Patient Care Technician

Patient care technicians (PCTs) direct patient care and help nurses, doctors, and other medical staff care for patients with physical and mental health concerns. PCTs may also assist in examining and treating patients, monitoring vital signs, recording information on patients’ charts, and more. In addition to providing direct patient care, PCTs can also help improve patient satisfaction by providing emotional support to those in need. 

Along with other allied health professions, patient care technicians are in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare occupations are expected to grow 13 percent in the next decade, with nursing assistants and orderlies seeing a growth rate close to the national average of 5 percent from 2021 to 2031.

PCTs can find many opportunities within healthcare settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, dialysis facilities, home healthcare agencies, doctors’ offices, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and rehabilitation clinics. They can also specialize in specific areas such as obstetrics/gynecology, gerontology, and oncology. As part of the medical team, they help coordinate patient care activities by handling patient intake.

Learn what it takes to become a patient care technician, including diplomas and certifications, on-campus and online programs, program accreditation, certification and licensure, and annual salaries.  

Patient Care Technician Specialization & Degree Types

A degree is only sometimes required to become a patient care technician (PCT) – some employers opt for certification instead – but several types of degrees are available for those wishing to further their careers. 

According to O*Net Online, a resource affiliated with the US Department of Labor, the most common educational backgrounds for nursing assistants, a similar occupational title to PCTs, based on data from July 2023: 

  • High school diploma or equivalent: 39 percent 
  • Post-secondary certificate: 24 percent
  • Some college, no degree: 12 percent

Most PCTs learn patient care skills through on-the-job training or diploma or certificate programs. In some cases, PCTs have a two-year associate’s degree.

Admission Requirements for Patient Care Technician Programs

Gaining admission to a Patient care technician program requires applicants to meet specific standards. Reqyurenebts vary by program, but most prospective PCT students must complete the following:

  • Be at least 18 years of age by the program admission date
  • Completed courses in critical reading, introduction to composition, and developmental mathematics, or have appropriate placement test scores 
  • Show proof of up-to-date immunization records
  • Have current CPR and first-aid certification

Patient Care Technician Program Accreditation

Accreditation is an essential factor to consider when evaluating educational quality. Institutions can earn accreditation from accrediting agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Aspiring students must familiarize themselves with the accreditation of any college or university. CHEA recognizes these major accrediting organizations:

  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

Other accrediting organizations related to patient care technicians include: 

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)

Students looking for online or hybrid programs should check the NC-SARA status. The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is an organization that focuses on protecting quality education and making it easier for students to access virtual education all over the US. Having NC-SARA status means that students can attend postsecondary distance education courses offered by NC-SARA member schools without worrying about obtaining authorization from their home state.

On-Campus Patient Care Technician Programs

Prince George’s Community College 

Prince George’s Community College offers a patient care technician training program that provides technical and clinical instruction over 88 hours. The course includes medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology related to major body systems, legal and ethical considerations, and various skills such as phlebotomy, electrocardiograms, wound care, glucose monitoring, and more. 

For those with a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license, a patient care technician apprenticeship is also available for those looking to advance their career with eligibility for the PCT national state exam upon completion. Classes are available in the day or evening, and books are not included in the cost of tuition. After completing the program, participants will have the knowledge to take their National Healthcare Association of America Certified Patient Care Technician (NPCT) Examination confidently.

  • Location: Largo, MD
  • Duration: Eight weeks
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) 
  • Tuition: $1,275 total 

Piedmont Technical College

Piedmont Technical College offers a patient care technician program to provide students with the theoretical and applied foundation to pursue these healthcare certifications. Those enrolled in the program will complete the coursework necessary for CNA certification and be eligible to sit for several national tests upon school completion. Not only will they have knowledge of primary patient care, but they will also have skills needed for positions such as ward secretary and monitor tech. 

With experience gained from classroom instruction and lab work, graduates of this program can get certified in CPR/First Aid, AEDs, and nationally recognized patient care technician, EKG technician, and phlebotomy technician examinations. Ultimately, those enrolling in the patient care technician program at Piedmont Tech will gain the credentials necessary to pursue a career in healthcare.

  • Location: Greenwood, SC
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)  
  • Tuition: $205.75 per credit (residents); $269.50 per credit (non-residents)

Pima Medical Institute 

Pima Medical Institute’s patient care technician (PCT) program is 31 credits and offers both on-ground and hybrid delivery methods. This program requires applicants to obtain a Certified Nursing Assistant CNA credential before enrollment. Clinical externship is included in the program, and applicants must attend classes in person—it cannot be completed entirely online. 

After completing Pima Medical Institute’s PCT program, graduates will be eligible for the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing Technology (BONENT) Exam. This Certificate Program uses cutting-edge instructional methods to equip graduates with the professional edge they need to be successful patient care technicians in today’s world.

  • Location: East Valley, AZ
  • Duration: Eight months
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) 
  • Tuition: Contact school for an estimate

Ivy Tech Community College 

Ivy Tech Community College has a strong reputation for quality patient care education, and its patient care technician program is no exception. The School of Health Sciences offers students various flexible options to begin their patient care technician career. 

