Patient Care Technician with elderly patient

How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Patient Care Technician with elderly patient

From hospitals to nursing homes to home healthcare services, many areas in the medical industry have an ongoing need for caring, compassionate people who live to help others. If you’re looking for a new opportunity in the healthcare industry and love the idea of working directly with patients, becoming a patient care technician could be the career you’ve been waiting for. Best of all, you won’t have to spend years in school before landing your first job.

This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a patient care technician (PCT), including the educational requirements, certifications, day-to-day duties, and how long it generally takes to launch your new career.

Not sure if becoming a patient care technician is right for you? Click here to see our full list of the best entry-level medical jobs.

Patient Care Technician Definition

What is a Patient Care Technician?

Across numerous types of healthcare environments, you can find patient care technicians on hand, ready to perform a wide range of duties. They may provide basic medical care like measuring patients’ vital signs or drawing blood for testing. They also support their patients by ensuring their comfort and by helping them safely move around. Furthermore, patient care technicians will frequently assist their patients with their daily living activities, especially if those patients are unable to accomplish those tasks on their own.

Patient Care Technician: Job Description

What Does a Patient Care Technician Do?

Under the supervision of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, patient care technicians provide basic medical care, including measuring vital signs and recording other important data. They may also become proficient in phlebotomy and can dispense medication in certain states.

In addition to providing basic medical care, patient care technicians also help their patients with daily tasks like eating, bathing, or using the bathroom. Because they often work with the same patients over multiple years, patient care technicians frequently develop close relationships with the individuals under their care.

Patient Care Technician Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of patient care technicians include:

  • Performing basic medical tasks like measuring and recording vital signs
  • Listening to patients’ concerns and reporting them to nurses or other colleagues
  • Turning, moving, or relocating patients as necessary for comfort or medical care
  • Helping patients with daily tasks, like getting dressed or eating meals
  • Assisting patients with personal hygiene, like bathing or using the restroom

Patient Care Technician Skills

The best patient care technicians are compassionate people who truly enjoy helping others. You will be caring for people who may not be able to care for themselves, which requires a high degree of kindness and empathy.

Communication skills are also essential to a patient care technician’s success. Not only must they understand their patients’ concerns, they should be able to clearly and effectively convey those issues to their colleagues and supervisors. Finally, you’ll need the physical stamina and strength to spend hours on your feet, and to occasionally help lift or maneuver patients who may have trouble moving on their own.

Medical technician with a doctor and patient

Where Do Patient Care Technicians Work?

Patient care technicians are employed anywhere you’ll find sick, injured, or elderly people who need a little extra help throughout their day. That means the majority of patient care technicians work in nursing homes or retirement communities, though plenty of jobs are also available with hospitals, home care providers, or outpatient care centers. Most patient care technicians work full time, though part-time jobs are also available with some employers. Shifts vary by facility, but may be scheduled during nights, weekends, or holidays—after all, patients have needs at all hours of the day!

Patient Care Technician Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Patient Care Technician?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Patient Care Technician?

To show potential employers you have the skills and experience to effectively treat patients, you will need to earn a Patient Care Technician diploma from an accredited college or university. After completing your diploma program, you will be well-prepared to pass your certification exam and start applying for jobs. While many allied health programs require at least a full year in school, it is possible to earn your Patient Care Technician diploma in as little as 9 months. That means in less than a year, you could be earning a great living brightening other people’s day every time you come to work.

Like any long-term goal, working toward a new career as a patient care technician seems much more attainable when you break it down into individual steps.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a patient care technician:

1. Enroll in a Patient Care Technician Program

To get started in your exciting new career in the healthcare industry, the first step is enrolling in a Patient Care Technician program from an accredited college or university. Earning your patient care technician diploma will require dedication and hard work over the course of several months, but nearly anyone who’s willing to invest the necessary time and effort can make it happen. For example, all it takes to enroll in the Patient Care Technician program at Brookline College is a high school diploma or GED, plus completion of a background check and a passing score on a Scholastic Level Exam.

2. Earn Your Patient Care Technician Diploma

During your patient care technician program, you will build a baseline knowledge of the healthcare industry, which will familiarize you with some of the terms and concepts you will encounter on the job. From there, you will learn specifics about the role of patient care technicians, and start developing practical skills like phlebotomy, physical therapy, and how to operate certain medical equipment. You will also spend a good bit of time developing patient care skills, which will prepare you to adapt to potentially challenging situations with both patience and professionalism.

The final step in completing your patient care technician diploma consists of what is known as a practicum, where you’ll spend time working with real patients in a supervised setting. It’s a great way to get real-world experience with some of the skills you’ll be expected to perform on the job—and it’s also a major confidence-builder when it comes time to ace your exam and become a certified patient care technician.

Wherever you choose to earn your patient care technician diploma, it’s worth considering colleges or universities that offer students job-placement assistance upon completion of their diploma program. Students who take advantage of job-placement programs sometimes have interviews lined up before they’ve even graduated!

Medical students with a professor

3. Become a Certified Patient Care Technician

While licensing requirements vary by state, getting certified by a nationally recognized credentialing organization is a fantastic way to show employers you’ve mastered the necessary skills to be an excellent patient care technician. The National Center for Competency Testing is one of the most widely recognized organizations for healthcare professionals and offers a Patient Care Technician certificate for those who successfully pass their qualifying exam. The test format includes 150 questions over the course of three hours and will cover everything from patient-care techniques to confidentiality and ethics. Don’t get too nervous, though—you should be well-prepared after earning your patient care technician diploma. According to the NCCT, over 80% of people who took the test in 2020 passed successfully.

How Much Does it Cost to Earn a Patient Care Technician Diploma?

Unfortunately, attending college at a traditional four-year university has become completely unaffordable for many people. Plenty of colleges and universities charge $20,000 and up per semester in tuition alone–and that usually doesn’t even cover the cost of books, lab fees, or other course materials. However, there’s a silver lining: the rise of online education has made attending college accessible to millions more people throughout the country. Since online colleges don’t have the same expenses as big campuses, they can pass those savings along to students. For example, the Patient Care Technician program at Brookline College not only costs less per credit hour than many four-year universities, the price you pay always includes books and all other required course materials. Best of all, over 80% of Brookline students qualify for some form of financial aid! College is for everyone, and that’s why Brookline strives to be as transparent as possible about the real cost of your education, without any of the hidden fees you’ll find when the tuition bill arrives from some of the bigger schools. Wherever you decide to earn your patient care technician diploma, make sure to advocate for yourself and get the full story about the final cost of your education, as well as what’s included (and what’s not).

Patient Care Technician Salary

How Much Do Patient Care Technicians Make?

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), patient care technicians (also known as nursing assistants) earn an average salary* of about $32,000, which works out to nearly $15.50 per hour. Top earners can bring home considerably more—patient care technicians in the top 25% of salaries earn nearly $37,000 per year, while salaries in the top 10% can reach $42,000 and up.

Highest Paying Industries for Patient Care Technicians

According to the BLS, the following industries offer some of the top-paying jobs for patient care technicians:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Colleges & Universities $21.57 $44,870
Scientific Research & Development $19.05 $39,630
Outpatient Care Centers $18.47 $38,420
Specialty Hospitals $16.46 $34,240
General Hospitals $16.18 $33,620
Nursing Care Facilities $14.90 $31,000
Assisted Living Homes for Seniors $14.71 $30,600

Highest Paying States for Patient Care Technicians

Patient care technicians in these states earn the highest average wages:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Alaska $20.43 $42,500
New York $19.53 $40,620
California $18.89 $39,280
Hawaii $18.58 $38,650
Massachusetts $17.86 $37,160

Highest Paying Cities for Patient Care Technicians

On average, patient care technicians make the most money in the following cities:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Francisco, CA $23.28 $48,420
Santa Cruz, CA $21.13 $43,960
Vallejo, CA $20.29 $42,200
San Jose, CA $20.18 $41,980
Sacramento, CA $20.17 $41,950
New York, NY $19.48 $40,520
Anchorage, AK $19.45 $40,460
Glens Falls, NY $19.44 $40,420
Napa, CA $19.43 $40,420
Salinas, CA $19.40 $40,350

Patient Care Technician Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Patient Care Technicians?

A significant portion of the US population is reaching old age, which means the demand for healthcare services is projected to steadily increase in the coming years. When it comes to job security and stability, that’s good news for patient care technicians. The BLS estimates that nationwide employment of patient care technicians will increase 8% in the next decade, which is double the average 4% growth rate for all jobs across all industries.

Team of African-American medical professionals

Ready to Start Your Career as a Patient Care Technician?

If you long for a career spent selflessly helping other people, there are few professions more fitting than becoming a patient care technician. Not only will you make a positive difference in people’s lives each day, you can form deep, meaningful relationships with people who truly appreciate the compassionate care you provide. A career as a patient care technician can be profoundly rewarding for people who live to serve others and want to earn a great living at the same time!

Click here to learn more about the Patient Care Technician program at Brookline College, and get started on the road to your new career as a patient care technician today!