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Overview of a Bachelor’s in Mental Health

A bachelor's degree in mental health counseling, psychology or a related field will help students prepare for their master's degree program in mental health counseling. It also helps candidates obtain entry-level employment in acute psychiatric facilities, residential treatment programs, or governmental agencies that provide mental health services. Candidates with an undergraduate degree will be able to find employment as mental health professionals in mental health services facilities, psychiatric patient care coordinators, victim's rights advocates, social services workers, and family rights advocates. As for their career moving forward, they will not be licensed as full mental health counselors until they earn additional education in the form of a master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field, requiring another 60 credits after the bachelor's degree level is earned. On top of their bachelor's degree level general education, those earning a behavioral health degree or mental health counseling degree will take courses in behavioral health science, behavioral health counseling theory and practice, counseling psychology, human behavior, family dynamics, and more.

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Entry-level work in the mental health field is often found in social services or human services, or as a psychiatric assistant, behavior technician, or psychiatric technician. Psychiatric assistants may be able to obtain employment right out of high school, but other facilities require employees to have a bachelor's in psychology, mental health, or a behavioral health counseling degree. Behavioral health technicians have a certification process that only takes 180 days, although some of these positions also require a bachelor's degree in addition to a certification. Psychiatric technician positions only require an associate degree or a post-secondary certificate, many of which can be earned in online programs. These positions are entry-level and do not receive as much pay as that which may be commanded by someone with a bachelor's degree in psychology or mental health. These positions also may not come with quite as much responsibility as those for someone with a bachelor's mental health degree or behavioral health degree. It's important to note that you cannot work as a mental health counselor with only a bachelor's degree. Mental health counselors must have a master's degree or more advanced degree and licensure from the state in which they plan to work if they want to work in clinical mental health counseling, as behavioral health specialists, clinical psychology, family counseling, group counseling, etc.


The problem with only having a bachelor's in mental health or psychology is that the positions that are available at this degree level do not command much more pay than the entry-level mental health jobs such as psychiatric assistant, behavior technician, or psychiatric technician. Also, their level of responsibility is not much more than that of candidates in the latter jobs. For example, people who have only a bachelor's in mental health, behavioral health counseling, or psychology will not be able to do formal psychological counseling, nor will they be able to design interventions or assessments. They will simply be implementing interventions that those with higher degrees and certifications design.

Positions with better pay and more responsibility come with a master's degree in mental health, counseling, or psychology as an absolute minimum. For example, mental health counseling positions tend to require a master's degree and clinical hours in order to receive state licensure.

Top 10 Best Online Bachelors in Mental Health Counseling Programs


Drexel University

Score: 82.44

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $60,663
    • Out-of-State: $60,663
  • Net Price: $39,267
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Total Enrollment: 22,344
  • Undergrad Students: 14,021
  • Graduate Students: 8,323
  • Grads Salary: $84,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 9:1
  • Drexel University

Central Michigan University

Score: 80.57

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $14,190
    • Out-of-State: $14,190
  • Net Price: $15,605
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Retention Rate: 72%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 14,557
  • Undergrad Students: 10,401
  • Graduate Students: 4,156
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Central Michigan University

Alvernia University

Score: 75.57

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $42,810
    • Out-of-State: $42,810
  • Net Price: $27,091
  • Acceptance Rate: 59%
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,484
  • Undergrad Students: 2,018
  • Graduate Students: 466
  • Grads Salary: $67,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 12:1
  • Alvernia University

Grand Canyon University

Score: 70.24

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $17,450
    • Out-of-State: $17,450
  • Net Price: $21,939
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Total Enrollment: 101,816
  • Undergrad Students: 66,769
  • Graduate Students: 35,047
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • Grand Canyon University

Liberty University

Score: 68.42

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $21,222
    • Out-of-State: $21,222
  • Net Price: $29,913
  • Acceptance Rate: 99%
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 96,709
  • Undergrad Students: 48,906
  • Graduate Students: 47,803
  • Grads Salary: $63,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Liberty University

University of Maine at Augusta

Score: 66.19

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $8,618
    • Out-of-State: $21,548
  • Net Price: $9,973
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 23%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,446
  • Undergrad Students: 4,384
  • Graduate Students: 62
  • Grads Salary: $68,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • University of Maine at Augusta

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Score: 63.94

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $18,610
    • Out-of-State: $18,610
  • Net Price: $19,217
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,794
  • Undergrad Students: 1,491
  • Graduate Students: 303
  • Grads Salary: $55,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Lindsey Wilson College

Score: 60.71

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $27,274
    • Out-of-State: $27,274
  • Net Price: $13,056
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 71%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,159
  • Undergrad Students: 1,753
  • Graduate Students: 1,406
  • Grads Salary: $50,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Lindsey Wilson College

Capella University

Score: 60.47

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $14,436
    • Out-of-State: $14,436
  • Net Price: $14,935
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 36%
  • Graduation Rate: 21%
  • Total Enrollment: 39,727
  • Undergrad Students: 13,280
  • Graduate Students: 26,447
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 35:1
  • Capella University

Southern New Hampshire University

Score: 60.29

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $16,450
    • Out-of-State: $16,450
  • Net Price: $32,043
  • Acceptance Rate: 96%
  • Retention Rate: 62%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Total Enrollment: 164,091
  • Undergrad Students: 140,865
  • Graduate Students: 23,226
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 22:1
  • Southern New Hampshire University

Certificate/Associate vs. Bachelors in Mental Health Counseling

What Mental Health Bachelor’s Degrees are Available Online?

