5 Top Jobs In The Fields Of Counseling And Mental Health

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Staff Writers
Updated September 2, 2020

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Counseling and Mental Health Jobs

  • Clinical Psychiatrist
  • Clinical or Counseling Psychologist
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
  • Substance Abuse Counselor

If you're pursuing a degree in the mental health or counseling fields, you'll have many career options. Licensing and educational requirements vary depending on what type of position you're seeking, but all mental health careers are deeply rewarding for those who are driven by a desire to help others. Here are five top careers to consider.

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1. Clinical Psychiatrist

A clinical psychiatrist is a medical doctor who diagnoses, treats and helps prevent mental and emotional disorders. Because they are medically trained, psychiatrists understand the relationships between physiological problems and emotional illness. Although psychiatrists and psychologists both provide therapy and counseling, psychiatrists can prescribe medication and monitor its effects.

To become a psychiatrist, you must earn an undergraduate degree before attending medical school. After earning your medical degree and completing four years of residency training in mental health, you can receive your license and certification. Visit the American Psychiatric Association's website for more information.

2. Clinical or Counseling Psychologist

A counseling psychologist evaluates emotional and mental health and helps patients cope with stress and manage mental illness. Clinical psychologists often work in a hospital or criminal justice settings instead of private practices. Like psychiatrists, psychologists help assess, diagnose and treat mental illness and emotional problems, but they are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication.

Within the psychology field, there are many sub-specialties including pediatric mental health, learning disabilities, geriatrics and substance abuse. To practice as a psychologist, you'll need to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

3. Psychiatric Nurse

A psychiatric nurse plays a pivotal role in the care of patients who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or severe mental trauma. People who suffer from serious conditions such as psychosis or schizophrenia rely on their psychiatric nurses to provide support and behavioral therapy under the guidance of licensed psychiatrists. Nurses also help patients' family members cope with the challenges of mental illness and teach them to interact with their loved ones in more productive ways. Psychiatric nurses may work in hospitals, private practices or community centers.

To become a psychiatric nurse, you must first earn a nursing degree. You'll also need 2000 hours of work in the psychiatric mental health field to obtain certification.

4. Marriage and Family Counselor

A marriage and family counselor helps couples and families cope with the day-to-day challenges of interpersonal relationships. When households become dysfunctional, a counselor's guidance can help restore harmony by revealing and addressing the needs and roles of individuals and providing their loved ones with more productive ways to respond.

The insight needed for this career is developed through years of experience and education. A marriage or family counselor must attain a master's degree and two years of clinical experience before becoming certified.

5. Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse disorders affect people from all walks of life, but these conditions are treatable. A substance abuse counselor helps victims of drug or alcohol abuse overcome their addictions through medical and behavioral therapy programs.

Certified counselors work in a variety of environments including hospitals, community health centers, and government organizations. Some positions may be attainable with only an associate's degree, but to earn a top salary as a substance abuse counselor, you'll need a master's degree in psychology and certification in substance abuse counseling.

Before finalizing a career choice, learn more about the options that appeal to you most by getting to know professionals in the field or volunteering at local mental health facilities. Connect with your local mental health associations or student groups for more information.

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