What Kind of Careers are in the Mental Health Field?

Mental Health CareersMany graduates with degrees in psychology and/or sociology are looking at mental health careers. Mental health is a diverse area that operates under the general goal of promoting a person’s ability to function to the best of his ability and preventing mental illnesses. Mental health professionals work in a variety of arenas from corporate to government and private agencies. They even have their own practices. So, what careers are available to you with a psychology or social work degree?


These professionals have at least eight years of education beyond their undergraduate degree. Specialization in an area like child psychology or forensics and behavioral analysis requires even more training. Psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses, treat, and even prevent them. Usually, they work with the more serious illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They look at mental illness through the lens of their medical training, considering a physical component in the problem, and can prescribe medications. Psychiatrists often have private practices and may act as consultants, but many work in mental health facilities or hospitals as well. Median pay for psychiatrists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $187,200.


Psychologists do not have the medical training of psychiatrists. According to the website Explore Health Careers, they may work as clinical psychologists, having direct patient contact, or as research psychologists that study normal functioning such as learning processes. Clinical psychologists use talk therapy to treat conditions like depression and phobias. They may work in schools counseling children and working with parents on educational issues, or they might have positions in rehabilitation or substance abuse treatment facilities. Some psychologists have their own practices. Most states require psychologists to have doctor’s degrees and be certified or licensed. Median pay for psychologists is $69,280.

Related Resource: Careers in Public Health

Psychiatric Nurses

A psychiatric nurse is trained in behavioral therapy as well as having an advanced degree in nursing. These people work in mental health facilities and hospitals to treat patients who are diagnosed with more serious mental illnesses.

Social Workers

This may be the most diverse career that has a mental health aspect. Entry-level social workers can have Bachelor’s degrees, but most will eventually go on to obtain their Master’s. Social workers deal with people in respect to their functioning in society. Clinical social workers often work as counselors. Child welfare workers deal with children who have been abused or neglected, with the trauma that those things cause. Some social workers deal with domestic violence as protective services personnel. In urban areas workers may tend to specialize more; in rural environments, social workers fill many capacities. Median pay for a social worker is $44,200.

Counselors and Mental Health Technicians

Though no degree is necessary to call yourself a counselor, over half of all counselors have Master’s degrees. In addition, most states require counselors to be registered or licensed. Mental health technicians don’t need a degree either; they work under supervision of psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers to provide direct services to clients. Sometimes they use the position to gain experience they can utilize to obtain their degrees.

There is much diversity in mental health careers. Master’s degrees or above are required for most positions, but salaries and job opportunities are high.