Mental health careers can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Finding the right mental health career involves carefully considering your needs, interests and personality traits. Since psychology is such an immense and diverse subject, there are lots of different career options that can vary considerably in terms of working conditions, job demands, salary, and other characteristics.
Psychology certainly is not a one-size-fits-all profession. Mental health is one of the largest specialty areas within psychology and there are many different career paths to choose from, including a few that you might not have considered.
The following are just a few great mental health careers that you might want to learn more about.
Mental health careers often involve working with a wide variety of patients and clients. If you enjoy working with kids, you might consider a career as a child psychologist. Child psychologists study the mental, social, and emotional development of children.
Some of the major topics of interest in this field of psychology include genetics, language development, personality, gender roles, cognitive development, sexual development, and social growth.
Child psychologists may work with a range of clients including infants, toddlers, children and teens, or they may specialize in working with a particular age group.
A few of the duties that a child psychologist might perform on a regular basis include:
- Diagnosing and treating developmental disorders
- Helping children manage behavior problems
- Conducting research on various issues related to child development
Clinical psychology is one mental health career that involves assessing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illness. Most clinical psychologists have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, although opportunities also exist for those with a master’s degree.
Before you decide on a career in clinical psychology, you need to consider your future goals. Do you want to work with children, adolescents, or adults? Are you interested in having your own therapy practice? Such factors can play an important role in your choice of a clinical graduate program or area of specialization.
Another important consideration is which type of degree is best suited to your needs. The traditional Ph.D. degree emphasizes the role of research in addition to preparing graduates for careers as clinical practitioners. Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degrees are focused on the professional aspects of clinical psychology.
If you have an interested in both medicine and psychology, becoming a psychiatrist might be an excellent career choice for you. A psychiatrist is a physician specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
People sometimes assume that the titles psychiatrist and psychologist can be used interchangeably. While there are many similarities between the two professions, there are also many important distinctions. You need to earn a medical degree in order to become a psychiatrist while you must earn a PhD or PsyD in psychology in order to become a psychologist.
Psychiatrists are often self-employed, but they also frequently work at hospitals, mental health clinics, universities, medical centers and government offices.
The job outlook for careers in psychiatry expected to be better than average in the near future. According to a report by the Graduate Medical Education National Advisory Committee, there is a shortage of qualified psychiatrists to fill the demand. The report also suggests that the specialty areas of child psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry will be in especially high demand in the coming years.
Mental health careers often involve working in hospital or outpatient settings, but sometimes these professionals also work in educational settings as well. Another mental health career choice that you might want to consider is the rapidly expanding field of school psychology.
School psychologists work with kids to identify and overcome emotional, social and academic problems. In addition to working directly with children, school psychologists usually work alongside parents and teachers to foster a healthy learning atmosphere centered on fulfilling the needs of students.
School psychology is a relatively young field of study and practice. In 1968, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) was established and the field was formally recognized as a doctoral specialty by the American Psychological Association (APA). By the year 2002, the profession had grown so much that it was named as one of the “hottest professions” by many list makers.
The U.S. Department of Labor suggests that since a large number of current school psychologists are nearing retirement, there will be an increased demand for trained professionals in the coming years.
A few of the duties that a school psychologist might perform on a regular basis include:
- Helping students with behavioral problems
- Evaluating students experiencing academic difficulties
- Developing academic or behavioral plans for students
- Aiding students with crisis situations
Sometimes students get stuck in the mindset that if they want to work in the field of mental health, then that means that they need to earn a graduate degree in psychology. In reality, there are a lot of other degree options out there, many of which lead directly to a career in mental health or social services.
Social work is a great example of a mental health career you may not have considered. Social workers perform a wide range of duties including providing counseling, advocating for their clients, teaching new skills, and connecting their clients to available resources in the community.
The minimum requirement to enter this field is a bachelor’s degree in social work, but the Occupational Outlook Handbook suggests that most jobs require a master’s degree.
Mental Health Careers: Is It the Right Choice For You?
As you can see, there are plenty of different mental health careers out there. If you are interested in diagnosing mental disorders and providing psychotherapy, a career in a mental health field might be the perfect choice.
In order to choose a career path that is perfect for your needs, talents, and interests, you should spend some times researching your options. Mental health is a diverse field, so there are many different career paths that you might want to consider.
Working in mental health can have its positives and negatives. On the plus side, you can help make a major difference in the lives of people who have been affected by mental illness. It can be a challenging, stressful, and frustrating line of work. But it can also be immensely rewarding career path.
Learn more about finding your perfect career in psychology as well as a few of the amazing things that you can do with a psychology degree.