Jobs, Salaries and Career after Masters in Clinical, Medical Social Work - Updated 2020

2018 median Pay for Clinical, Medical Social Work

The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $44,630 in May 2018.


Pay

They also work in halfway houses, detox centers, or in employee assistance programs (EAPs). EAPs are mental health programs provided by some employers to help employees deal with personal problems. Some addiction counselors work in residential treatment centers, where clients live in the facility for a fixed period of time. Others work with clients in outpatient treatment centers. Some counselors work in private practice, where they may work alone or with a group of counselors or other professionals. Although rewarding, the work of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is often stressful. Many counselors have to deal with large workloads.



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Number of Jobs for Clinical, Medical Social Work

Number of Jobs in 2018 was 260,200


Job Outlook for Clinical, Medical Social Work

Employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected as people continue to seek addiction and mental health counseling.


Job description of Clinical, Medical Social Work

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Duties

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors typically do the following:

  • Evaluate clients’ mental and physical health, addiction, or problematic behavior and assess their readiness for treatment
  • Develop, recommend, and review treatment goals and plans with clients and their families
  • Assist clients in developing skills and behaviors necessary to recover from their addiction or modify their behavior
  • Work with clients to identify behaviors or situations that interfere with their recovery
  • Teach clients’ family members about addiction or behavior disorders and help them develop strategies to cope with those problems
  • Refer clients to other resources and services, such as job placement services and support groups
  • Conduct outreach programs to help people identify the signs of addiction and other destructive behavior, as well as steps to take to avoid such behavior

Substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors, also called addiction counselors, work with clients individually and in group sessions. Many incorporate the principles of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to guide their practice. They teach clients how to cope with stress and life’s problems in ways that help them recover. Furthermore, they help clients rebuild professional relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career. They also help clients improve their personal relationships and find ways to discuss their addiction or other problems with family and friends.

Some addiction counselors work in facilities that employ many types of healthcare and mental health professionals. Addiction counselors may work with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and registered nurses to develop treatment plans and coordinate care for patients.

Some counselors work with clients who have been ordered by a judge to receive treatment for addiction. Others work with specific populations, such as teenagers, veterans, or people with disabilities. Some specialize in crisis intervention; these counselors step in when someone is endangering his or her own life or the lives of others. Other counselors specialize in noncrisis interventions, which encourage a person with addictions or other issues, such as difficulty managing anger, to get help. Noncrisis interventions often are performed at the request of friends and family.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors treat clients with a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems.


How to become Clinical, Medical Social Work

Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Although educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, a master’s degree and an internship is typically required to become a mental health counselor.

Education

Most substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, depending on the state and employer, educational requirements for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree. Workers with psychology, clinical social work, mental health counseling, and similar master’s degrees can provide more services to their clients, such as private one-on-one counseling sessions, and they require less supervision than those with less education. Those interested should research their state’s educational requirements.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require these counselors to have a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-issued exam and complete continuing education every year. Contact information for your state's regulating board can be found through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The licensure criteria for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors outside of private practice vary from state to state. For example, not all states require applicants to have a specific degree, but many require them to pass an exam. Contact information for individual states’ licensing boards can be found through the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network.

All states require mental health counselors to be licensed, after completing a period of postdegree supervised clinical work under the supervision of a licensed counselor. 

Other Experience

There is a long tradition of people who have overcome their own addictions to be involved in counseling others to overcome their addictions. Counselors with personal experience overcoming alcohol or drug addictions are sometimes viewed as especially helpful and insightful to those seeking treatment.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors must be able to work with different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients or other professionals and must be able to develop and nurture good relationships.

Listening skills. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors need good listening skills. They must give their full attention to a client to be able to understand that client’s problems and values.

Patience. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors must be able to remain calm when working with all types of clients, including those who may be distressed or angry.

Speaking skills. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors need to be able to effectively communicate with clients. They must express ideas and information in a way that their clients easily understand.


What people in similar profession do

Job Title What they do How to become one
Chiropractic Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain. Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license. Doctor of Chiropractic programs typically take 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate college education for admission. Education Prospective chiropractors are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree—a postgraduate professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete. In 2017, there were 15 Doctor of Chiropractic programs on 18 campuses accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education. Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education, and some D.C. programs require a bachelor’s degree for entry.
Dentistry Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health. Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. Licensure requirements vary by state, although candidates usually must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams. Dentists who practice in a specialty area must complete postdoctoral training. Education All dental schools require applicants to have completed certain science courses, such as biology and chemistry, before entering dental school.
Veterinary Medicine Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals. Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license. Education Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. A veterinary medicine program generally takes 4 years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components. Admission to veterinary programs is competitive. Most applicants to veterinary school have a bachelor’s degree.
Registered Nurse Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Typically postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. Other postsecondary teachers may need work experience in their field of expertise. Education Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field.
Nursing Administration Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They might manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers must direct changes that conform to changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology. Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field. However, master’s degrees are common and sometimes preferred by employers. Educational requirements vary by facility and specific function. Education Medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation.
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Nursing Practice Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They might manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers must direct changes that conform to changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology. Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field. However, master’s degrees are common and sometimes preferred by employers. Educational requirements vary by facility and specific function. Education Medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation.

Job Outlook for other majors in Health and Wellness

Job Title Number of jobs Median Salary Job outlook
Chiropractic 47400 $71410 Faster than average
Dentistry 153500 $156240 Much faster than average
Veterinary Medicine 79600 $93830 Much faster than average
Registered Nurse 1314400 $78470 Much faster than average
Nursing Administration 352200 $99730 Much faster than average
Nursing Practitioner 1314400 $78470 Much faster than average
Nursing Practice 352200 $99730 Much faster than average