Mental Health Careers

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Mental Health Careers
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Mental health careers involve providing services for people who have mental illnesses, emotional difficulties and behavioral problems. If you want to work in this field, you have a variety of options from which to choose. All jobs in mental health require certain soft skills or personal qualities that facilitate interactions with people, most of whom are in some sort of distress. You need strong listening and verbal communication skills.

You must be socially perceptive which means that you should be aware of others' reactions and the reasons for them. You also need excellent critical thinking and decision making abilities. Here are several mental health careers:

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 and 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. Psychologists made a median annual salary of $68,900 in 2014.

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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. Marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $48,040 (2014).

Learn More About Marriage and Family Therapists

Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers help people who have mental, behavioral or emotional disorders.

They diagnose patients disorders and then treat them through individual and group therapy. While you can become a social worker with a bachelor's degree, to get licensed as a clinical social worker, you need a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW). In 2014, median annual earnings were $45,500.

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Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses 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 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.). Registered nurses, including psychiatric nurses, earned a median annual salary of $66,640 in 2014.

Learn More About Registered Nurses


Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in treating psychiatric disorders. To become a psychiatrist, you must first complete four years of medical school and then 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 2014, psychiatrists earned a median annual salary of $181,880.

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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 $40,850 in 2014.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2015-16 Edition, on the Internet at and
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, on the Internet at (visited December 24, 2015).

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Comparing Mental Health Careers
 Minimum EducationLicenseMedian Salary
Clinical PsychologistPh.D. or Psy.D.Req. in all states$68,900
Marriage and Family TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$48,040
Clinical Social WorkerMaster'sLicense, certification or registration req. in all states$45,500
Psychiatric NurseBachelor's, associate, diploma or master'sReq. in all states$66,640
PsychiatristMedical DegreeReq. in all states$181,880
Mental Health CounselorMaster's DegreeReq. in all states$40,850

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