Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, including substance abuse and psychiatric treatment centers, hospitals, colleges, and even in private practice. They work with individuals and in group settings to address mental health issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Mental health counselors need a master's degree in order to be licensed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, mental health counselors earned an average of $20.48 per hour as of 2011, with half of all mental health counselors reporting wages ranging from $14.88 to $24.46 per hour. In terms of annual earnings, the average salary for this occupation was $42,590, with half of all mental health counselors reporting incomes of between $30,950 and $50,870 per year.
As of 2011, mental health counselors employed by outpatient care centers earned an average of $41,920 per year. Those employed by psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals averaged $44,210, also close to the national average. On the other hand, counselors working at residential facilities for mental health and substance abuse treatment reported an average income of $33,640 per year. Government counselors employed by local governments averaged $51,200, while state workers reported an average income of $55,990 per year.
As of 2011, mental health counselors working in Alaska reported the highest average income by state, $55,080 per year. Nevada ranked second, with an average income of $51,640, followed by Arkansas at $51,150, Wyoming at $50,030, and Oregon at $49,880. The highest average rate of pay in a metropoltan area, $67,600 per year, was reported in the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn metropolitan area of Michigan. The lowest average salary by state, $32,170, was reported by mental health counselors working in Montana.
As of 2010, the BLS reported that about 120,300 mental health counselors were employed in the United States. Jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, leading to an estimated 43,600 new positions by 2020. This compares to an average growth rate of 14 percent for all U.S. jobs. This fast rate of growth is expected because more people seek mental health treatment, partly because more insurance companies cover such treatment than once did. As a result, the BLS expects the employment outlook for mental health counselors to be excellent.
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