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Interested in Working in Mental Health? Consider These Degrees and Career Paths

The need for mental health professionals across the country continues to grow.

If you’re interested in a career in mental health, you’ve probably wondered what degree is appropriate for this career path. The mental health industry exists on a broad spectrum and can involve different degrees at different levels, from bachelor’s to doctorate. While there are some general requirements for most positions, such as a bachelor’s degree is absolutely necessary to get started, different types of mental health professionals may have different education and training requirements. Educating yourself on the options and career paths within the field can help you make an informed decision when choosing your pick.

Interpersonal Skills

If you are interested in working in the mental health industry, it is important to consider the skills you need to succeed in this career. While many people may think that half the job is listening to patients and providing comfort, it covers much more.

In the ability to properly care for or diagnose people with mental illness, it is important to have excellent interpersonal skills like communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and being able to empathize. If you want to work with people with mental health problems, then formal education in this field will help you develop these skills while providing hands-on experience as well.

There are many opportunities out there for people like you. Many accredited and well-reputed universities and colleges offer counseling degree online as well as on-campus. Let’s discuss different career paths in mental health and the qualification you will need to start your journey.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychologists help people solve problems related to the emotions, behavior, or mental health of their patients. Counselors may choose to specialize in areas such as marriage and family therapy; school counseling; rehabilitation counseling; developmental disabilities; substance abuse; gerontology (working with older adults); neuropsychology (working with brain injuries); community mental health; or neuropsychology (working with brain injuries).

·      Degree

To become a counseling psychologist, you need to earn a bachelor’s, master and a doctorate in psychology. It will take at least seven years.

·      Median Annual Salary

The median annual wage for counseling psychologists was $81,040 in May 2021. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is almost as double an average worker’s median annual pay.

·      Demand

Employment of counseling psychologists is projected to grow by 8% between the years 2020 and 2030, according to BLS.

Social Work

Social workers can provide psychotherapy along with other services such as case management, outreach, and crisis intervention to individuals who have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders. Clinical social workers may also conduct group therapy sessions and focus on prevention. Multiple career opportunities open up once you become a social worker. These may include but aren’t limited to foster care social workers, substance abuse counselors, behavioral management aides, community outreach workers, and human services specialists.

·      Degree

Clinical social workers can pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from an accredited university and become licensed by the state where they wish to practice.

·      Median Annual Salary

According to BLS, the median annual wage for social workers was $50,390 in May 2021, higher than the average salary of workers in the USA.

·      Demand

Employment of social workers is projected to grow by 12% between the years 2020 to 2030.

Psychiatric Registered Nurse/ Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurses have specialized training in psychiatric nursing care. They provide direct patient care for people with psychiatric disorders and are responsible for administering medications prescribed by the physician. Psychiatric nurses may also be involved in counseling patients and their families about their illnesses and treatment plans.

·      Degree

After completing a nursing program and becoming an RN (two-year associate program, three-year nursing diploma, four-year bachelor in nursing program), you can earn a psychiatric nursing certification.

·      Median Annual Salary

According to BLS, the median salary for a psychiatric nurse is $141,819 per year in the United States in May 2022.

·      Demand

The employment rate of psychiatric nurses in the US remains lower – at 0.89%.


Psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses that affect the brain, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. People with these conditions often require medication to treat their condition; psychiatrists prescribe medications and monitor their patients’ progress.

·      Degree

Psychiatrists must have a medical degree from an accredited medical school and complete at least four years of residency training in psychiatry.

·      Median Annual Salary

The median annual salary of a psychiatrist is $220,430, in May 2022, much higher than the average worker’s salary.

·      Demand

The employment rate of psychiatrists is 3.6%.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help people manage problems related to emotional distress, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, through counseling or therapy sessions. They often work in clinics or hospitals, but they can also be found in schools, community centers, and private practices.

·      Degree

Mental health counselors need a master’s degree in counseling or a related field such as psychology or marriage and family therapy (MFTC). They must pass a national licensing exam before becoming eligible for licensure through their state board of education. Mental health counselors tackle a broad range of roles depending on their specialization and clinical health setting.

·      Median Annual Salary

According to BLS, the average annual salary of a mental health counselor is $48,520 in May 2021.

·      Demand

The employment growth projected by the BLS for mental health counselors is 23% between the years 2020 and 2030.


In the end, a career in mental health will likely drive you to new limits—both professionally and emotionally. It’s a challenging career path that forces practitioners to confront intense feelings of anguish, anger, and self-doubt. Ultimately, it’s a job that asks for a great deal of sacrifice from those who choose to embark upon it. If you’re interested in helping others navigate psychological challenges, there is probably no other field that offers as much potential for personal and professional growth.

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