Types of Degrees of Different Therapy Careers

Man talking with therapist in therapy
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Have you always dreamed of being a therapist or working in the field of mental health? If you are pursuing your undergraduate degree in psychology, then you have probably at least considered the possibility of a career in therapy. While clinical psychology is the largest area of employment within psychology, it is important to understand that this is just one of the many options that are available. The Ph.D. in clinical psychology is an excellent option for some students, but it is not the only choice out there.

The following are some of the degree paths that will allow you to work in the field of mental health and psychotherapy. Some require a doctorate, while others offer options at the master's level.

Clinical and Counseling Psychologist

The traditional Ph.D. in clinical or counseling psychology is one of the most common options for people interested in a career in mental health therapy. An alternative to the Ph.D. is the Psy.D., a newer doctoral degree option has a greater focus on professional practice than the more research-focused Ph.D. Alternatively, psychiatrists are doctors who work with clients using a more medical or clinical approach.

Students pursuing this path often begin by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology before moving directly into a doctoral training program, although some students do opt first to complete a master's degree before pursuing a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Professionals in the field sometimes choose to specialize in a particular area such as geriatrics, learning disabilities, substance abuse, or adult mental health.

PayScale reports that the median salary for clinical psychologists in March 2020 was $79,117.

Licensed Social Worker

Licensed social workers typically hold at least a master's degree in social work. People who work in this field often perform psychotherapy with a wide range of clients, although many choose to specialize in a particular area. For example, some prefer to work with children while others opt to specialize in working with adult populations.

In addition to psychotherapy, social workers often act as advocates for their clients and help connect them with other resources in the community. Most master's programs can be completed in two years, but some programs allow students to earn their degree with one year of post-undergraduate study.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau and Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for social workers was $49,470 in 2018.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists treat mental disorders and psychological issues within the context of families and relationships. Most marriage and family therapy programs require two years of graduate study focused on a variety of topics, including marriage counseling, family therapy, child psychotherapy, and professional ethics.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that individual and family services is the largest area of employment for marriage and family therapists, providing 30% of jobs in this field. Marriage and family therapists also have a faster than average job outlook.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau and Labor Statistics reports the median annual salary for marriage and family therapists in 2018 was $50,090.

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed professional counselors are professionals who work in a variety of areas in mental health. Requirements vary by state, but most require at least a master's degree in counseling in addition to supervised experience in the field and the passage of a state licensing exam.

Graduate programs for counselors usually include coursework in human development, counseling theories, counseling techniques, cultural and social issues, professional ethics, and assessment methods.

Licensed professional counselors often assess people experiencing mental distress, perform individual and group therapy, and assist clients who are facing crisis situations.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau and Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for mental health counselors was $44,630 in 2018.

Licensed School Psychologist

School psychologists apply their knowledge of psychological principles to education-related issues and problems. The professionals often work with students who have academic, psychological, or social problems. They also collaborate with other educational professionals as well as parents to manage classroom behavior, help students coping with crisis, or counsel those experiencing substance abuse issues.

While the vast majority of school psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools, state agencies, private clinics, and hospitals also sometimes employ these professionals.

Requirements vary by state, but most necessitate a doctoral or specialist degree in school psychology. Doctoral degrees often take five to six years to finish, while specialist degrees like the Ed.D. often take around three years to complete. Many states also require the completion of a supervised internship before licensure.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, the average salary for school psychologists employed in school settings is $63,000.

Creative Arts Therapists

Creative arts therapists are mental health clinicians who utilize creativity and arts to treat psychological disorders and mental distress. These professionals include art therapists, dance therapists, music therapists, and drama therapists. Using these creative methods, therapists can help clients by promoting self-awareness, aiding in communication, and improving overall well-being, among other things.

Training and requirements can vary depending upon the area of specialization. For example, dance/movement therapists must hold a master's degree and document 3,640 hours of paid clinical employment in order to become board certified.

The American Art Therapy Association suggests that the minimum requirements to become an art therapist are a master's degree in art therapy or a master's in counseling or a related field with additional coursework in art therapy.

Professionals in the creative arts therapies often work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice, and schools. Salaries can vary depending on factors, such as experience, training, location, and specialty areas. For example, PayScale suggests that art therapists can earn anywhere from $35,000 to $62,000 per year.

Advanced Psychiatric Nurse

Advanced psychiatric nurses are professionals trained to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses. If you are interested in working in this field, you need to start by earning a bachelor's degree in nursing. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, many nurses then choose to earn a graduate degree in psychiatric and mental health nursing.

Most training programs require 2000 hours of clinical practice. Professionals are also expected to take ongoing continuing education to ensure that their knowledge and skills are up to date. PayScale reports that hourly pay for advanced psychiatric nurse practitioners ranges between $41 and $97.

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