A career guide to becoming a mental health counselor
Mental health counselors are licensed professionals that provide services to people suffering from mental and emotional issues. Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings such as schools, clinics, private practices, prisons, jails, employment services and family programs.
Mental health used to carry a stigma but it is now more accepted in mainstream society. As the acceptance and utilization of mental health services increases the career is expected to grow as more people seek help.
Education and Experience Requirements
Educational requirements vary depending on the specific mental health career. The most common degree needed is a master’s degree. In order to meet state licensing requirements a person needs to have at least a master’s degree in counseling or an area closely related such as mental health counseling, family counseling, or addiction counseling.
Programs can be completed on campus or online. Most programs require an internship where the student gains experience working in the field as part of their program. This provides valuable experience and can often lead to employment.
Students who have established careers and are considering returning to school to gain an education should seriously think about earning their mental health counseling degree online. Online programs allow students to obtain the education they need without disrupting their lives.
Depending on the student’s individual needs any accredited university or college that offers mental health counseling studies is sufficient. This may include an online university or campus-based college program.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
Mental health occupations are slated to experience explosive growth through 2018 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is part of the United States Department of Labor and is responsible for reporting labor trends. The projected growth is 20% which is more than twice the rate of the average occupation.
Substance abuse and mental health counselors are the two types expected to grow the fastest as behavioral and mental disorders are among the fastest growing problems in society.
The average salary varies greatly by career, location and experience. School counselors earn an average salary of $51,000 per year while mental health and rehabilitation counselors earn $36,000 per year. State and federal agencies pay more than private companies for the most part.
People who have a doctoral degree and work as psychiatrists earn a far more substantial living earning well over $100,000 per year. These types of careers require far more schooling beyond a master’s degree.