Mental Health Career Information

Mental health workers use their skills and expertise to help people overcome a wide range of personal and mental health issues including depression, psychiatric disorders, and various mental illnesses. Although mental health careers come in all shapes and sizes, all professionals in this field share the common goal of helping patients overcome their disorders or problems and live productive, happy lives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some common tasks performed by workers in this field are as follows:

  • Listening to patients and clients as they share their problems and concerns.
  • Helping clients adapt to changes in their lives.
  • Coordinating treatment with other mental health professionals, as needed.
  • Prescribing treatments and medicines when needed.
  • Recommending behavior modification activities that might improve patient well-being.
  • Helping clients make decisions that will affect their mental health and well-being.

Although many different types of workers can be found in mental health careers, the following occupations are some of the most popular in the mental health realm, according to the BLS:

  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Organizational Psychologists
  • Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Top Careers in Mental Health (BLS, 2013)

CareerNumber of Workers Nationally in 2013Job DescriptionDegree Requirements
Mental Health Counselors115,580Mental health counselors provide guidance and advice to patients struggling to cope with life's ups and downs. They listen carefully and provide emotional support, make recommendations for treatment, and refer patients to other mental health professionals as needed.According to the BLS, mental health counselors are typically required to hold a Master's degree and become licensed to practice in their state.
Psychologists116,390Psychologists study and interpret human behavior by conducting experiments, observing natural behaviors, and recording how humans interact and react to specific situations and triggers. Some psychologists focus on using their knowledge to diagnose behavioral disorders or mental illness, while others specialize in the mental health of children or the elderly.According to the BLS, most psychologists earn a Doctoral degree. However, certain positions may only require a Master's degree. In most states, psychologists need to become licensed.
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors83,120Workers in this field offer advice and support to individuals suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, or addiction to other destructive behaviors. They listen to their concerns and problems, help clients create and meet goals, and measure their progress as they overcome their addictions and issues.According to the BLS, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors who want to work in private practice typically need a Master's degree and to become licensed in their state. However, educational requirements range for other workers in this field, depending on the position.
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists104,480Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists use their skills and expertise to help individuals with mental illness or behavioral disorders. They use diagnostic tests to discover underlying issues, design behavior modification programs, and monitor their patients for progress and signs of recovery.According to the BLS, most psychologists earn a Doctoral degree. However, certain positions may only require a Master's degree. In most states, psychologists need to become licensed.
Psychiatric Technicians66,760Psychiatric technicians provide care and supervision for patients with mental illnesses, behavioral disorders, and disabilities. They provide therapeutic care, observe patient behavior for abnormalities, and help them with daily activities.Although a high school diploma may be the only requirement for certain positions, the BLS notes that most psychiatric technicians earn a certificate or Associate degree from a trade or technical school.

Mental Health Career Education

Although educational requirements vary depending on the career, almost all mental health professions require postsecondary education and licensure. The following table uses BLS data to outline the different degree options in this field:

Degree TypeTimeline for CompletionPossible Careers
CertificateAlthough timelines vary, most certificate programs can be completed in 1-2 years.Psychiatric Technicians, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
AssociateAssociate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Psychiatric Technicians
Bachelor'sBachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Graduate or Professional DegreeStudents can earn a Graduate or Professional degree in 1-3 years after earning a Bachelor's degree.Mental Health Counselors, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Psychologists, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists
Doctoral DegreeMost Doctoral degrees take an additional 3-5 years to complete after earning a Master's degree.Psychologists, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists


"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Psychologists,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Psychiatric Technicians and Aides,

Schools for Mental Health are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.

Mental Health

Median Pay
% Growth
Clinical Psychologists113,270    $78,200    14.7%
Mental Health CounselorsN/A    N/A    N/A
Organizational Psychologists630    $92,880    12.8%
Psychiatric Technicians and Aides78,470    $33,780    12.4%
Psychiatrists25,530    >$208,000    15.8%
Psychologists14,220    $101,790    11.6%
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsN/A    N/A    N/A
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Selected Schools for Mental Health (including any online schools)

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