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Mental Health Counseling Salary: What You’ll Earn

Mental health counseling salaries are good, but you’ll get even more with the personal rewards you earn.

mental health counselor looking at paperwork in her office
mental health counselor looking at paperwork in her office

Mental health counselors help clients with issues such as depression, OCD and PTSD overcome their challenges and develop into healthier human beings.

And although they may not become rich, mental health counselors can make a good living.

Keep reading to find out just what your earning potential is, and compare it to the salary of other counselors and therapists.

Median Annual Salary

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

National data

Median Salary: $48,520

Projected job growth: 22.1%

10th Percentile: $30,870

25th Percentile: $38,520

75th Percentile: $61,660

90th Percentile: $77,980

Projected job growth: 22.1%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $61,040 $37,440 $97,740
Alabama $38,830 $29,430 $61,140
Arkansas $38,660 $27,520 $77,510
Arizona $48,930 $36,940 $76,630
California $49,630 $36,750 $98,560
Colorado $49,630 $36,330 $80,580
Connecticut $48,900 $36,330 $81,610
District of Columbia $60,600 $31,370 $96,870
Delaware $46,910 $30,730 $63,340
Florida $46,680 $30,130 $76,880
Georgia $44,080 $30,320 $63,310
Hawaii $51,060 $38,000 $80,580
Iowa $47,730 $30,090 $77,460
Idaho $49,360 $30,690 $79,420
Illinois $47,640 $35,100 $80,030
Indiana $46,230 $30,640 $76,090
Kansas $48,330 $30,810 $63,460
Kentucky $44,250 $28,820 $62,870
Louisiana $37,510 $25,290 $59,460
Massachusetts $48,960 $37,070 $78,540
Maryland $55,480 $36,650 $78,310
Maine $48,960 $30,840 $100,040
Michigan $48,820 $31,800 $76,650
Minnesota $48,980 $37,960 $65,510
Missouri $38,920 $26,140 $60,310
Mississippi $37,580 $23,700 $62,670
Montana $46,790 $24,510 $63,800
North Carolina $48,640 $29,960 $76,670
North Dakota $60,920 $36,750 $76,720
Nebraska $49,370 $30,640 $78,700
New Hampshire $46,640 $30,720 $68,520
New Jersey $60,000 $44,470 $92,620
New Mexico $56,750 $36,230 $96,710
Nevada $59,940 $30,640 $95,790
New York $49,650 $31,310 $78,940
Ohio $47,510 $30,600 $76,950
Oklahoma $47,500 $29,200 $76,720
Oregon $59,060 $37,140 $94,800
Pennsylvania $46,790 $30,690 $75,060
Rhode Island $60,300 $31,990 $97,740
South Carolina $38,110 $28,580 $73,730
South Dakota $39,070 $30,970 $61,330
Tennessee $37,700 $27,780 $61,380
Texas $46,470 $29,360 $76,670
Utah $60,460 $30,690 $101,100
Virginia $48,820 $36,750 $76,670
Vermont $47,320 $38,360 $63,340
Washington $49,360 $37,070 $78,090
Wisconsin $48,100 $32,770 $76,650
West Virginia $38,100 $29,530 $60,340
Wyoming $60,130 $38,830 $96,440

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

What’s my earning potential?

Salaries for mental health counselors in the top 10% earned more than $77,980 according to the BLS. As with most psychology careers, experience and location play an enormous factor in salary. Those working in private practice generally earn a higher income than their counterparts—as well as enjoy the benefits of a flexible schedule—although it can take up to five lean years to build up a strong client base.

How do mental health counselor salaries compare to other counseling careers?

Career Median Annual Salary
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880
Rehabilitation Counselors $38,560
Community Health Workers $46,590
Social Workers, All Other $61,190

Is there demand for this career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, career employment for mental health counselors is expected to grow much faster than average as more people turn to professionals to help them cope with mental problems. In fact the BLS predicts a 22 percent job growth rate through 2031, much faster than the national average for all career fields combined. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Also, insurance companies provide for the reimbursement of counselors and therapists as a less costly alternative to psychiatric and psychological treatment.

How much competition will I face for a job?

Job prospects should be good for those choosing to enter the field as approximately 25 percent of North Americans suffer from diagnosable mental health issues each year. With the increasing awareness of the related social, political and economic impacts of these problems, there is a greater need for professional mental health counselors.

What kind of companies hire mental health counselors?

People in mental health counseling will work in a variety of settings, including mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, in private practice, and in employee assistance programs. According to the BLS, mental health counselors are most frequently employed by the following types of industries or offices:

  • Individual and Family Services
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities
  • Local Government
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners

How do I advance in my mental health counseling career?

Being a mental health counselor is not only rewarding, it’s also a gateway career to other professions. For those who have earned a master’s degree in counseling, you can earn a master’s in social work (MSW) or another counseling area. This, as well as getting your mandatory license, will open your career options and allow you to move into other areas of counseling, such as rehabilitation counseling, substance abuse counseling, marriage and family counseling and educational counseling.