Mental Health Counselors: Career Guide & Salary Facts

Learn more about careers as mental health counselors. Find information on career opportunities, duties and task, educational requirements, licensure, and salary information. View popular schools that prepare students for careers as mental health counselors.

Duties & Tasks

Mental health counselors counsel clients with mental problems, perform crisis intervention, and develop treatment plans. They encourage their clients and patients to discuss their problems and express their feelings in a way that allows them to gain insight into the root of their emotional issues. Mental health counselors collect information on their patients through one-on-one interviews, group therapy sessions, and observation. These mental health professionals assess patients who are at risk for suicide and provide intervention. In addition, mental health counselors assist their clients in developing coping mechanisms that help them better handle their problems.

Education Requirements

Those interested in becoming a mental health counselor must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. They are required to pursue a master’s degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy. These master’s-level programs teach students how to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders. They also teach students how to use effective counseling strategies to assist their clients with mental and emotional problems. Prior to graduation, students are required to complete an internship or some form of supervised experience.


Upon graduation, individuals are required to obtain licensure. In order be licensed, students must complete 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Students must also pass a certification examination through the National Board for Certified Counselors. In order to maintain licensure, mental health counselors must complete annual continuing education classes.

Salary & Job Growth

Employment opportunities for mental health counselors are projected to increase by 37% from 2010-2020. This rise in employment may be attributed to the overall growth of the population and the increasing need for mental health professionals. Insurance companies are also increasing the reimbursement for mental health care as part of health benefits packages. As of 2010, there were 156,300 individuals employed as mental health counselors. The median annual salary of mental health counselors is $39,710, and they earn an average hourly wage of $19.09.

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