Whether they are looking to pursue an associate of applied science (AAS) degree, a long-term technical certificate, or a short-term certificate, applicants will be glad to find that the institution has removed any application fee and offers start dates five times throughout the year. At Ivy Tech Community College, patient care technicians can look forward to building their skills with quality support from faculty and staff.

  • Location: Several campuses in Indiana
  • Duration: Two to four semesters
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)  
  • Tuition: $2,692 to $8,973 total (depending on the program)

Tarrant County College

Tarrant County College offers a patient care technician (PCT) program comprising seven courses and 368 certificate hours. The course topics include medical terminology, basic health profession skills, pharmacology, pathophysiology, phlebotomy, and electrocardiography. Upon completing the program, graduates are eligible for multiple certifications through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and the National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP). 

Additionally, this program prepares graduates for an occupational license. Those wishing to apply must be at least 18 years old, have up-to-date immunizations and a criminal background check, hold a copy of either a high school diploma or GED, and pass the Test of Adult Education (TABE) with a score of 10 or higher. 

  • Location: Fort Worth, TX
  • Duration: Six to 12 months
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) 
  • Tuition: $126 per credit (residents); $305 per credit (non-residents)

Online or Hybrid Patient Care Technician Programs

US Career Institute (Online)

Enrolling in the online patient care technician program from US Career Institute can open doors to a rewarding career in healthcare. The online program covers all the core skills one needs to succeed in this field and prepare students for the Patient Care Technician Certification Exam. From medical terminology and intro to anatomy to safety measures necessary for medical offices, students will gain an in-depth understanding of nutrition, patient charting, and medical ethics. Building their knowledge of caring for patients, from dressing and feeding them properly to moving and assisting them with tasks, participants will also learn about the importance of cleanliness and vital signs to ensure proper patient health outcomes.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Duration: Four to five months
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) 
  • Tuition: $979 total

Lehman College CUNY (Hybrid)

Lehman College, a City University of New York (CUNY) institution, offers a hybrid patient care technician certification program consisting of two tracks—one for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and the other for non-CNAs. During the program, students gain technical knowledge in electrocardiography, phlebotomy, CPR, and first aid. They must also complete four online courses covering an introduction to care management and chronic conditions and addiction. 

To be eligible for certification, students must have completed all courses with a grade of C or higher. Upon completing the program’s requirements, participants can take the NHA’s Certified Patient Care Technician exam and become certified.

  • Location: Bronx, NY
  • Duration: Three to six months
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)  
  • Tuition: $1,510-$3,805 total (depending on the program)

Lone Star College (Hybrid)

Lone Star College offers a hybrid patient care technician certificate for continuing education (fast-track) and a full-credit program. The full-credit program includes 144 hours of instruction over four courses in nursing aid, health occupations professionalism, and special topics. This program prepares students for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (TDADS) nurse aid state exam and the NHA exam. 

This program prepares graduates to work in homes, hospitals, general surgery units, and nursing homes. Training generally includes lab work, lectures, clinical rotations, and studies in pre and postoperative care, anatomy, nutrition, and physiology. Students are supervised by a registered nurse or another medical professional while they provide direct care to patients.

  • Location: The Woodlands, TX 
  • Duration: Three to six months 
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $96 per credit (residents); $214 per credit (non-residents)

Florida Career College (Hybrid)

Florida Career College’s hybrid patient care technician program provides students with a comprehensive foundation of essential training, patient care, and assistance skills. Courses include caring for patients in hospitals, homes, and healthcare facilities; CPR Training; verbal communication skills to effectively communicate with patients; operating equipment such as inhalers, ventilators, resuscitators, and oxygen tanks; assisting patients with various activities and exercises. 

To culminate these skills, an 80-hour externship is provided to online patient care technicians at a local healthcare facility, allowing them to practice their newly acquired knowledge. This experience helps online patient care technicians hit the ground running upon program completion.

Upon completing and graduating from the program, graduates will be prepared to take the National Health Career Association exam to become Certified Patient Care Technicians (CPCT). Therefore, this program offers a real-life experience so that graduates enter their professional field with confidence and all the required skills needed to become successful online patient care technicians.

  • Location: Several campuses in Florida and Texas
  • Duration: Ten months
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Tuition: Not available

Alamo Colleges District (Online)

The Alamo Colleges District’s online patient care technician program is a continuing education option tailored to equip students with the knowledge needed to excel on their Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) exam. Over the course of 260 hours, students have access to online courses covering medical terminology, electrocardiography, CPR for healthcare providers, and a certification prep course. In 2018, the online program proudly earned recognition and was awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. 

Entry to the online program requires 18 years or older and essential reading, writing, and speaking proficiency in English and some high school education. Those interested must also be equipped with a computer or tablet with internet access. 

  • Location: San Antonio, TX
  • Duration: Ten weeks
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) 
  • Tuition: $3,707 total

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

After graduating from high school or completing a GED, becoming a patient care technician takes approximately one to two years. This timeline includes training and certification. 

