How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

The demand for mental healthcare in the United States has increased equally across different professions in the discipline, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts new jobs will grow an impressive 37% by 2020.

Overview & Salaries

Salaries in the mental health space are varied depending upon experience and educations. According to the BLS, the lowest 10% earn less than $24,180, while the top 10% earn more than $63,630.

Mental health Counselors $39,710
Psychiatrist $111,570
Psychologist $68,640
Psychiatric Technician $26,880
Social Worker $42,480
Clinical Social Worker $42,480
Child Welfare /Family Services Social Worker $42,480
Child /Adult Protective Services Social Worker $42,480
Marriage & Family Therapist $45,720
School Social Workers $44,410
Substance Abuse Social Workers $39,230
Gerontology social workers $31,843
Social work administrators $57,950
Social Work planners and Policy Makers $57,950

Places to Work

There is ample opportunity to work in many healthcare sectors both public and private. Here are a few industries that employ mental health professionals and the median salary in each, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Local government $46,590
Hospital $41,930
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers $38,840
Individual and family services $37,700
Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities $30,260

Employment and Information Data for Mental Health Counseling

Why Mental Health

In recent years, the mental health industry has seen an uptick in support from healthcare insurance companies, which in the past had often been reluctant to issue coverage for their services. However, today it is generally realized that receiving mental healthcare early can save greatly on other medical costs down the road.

Now, more than ever the industry is flourishing with expanding technologies and medicines, as well as patients’ will to seek treatments.

Recommended Mental Health Courses

  • Diagnosis and psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Professional orientation
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Group counseling
  • Human growth and development
  • Counseling theory
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Lifestyle and career development

Degrees for Mental Health Careers

In the U.S., each state has different procedures and examinations for licensing mental health professionals. Certain jobs, such as mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, require licensing in every state. More ancillary roles in the mental health profession – technicians and administrators – don’t always require the same rigid process.

Associate’s Degree
An associate degree in Applied Science in Mental Health is a two-year program focused on overall mental health profession. The degree is a great way to start or even advance a career in the industry. Many professionals use it as a springboard toward more advanced degrees.

Bachelor’s Degree 
Bachelor’s degree provides a more in-depth look at mental health theory and treatment, while also focusing on biological and physiological sciences. The four-year degree allows for clinical examination of psychological disorders and behaviors and treatment options.

Master’s Degree
In order to practice mental health disciplines such as counseling or marriage and family therapy, a master’s degree is required in every state. Those wishing to enter a master’s program must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

Doctorate Mental Health (Ph.D.)
A doctorate in mental health covers all the in-depth scientific theory and practice issues associate with lab work. It also includes a healthy dose of biology, chemistry and ethics courses. This deep dive prepares students for a life of research and teaching. Careers as a psychiatrist and psychologist require a Ph.D. minimum.