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Mental health counselors have obtained a college education to be able to provide guidance and treatment to patients who come to them for help with a variety of difficulties. This can include emotional and mental issues, acrimonious relationships with others, or a desire to be create more success and goal-oriented outcomes in their lives.

Some patients may be suffering from severe disorders while others could have learning difficulties or problems getting along with others. To help their clients, mental health counselors observe, interview, and talk with them in order to design an effective treatment plan. Sometimes this can be as basic as talk therapy, but at other times could include specific strategies and techniques that patients can put into practice in their daily lives.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental Health Counselor Schools

A graduate-level degree, such as a master's program, helps students to gain theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the mental health field, but also is necessary to seeking state licensure and employment. Mental health counselor schools are available across the country, including at the following schools:

  • Portland State University: An intensive campus-based practicum training experience is part of the master's degree in mental health counseling available at this Oregon-based school. The program, which can be completed in three years, also includes an internship the final year.
  • Capella University: An online education is the benefit of this university's master's degree program in mental health counseling, but field work and residencies help to provide real-life training, and the courses are 10 weeks in length.
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas: This university's master of science in clinical mental health counseling is 60 semester hours and helps prepare students to take the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and even to seek Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in the state.
  • George Washington University: Located in the nation's capital, this university makes a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling available and has three yearly admission dates. The program incorporates both classroom and field experience, but also requires a two-semester internship of students.
  • Lewis University: This Romeoville, Ill., university features a masters of arts program in clinical mental health counseling that gives students the choice of pursuing either an adult clinical mental health or child and adolescent clinical mental health concentration. Small class sizes also are prioritized.

Mental Health Counselor Education Requirements

A master's degree in a field like counseling, social work or psychology is typically needed to enter the mental health field or to become a marriage and family therapist (MFT), according to the BLS. In degree programs, students learn about emotional and mental disorders, the challenges they may present and how they can affect families or relationships. Various strategies are taught to help therapists assist patients in coping with their challenges. A student in a mental health program at the master's level may even be able to specialize in an area such as addiction or trauma. Additionally, some mental health programs at the master's level can be found online.

Mental health counselor schools like these enable students to advance their knowledge and skills in varied areas, including:

  • Group counseling
  • Grief management
  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Alternative therapeutic strategies
The practicum hours and internships required as part of these mental health counselor training programs help students to bring real-life context to their work and to offer targeted feedback and guidance to clients.

Mental Health Counselor Certification and Licensing

Certification is not mandatory for all mental health counselors, but it is typically recommended by the BLS. Counselors can get certified through an organization like the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). There are a number of different certifications that can be earned, depending on your specialization:

  • National Certified Counselor certification (NCC)
  • Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)
  • Master Addictions Counselor (MAC)
  • National Certified School Counselor (NCSC)

To be able to hold a specialty certification, applicants also must earn their NCC first. A master's degree, specific coursework, and at least 3,000 hours of counseling work are needed to be able to seek certification.

State licensing is required for mental health counselors in most states, according to the BLS. To earn your state license, the BLS reports that the requirements typically include:

  • Master's degree
  • 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical work
  • Pass a state-recognized exam

However, licensing requirements can vary by state and more information typically can be found through a state board of mental health or through a state's department of health and human services.


Resources

  • American Mental Health Counselors Association
  • American Counseling Association
  • Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  • National Board for Certified Counselors

Sources:

  1. Apply for Certification, National Board for Certified Counselors, no date. http://www.nbcc.org/Specialties
  2. Mental Health Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-6
  3. Mental Health Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211014.htm
  4. National Certified Counselor, National Board for Certified Counselors, no date. http://www.nbcc.org/Certification/NationalCertCounselor
  5. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Portland State University. http://www.pdx.edu/coun/clinical-mental-health-counseling
  6. Mental Health Counseling Specialization, Capella University. http://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-mental-health-counseling/
  7. Master of Science Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. https://www.unlv.edu/degree/ms-clinical-mental-health-counseling
  8. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, George Washington University. https://www.gwu.edu/graduate-programs/clinical-mental-health-counseling
  9. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.A., Lewis University. http://www.lewisu.edu/academics/grad-psychology/

