Mental Health Counselor Salaries

| Psychology.org Staff

Mental Health Counselor Salaries

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Mental health counselors provide counseling and advice to people experiencing addiction or other mental health challenges. With the ongoing opioid crisis and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and wellness, mental health counselors are in great demand.

Mental health counselor salaries are slightly higher than salaries for all jobs. Most mental health counselor jobs require a master's degree, though some states have lower requirements for sub-specialties, such as substance abuse counseling.

The work can be frustrating at times, but most professionals find it emotionally rewarding to help people get their lives back on track. Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, including prisons, community health centers, or in private practice.

The annual median wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $48,520 in May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10% of these professionals earned a median $77,980, with the bottom 10% bringing in $30,870.

Salary Summary
Median Annual Salary (BLS) Average Base Salary (Payscale)
$48,520 $44,960

Source: BLS May 2021, Payscale May 2022

Top 3 States for Mental Health Counselor Salaries

  1. Utah - $66,190 annual mean wage
  2. Alaska - $65,090 annual mean wage
  3. District of Columbia - $64,920 annual mean wage

Top 3 Cities for Mental Health Counselor Salaries

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California) metropolitan area - $74,560 annual mean wage
  2. Carson City (Nevada) metropolitan area - $73,200 annual mean wage
  3. Reno (Nevada) metropolitan area - $71,690 annual mean wage

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Frequently Asked Questions


Can you make a lot of money as a mental health counselor?

The BLS shows the top 10% of mental health counselor salaries at $77,980. The top-paying industries include business, political, labor, and professional employers.

What are careers in mental health counseling like?

Mental health counselors work in private practice, for hospitals and clinics, for government agencies and nonprofits, and in other settings. They work with people experiencing mental health problems and use applied psychology to help them address concerns.

Are behavioral health and mental health counseling the same?

Behavioral health focuses on substance abuse, while mental health counseling can cover any aspect of mental wellness. However, both disciplines use similar approaches to help people improve their mental and emotional condition.

Skills and Experience to Increase Salary as a Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselor salaries are lower than many other jobs that require a master's degree, but there are ways to increase your income. Teaching and clinical supervision often pay more, but may require a doctoral degree.

Other skills that can increase demand and salary include fluency in multiple languages, group therapy skills, and experience in cognitive behavioral therapy. Workplaces make a difference as well. Political, business, professional, and labor industries pay higher salaries for mental health professionals compared to industries, such as nursing care facilities. For example, the median mental health counselor salary for government positions is $60,450, according to the BLS.

The BLS also projects that demand could grow 23% between 2020 and 2030 for substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors. This may put some upward pressure on mental health counselor salaries if demand grows faster than supply.

Feature Image: FatCamera / E+ / Getty Images

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