on the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians' Web site (https://psychtechs.org/job-opportunities) as well as sites such as Indeed, SimplyHired, and others.
Conduct an informational interview with a behavioral health technicians to find out how they got started in their career, what the daily job is like, and what advice they can share. Ask you career services office for help with setting up the interview.
Get involved in professional associations for behavioral health technicians by becoming a member and attending meetings and events. Some organizations offer student memberships so be sure to check before joining.