Why to Consider an Online Degree in Mental Health Services
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 25 adults in the United States has a serious mental illness that significantly impacts or limits their ability to engage in life activities. Mental illness doesn’t just affect adults, approximately 1 in 5 youth in the U.S. experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.1 The need for more mental health providers is at an all-time high.
A career in mental health services will allow you to care for the mental and emotional health of patients. While this includes caring for people with serious mental disorders and illnesses, it also extends to improving quality of life for many other people through counseling services, resource recommendation, and healthy lifestyle modification.
The mental health services field is broken down into multiple disciplines, each approaching different aspects of mental health. For example, the field of psychology uses a deep knowledge of human behavior and brain science to modify behavior and treat mental conditions. Compare that to social work, which uses community resources to help people solve problems that may impact mental health. Unfortunately, becoming a psychologist means years of college classes, however; online degrees are becoming more widely available. When you earn an online psychology degree, you complete the same coursework as you would for traditional classes, but you can do everything at home – and it costs far less.
If you’re searching for a career field that allows you to help others while making money, you’re likely well suited to mental health services.
The Benefits of a Degree in Mental Health Services
1. The science of the mind is complex and interesting
Many people choose psychology, psychiatry, social work or nursing because they want to learn how the mind and body work. It’s much easier to study for a two or four-year degree if you find the coursework fascinating. You may also learn something new about your own mental health, and you will know how to help your loved ones struggling with a variety of issues that pertain to mental health.
2. Your career will have a positive impact on your community
From a clinical psychologist helping to find housing for the homeless to a psychiatric nurse providing comfort to those hospitalized due to mental illness, mental health workers help keep the surrounding community safe and healthy. They care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, and that makes our world stronger. This is why many people in the mental health services field take pleasure and pride in their jobs.2
3. There is a shortage of mental health workers around the world, so you will enjoy a high degree of job security
Mental illness was once an embarrassing secret that families ignored and kept secret, but people are seeking treatment now more than ever before. This means more diagnosed medical conditions, more demand for treatment, and more research to discover effective treatment strategies. As the drug crisis leaves people of all ages addicted in record numbers, the need for family resources and addiction services continues to grow.
It’s now common for schools offering degrees in medical services to graduate classes who are 100 percent employed in the field prior to graduation.3
4. You will have the option to work in a variety of professional settings
Whether you choose psychiatry, social work or other mental health services, you will have many options when it comes to selecting your work environment. You can work in the lab as a clinician, take to the streets working directly with people in need or give yourself the security of an office-based practice.
5. Soft skills are just as important as hard skills
Skills like compassion, sympathy, and verbal communication are crucial when working with people suffering from mental health issues. Your ability to stay organized, problem solve quickly, and stay calm in the middle of a crisis will make you more efficient at your job and may protect your own mental health when working directly with people in need. If you have a degree and the right soft skills, you have a great chance of finding and keeping employment that pays reasonably well.
Education Required to Get into Mental Health Services
Unless you want to work in a clinical role, you will likely need only four years of education to start your career. In some areas, you will find positions for assistants and support staff that require only a high school diploma or completion of a certificate program. There are also many community services and organizations that accept volunteers to work with people in need, so you can easily gain experience while earning your degree.
There are some positions that require advanced knowledge, so you should consider going for at least a master’s degree if you want to maximize your earnings potential. You can start with a bachelor’s degree and advance your education as you gain experience in the field.
Careers in Mental Health Services
Your choice of mental health services career will depend on your primary goal. For instance, some people choose a career path based on earning potential while others want to work with patients with a specific need or mental condition. The following list will introduce you to a few of the most popular career options.
1. Social Workers
Median Salary: $50,000
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree
You will work in schools, homeless shelters, hospitals, and other settings to provide support for people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses. School social workers oversee the attendance of students while helping with home problems like abuse, poverty, and addiction. Hospital social workers may connect sick, injured, elderly or mentally ill patients with hospice, financial assistance and affordable or discount services. There are many other options, depending on the needs in your city or state.4
Median Salary: $75,000 per year
Qualifications: Master’s or doctoral degree in psychology plus licensing through the state
You will work with patients in a private or institutional setting to modify behaviors and improve lifestyles or dysfunctional mental processes. You can work directly with patients through a private or shared practice or work with a team of professionals at a school, hospital or other mental health facilities. If you want to prescribe medication for the treatment of mental issues, you will need to become a psychiatrist instead.5
3. Psychiatric Technicians/Aides
Median Salary: $30,000
Qualifications: High school diploma plus certifications
As a technician, you will carry out routine treatments for the care of people with psychiatric needs. This will require you to pay close attention to detail and implement treatment plans exactly as prescribed by doctors and other mental health professionals. As an aid, you will assist people with psychiatric or mental disabilities in their daily routines. This may include cooking, cleaning, medication reminders, transportation and simply being there for comfort and communication purposes.6
How to Start Your Career in Mental Health Services
If you believe that mental health service is the right career path for you, do some research into the various fields of study. Some of the main options include psychiatry, psychology, social work, and psychiatric nursing. Also, consider more specialized positions like an addiction counselor or social and community services manager. Consider your personality and special interests to find a career that will awaken your passion and true commitment.
Once you know what position you would like to fill, you can contact a local university, community college or online school to start pursuing the required degree. There are now more financing options than ever, so make a financial plan before you sign up for that first class. If you want to get started right away, explore support positions and volunteer opportunities in your area.