When individuals, couples, families, or groups suffer from emotional or mental conditions, they turn to mental health counselors for help. These therapists listen to their clients and guide them into making changes in thinking and behavior. Their work hours often include evenings and weekends for the convenience of their clients. Salaries for this profession vary somewhat depending on region and facility.
Mental health counselors averaged $43,290 per year, as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest-paid made less than $25,430 while the highest earners received more than $66,630. Compare these amounts to the average $47,510 earned by all counselors and the mean $44,240 paid to all community and social service occupations. Mental health counselors earned slightly less than the average worker in the nation, who made $45,790.
According to the BLS, out of 115,080 total counselors, about 13,750 worked in Pennsylvania to average an annual $41,130. Next for jobs was California with 9,950 positions and mean pay at $46,530. The state with the highest-paying employers was Alaska at a mean $56,300, followed by Wyoming at $52,660 and Arkansas, averaging $50,590.
In metropolitan areas, Philadelphia boasted the most positions with 5,400 counselors averaging $41,760, followed by New York City, where 3,800 professionals earned a mean $43,090. The best-paying jobs were in Mankato, Minnesota, at a mean $67,140; Bakersfield, California, at a mean $66,720; and Anchorage, Alaska, at a mean $62,580.
About 23,430 counselors worked for outpatient care centers to average $43,390 per year. Ranking second for opportunities were individual and family services, with 21,860 making a mean $42,660; followed by residential, intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities, where 19,170 positions averaged $34,690. The highest-paying employers were insurance carriers at a mean $58,230, state government at a mean $55,260 and social advocacy organizations, averaging $52,720.
The BLS expects job opportunities for mental health counselors to spike by 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is more than double the predicted 14-percent increase predicted for all occupations. Much of this increase is because more insurance companies are reimbursing counselors as a more inexpensive alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists. In addition, more people are going to counselors now than in the past. The biggest increases of 50 percent will be in individual and family services, followed by 44 percent in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, and 34 percent in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers.