How to Become a Patient Care Technician
The Definitive Career Guide

Avg. Salary

Education Duration
0-1 Year

Job Outlook

If you are a compassionate person who wants to start a career in healthcare, becoming a patient care technician can be the right path for you.

As a patient care technician, you will work under the supervision of nurses or physicians in hospitals, doctor’s offices, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes.

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What is a Patient Care Technician?

Patient care technicians work directly with patients and help them with daily activities.

Because most of these facilities are open 24/7, as a patient care technician you will probably also work night and weekend shifts.

If this career sounds interesting, we invite you to read this article to find out more about what patient care technicians do, how much they earn, and how to become one.


Although job responsibilities vary depending on the place of employment, the size of the healthcare facility, the technician’s level of training and skills, and the specialty, patient care technicians usually do the following:

  • Serve meals
  • Change bedding
  • Measure and monitor the patients’ vital signs
  • Make sure the patients eat and drink enough water
  • Draw blood
  • Administer IVs
  • Talk to patients
  • Assist patients with restroom needs
  • Perform CPR


Salaries for medical professions vary widely depending on the employee’s skills and certifications and what tasks they are allowed to perform.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by nursing assistants in the United States was $30,310 as of May 2020.

This tells us that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.

Salaries vary widely depending on the industry of employment, level of experience, region, and a variety of other factors.

The lowest 10 percent of all nursing assistants reportedly made less than $23,880 while the highest 10 percent made more than $44,240 annually.

The highest paying industry for this profession is junior colleges, a sector where nursing assistants were reportedly remunerated with $49,250 per year.

However, junior colleges hire only a few nursing assistants and if you want a career in this sector you may need additional training and certifications.

The biggest employer for nursing assistants, in general, are nursing care facilities, where nursing assistants were remunerated with $31,000 per year on average.

One way to improve your earnings is by earning additional certifications or by continuing your training and becoming a registered nurse- a profession remunerated by $75,330 on average.

To become a registered nurse, you need a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, an Associate’s degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing school.

This usually means that you will need between 2-4 years of training.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $33,250


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$39,390
New Hampshire$36,070
New Jersey$35,830
New Mexico$31,620
New York$40,680
North Carolina$29,410
North Dakota$36,070
Rhode Island$35,610
South Carolina$29,260
South Dakota$29,660
West Virginia$29,560
Puerto Rico$19,070
Virgin Islands$35,270

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $43,080.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $43,080
New York - $40,680
California - $39,760
District of Columbia - $39,390
Oregon - $38,830
* Salary information based on May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Nursing Assistants, OCC Code 31-1131, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Step 1 Finish High School

Most trade schools that offer training programs for nursing assistants and patient care technicians require candidates to possess a high school diploma before admission to a post-secondary program.

Focusing on classes that teach you the basics of human anatomy and communication can help you during post-secondary education.

Step 2 Finish Post-Secondary Training

Patient Care Technicians need to complete a certificate program that combines lectures with hands-on clinical and lab work.

Although curriculums vary, most programs cover topics such as:

  • CPR
  • Phlebotomy
  • First aid
  • Electrocardiography
  • Communication
  • Infection Control
  • Safety and Sanitation Rules

In many states, you can start your career as a nursing aid and learn on-the-job other skills, such as phlebotomy or electrocardiography.

Step 3 Become Certified

After graduating from an approved training program, you will need to pass the NCLEX exam offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing before being allowed to work directly with patients and perform specific procedures.

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Education Requirements

As a Patient Care Technician, you will need at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and you have to complete a post-secondary training program at a technical school or community college.

One option is to start your career as a nursing assistant after finishing a CNA training program and learning additional skills, such as phlebotomy or EKG, and gain additional certifications on the job.

Another option is to enroll in a dedicated Patient Care Technician Program or in a Medical Assistant program.

Some schools offer only on-site classes while others offer hybrid classes that can be completed either part-time or full-time.

Regardless of the type of program you choose, there are a few important areas that you need to cover:

  • CPR and BLS
  • Infection Control
  • First Aid
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Phlebotomy
  • EKG

CNA training usually lasts a few weeks and costs around $1,500-$2,000 on average.

Medical assistant programs are also available at many trade schools across the nation and teach all the relevant skills a patient care technician needs but take between a few months and two years to complete.

Costs for medical assistant programs range from less than $5,000 to more than $15,000.

There are also dedicated Patient Care Technician classes available at several schools in the country, such as:

Cambridge College of Healthcare & Technology- Atlanta

This diploma program can be completed in 9 months and combines classroom learning with hands-on training.

According to their website, this is a hybrid program that is offered online and on-campus.

The curriculum covers many technical skills, including:

  • Electrocardiography
  • Restorative Care
  • Phlebotomy
  • Home Health Care Protocol

New Age Training – New York

This 125-hour program includes theory and clinical hands-on training and is designed for those who are already licensed CNAs and want to further their skills.

Lincoln Tech – Moorestown, New Jersey

The hands-on career training program offered by Lincoln Tech teaches students a variety of skills, including:

  • Phlebotomy
  • How to operate EKG machines
  • CPR and BLS
  • How to work with patients with diabetes
  • How to practice wound care and ostomy care

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Certification Requirements

As mentioned before, in order to be allowed to practice and to perform specific medical procedures on patients you will need to be certified by the nursing regulatory body in your area.

In order to receive this designation, you have to pass the NCLEX exam after graduating from an accredited training program.

Before taking the exam, you will need an Authorization to Test from the nursing regulatory body (NRB).

Eligibility requirements may vary depending on the region and it’s best to check with NRB from the region where you wish to practice.

You will also have to pay a $200 registration fee.

You can also improve your employment and earning prospects as a patient care technician by becoming certified through the National Center for Competency Testing.

Several routes can help you become certified by NCCT:

  1. You can apply for certification while you are enrolled in a Patient Care Technician Program but you will be required to submit the graduation documents within two years after completing the program to receive your certification.
  2. If you have already graduated from an accredited program within the last five years you can apply for certification by submitting a copy of your diploma or equivalent and paying a fee. This fee is $90 for those who want to take the test within six months of graduation and $135 for those who take the test after more than six months of graduation.
  3. You can also apply for certification if you have 1 year of work experience as a patient care technician under the supervision of a certified physician or primary care technician. In this case, the exam fee is $135.
  4. Those who have completed training during U.S. military service or are members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouses can also apply for this credential if they have relevant work experience of at least 1 year. The exam fee is $90.

Average Training Program Duration: 0-1 Year

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nursing assistants will grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029.

As the baby boom generation ages, the demand for medical services is expected to grow because more nursing assistants and patient care technicians will be hired to help older patients with their daily activities.

Job openings will occur especially in nursing or residential care facilities.

Patient care technicians will also be needed in hospitals and clinics that provide care for patients who live with chronic heart conditions or diabetes.

Employment Growth Projection: 8%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 118,400

Should You Become a Patient Care Technician?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

Factors such as salary, work environment, job-related stress, skills, purpose, and personality are usually taken into account when someone decides if they are happy or not with their profession.

According to Payscale, the average job satisfaction reported by Patient Care Technicians is 3.79 out of 5 stars- which means that, on average, workers in this profession are satisfied with their job.

In other words, if you’re a compassionate person who likes helping others, this profession can be a lucrative and fulfilling career path.

However, it can also be physically and emotionally demanding, and many workers leave this occupation due to stress.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary reported by nursing assistants in the United States was $30,310  as of May 2020- which means that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.

Salaries for nursing assistants vary depending on a variety of factors, and the lowest 10 percent of all nursing assistants earned less than $23,880, while the highest 10 percent made more than $44,240. as of May 2020.

This is lower than the national average salary, but if you have additional skills, like phlebotomy or ECG, you can have more job responsibilities and higher pay.

BLS reports that the median annual wage for medical assistants- a profession with a job description similar to that of patient care technicians- was $35,850 as of May 2020.

Salaries for medical assistants are influenced by many factors, including the worker’s level of experience, education, and region of employment.

The lowest 10 percent of all medical assistants earned less than $23,970, while the top 10 percent made more than $46,470.

However, salaries are also determined by the industry of employment, the region of employment, level of experience, local economy-among other factors.

Medical assistants who work in outpatient care centers reportedly made $38,860 on average, while those in offices of chiropractors made $31,470.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

If you want to start a career as a patient care technician, your prospects are looking good, especially if you specialize in working with older people.

The BLS doesn’t include Patient Care Technicians as a stand-alone profession in their report, but employment for medical assistants is projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average across all occupations.

The demand for nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, also faster than the average across all occupations.

Education Duration: 0-1 Year

Education Duration

Depending on the path you choose, your training can last between a few weeks and two years.

If you want to start your career as a nursing assistant and gain additional certifications and skills on the job, then you can finish your education in a few weeks.

However, if you want a Degree or Diploma in Medical Assisting, you will need to finish a training program that lasts between a few months and two years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

To perform all the above tasks, Patient Care Technicians need a variety of skills, including:

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management skills
  • Physical strength

Frequently Asked Questions


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

Education and certification requirements vary depending on the type of job you are targeting.

If you want to start as a nursing assistant and build your way up towards a Patient Care Technician or Medical Assistant position, you will need a high school diploma and a diploma or certificate of completion.

Post-secondary Nursing Aide programs last between a few weeks and a few months.

If you want to start your career as a Medical Assistant, you will need to finish a post-secondary program that lasts between 6 months and a few years, depending on what credential you are targeting.


What Does a Patient Care Technicians Do?

Although job descriptions vary depending on the type of medical institution, their certification, and the patients they work with, patient care technicians usually have the following tasks included in their job description:

  • Serving meals
  • Assisting patients with their daily activities
  • Changing bedding
  • Measuring the patient’s vital signs
  • Drawing blood samples
  • Performing CPR
  • Administering IVs
  • Communicating with patients and their families and offering emotional support

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Patient Care Technician?

Training costs vary depending on the program you choose and the duration.

Shorter diploma programs that prepare you for entry-level employment as a nursing assistant usually cost between $1,500-$2,000, on average.

You will also have to pay an examination fee between $90-$125 to become certified.

Medical assistant training, on the other hand, costs between $5,000 and $15,000 but includes more skills and will give you better advancement options.


Will Patient Care Technicians Be Needed in the Future?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for allied health professions is projected to grow fast in the future.

The demand for medical assistants will grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, while the demand for nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent, according to the BLS.

Most job openings will occur in nursing homes and residential care facilities so if you specialize in working with older people, your prospects are looking pretty good.

The demand for Patient Care Technicians is also dependent upon the level of federal or state funding and the extent to which nursing care expenses are covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

Job openings are also expected to result from the need to replace workers who leave this occupation due to stress.

USA Patient Care Technician Info by State

USA MapWashingtonOregonCaliforniaIdahoNevadaUtahArizonaMontanaWyomingColoradoNew Mexiconorth-dakota/South DakotaNebraskakansas/OklahomaTexasMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaWisconsinIllinoisKentuckyTennesseeMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaFloridaSouth CarolinaNorth CarolinaVirginiaMichiganMichiganIndianaOhioWest VirginiaPennsylvaniaNew YorkMarylandMarylandDelawareNew JerseyConnecticutRhode IslandMassachusettsVermontNew HampshireMaineAlaskaHawaiiNew JerseyVermontNew HampshireMassachusetts

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