Associates in Mental Health Degrees & Schools Guide

Associates Degree in Mental Health Career Options & Salary

Overview of an Associates in Mental Health


An associate degree in mental health provides students with the foundation to begin working in the field. Those who graduate with this associate degree or a related one, are not eligible to practice as licensed counselors in mental health. However, they may be able to find work as a mental health technician, caseworker, or a shelter manager at an agency that provides mental health services. This degree will also prepare you to further your education and obtain a bachelor’s degree in the mental health field.

The associate’s degree in mental health courses may include:

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Psychology Counseling Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • Spend less for the tuition of general education courses that can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree
  • High growth field
  • A meaningful career in helping others
  • Prepared for work in a variety of settings
  • Plenty of room for advancement

CONS

  • Advanced education is required to be a counselor
  • There are state licensing requirements
  • Jobs you can get with this degree have low pay
  • High barriers to entry-level positions

Certificate vs. Associates


There are up sides and down sides to both certification programs and associate degree programs. You can complete a certification program much faster than an associate degree program, since you will not have general classes to take because certification programs only prepare you for a specific career.

In addition, although every employer may have their own preferences, earning certification could still land you the same jobs as earning an associate degree would. However, if you choose to take the certification route to an entry-level position, you will not be able to continue your education, as you do not earn credits that can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree the way you do with an associate.

What Mental Health Associate Degrees are Available?


There are only a few degrees specific to mental health at the associate level; the Associate of Science in Mental Health, teaches students about issues like drug and alcohol treatment, case management skills, therapeutic activities, mental and developmental disabilities, human development, psychosocial rehabilitation, community mental health, and child mental healthcare. After graduating, you may be eligible for the following employment opportunities:

  • Nursing Home Administration Assistant
  • Group Facilitator
  • Shelter Manager
  • Family Support Services Caseworker
  • Mental Health Rehabilitation Assistant

An Associate of Applied Science in Behavioral Health Sciences is another option for students interested in an entry-level position in behavioral health. This degree emphasizes on psychology and sociology and prepares students to take on administrative and assistant roles in mental health services

Admission Requirements


Associate degree programs in mental health may be offered by technical schools and community colleges. Although the requirements to enter this degree vary between states and schools, the basic requirements are as follows.

To enter into an associate degree program, candidates must have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent, provide a personal statement of intent, and all high school transcripts including SAT/ACT scores. In addition, students may also be required to provide immunization shot records if applying to enroll in classes on campus.

How long does it take to earn a Mental Health Associates?


An associate degree in mental health or psychology is a two-year degree program that can be pursued at a college or university and is a good start for someone interested in the field. Although an exact number of credit requirements can vary slightly between institutions, most associate degrees in counseling programs require 60 to 65 credits to graduate, which would mean a full-time student can earn this degree in two years.

Also, many colleges and universities allow you to transfer credits from an associate degree program to a bachelor’s degree program, which can cut the time it takes to earn your higher level degree in half. If you are a part-time student, the time frame may be extended to three or four years unless you decide to also attend the night, weekend, and/or summer classes, which is much faster.

Potential Careers in Mental Health with an Associates


There are not a lot of occupations to pursue in mental health counseling with an associate degree, as most jobs require at least a bachelor’s. However, you can enter the field by taking on occupations in a setting that provides mental health services while continuing your education to earn your bachelor’s degree in mental health counseling or something similar. Some of the career choices you will have are:

  • Mental Health Technician
    Mental health technicians provide patients with direct assistance and are vital to mental healthcare. Some of the tasks these professionals may perform are assisting patients with feeding, administering medication, grooming, bathing, organizational activities, and therapy sessions. Mental health technicians may also gain insight into treatment plans by observing patients in a calm setting. Other duties may include janitorial work or administration tasks, such as keeping records and answering phones.
    Average Annual Salary: $30,900
  • Shelter Manager
    Shelter and residence managers are responsible for seeing to the safety and needs of residents while also ensuring that things run smoothly at the shelter they work for. They maintain a safe and secure environment for residents by watching surveillance monitors and keeping an eye on the grounds. These managers also often assist and guide residence in moving in and out of the facility, help solve any issues they may have, and see that donations and other items are properly distributed.
    Average Annual Salary: $40,700
  • Psychiatric Technician
    Psychiatric technicians usually work at nursing homes or hospitals assisting the nurses or psychiatrists at the facility with the care and safety of patients with mental illnesses or emotional problems. These technicians may also monitor patients through CCTV or in person, administer treatments through individual or group therapy, and also help to raise their self-confidence by encouraging them to participate in activities. Other duties may include periodically recording patient’s vital signs, weight and height, ensure they eat right and take medication as prescribed, and also watch for and report any changes in their behavior.
    Average Annual Salary: $36,400
  • Behavioral Health Technician
    Behavioral health technicians basically assist a nurse or licensed therapist with patient modification of actions and behavioral development by aiding in designing treatments and behavioral health programs catered to patient’s needs as well as providing feedback to try and correct negative behavior.

