Mental health issues are so prevalent in society, yet these issues are only recently being discussed on a wider, more mainstream scale. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illness affects tens of millions of Americans each year, yet only about half of those affected receive treatment.
This could be due to the stigma associated with mental illness but also stems from a higher demand for mental health professionals than the supply can fill. So, if you’re excited to make a difference in your career and want to look into the mental health field, you are needed!
From working one-on-one with patients to working in a research-based field, you can find a rewarding career in the mental health field that suits your interests, skills, and desired years of schooling.
Below are seven of the many different careers to choose from within the field of mental health. Though many careers in the mental health field require at least a bachelor’s degree--and many require a master’s or even doctoral degree--the last two career options on the list only require a certificate or career diploma, which you can get after completing high school.
1. Art Therapist
Art therapists utilize their training in both psychotherapy and art to help their clients deal with mental health issues. Art and creativity can allow clients to explore and express their feelings in a new way, cope with stress and trauma, and express their own creativity. Art therapists might help a wide variety of clients, from children with disabilities to adults who have been through traumatic experiences.
To become an art therapist, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree. On average, art therapists make around $40,000, but that can vary by state and depending on other circumstances.
2. Career or Vocational Counselor
Counseling is a versatile track within the mental health field, since you can become a counselor and choose your specialty, including children and families, marriage, school, admissions, genetics, substance abuse, and more.
Career or vocational counselors, though, help individuals assess and improve their unique skills, career interests, and qualifications to find their first job, find a new job after dealing with job loss or unemployment, or even change careers completely.
This is a rewarding career within the mental health field with job markets rapidly changing and so many people dealing with issues related to unemployment. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, many people have dropped out of the job market entirely and need help finding their way back to a career that will be fulfilling and lucrative for them.
To become a career counselor, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree in counseling and then a specific internship to get your licensure or certification, depending on your state. Also depending on the state and other factors, career or vocational counselors make, on average, about $40,000 a year.
3. Special Education Teacher
When you’re thinking about careers in the medical field, you might not consider the role of a special education teacher, but special education teachers are absolutely professionals working in the field of mental health. As a special education teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to work with students who have a range of disabilities and need special attention in school settings.
This field has a high demand and a low supply of qualified individuals to fulfill that need. To become a special education teacher, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree and then complete special training in special education. On average, special education teachers make about $60,000, but you can make much more with higher degrees of education and depending on your state.
4. Aviation Psychologist
This is a fun and different career than most people first think of when they think about pursuing a career in the mental health field. But aviation psychologists are crucial in helping to ensure pilots and flight crews are in top mental shape to ensure flight safety. Aviation psychologists also assess cabin safety, help select and train pilots, work with flight crews on how to help passengers with anxiety on flights, research any aircraft-related accidents, and even design flight decks.
To become an aviation psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and many employers will expect a master’s degree in counseling or even doctoral degree for the purposes of conducting research. Aviation psychologists make around $80,000 on average, but they can earn much more depending on various factors. This is one of the most lucrative careers in the field of psychology.
5. Substance Abuse Nurse
As the name suggests, substance abuse nurses specialize in helping patients deal with addiction to substances. Their duties might range from helping a patient manage pain safely to providing support for family members. Substance abuse nurses also provide patients and caregivers with information about the dangers of substance abuse.
To become a substance abuse nurse, you’ll need to complete an associate’s degree in nursing, taking elective courses in mental health, and then pass the NCLEX-RN exam. On average, substance abuse nurses make around $68,000, but various degrees of education and certifications can help nurses earn higher pay.
6. Psychiatric Technician
Psychiatric technicians help to observe patients’ behavior, listen to their concerns, and make record of how their condition is progressing. They also might lead patients in various recreational activities for therapeutic purposes, administer medication, and help admit or discharge patients. Psych techs might work in a hospital, prison system, or other mental health facility.
To become a psychiatric technician, you’ll need an associate’s degree in mental health or career certificate. Some employees have further requirements, and some states require a license. Psych techs make about $30,000 on average, which varies by state and level of education.
7. Mental Health Social Worker
Mental health social workers provide mental health services to individuals in need. They might diagnose mental illness, help patients cope with stress, and even perform psychotherapy. In inpatient mental health facilities, social workers often put together a discharge plan for patients. Mental health social workers also follow up with clients and track their progress to help patients lead fulfilling lives.
To become a mental health social worker, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in social work, clinical hours, and a certification in your state to get a license. On average, mental health social workers make around $47,000 a year, but this ranges from state to state and based on an individual’s level of education.
This is a condensed list of the options you have as a professional in the mental health field. Check out a more exhaustive list of careers in the mental health field to suit your interests and circumstances.
Whatever career you choose, you will certainly lead a fulfilling life and help people struggling with mental illness heal and thrive through your work, either directly or indirectly.