Exploring Careers in Mental Health

Global Ed

The COVID-19 pandemic has finally turned the spotlight on mental health. It was a critical issue even in a pre-pandemic world, but COVID gave it the nudge it needed, and brought it to the fore.

According to data by the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental illness accounts for 30 percent of the non-fatal disease burden and 10 percent of the overall disease burden worldwide, including death and disability. There’s a dire need for good and qualified mental health professionals around the world, so if you’re looking to go down that path and make a positive and lasting impact on people, here’s all you need to know. Find out how to start your career in mental health.

What are careers in mental health?

What are careers in mental health? Before we get down to the various opportunities that are on offer in the field of mental health, it’s important to understand that certain skills are required to help people with their emotional struggles and behavioural problems. Excellent listening and verbal skills, interpersonal communication, critical thinking and decision-making abilities will help facilitate your interactions, with those who are in distress.

Here are some top careers that you can pursue:

Each of these careers are expected to grow faster than average for all occupations, between 2016 and 2026.

Mental Health Counselor

As the name suggests, mental health counselors help patients deal with anxiety, depression as well as other cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems. They help people overcome social difficulties, marital problems, grief, substance abuse, self-esteem issues, and much more. They work with both individuals, families or groups, and are often employed at schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, community health centres, businesses, and government agencies, among others.


Many people begin by pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Sociology, or Social Work. Those with undergraduate degrees in other fields can also make a career in counseling. The minimum requirement to become a licensed mental health counselor is a master’s degree in counseling, and at least two to three years of supervised practice under a licensed professional.

Licensing and certification:

Most countries require a minimum of 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised practice before getting a license, but it’s best to check requirements. There are some countries that have a mandatory licensing test.

Clinical Psychologist

As a clinical psychologist, you are not permitted to prescribe medications to treat mental illness. Psychological techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and psychoanalytic therapy are primarily utilised to help patients deal with behavioural, emotional and mental disorders. Clinical psychologists also facilitate the healing of their clients from crises, illnesses or injuries. These professionals work independently or collaborate with organizations as researchers, consultants or therapists. They spend a considerable amount of time with their clients, conducting interviews, discussing issues and treatment plans.


To become a clinical psychologist, one must complete a PhD in clinical psychology. In some countries, a Master’s degree works too.

Licensing and certification:

Most states in the US, as well as other countries have a separate licensing procedure for practising psychologists. On average, 3,000 hours of applied internship under a qualified professional is mandatory.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Individuals, who’re struggling with marital and family issues, can take the help of a marriage and family therapist to have a more harmonious life. Professionals in this field can help to sort out issues that arise between various members of a family. It could be issues between couples, siblings, parents and children, or any other relation. Aside from an interest in helping families, marriage and family therapists must possess excellent listeners and communicators.


Much like other mental health careers, individuals who are interested in pursuing marriage and family therapy need a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Social Work or Counseling. Some areas also require pursuing a master’s degree as well.

Licensing and certification:

Along with these educational requirements, marriage and family therapists are required to complete 1500-3000 hours of supervised work experience. The experience varies in different US states as well as other countries.


A psychiatrist is a medical professional, who specializes in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Since they hold a medical degree, unlike other mental health professionals, they are permitted to prescribe medications to treat various emotional, behavioural and cognitive disorders. Most of them specialize in tackling anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Like a general practice physician, a psychiatrist may perform physical exams, in addition to practicing psychotherapy. Psychiatrists can conduct their individual practice or work as part of a mental health team that consists of primary care physicians, social workers, occupational therapists and more.


An individual needs to obtain a Bachelor’s degree that covers general medicine, psychology, neurology, biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. The next step is to obtain either a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine that goes on for two years. After completion of medical school, individuals are required to complete a four-year residency in psychiatry.

Licensing and certification:

After the residency, individuals must secure a medical license in the state, where they intend to practice. Some states in the US also have a separate exam, after which the certification is granted by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. This certification is renewed every 10 years.

Top schools to pursue a degree in psychology according to QS Rankings

Rank University Overall Score
1 Harvard University, USA 98.9
2 Stanford University, USA 96.4
3 University of Cambridge, UK 95.6
4 University of Oxford, UK 92.2
5 University of California, Berkeley 92.2
6 University of California, Los Angeles 92
7 UCL, London 91.9
8 Yale University, USA 91.6
9 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 90
10 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 89.8
The last word on a career in mental health services

Being a part of the mental health field puts you in a position to help others by providing support in life-changing ways. So, decide your area of specialization, and take a step forward to inspire hope, offer compassion and teach skills that can be used to overcome challenges.

Also find out more about psychology in a post-pandemic world.

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Global Ed


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