Learn about the duties of health care technicians. Find out what education, training and licenses are required for a career in this field, as well as some alternative career options.
Health care technicians have a wide range of skills, responsibilities, and certifications, depending upon their specialty. Health care technicians who work as patient care technicians (PCTs) help patients by changing dressings, taking vital signs, and repositioning them. PCTs also bathe, groom and feed some patients. Health care technicians may also specialize in fields in which they have technical responsibilities, such as anesthesia, pharmacy, phlebotomy, laboratory testing, and radiology. Though some health care technicians work for pharmacies, mental health facilities, and doctors’ offices, many assist physicians and nurses in hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and clinics.
How to Become a Health Care Technician
Most health care technician careers require an associate’s degree from an accredited 2-year patient care technician or medical assistant program. Employers typically require state nurse’s aide certification in addition to basic life support and CPR certification. Technologist positions generally require a bachelor’s degree in medical technology. Radiology technicians and technologists, also known as radiographers, need additional training, licensure and certification in radiography. Certification programs are available in most specialties, from anesthesia to ophthalmology, and can enhance job opportunities.
Health care technicians who work directly with patients must have an excellent bedside manner and great communication skills, as well as medical knowledge, technical skill and the physical strength to help patients in and out of bed. Health care technicians who work in diagnostic settings must have strong analytical skills and technical knowledge. Health care technicians who work in pharmacy settings or doctors’ offices must have good customer service skills. Office skills, such as word processing, data entry, database management and record keeping are also essential for all technician positions. Bilingual skills are required by many employers, especially for positions with extensive patient contact.
Financial and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts jobs for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians between will increase by 14% from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as average (www.bls.gov). Health care technician salaries vary by field. In 2012, the BLS reported that medical and clinical laboratory technicians had a median annual salary of $37,240, while the median salary for technologists was $57,580. The BLS also reported in 2012 that pharmacy technicians earned a median annual wage of $29,320 and radiographers had a median annual wage of $54,620.
Alternative Career Options
Those interested in a technician career, but who would prefer to work in a laboratory rather than directly with patients, may want to explore the career of biological technician. These technicians typically work in labs and spend most of their time testing and analyzing biological samples. Biological technicians need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field. Jobs for biological technicians are expected to increase at an average rate, according to the BLS. In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for biological technicians was $39,750. Technicians who worked in the chemical manufacturing industry had the highest median annual salary of $45,380.
The career of veterinary technician is similar to that of health care technician, only vet techs work with animals instead of people. Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in veterinary offices and animal hospitals by taking samples of blood or urine, helping animals before and after surgical procedures and taking x-rays of animals. These technicians complete either a 2- or 4-year degree in veterinary technology and may be required to obtain a license, depending on the state. The median annual salary for veterinary technicians and technologists was $30,290 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. The BLS expects jobs for vet techs to increase at a much-faster-than-average rate of 30% from 2012 to 2022.