Mental Health Counseling Salaries

How much do mental health counselors make?

In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average salary of mental health counselors in the U.S. was $46,560. This places the occupation in the middle of the range for counseling incomes, as shown in the table below.

However, it's important to remember that individual salaries can differ significantly based on factors such as industry, experience, and location. To illustrate this, the lowest paid 10% of mental health counselors in 2017 earned less than $27,310 and the highest paid 10% earned more than $70,840.

Counseling Occupations Oregon Annual Mean Salary U.S. Annual Mean Salary Difference
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $61,370 $58,620 $2,750
Marriage and Family Therapists $50,350 $53,860 -$3,510
Mental Health Counselors $55,670 $46,560 $9,110
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $57,420 $46,560 $10,860
Rehabilitation Counselors $43,360 $38,950 $8,500
Counselors, All Other $52,270 $47,600 $4,670

U.S. Mean Annual Wage for Mental Health Counselors (USD)

Source: Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mental health therapist counsels women in sweater

Job Outlook for Mental Health Counselors

In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will grow 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is "much faster" than the average growth rate for all occupations. At that time, the BLS estimated that there were 319,400 people working in these fields in the U.S., which means that a 25% increase would add 79,000 new mental health counseling jobs, bringing the total up to 398,400 by 2029.

The BLS cited increased demand for counseling for military veterans as one driver of this growth. Backing up this claim, Southern California Public Radio reported in June 2014 that the Veterans Administration (VA) is struggling to keep up with demand for mental health services, causing some veterans to seek services outside of the VA. The VA Greater L.A. Healthcare System saw a 40 percent increase in veterans seeking mental health services from 2007 to 2013, while the VA Long Beach Healthcare System has seen almost a 60% increase during the same time period.