How to Become a Patient Care Technician:
The Definitive Guide


Those who work in the medical field know how important it is to have a team to rely on.

As a Patient Care Technician, you will be tasked with working alongside doctors, nurses, and other medical care teams in order to make sure that your patients are well taken care of.

Many Patient Care Technicians spend their days talking to patients, observing and providing emotional support, as well as documenting any changes for the medical team.

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What is a Patient Care Technician?

Having a connection with patients is the number one goal of a Patient Care Technician.

This field requires that you have empathy and a desire to help others.

In the role of Patient Care Technician, it is your responsibility to ensure that patients are comfortable, and also provide guidance in some cases.

There are many facilities where you will find Patient Care Technicians.

Some of the most popular places to gain employment in this field are:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Emergency Rooms
  • Outpatient Facilities

Duties

In this career, it is likely that you will be very busy working closely with doctors and patients.

Some of the daily tasks that a Patient Care Technician will be responsible for include:

  • Bathing and feeding patients
  • Monitoring food and medication intake
  • Checking blood pressure
  • Taking the patient to and from various tests
  • Meeting with families

Salary

The average salary for a Patient Care Technician in the United States rounds out to about $30,000 a year.

Having a relevant degree, certifications, and experience in this career can lead to a higher salary, closer to $40,000 a year in some areas.

Just beginning in this career, many Patient Care Technicians will see a salary near $24,000 a year.

Working as a Patient Care Technician is considered an entry-level career in the medical field, which means that most people who want to make more money enter into different specialties or other areas of the medical field.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $30,720

$21K
$25K
$30K
$35K
$40K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$24,590
Alaska$40,320
Arizona$32,640
Arkansas$25,950
California$36,630
Colorado$33,980
Connecticut$34,360
Delaware$31,770
District of Columbia$35,320
Florida$27,790
Georgia$27,890
Hawaii$37,710
Idaho$28,950
Illinois$29,760
Indiana$28,610
Iowa$30,520
Kansas$27,280
Kentucky$27,280
Louisiana$23,340
Maine$30,770
Maryland$32,450
Massachusetts$35,040
Michigan$31,220
Minnesota$35,150
Mississippi$23,980
Missouri$26,490
Montana$30,440
Nebraska$29,920
Nevada$34,890
New Hampshire$33,430
New Jersey$31,190
New Mexico$28,850
New York$38,810
North Carolina$26,540
North Dakota$34,320
Ohio$28,690
Oklahoma$26,030
Oregon$34,780
Pennsylvania$31,590
Rhode Island$33,020
South Carolina$26,560
South Dakota$28,120
Tennessee$27,250
Texas$27,930
Utah$28,890
Vermont$31,710
Virginia$29,400
Washington$33,800
West Virginia$26,900
Wisconsin$31,280
Wyoming$31,930
Guam$29,160
Puerto Rico$22,540
Virgin Islands$31,150

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $40,320.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $40,320
New York - $38,810
Hawaii - $37,710
California - $36,630
District of Columbia - $35,320
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Step 1Earn a Degree

In order to work as a Patient Care Technician, it’s important to know the basics of medical care and terminology.

That’s why it’s advised that someone pursuing a career as a Patient Care Technician should earn a degree.

There are many types of programs offered for the medical field, both online and in person.

Patient Care Technicians can find one-year programs that offer entry-level education.

For those expecting to make a long-lasting career out of their occupation, an Associate’s degree may be more appropriate.

An Associate’s degree can take about two years to complete.

Some of the types of classes that are offered in a typical Patient Care Technician program include:

  • Biology
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Behavioral Health
  • Phlebotomy

Often, both a one-year program and an Associate’s degree require an internship of some sort.

So, whether you complete your classroom time online or on campus, getting hands-on experience should be done in person.

Step 2Get Some Experience

Now that you have book smarts under control, it’s time to gain some hands-on knowledge of the career.

A Patient Care Technician must have patient care experience in order to be a success in this career.

There are programs that provide an internship or shadow work to gain hands-on education, but there are times when you may have to take your knowledge into your own hands.

For example, you can always volunteer at blood drives in order to gain experience working with people and taking blood.

You can also gain experience volunteering at clinics and other non-profit organizations.

Most Patient Care Technicians need a bit of experience before they can become certified.

A certification shows patients and employers that you are competent in the field.

It also provides you more education and can even lead you down a new path to a great career.

Step 3Become Certified

Depending on where you live, a certification may be required to maintain a career as a Patient Care Technician.

Some states legally require certification, and in some states, the employer has the choice.

Either way, it’s often a good idea to gain certification.