  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Mental Health
    The BA signifies that the coursework that is not in the major itself is more focused upon a liberal arts and humanities education. An online bachelor's in mental health will usually have more of an emphasis upon issues like mental health assessment, policy issues in mental health, and crisis management as opposed to a bachelor's in psychology. Students in such programs are more likely to be assigned an internship at a mental health facility.
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Mental Health
    A BS in this field signifies that the program has a scientific, technical, and hands-on focus in its coursework. There will be more of an emphasis on biology, calculus, and chemistry coursework.
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Sciences
    While there are fewer bachelor's degrees that actually are labeled as “mental health”, many programs that aim at providing coursework on mental health assessment and treatment as well as crisis management fall under the label “behavioral sciences.” Other programs are bachelor's in psychology but provide tracks that move students toward careers in mental health.
  • Online Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology
    The bachelor's degree in psychology is going to be a broader umbrella that covers the entire field. According to Concordia University, a BA in Psychology allows the student to pursue more varied career goals after graduation that can include child or organizational psychology or careers in other fields, such as social work, education, journalism, business, political science, or law. Thus, a bachelor of arts allows the candidate the freedom to choose coursework to specialize in whatever subfields or multi-disciplinary paths that may advance their future career goals. U.S. News and World Report emphasizes that students should seek out such coursework in related fields while pursuing their bachelor of arts in order to pursue multi-disciplinary careers.

Admission Requirements for Mental Health Counseling Bachelor's Programs

Candidates will need to provide their high school transcripts, often some letters of recommendation from teachers and/or employers and their SAT or ACT scores. It depends upon how competitive the program is to determine the exact minimums required, but usually 3.0 is the minimum GPA for admission to most programs. Often, candidates will also need to submit a statement of purpose.

How long does it take to earn a Mental Health Bachelor's Online?

It takes four solid years of full-time coursework in order to earn one's bachelor's degree in mental health. There are, however, accelerated programs that can move you into the degree sooner. This usually entails taking coursework throughout the summer term. Students who have to work and attend school or those who have family commitments often find that they need to take a somewhat reduced load of courses. This makes their completion date extend beyond four years.

Students who need to work and attend school should consider looking into scholarships and grants that will allow them to use some of the proceeds to pay for living expenses. This will allow them to devote their efforts to their degree full time.

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Potential Careers in Mental Health with a Bachelor’s

  • Psychiatric Care Coordinator:
    Psychiatric care coordinators work with a treatment team committed to provide therapeutic interventions for patients. They do not design interventions at the bachelor's level but provide education and case management to patients as well as administrative support. Care coordinators carry out and coordinate the therapeutic intervention plan designed by a psychologist or psychiatrist for a given patient.
    The average annual salary for psychiatric care coordinators is: $45,800.
  • Mental Health Admissions Advisor:
    Mental health admissions advisors work for private and public mental health facilities in order to field calls by prospective patients and their families. They are then tasked with coordinating the admissions process for the patient. They need to know the categories for admission to a psychiatric facility and also need to know about insurance coverage issues in order to help the family or patient determine how to pay for the treatment.
    The average annual salary for a mental health admissions advisor is: $44,800.
  • Family Advocate:
    Family advocates can work in a variety of settings, such as in a foster care or child protective services agency, a Head Start program, or in some other social work setting. They provide care and support to families through education, informal group therapeutic interventions, and guidance.
    The average annual salary for a family advocate is: $35,800
  • Victim's Advocate:
    Victim's advocates tend to work for a district attorney's office in a county or municipality. Their role is to help gather information and resources for both the district attorney and the victims so that the latter are able to navigate the court system and seek relief from harm that has been committed against them. They also often accompany victims to court and explain the court process to the victim and their family.
    The average annual salary for a victim's advocate is: $35,900.
  • Probation Officer:
    Probation officers work with other law enforcement professionals to ensure that people accused and/or convicted of crimes are kept from committing further crimes. They have regular meetings with people who have been placed on probation to ensure that they are meeting the guidelines of their probation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, candidates who have taken courses in criminal justice in addition to their bachelor's in psychology can be considered for employment as probation officers.
    The average annual salary for probation officers is: $43,500.

Options to Advance

The most obvious and best means of advancing in the mental health field is to at least earn your online master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field. Most jobs in the field - such as mental health counselor, marriage and family counselor, school counselor, and drug and alcohol counselor positions - are not entry-level. All of those who hold such positions have a master's degree as an absolute requirement. Most of these positions require post-graduate licensure as well. This entails having your master's degree, as well as completing clinical hours in order to achieve state licensure.