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Mental Health Counselors

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Mental Health Counselors jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 270 $39,480
Hoover 270 $39,480
Tuscaloosa 140 $35,910
Montgomery 130 $48,870
Huntsville 70 $38,540
Gadsden 40 $40,360
Decatur 40 $56,050
Florence -2222 $58,550
Muscle Shoals -2222 $58,550
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 300 $66,940
Fairbanks 170 $54,320
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 720 $50,710
Mesa 720 $50,710
Phoenix 720 $50,710
Tucson 220 $34,300
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 270 $48,350
North Little Rock 270 $48,350
Little Rock 270 $48,350
Jonesboro 30 $54,340
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Long Beach 5790 $42,320
Anaheim 5790 $42,320
Los Angeles 5790 $42,320
San Francisco 2030 $45,920
Hayward 2030 $45,920
Oakland 2030 $45,920
Arcade 1290 $31,390
Roseville 1290 $31,390
Sacramento 1290 $31,390
Arden 1290 $31,390
Riverside 1200 $37,690
Ontario 1200 $37,690
San Bernardino 1200 $37,690
San Diego 1100 $37,870
Carlsbad 1100 $37,870
Santa Clara 660 $42,520
Sunnyvale 660 $42,520
San Jose 660 $42,520
Fresno 350 $44,070
Santa Rosa 280 $43,960
Salinas 220 $36,000
Chico 220 $36,240
Modesto 210 $51,390
Stockton 180 $34,730
Lodi 180 $34,730
Bakersfield 180 $47,010
Santa Cruz 120 $38,040
Watsonville 120 $38,040
Visalia 120 $46,300
Porterville 120 $46,300
San Luis Obispo 100 $38,300
Arroyo Grande 100 $38,300
Paso Robles 100 $38,300
El Centro 100 $47,970
Fairfield 100 $51,760
Vallejo 100 $51,760
Yuba City 70 $40,530
Napa 70 $78,660
Santa Barbara 50 $37,140
Santa Maria 50 $37,140
Merced 50 $53,750
Ventura -2222 $39,310
Oxnard -2222 $39,310
Thousand Oaks -2222 $39,310
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 2650 $45,540
Denver 2650 $45,540
Lakewood 2650 $45,540
Colorado Springs 500 $44,940
Boulder 360 $51,440
Grand Junction 230 $44,700
Fort Collins 230 $50,940
Pueblo 180 $46,590
Greeley 170 $39,850
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 990 $50,540
West Hartford 990 $50,540
Hartford 990 $50,540
New Haven 340 $45,370
Stamford 200 $45,920
Norwalk 200 $45,920
Bridgeport 200 $45,920
Danbury 130 $44,770
Waterbury 130 $62,460
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Lauderdale 1380 $45,110
Miami 1380 $45,110
West Palm Beach 1380 $45,110
Jacksonville 510 $43,090
Tampa 440 $38,330
Clearwater 440 $38,330
St. Petersburg 440 $38,330
Kissimmee 400 $39,110
Sanford 400 $39,110
Orlando 400 $39,110
Bradenton 330 $48,020
North Port 330 $48,020
Sarasota 330 $48,020
Gainesville 80 $38,430
Ocala 70 $38,030
Tallahassee 70 $38,320
Port St. Lucie 70 $45,570
Fort Walton Beach 40 $36,120
Destin 40 $36,120
Crestview 40 $36,120
Titusville 40 $39,530
Palm Bay 40 $39,530
Melbourne 40 $39,530
Cape Coral 30 $33,880
Fort Myers 30 $33,880
Lakeland -2222 $32,850
Winter Haven -2222 $32,850
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sandy Springs 1130 $47,220
Atlanta 1130 $47,220
Roswell 1130 $47,220
Savannah 170 $37,560
Macon 70 $38,870
Clarke County 60 $43,140
Athens 60 $43,140
Valdosta 50 $42,240
Brunswick 50 $42,270
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 220 $36,320
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 280 $40,590
Idaho Falls 150 $57,580
Coeur d'Alene 140 $37,220
Pocatello 110 $46,990
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 170 $44,340
Springfield 90 $36,430
Bloomington 90 $37,280
Rockford 90 $40,980
Kankakee 60 $41,790
Urbana -2222 $20,820
Champaign -2222 $20,820
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 880 $39,360
Carmel 880 $39,360
Indianapolis 880 $39,360
Fort Wayne 180 $47,040
West Lafayette 100 $47,450
Lafayette 100 $47,450
Muncie 70 $39,260
Terre Haute 60 $37,370
Columbus -2222 $44,930
Bloomington -2222 $45,640
Michigan City -2222 $48,840
