Earning your degree in mental health can be a good career decision because of the ample job prospects, and the ability to help people who need it most. The need for skilled mental health professionals in the US is rising, along with healthcare professionals generally: It is anticipated that healthcare jobs will grow by 19% from 2014-2024.
Mental health counselors and related professionals help their clients work through serious mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Some mental health professionals also help clients to improve their relationships with partners and other family members.
With a mental health degree, you will be able to enjoy the following five professions. Keep in mind that you must earn at least a master’s degree to practice as a mental health professional. A doctorate is necessary to work in private practice.
#1 Mental Health Counselor
A mental health counselor helps her patients to manage and overcome many common emotional and mental health issues that affect them and their relationships. Mental health counselors assist their clients to understand their mental health challenges. Then, they help them to develop effective strategies to mitigate the problem and improve their lives.
Common duties of mental health counselors are:
- Diagnose/treat mental and emotional problems, most commonly anxiety and depression
- Provide encouragement to clients to talk through and deal with their emotional challenges and mental health problems
- Assist clients in processing their reactions and deal with major life challenges, from divorce to job loss
- Assist clients in devising strategies to alter behavior and cope with serious problems
Mental health counselors offer treatment to individuals, groups, and couples. You may eventually specialize in a specific population: children elderly, college students or adolescents.
To become one, you need to earn a master’s degree at minimum in mental health or psychology. A bachelor’s degree in psychology or mental health is a good background. After graduation, you must earn your state license by having at least 2,000 hours of post degree, supervised clinical work. You also must pass a state exam to become a mental health counselor.
Mental health counselors will experience a 20% increase in demand by 2024, so there will be ample jobs available. The median salary is $49,100.
#2 Counseling Psychologist
A counseling psychologist assists a patient in dealing with their problems, including home, workplace and community. Through mental health counseling, this professional works with her patients to determine what the nature of their problems are. They also help them to identify their strengths and resources that can assist in dealing with the problems.
Common duties for counseling psychologists are:
- Collect information about patients through direct observation, interviews and working with family
- Identify the psychological, emotional and behavioral problems that are causing issues for the client
- Discuss problems with clients after careful questioning
- Interview the patient to determine other issues that could be leading to psychological and behavioral problems
Some of the problems a counseling psychologist may address include:
- Relationship problems
- School and career problems
- Learning and skill disorders
- Stress management
- Difficulty with organization
- Personal and socialization problems
- Mental disorders
- Difficulty in relating to others
To become a counseling psychologist, it is required to have at least a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. A bachelor’s in psychology is not necessary, but you will need to have background courses in psychology, experimental psychology and statistics. After graduation, you need at least 1-2 years of supervised professional experience, and then must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Jobs for counseling psychologists will rise by 20% by 2024, so you will have many good job options. The median salary is $73,200.
#3 Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
Probation and correctional treatment specialists work with people on probation and help them to adjust to a lawful life and to avoid committing new crimes. Their typical duties include:
- Conduct meetings with those on probation
- Evaluate the behavior and conduct of the probationer and determine best ways to rehabilitate them
- Offer probationers resources, such as childcare and job training
- Test probationers for substance abuse; having clean drug tests often is a qualification for being on probation
- Conduct meetings with probationers’ families
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers that get probation instead of a jail sentence. They may also work with prisoners or those who were recently released.
These workers need a bachelor’s degree; a degree in social work, mental health or criminal justice is typical. They also must pass a state or federal training program.
Job growth will be approximately 5% by 2024; the median salary is $50,100.
#4 Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor provides advice to people who are suffering from substance abuse problems. The most common are alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders, as well as related behavioral problems, such as anorexia or bulimia. These counselors with at least a bachelor’s degree in mental health or psychology provide support and treatment to assist clients in their recovery.
Their typical duties are:
- Evaluate the mental health of the client, and determine they type of addiction or behavior problem they suffer from
- Review various treatment options with the patient and provide a recommendation
- Assist the client to develop the behaviors and skills needed to deal with their addiction
- Assist the client to determine which behaviors that interfere with a full recovery
- Teach the patient’s family about the behavior or addiction problem so they can devise strategies to work through the problem as well
A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor may also be referred to as an addiction counselor. You often will use 12 step program principles to assist your clients in overcoming their problems. These counselors also help their clients to handle life’s stresses and problems without relying on the addiction or behavior problem.
To become one, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in mental health counseling, but some employers require a master’s degree. Higher educated counselors require less state-mandated supervision.
Job growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will grow by 22% by 2024. This strong growth rate is due to more people being treated for their addictions, instead of facing long jail sentences for drug addiction.
The median salary in the field is $41,100.
#5 Clinical Social Worker
A clinical social worker is licensed to diagnose and treat mental health, behavioral and emotional disorders. Clinical social workers are the most common mental health professionals in the US, and many have a mental health as well as social work background.
Clinical social workers provide clients with individual, group, family and couples therapy. They work with their patients to devise strategies to deal with difficult problems and to change behavior. Clinical social workers differ somewhat from mental health counselors because they often refer clients to other community resources, such as support groups and other resources that can improve the situation.
Clinical social workers come up with treatment plans with the patient, and may consult doctors and other healthcare professionals as well.
A clinical social worker may work with all ages and groups, while some specialize in children, those with disabilities and people with addiction problems.
To become one, you need a master of science in social work and to pass a state examination. Also required is two years of supervised clinical experience. Many clinical social workers have a bachelor’s in social work, but a bachelor’s in mental health can work as well.
Clinical social workers will experience healthy 19% job growth in the next several years. The median salary is $46,800.
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- Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-5
- Substance Abuse or Behavioral Disorder Counselor. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-4
- Counseling Psychologist. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling.aspx
- Social Workers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-5
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm#tab-5