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.


  • 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


  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 Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 5790 $42,320
Long Beach 5790 $42,320
Los Angeles 5790 $42,320
Lakewood 2650 $45,540
Aurora 2650 $45,540
Denver 2650 $45,540
Pittsburgh 2250 $40,490
Richmond 2150 $43,370
Bellevue 2150 $44,570
Tacoma 2150 $44,570
Total Employment for Mental Health Counselors - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Mental Health Counselors
Salaries for Mental Health Counselors - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Mental Health Counselors
Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Mental Health Counselors

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.
Results:  10
Matching School Ads
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Prevention
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness
  • Work in the fascinating and rewarding field of psychology - earn your bachelor's or master's degree online with Grand Canyon University.
  • The College of Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research, creativity, ethical formation and inquiry through critical, analytical and interdisciplinary study.
  • GCU's bachelor's and master's in psychology degrees combine academic theory with practical application.
  • Gain a comprehensive study of human behavior within a Christian values-oriented environment designed to emphasize compassion and ethics.
  • Join a values-based community surrounded by compassion, ethics and research on human behavior.
  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Certificate in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology
  • Let Regent Lead The Way
  • No matter your passion, you'll find your place at Regent! Choose from more than 95 areas of study in the subject areas employers demand.
  • Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies
  • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
  • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
  • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Master of Science in Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
  • Mental Health Policy and Practice - Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
  • Psychology - BA
  • General Psychology - PhD of Psychology
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
  • B.S. in Human Services / Counseling
  • Graduate Certificate in Alcohol & Drug Counseling
  • Graduate Certificate in Professional Counseling
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
  • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
  • Online courses help make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 24 months and a master’s degree in 12-18 months.
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
  • M.A. Clinical Psychology, Marital and Family Therapy Specialization
  • Psy.D. Clinical Psychology
  • Psy.D. Applied Clinical Psychology
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
camnpus icon
Los Angeles
Request Info
  • Counseling Psychology (EdD)
  • Counseling Psychology (MA)
  • Psychology (BA)
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
  • Master of Science in Applied Psychology - Community Psychology
  • Master of Science in Applied Psychology

Sacred Heart University Online is an affordable and convenient way to earn a degree online from a university ranked among America’s best colleges. Experience Sacred Heart’s signature core values and degree programs based on interactive personal attention, small classes, and rigorous academics offer students a unique life platform for career advancement and personal fulfillment.

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.

Back to Top