La Porte -2222 $48,840
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 400 $37,050
Des Moines 400 $37,050
Cedar Falls 120 $38,880
Waterloo 120 $38,880
Iowa City 90 $-2,222
Cedar Rapids 90 $47,950
Ames 40 $35,720
Dubuque -2222 $36,660
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Topeka 60 $39,100
Wichita -2222 $44,630
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 200 $38,320
Fayette 200 $38,320
Owensboro 120 $48,970
Fort Knox 90 $42,640
Elizabethtown 90 $42,640
Bowling Green 40 $30,990
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Metairie 660 $40,760
New Orleans 660 $40,760
Baton Rouge 510 $33,330
Shreveport 180 $41,570
Bossier City 180 $41,570
Lafayette 160 $35,040
Lake Charles 150 $32,090
Houma 90 $30,540
Thibodaux 90 $30,540
Alexandria 90 $44,470
Monroe 80 $37,780
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bangor 90 $53,420
South Portland 80 $51,860
Portland 80 $51,860
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 1000 $41,950
Columbia 1000 $41,950
Baltimore 1000 $41,950
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 100 $54,030
Pittsfield 80 $36,910
Gardner 80 $51,120
Leominster 80 $51,120
New Bedford -2222 $36,580
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Detroit 970 $44,680
Dearborn 970 $44,680
Warren 970 $44,680
Wyoming 590 $44,840
Grand Rapids 590 $44,840
Kalamazoo 140 $47,510
Portage 140 $47,510
Bay City 80 $53,790
Ann Arbor 70 $64,980
Flint 60 $48,150
Monroe 40 $46,780
Lansing -2222 $43,170
East Lansing -2222 $43,170
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
St. Cloud 90 $41,920
North Mankato 70 $58,390
Mankato 70 $58,390
Rochester 40 $47,980
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 180 $45,050
Pascagoula 130 $49,460
Biloxi 130 $49,460
Gulfport 130 $49,460
Hattiesburg 30 $36,440
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 180 $29,670
Jefferson City 80 $34,880
Columbia 40 $60,520
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Missoula 230 $34,610
Billings 90 $39,330
Great Falls 50 $31,460
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 200 $42,960
Grand Island 70 $-2,222
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 370 $45,850
Henderson 370 $45,850
Las Vegas 370 $45,850
Reno 240 $44,490
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 280 $44,960
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Ocean City 120 $-1,111
Bridgeton 110 $-1,111
Vineland 110 $-1,111
Atlantic City 110 $48,540
Hammonton 110 $48,540
Trenton -2222 $49,240
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 560 $35,970
Santa Fe 130 $44,070
Las Cruces 100 $46,470
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheektowaga 650 $29,780
Buffalo 650 $29,780
Niagara Falls 650 $29,780
Rochester 500 $34,970
Troy 310 $31,680
Albany 310 $31,680
Schenectady 310 $31,680
Syracuse 300 $36,760
Rome 130 $32,280
Utica 130 $32,280
Kingston 100 $58,290
Binghamton 80 $37,300
Glens Falls 70 $41,450
Fort Drum 50 $47,110
Watertown 50 $47,110
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Chapel Hill 390 $49,080
Durham 390 $49,080
Asheville 370 $44,970
Fayetteville 220 $47,470
High Point 210 $48,300
Greensboro 210 $48,300
Lenoir 200 $40,190
Morganton 200 $40,190
Hickory 200 $40,190
Raleigh 200 $51,780
Greenville 150 $46,680
Wilmington 110 $45,650
Salem 110 $49,340
Winston 110 $49,340
New Bern 50 $38,210
Goldsboro -2222 $43,550
Rocky Mount -2222 $63,960
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cleveland 900 $42,530
Elyria 900 $42,530
Columbus 670 $43,380
Akron 430 $45,590
Toledo 410 $45,630
Dayton 390 $44,330
Massillon 300 $43,260
Canton 300 $43,260
Mansfield -2222 $43,150
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tulsa 850 $54,030
Oklahoma City 770 $48,380
Lawton 30 $39,050
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Eugene 230 $46,110
Medford 110 $47,850
Salem 100 $44,500
Bend 50 $68,490
