Mental Health Careers

Comparing Your Options

Mental Health Careers
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Do you want to pursue a career in mental health? If you would like to care for or treat people who have mental illnesses, emotional difficulties, and behavioral problems, you need soft skills that facilitate interactions with individuals who are in distress. You need, for example, excellent listening, verbal communication, interpersonalcritical thinking, and decision making skills. Here are some mental health careers to consider:

Clinical or Counseling Psychologist

Clinical and counseling psychologists diagnose and then treat people who have behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. They also help their clients and patients deal with crises, illnesses, or injuries. If you want to become a psychologist, you must earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in psychology. It will take between five to seven years to complete either of these doctoral degrees.

In 2016, clinical and counseling psychologists made a median annual salary of $73,270. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment will grow faster than the average through 2024.

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Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists help couples, families, and individuals overcome or learn how to manage mental illnesses and disorders within the context of their relationships. To work in this occupation, you will have to earn a master's degree in marriage and family therapy.

The median annual salary for people employed in this occupation in 2016 was $49,170. Marriage and family therapist is a "Bright Outlook' occupation according to the BLS. The federal agency designated it as such because it predicts employment growth will be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

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Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers diagnose patients' mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders and then provide treatment through individual and group therapy. You can become a social worker by earning a bachelor's degree, but if you want to become a clinical social worker, you must get a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW).

Social workers, in general, earned a median annual salary of $46,890 in 2016. The BLS predicts clinical social workers will have the best job prospects, as opposed to social workers who do not treat patients in a clinical setting.

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Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses are RNs who specialize in psychiatric-mental health work. They care for patients who have mental disorders. Nursing education programs, including those that culminate in a bachelor's of science degree, an associate degree, or a nursing diploma, include psychiatric-mental health education. One can also earn a master's degree to become an advanced practice psychiatric nurse (Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse. Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow.).

RNs earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016. Nursing is a "Bright Outlook" occupation.

The BLS expects employment will increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

Learn More About Registered Nurses


Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in treating psychiatric disorders. To become a psychiatrist, you will first have to complete four years of medical school after earning a bachelor's degree. Then you will have to do a four-year residency in psychiatry (Association of American Medical Colleges). To practice, you will need a medical license and certification from The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry.

In 2016, psychiatrists earned a median annual salary of $194,740. The job outlook is good with employment growth expected to be faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

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Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help people overcome emotional and mental disorders. You will need to earn a Master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field of study if you want to work in this occupation. You will be required to get a state-issued license as well.

Mental health counselors earned a median salary of $42,840 per year in 2016. The BLS predicts this "Bright Outlook" occupation will have employment growth that is much faster than the average through 2024.

Learn More About Mental Health Counselors

Comparing Mental Health Careers
 Minimum EducationLicenseMedian Salary
Clinical PsychologistPh.D. or Psy.D.Req. in all states$73,270
Marriage and Family TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$49,170
Clinical Social WorkerMaster'sLicense, certification or registration req. in all states$46,890
Psychiatric NurseBachelor's, associate, diploma or master'sReq. in all states$68,450
PsychiatristMedical DegreeReq. in all states$194,740
Mental Health CounselorMaster's DegreeReq. in all states$42,840


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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–17; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited 10/26/17).