Last updated on November 24th, 2023.
A large portion of people deciding on careers are interested in working as a licensed clinical mental health counselor. For those thinking of studying for and starting a career in this field, you should be aware of the income you will make after licensing.
A licensed clinical mental health counselor makes an average low of $34,000 to an average high of $63,000 a year, with a median income altogether of $45,000. These salary types depend on the experience and location in which the health counselor is working.
A licensed clinical mental health counselor is an educated and licensed individual who has developed the skills to treat families, individuals, and groups in dealing with mental and behavioral dysfunctions. Like any other professional career, licensing requirements for working in this field can be extensive. We have gathered the reasons for the different ranges in salary, along with what it takes to become a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
There are a few factors in determining the salary of a licensed clinical mental health counselor. For example the location of where you are working plays a critical role in salary. As well as your experience and education in clinical mental health counseling. Where else have you practiced? How many years? Where did you get your education? And salary can also depend whether you work for a private practice or a public one.
As you can see, there are different variables that are taken into consideration when talking about a Mental Health Counselor’s salary. There are states and cities where mental health professionals are scarce, and others where there are plenty (making it a little bit harder to find a job). But nevertheless, mental health is a growing sector in the United States, and it has projected a consistent growth in the following years.
Let’s take a closer look at the different reasons for the spread within the pay..
Location plays a crucial part in salary determination as some places pay more than others. There does not appear to be a reason for the differences in pay as population density in large and smaller populated areas are on the highest-paid list. Here are the top regions in salary for mental health counselors.
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
All other states in the U.S. are roughly the same at around $48,000 to $58,000.
Experience also plays a part in making money as a licensed clinical mental health counselor. Counselors with fresh certification should not to expect to make the same as someone who has been working in the field for several years.
A measure of how much experience matters to salary is to understand that you can expect an additional $10,000 in annual income for every ten years practicing. So, if you start at around $49,000, you should expect to be making about $59,000 after ten years.
Private Practice VS Employed
Most of the salaries on the mid to low end in this article are related to licensed clinical mental health counselor’s wages of those working for organizations. As with any business, the amount of money you can make in private practice can be related to how well regarded you are as a counselor and how much demand you have created for yourself.
This is especially true when your practice has, serves a niche demand in private practice. There have been counselors who have been able to double salaries by having a private practice. Only remember that owning a business comes with its own costs.
How Do licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Salaries Compare to Other Similar Jobs?
Similar jobs in the mental health field with similar licensing requirements are listed in the chart below. All are within a few thousand dollars annually of each other except for a Psychiatrist, which requires more training than the rest. The six types of careers we compared are:
- Licensed Clinical Mental Health Professional
- School and Career Counselor
- Family therapist
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Rehabilitation Counselor
With salaries being similar, choosing what type of counselor a person wishes to become is solely based on the kind of work they want to perform. Most who study to become licensed counselors will either make up their minds during school or during an internship.
What Are the Licensing Requirements for a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?
For those wanting to become licensed clinical mental health counselors, there are three areas of proficiency that are almost universal, no matter where you want to practice.
- Education Requirements
- Experience Requirements
- Testing Requirements
Most states have similar requirements for a minimum of educational requirements to become a certified mental health counselor. Almost all states require a master’s degree from an accredited university, with an assortment of hours studied in counseling.
Just remember that getting a certification or a degree doesn’t mean you get to stop learning. Continually learning about the world of mental health and staying up to date with all the new developments is key to being a mental health professional. For resources on continuing education for mental health professionals, see that article.
Most states have similar requirements for working under the supervision of other mental health professionals. The time spent working under supervision runs from 1 year to normally at least two years. Besides the 2 years spent working under supervision, specific hour requirements must be met for direct contact counseling hours.
Each state requires one or more types of exams to become a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
- NCE (National Counselor Examination)
- NCMHCE (National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination)
- Oral Examination
As we see, time and effort must be spent to obtain a license to practice in this field. There are multiple educational programs set in each state with universities to prepare students for a life as a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
What is The Job Growth Potential for Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor?
Mental health counseling is one of the few sectors in the country that is expected to increase at nearly three times the pace of other occupations. Overall, employment is expected to grow by 11%, with the sector of mental counseling expected to grow by 29%.
This increase in demand for Mental Health Counselors is beneficial not because mental disease is on the rise at an alarming pace, but because persons who suffer from mental illness may now obtain therapy that they could not previously afford.
As of 2022 according to new health legislations, an insurer must give the same number of visits to a Mental Health Counselor as they do for a medical appointment under a medical insurance that includes mental health benefits.
States with the Most Mental Health Jobs
- New York
From 2019 until 2029, growth for licensed clinical mental health counselors is set to outpace other occupations and other jobs in their field. The estimation of growth is believed to be around 29% for these years.
Largest Current Employers
Licensed clinical mental health counselors have found work in many different settings. Currently, the largest employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart below, are:
Individual and Family Services
Outpatient Care Centers
Residential Intellectual and Development Centers, Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities
Offices of Other Health Practitioners
Local Government (OES Designation)
With a myriad of possible employers, national population growth, and a predicted 25% growth over the next ten years in employment, it appears there will be room for newly licensed counselors for the foreseeable future.
What Are the Best Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s Degree Programs?
Several schools throughout the country have well-respected programs for a master’s degree in clinical health counseling. Still, others stand out as some of the best in the nation. Let’s take a look at some of these schools and what they offer.
These program rankings are based on accreditation, cost, and how well they prepare a student for a career as a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
- Boston College in Massachusetts: Offers two separate master’s degree programs in counseling.
- University of Wisconsin – Madison: This top 20 public school has one of the best master’s degree programs in psychology and counseling.
- George Washington University: Offers a Master of Arts program in human development with a clinical mental health counseling specialization.
- Clemson University: This well-known college offers a master’s an accredited master’s degree in counseling that can be completed in two years.
Other top runner up schools include:
- Johns Hopkins University
- Marquette University
- Pennsylvania State University
- John’s University
- University at Buffalo
- Western Michigan University
It takes dedication to obtain licensing through education, experience, and testing for those who wish to pursue a career as a licensed clinical mental health counselor. Pay for a clinical mental health counselor compares closely with other counseling positions around the country. In the end, most people become counselors to help others and not to become rich.
However, there is enough money in becoming a counselor to live a quality life, especially once you have gained experience and have established yourself in your field. With job growth continuing for the position at least for the next ten years, there are ample employment opportunities.