Redmond 50 $68,490
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 2250 $40,490
Scranton 860 $39,650
Wilkes 860 $39,650
Barre 860 $39,650
Hazleton 860 $39,650
Lancaster 650 $37,940
Harrisburg 500 $37,390
Carlisle 500 $37,390
Erie 380 $36,350
Reading 350 $35,750
Lebanon 340 $47,270
York 320 $42,640
Hanover 320 $42,640
State College 210 $44,800
Chambersburg 160 $38,920
Waynesboro 160 $38,920
East Stroudsburg 110 $47,850
Williamsport 110 $48,790
Altoona 100 $38,610
Johnstown 80 $32,020
Gettysburg 60 $50,150
Berwick 50 $38,480
Bloomsburg 50 $38,480
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 100 $33,380
Carolina 100 $33,380
San Juan 100 $33,380
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 130 $26,650
Anderson 130 $31,590
Mauldin 130 $31,590
Greenville 130 $31,590
Charleston 120 $41,030
North Charleston 120 $41,030
Florence 90 $36,960
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 240 $41,000
Rapid City 40 $45,580
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Franklin 1000 $34,780
Murfreesboro 1000 $34,780
Davidson 1000 $34,780
Nashville 1000 $34,780
Knoxville 280 $32,990
Jackson 40 $33,590
Johnson City 40 $36,480
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 1090 $47,040
Arlington 1090 $47,040
Dallas 1090 $47,040
Austin 810 $40,230
Round Rock 810 $40,230
Houston 810 $48,420
Sugar Land 810 $48,420
The Woodlands 810 $48,420
New Braunfels 390 $40,360
San Antonio 390 $40,360
El Paso 250 $36,240
Brownsville 170 $41,590
Harlingen 170 $41,590
Edinburg 160 $38,300
Mission 160 $38,300
McAllen 160 $38,300
Longview 120 $28,290
Amarillo 110 $38,760
Waco 90 $44,610
Tyler 80 $20,140
Corpus Christi 50 $37,470
Abilene 40 $47,800
Beaumont 30 $33,950
Port Arthur 30 $33,950
Wichita Falls -2222 $41,680
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 480 $56,200
Clearfield 240 $46,670
Ogden 240 $46,670
Orem 230 $55,090
Provo 230 $55,090
St. George 100 $-1,111
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 160 $42,480
Burlington 160 $42,480
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 2150 $43,370
Roanoke 390 $41,210
Lynchburg 320 $36,750
Christiansburg 240 $37,590
Blacksburg 240 $37,590
Radford 240 $37,590
Charlottesville 170 $53,100
Staunton 100 $53,970
Waynesboro 100 $53,970
Harrisonburg 70 $47,380
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tacoma 2150 $44,570
Seattle 2150 $44,570
Bellevue 2150 $44,570
Spokane 660 $40,180
Spokane Valley 660 $40,180
Yakima 140 $33,700
Tumwater 140 $49,920
Olympia 140 $49,920
Bremerton 110 $42,110
Silverdale 110 $42,110
Richland 50 $40,020
Kennewick 50 $40,020
Longview 50 $54,200
Anacortes 50 $60,070
Mount Vernon 50 $60,070
Wenatchee 40 $64,800
Walla Walla 30 $50,580
Bellingham -2222 $54,920
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 70 $37,850
Morgantown -2222 $30,760
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 800 $51,050
Waukesha 800 $51,050
Milwaukee 800 $51,050
Appleton 430 $22,480
Madison 220 $45,280
Green Bay 180 $38,140
Neenah 120 $56,560
Oshkosh 120 $56,560
Wausau 70 $39,760
Eau Claire 70 $41,290
Fond du Lac 30 $66,870
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 90 $52,200
Casper 30 $55,540

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Mental Health Counselors

To find out more about building a career as Mental Health Counselors, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Mental Health Counselors

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 32,160 30% $38,870
Nursing And Residential Care 21,730 20% $30,200
Social Service 21,070 20% $35,800
Government 13,500 12% $44,120
Hospital 13,000 12% $39,440
Education 1,190 1% $42,410
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
 
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Mental Health Counselors.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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