    Depending on their employer, a behavioral health technician can work with individuals who have brain injuries or others while following guidelines to consistently administer therapy.
    Average Annual Salary: $30,800

  • Human and Social Services Assistant
    A social services assistant usually works under the direction of a social worker at a government or private facility where they help patients achieve emotional and mental goals. At governmental organizations, a social services assistant may screen clients to determine if they are eligible for certain services and then later follow up with them to ensure they still meet eligibility requirements and are continuing to follow their program.
    Average Annual Salary: $32,900

Options to Advance


An associate degree program in mental health counseling will give students a broad understanding of mental health challenges along with strategies that can be used to address them. Upon graduating with this degree, individuals are prepared for entry-level positions in many areas of social services and can further their education to pursue a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree. As you reach higher degree levels, there will be many more career opportunities available to you.

The median annual wage for those holding a bachelor’s in mental health is around $47,000. After graduating you can become a case manager and more. The median annual wage for those holding a master’s in mental health is roughly $58,600. The following are just some of the many career choices you will have:

  • Marriage & Family Therapist
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Geriatric Clinical Psychologist
  • Licensed Counselor
  • School Counselor

Best Associate of Science in Mental Health Programs


  • Montgomery College
    Rockville, MD

    The associate degree in mental health program curriculum is designed to prepare students for a variety of occupations and not just one specific job. The course combines specialized courses related to human services with general education subjects.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Mental Health (AAS)
  • Adirondack Community College
    Queensbury, NY

    Adirondack Community College offers a two-year degree program of Social Science AA and Liberal Arts and Sciences of humanities with a concentration in psychology. The concentration provides coursework that prepares students to transfer to a four-year psychology or related area major program. This course also uses knowledge from interconnected study areas that include biology, anthropology, and sociology.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Addiction Counseling/ Substance Abuse
  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
    Asheville, NC

    This program covers approaches to counseling and psychotherapy that include techniques, characteristics, and theory with an emphasis on facilitation of problem-solving, self-exploration, personal growth, and decision-making. Upon graduating, students will understand the various counseling theories while demonstrating proper counseling techniques.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree in Mental Health Counseling/Counselor
  • Belmont College
    Nashville, TN

    The associate in Mental Health Technology is a specialized and challenging degree program that trains students to become a worker in human services under the direction of other professionals in various community settings.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Mental Health Technology
  • Berkeley City college
    Berkeley, CA

    The Associate in Psychology degree is designed for those planning to transfer to a psychology major program. The psychological study is built on mental processes and the scientific study of human behavior.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Psychology

Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Mental Health


  • American River College
    Sacramento, CA

    The associate degree in psychology is designed for a successful, smooth transfer to a four-year degree program that prepares students for advanced study in various graduate programs. Psychologists who hold professional certificates and graduate degrees have a broad range of occupational opportunities such as clinical teaching, research, and practice. Clinical psychologists work in a wide range of settings with many different clients. Research psychologists work in a variety of fields associated with the study of sports psychology, human behavior, cognitive neuroscience, and more.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Psychology
    • Associate of Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Technology
    Media, PA

    The behavioral health degree program prepares students to work with individuals who receive behavioral health services in various settings - from behavioral health clinics and hospitals to rehabilitation centers and mental health facilities.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Health Science Associate degree in Behavioral Health
  • Central Carolina Community College
    Sanford, NC

    Students develop a strong foundation in understanding human needs through substantial coursework in sociology and psychology. Courses include abnormal psychology, adolescent psychology, stress management, human development, marriage and family, social problems, and aging.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Mental and Social Health Services and Allied Professions
  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
    Asheville, NC

    This program provides students with the scientific study of animal and human behavior, both abnormal and normal, and biological and social processes related to behavior.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree in Mental Health Counseling/Counselor
  • Alpena Community College
    Alpena, MI

    Social science is the scientific study of social relationships and human society. Alpena Community College offers a wide range of majors to study in social science programs, such as psychology, sociology, pre-law, education, political science, and more.

    Studying social science can help provide students with a good foundation for transfer goals and general study as the program focuses on an examination of economic, political, and social systems in the interrelated and dynamic forces that shape the world.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Clinical Psychology/Mental Health
    • Associate of General Psychology/Mental Health