This shows future employers, patients, and yourself that you know how to do the job, and you will do it as best as you can.

There are a variety of certifications available to Patient Care Technicians.

Through the National Healthcareer Association, Patient Care Technicians can obtain the Certified Patient Care Technician credential.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you must:

  • Have a degree from an accredited program
  • Have at least 2 years of experience in the field

You will also need to pay a fee, which varies by state but is typically anywhere from $150 to $200.

The exam is computer-based and can be taken online or in testing facilities across the country.

Some of the topics that you can expect on this exam are:

  • Patient Care
  • Compliance and Safety
  • Infection Control
  • Phlebotomy
  • EKG

It requires a score of at least 70 to pass this exam, and you must recertify every 3 years.

Step 4Further Your Career

You’ve put your time in the field and have a great career as a Patient Care Technician.

However, now you want to move on and see what else is out there.

There are a couple of options to further your career once you have some experience.

The first thing that you can do is earn a Bachelor’s degree.

This takes about another two years to finish, and can lead to careers that include:

  • Nursing
  • Radiology
  • Sonography
  • Orthopedics and prosthetics
  • Dental hygiene

If you don’t want to earn a Bachelor’s degree, you can go through training programs to learn a specialty that can increase your chances of raises and promotions.

You can learn to become a Medical Assistant or a variety of different occupations in the medical field.


Education

Next to hands-on experience, having a formal education is the most important aspect of becoming a Patient Care Technician.

Some people who enter the workforce do so by earning a certificate that takes about one year to complete.

These types of programs provide entry-level knowledge to Patient Care Technicians and often require an internship in order to graduate.

There are several areas that are covered in a typical one-year Patient Care Technician program.

These topics are as follows:

  • Phlebotomy
  • EKG training
  • CPR
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology

Most one-year programs provide both morning and evening classes for people that have busy schedules.

If you are interested in earning an Associate’s degree as a Patient Care Technician, there are many available online and on university and community college campuses throughout the United States.

An Associate’s degree takes about two years to finish for students who go to school full-time.

A degree as a Patient Care Technician will require many biology classes, as well as studies in areas like:

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Electrocardiography
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Healthcare Support
  • Fundamentals of Public Speaking

With a degree like this, you will be assigned an internship or possibly shadow a senior Patient Care Technician.

This way, you can gain hands-on experience before you graduate.

Even if you take classes online, it is important to gain experience through real-life scenarios and clinicals.

Those who plan to go further in their medical career as a Patient Care Technician may choose to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

This can take another two years if you have an Associate’s degree or four years with a previous degree.

The same types of classes as mentioned above are offered through a Bachelor’s degree program.

A Bachelors degree will offer many new career opportunities, including careers as:

  • Certified Nurse Assistant
  • Medical Assistant
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Home Health Aide

Video About The Career


Certification

Certification may not be legally required in every state, but it is an important part of working as a Patient Care Technician.

A certification shows patients and employers that you have the knowledge and competency to do well in your career choice.

One of the most popular certifications is the Patient Care Technician certification from the National Healthcareers Association.

This certification requires that you have graduated from an accredited program and have at least 150 hours of experience working as a Patient Care Technician.

In order to gain this credential, you’ll need to take an exam and pass with at least a 70.

The exam is computer-based and multiple-choice and should only take about one to two hours to finish.

There are a variety of other certifications available for Patient Care Technicians.

Some of the other great credentials are:

  • Certified Patient Care Technician from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Patient Care Technician from the American Medical Certification Association

The National Center for Competency Testing provides many different certifications in several different fields.

The Certified Patient Care Technician certification is earned through passing an exam.

The exam is about 125 questions and consists of topics including:

  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Safety and Infection Control
  • Direct Patient Care
  • Phlebotomy
  • ECG

This exam costs about $95 to enroll in and is good for three years.

From the American Medical Certification Association, the Certified Patient Care Technician credential also requires that you pass an exam.

There are 144 questions on this computer-based exam, and most are multiple-choice.

Some of the best topics to study for this exam are:

  • Phlebotomy
  • Medical Terminology
  • Patient Care Techniques
  • Patient Transport
  • Wound Care
  • Medical Law
  • Ethics and Morality

You should expect to pay about $109 to take this exam, and this one should also be renewed every three years.

Your school or employer may have other types of certifications available, as these types of specializations vary depending on where you work.

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

There are many different training programs to become a Patient Care Technician.

This means that there are many different durations as well.

Some Patient Care Technician programs can take as little as 16 weeks, but often don’t provide more than an entry-level look into the career.