How to Become a Patient Care Technician – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Earn a GED (Four Years)

Most patient care technician programs require a high school diploma or GED as an essential admission requirement. 

Step 2: Enroll in a Patient Care Technician Program (Three to 24 Months)

Most patient care technicians complete on-the-job training, a certificate or diploma program, or sometimes a two-year associate’s degree. Students must meet the necessary education requirements, such as courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology, and more. Programs are available on-campus, online, and in hybrid formats. 

Step 3: Pass Certification and Licensure Exams (Timeline Varies)

Patient care technician certifications eligibility requirements vary by state and certifying body. Most require candidates to complete a patient care technician training program and gain some hours of professional experience to sit for the exam. 

Step 4: Renew Certification and Licensure (Timeline Varies)

Credential holders must renew PCT certifications regularly, and in many cases, candidates must prove a specific number of continuing education hours and pay a renewal fee. 

What Do Patient Care Technicians Do?

Patient care technicians (PCTs) have several responsibilities, including:

  • Providing essential support to healthcare professionals and patients
  • Performing medical and surgical asepsis
  • Demonstrating knowledge of basic anatomy and physiology
  • Conducting cardiac monitoring and electrocardiography
  • Collecting blood samples through phlebotomy techniques
  • Executing clerical tasks associated with patient care
  • Utilizing professional and interpersonal concepts such as service orientation, social perceptiveness, and active listening

Patient Care Technician Certification & Licensure

Upon completing a patient care technician program, graduates must meet specific requirements to work legally in most states. These requirements typically involve passing a national certification exam, a background check, or a state-level certification exam.  

Any test candidates considering a career in the allied health industry must become familiar with their state’s laws and regulations concerning certification requirements. Each state has different minimum requirements, so ensuring they are met before proceeding is essential.

Some of the leading organizations offer certification for patient care technicians. 

American Allied Health (AAH)

American Allied Health (AAH) offers the Patient Care Technician (CPCT) certification exam online to those with the eligibility qualifications.   

American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)

The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) offers the Patient Care Technician Certification (PCTC)

American Medical Technologists (AMT)

American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers the Patient Care Technician (PCT) credential to those who meet one of four eligibility pathways. 

National Center for Competency Testing

National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers the Patient Care Technician (NCPCT) certification to those who meet one of the three eligibility pathways. 

National Healthcareer Association 

National Healthcareer Association offers the Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) credential to those with a high school diploma or GED who have either completed one or both of the following: 

  1. A patient care technician training program in the last five years or
  2. Have one year of supervised PCT experience in the previous three years

How Much Do Patient Care Technicians Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing assistants, a closely related occupational title to patient care technicians, earn an average annual salary of $36,220 (BLS May 2022). Salaries vary based on work experience, education, and cost of living. Here are the salary percentiles for nursing assistants: 

  • 10th percentile: $28,030 
  • 25th percentile: $30,770 
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,760 
  • 75th percentile: $39,260 
  • 90th percentile: $45,940

Patient Care Technician Career Alternatives

Many options are available in the medical field for those looking for alternatives to a career as a PCT. Here are some excellent patient care technician career alternatives.

Become a Certified Medical Assistant

Those patient care technicians looking for a career alternative might want to consider medical assisting, which entails administrative duties such as scheduling patient appointments, greeting patients and other front office work, filling out medical forms, patient medical record management, filing patients’ insurance claims, and more. Certified medical assistants (CMAs) are qualified to take the patient’s vital signs, enter data into the patient’s chart, obtain patient histories in an outpatient setting, and perform basic lab tests like urinalysis or pregnancy tests.

  • Typical Education: On-the-job training, diploma, certificate, and associate’s degree programs
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)

Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Additionally, patient care technicians may be interested in becoming certified nursing assistants or CNAs. These careers include patient monitoring, keeping records of patient progress notes, taking vital signs, and measuring height/weight. Also known as nurse aides, CNAs provide daily living assistance to patients, such as feeding them and helping them move around safely by providing support and transferring patients with special equipment. 

  • Typical Education: State-approved CNA training programs
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: State Boards of Nursing (SBONs)

Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Lastly, patient care technicians may pursue emergency medical technician (EMT) positions where they can quickly respond to medical emergencies while providing pre-hospital services. Often known for responding to medical emergencies and providing vital pre-hospital care wherever needed, EMTs are highly trained and capable of carrying out various life-saving tasks. 

Moreover, EMT work is unique in that EMTs are required to effectively assess an injured patient’s condition, establishing proper treatment plans following accepted protocols. EMTs become an integral part of their community, helping provide comfort and compassionate care while respecting all patients’ rights. Through their dedication, EMTs help protect local lives daily.

  • Typical Education: Diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd

Writer

Rachel Drummond has written about integrating contemplative movement practices such as yoga into healthcare professions since 2019, promoting the idea that mental and physical well-being are critical components of effective patient care and self-care in the high-stress world of healthcare.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.

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