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Jobs in Mental Health: What Can You Do With a Master’s in Clinical Psychology?

Explore jobs in mental health and learn how to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Social Worker and more

Did you know that the field of psychology encompasses a variety of distinct careers in mental health?

At Vanguard University, graduates of our master’s in clinical psychology program work as mental health clinicians, providing assessment, diagnosis, case management and therapy in a variety of settings. There are various certifications, degrees, licensures, specialties and job titles within the mental health field—and that may cause some confusion.

So, what can you do with a master’s in clinical psychology?

We are here to help you learn more about what you can do with a master’s in clinical psychology—and understand which degrees and licensures may best suit your career goals.

1. What Are My Options for Jobs in Mental Health Within California?

Within California, there are various careers in mental health that require licensure by the state:

  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADAC)
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Professional Clinical Counselor
  • Psychiatrist


2. How Do I Become a Mental Health Professional?

A variety of degrees can prepare you for jobs in mental health. While some career paths may require a specific degree, most will also require licensure by the state of California. If private practice is an interest of yours, you will also need a license.

  • An associate’s degree is required for different levels of certification for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors.
  • A bachelor’s degree is required for employment as a Therapeutic Behavioral Specialist, Mental Health Technician, Wraparound Youth Partner or Victim Advocate.
  • A master’s degree is required if you’re considering how to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Clinical Counselor or Clinical Social Worker.
  • A doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) is required for licensed Clinical Psychologists.
  • A doctorate in medicine (M.D.) and additional training is required for Psychiatrists.

Because each degree will prepare you for different fields and careers in mental health, your professional goals will determine which path is best for you. If you want to gain licensure, you will need at least a master’s degree in clinical psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy or social work.

At Vanguard, we offer a master’s degree in clinical psychology, which will help you learn how to become a Marriage and Family Therapist or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.


3. How Long Does It Take to Become Licensed at the Master’s Level?

If you’re considering how to become a Marriage and Family Therapist or Professional Clinical Counselor, you will be required to do the following to practice in California:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree
  • Complete a state-approved master’s program, which can take two to three years
  • Register as an associate with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences
  • Take and pass the California Law and Ethics Exam(s)
  • Obtain the requisite amount of supervised clinical experience (3,000 hours), which can take two to three years
  • Take and pass the licensure exam(s)

As you’re completing your supervised clinical experience, you can be employed and paid as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapy Therapist or Associate Professional Clinical Counselor.


4. What Areas Employ Master’s Level Graduates in Mental Health?

Because our field is continuing to grow, jobs in mental health with a master’s degree are plentiful in a variety of sectors. In fact, jobs in counseling and marriage and family therapy are expected to grow 16% over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here’s a look at a few options for what you can do with a master’s in clinical psychology or another graduate-level degree:

  • Educational settings—Many schools, colleges and universities offer counseling services to students, which means you may be able to work in the educational field addressing students’ academic, psychological or social concerns.
  • Health care—Clinics, eldercare facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, residential and in-patient clinics and several more health care groups offer jobs in mental health. You will work as part of an interdisciplinary health care team as you assess, counsel, diagnose, test, treat and evaluate patients.
  • Mental health facilities—Many graduate degree recipients also work as therapists or counselors in community and nonprofit organizations, treating children in group homes. They can also work in the foster care system or with individuals recovering from issues such as eating disorders, postpartum anxiety or depression, domestic abuse, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression and self-harm.
  • Private practice—If you want to be your own boss—whether as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor or a Marriage and Family Therapist—you may want to pursue private practice. Professionals who pursue careers in mental health frequently specialize in areas such as stress, anxiety, grief and loss, mood and personality disorders, identity issues, overachieving and self-doubt, guilt and shame, career and life transitions, leadership challenges, divorce recovery, trauma recovery, women, motherhood and postpartum, spiritual issues, military and veteran issues, relationship issues and family conflicts, parenting, multicultural issues and acculturation.
  • Substance abuse treatment centers—Approximately 20 million American adults battle some form of substance use disorder each year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Jobs at a master’s level include addiction counselors and therapists.


5. What is an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist)? How Do MFTs Differ From Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Clinical Social Workers and Psychologists?

While Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psychologists all assess, diagnose and treat mental and emotional needs, they all have unique requirements for training, supervision and expertise.

So, what is an MFT?

MFTs are trained to diagnose and treat individuals, couples, partners, families and groups—all in the context of a family system. If you’re considering how to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, know that you will focus on mental and emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, grief, trauma and other issues related to relationships and families.

What is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)?

An LPCC diagnoses and treats individuals living with mental and emotional illness or social developmental disorders. LPCCs are less focused on family systems and work primarily with individuals who have personal trauma, disabilities and/or substance abuse issues. Both MFTs and Professional Clinical Counselors work in group, agency or private practice.

What is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

A Clinical Social Worker focuses on client case management and advocacy, and they provide resources and access to care related to clients’ behavioral, emotional and mental health needs. Clinical Social Workers also help improve social and health services within their communities by reviewing and implementing government policies and helping to enact legislative change.

What is a Licensed Psychologist?

A Licensed Psychologist holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty such as counseling or education. They are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health using clinical interviews, psychological evaluations and testing. They diagnose and provide individual and group therapy for emotional and mental health conditions, often focusing on more severe mental illness.


6. What Can You Do With a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, Counseling or Marriage and Family Therapy?

A master’s in clinical psychology, counseling or marriage and family therapy prepares you for a variety of career paths and job options. With a focus on helping others live happier, healthier and more meaningful lives, graduates of these programs work in:

  • Churches, nonprofits, local missions and outreach centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Community counseling centers
  • County mental health agencies
  • Foster care and adoption agencies
  • Group homes
  • Private practice
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Substance abuse treatment centers

When you’re answering the question, “What can you do with a master’s in clinical psychology from Vanguard?”, know that you can specialize in a myriad of counseling approaches, styles and specialties, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, emotionally focused couples therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, play therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, family systems, psychodynamic treatment and psychoanalysis, biofeedback, dream work, sand play, gestalt work, psychodrama and somatic treatment.


7. What Should Be My Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapist Salary Expectations?

Some graduate students use a master’s degree as a springboard to a doctoral degree, but a doctoral degree doesn’t necessarily mean that you will earn more. In California, the average Professional Clinical Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist salary expectations vary between $57,553 and $85,467.00.


Prepare for a Strong Future with Vanguard’s Master’s in Clinical Psychology

What can you do with a master’s in clinical psychology starts with pursuing Vanguard’s graduate degree. At Vanguard, you will gain the tools and techniques you need to succeed as:

  • You take coursework in a way that works for you. Pursue classes online or on campus, and in tracks varying from two to four years—with classes offered in the late afternoon and evening.
  • You gain practical, hands-on experience throughout your practicum placement.
  • You benefit from small on-campus and online classes, which average 12 graduate students per class.
  • You grow in your cultural competence and develop the skills, knowledge and self-awareness to effectively work with diverse populations.
  • You discover how to integrate faith, religion and spirituality into psychotherapy.
  • You participate in a program that places special emphases on clinical training and learning in an experiential manner.
  • You receive faculty support you as soon as you begin your graduate coursework—and throughout your studies.

Explore what you can do with a master’s in clinical psychology from Vanguard and get started on your path toward careers in mental health.

We invite you to take the next step