Armed with your campus or online master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, you are now prepared to join the ranks of the employed. Assuming you are just starting out on this career venture, you may be curious as to where the best cities are for this profession. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 128,200 Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) employed across America as of May 2015. Some states and cities have varying concentrations of counselors. With this variance comes a range in the median salary.
Looking at the statistics by state, California employs the most mental health counselors at 12,400, but this translates to only 0.80 per thousand jobs. By state rankings, it places fourth. The top spot goes to Montana that employs about one-tenth that of California, however there are a total of 1,140 in this type of counseling or 2.55 per thousand jobs. For those interested in Montana, the greatest concentration (480 or 3.72 per 1,000 jobs) is in the southwest, non-metropolitan areas of the state. However, the salary in this rural area is an annual mean of $34,310-below the median pay of $45,080 (BLS 2015). The number two slot by state goes to the Pennsylvania that employs a total of 11,800 MHCs or 2.07 per 1,000 jobs. The highest concentration being in Philadelphia with 2,580 employed or 3.15 per 1,000 jobs.
Another area of high concentration per 1,000 jobs (4.87) is northwest Massachusetts non-metropolitan locations where 130 are employed. In addition, their mean wage is much higher than Montana at $55,770 for mental health counselors. Sticking with the topic of wages and job opportunities, Anchorage, Alaska is worthy of consideration. The negative is that you face a high cost of living: it’s 35% more expensive to live there than it is in the average American city. The positive is that MHCs are fittingly paid: the second-highest median salary ($64,080). Only those professionals in the dissimilarly inexpensive Tyler, Texas earn more ($74,060), according to consumer resources site ValuePenguin.
The cities with the highest concentration of counselors don’t always translate to the best pay. Therefore, where will I make the most money? The top two cities for salary are located in the same state: these are Napa and El Centro, California. Their average salaries are $71,750 and $71,190 respectively. Two other cities that exceed the $65k barrier are Bend-Redmond, Oregon ($67,390), and Utica-Rome, NY ($66,760). Unfortunately, the concentration of jobs at these four metropolitan areas is relatively low: slightly less than 1.0 per 1,000.
The best of both criteria (job concentration and wages) may exist in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to the BLS. This city employed 410 MHCs in 2015 or .62 per 1,000 jobs with a mean wage of $63,270. To better evaluate this salary with respect to housing, Zillow reports that the median home value in the suburbs of Salt Lake City is $194,300. For comparison, in Redmond the median home value is $257,200.
Hence, there are many employment possibilities in this profession regarding locale. One must weigh factors such as cost of living which varies tremendously across the nation, as well as geography and climate. Wherever your desired location is, be assured that this occupation is growing at a rate of 19% through 2024 or a change in 31,400 jobs over a ten year period. The BLS has grouped the occupations of Mental Health Counselor and Marriage & Family Therapist (see our article on online degrees for M&F counseling) for these statistics.