Others that take longer, anywhere from one year to two, will likely provide a much more in-depth education into how to become a Patient Care Technician.

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Job Outlook

If you have a desire to become a Patient Care Technician, then now would be the perfect time to start your career.

That is because this career will grow nearly 8 percent over the next ten years or so.

The reason for this hike in popularity is due to the number of people who are heading toward the elderly age bracket, as well as technological advancements that are constantly happening throughout the country and the world.

It’s likely that with a solid education and certification as a Patient Care Technician, that many new doors will open for you across the United States.

Employment Growth Projection: 8%

1,528,500
2018
1,645,500
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 117,000 jobs.

Patient Care Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Patient Care Technician?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

There are pros and cons to every profession, however, many Patient Care Technicians love their jobs.

This is because they feel close to their patients, and also like they are helping others, which makes them feel good.

Not only that, but many Patient Care Technicians love the benefits and hours of their jobs.

Though, other Patient Care Technicians find this job hard because seeing sick people makes them feel sad, and can affect their mood.

Plus, some understaffed facilities can be hard to manage as well.

Overall, this career has a high satisfaction rate on average.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

With a certificate or Associate’s degree, a Patient Care Technician can expect to make about $30,000 a year on average.

More education and certification means more money, and for a Patient Care Technician that can be up to around $40,000 a year.

Those who are just starting out their career as a Patient Care Technician will likely make $24,000 annually full-time.

Working in larger hospitals or medical facilities can lead to higher salaries, as well as working in areas with higher populations.

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Job Growth Outlook

There should be a rise in the career opportunities for Patient Care Technicians by around 8 percent over the next decade.

Those who have higher education and certification will likely have more job opportunities, however, the experience is also a key factor in your success as a Patient Care Technician.

This career stands to have a growth larger than many other careers in the same field, and the reason for that is due to medical advancements and the necessity of government assistance for many elderly people.

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Education Duration

There are various ways to become a Patient Care Technician.

Some of the more popular ways to gain an education in this field are to earn a certificate or a degree.

A certificate program can be obtained through technical schools or community colleges and can take about one year to finish.

These provide basic education and will allow for entry-level opportunities in this career field.

However, for an Associate’s degree, it will take about two years to gain all of the required education.

With an Associate’s degree, it is likely that you will be able to find higher-paying positions and careers.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

In order to gain the most benefit from a career as a Patient Care Technician, it’s important to consider what type of personality traits are required.

For those with a desire to help others, working as a Patient Care Technician should be easy.

Some other traits that are perfect for this career include:

  • Ability to stay calm in stressful situations
  • Patience
  • Ability to anticipate needs
  • Stamina
  • Physical strength
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Medical terminology knowledge
  • Basic nursing skills
  • Good bedside manner

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Patient Care Technician make?

For a Patient Care Technician with a few years of experience and an Associate’s degree, a salary of $34,000 is average.

There are some Patient Care Technicians that make over $50,000 a year in some areas.

Working in larger hospitals or medical facilities can provide higher wages and promotions.

Those who are just beginning their career as a Patient Care Technician should expect to make closer to $24,000 with little experience.

Q. What does a Patient Care Technician do?

Along with assisting patients in any way, a Patient Care Technician also works closely with doctors, nurses, and other medical team members.

Providing care to patients could include:

  • Taking blood pressure
  • Assisting with moving around
  • Taking vitals
  • Getting measurements
  • Taking patients to and from testing areas
  • Helping patients into and out of bed

A Patient Care Technician needs to have empathy and a lot of patience to be successful.

Q. What is the demand for Patient Care Technicians?

Patient Care Technicians are an integral part of the medical profession, so there will likely always be a need for them.

With a prospective growth of around 8 percent over the next decade, there will be plenty of career opportunities for Patient Care Technicians.

Workers with credentials and specializations typically find more prospects and higher salaries as well.

Those working in large cities will typically have an easier chance of finding a job as well.

Q. How long does it take to become a Patient Care Technician?

It takes about two years to become a Patient Care Technician if you choose to earn an Associate’s degree.

There are also one-year programs that may be suitable for some Patient Care Technicians.

Those who want to have a long-lasting career in the medical field decide to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

Typically, it can take anywhere from 1 to 4 years to work as a Patient Care Technician.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Patient Care Technician?

Finding a program to work toward becoming a Patient Care Technician is easy.

The hard part is deciding how much to pay.

On average, a one-year program can cost about $3,400.

A two-year Associates degree program will cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Bachelor’s degrees in the United States can cost anywhere from $34,000 and much more.

All in all, it can cost anywhere from a couple of thousands dollars to over $45,000 to become a Patient Care Technician.


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