3 Tips for Launching Your Mental Health Counseling Career

Mental health counselors play vital roles in their communities as mentors and support systems for individuals who suffer from psychological ailments and disorders. These professionals not only possess advanced degrees in their field, they also obtain a strong desire to help others maintain mental wellness. Aside from being rewarded with personally satisfying occupations, mental health professionals are also rewarded with countless job opportunities in a field that is expected to grow much faster than average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the best career opportunities, marketability, and earning potentials as mental health professionals, individuals are encouraged to review the top 3 tips that are described below.

1. First and foremost, individuals who desire to become mental health counselors should acquire an advanced degree through an accredited institution of higher learning. Individuals who possess at least a high school diploma are encouraged to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, counseling, education, or another science. It is through programs for degrees in those fields that students obtain a strong foundation in human behavior and development, psychology, sociology, statistics, and behavioral science courses. After acquiring a bachelor’s degree, students are eligible to pursue a master’s-level degree in counseling and/or psychology. Programs for this degree are offered by both online and campus-style schools, and they provide students with the advanced skills that they need to work as professionals in hospitals, private practices, schools, mental health centers, correctional facilities, and rehabilitation centers. It is ultimately through both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in the field of counseling that individuals are rewarded with the greatest marketability, salaries, and promotional opportunities as professionals in their field.

2. As soon as individuals have obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling, it is recommended for them to pursue acquiring hands-on experience in their field through internships, externships, and entry-level jobs. Opportunities for internships, externships, and entry-level jobs are provided through many local schools, colleges, hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics, and mental health centers. Experience in these areas not only provides individuals with enhanced resumes and skills, it also provides them with the opportunity to obtain valuable credentialing as mental health counselors through the National Board of Certified Counselors. This credentialing agency is highly selective, and it is estimated that only 1,100 mental health counselors possess this credentialing in the United States.

3. Once individuals have acquired an advanced degree from an accredited college or university, they should pursue credentialing through the National Board of Certified Counselors. This agency offers three credentials for individuals who meet certain criteria, and those credentials entail the following: the National Certified School Counselor credential for school counselors, the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential for clinical mental health counselors, and the Master Addictions Counselor credential for addictions counselors. Acquiring credentialing through the National Board of Certified Counselors not only provides individuals with enhanced resumes, it also provides their potential employers with the reassurance that their prospective employees possess the advanced skills, experience levels, and reputation as mental health professionals. Qualified candidates for any one of the credentials mentioned above must possess the following: a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, official college transcripts for a master’s-level degree in the field, and at least 3,000 hours of documented experience in the field of counseling. For students who complete a master’s degree in counseling that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs, the 3,000 hours of experience is not a required prerequisite for credentialing.


National Board for Certified Counselors (Wikipedia.org)
Mental Health Counselor (Wikipedia.org)
Licensed Professional Counselor (Wikipedia.org)

About the Guest Author

Alexa Trey is a high school guidance counselor with a particular interest in careers in health services. Learn more about a career in counseling and mental health in her recent article Counseling Jobs and Careers.