Associates Degree in Mental Health: Program Overview

Many individuals who choose to work in the mental health field as counselors, technicians, practitioners or administrators have 4-year degrees, at minimum. However, some associate's degree programs can either segue into baccalaureate programs or prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the mental health field. One such degree program is an Associate of Science in Mental Health.

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Associate of Science in Mental Health

Associate's degree programs in mental health are often made available through the human services, health sciences or social services departments of universities or community colleges. Such programs are designed to introduce students to the field of mental health studies and human services studies. Core courses cover group and family interactions, common mental illnesses, basic counseling methods.

Some associate's degree programs in mental health allow students to pick a specialization. Others are tailored towards a specific career, such as mental health treatment, gerontology, rehabilitation technology, substance abuse treatment or child services. Students enrolled in an associate's degree program in mental health are also often required to fulfill internship experiences at clinics, rehabilitation centers or other mental health facilities.

Educational Prerequisites

Before high school graduates begin core courses in a mental health associate's degree program, they're often required to complete or concurrently enroll in college-level courses in English, reading and mathematics. Students who are interested in studying mental health should also have solid communication skills and be interested in helping others.

Program Coursework

Associate's degree programs in mental health contain foundational and theory-based courses, along with specific training courses in the mental health field. Examples of each include:

  • Community mental health
  • Child mental health care
  • Human development
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation
  • Mental and developmental disabilities
  • Case management skills
  • Therapeutic activities
  • Drug and alcohol treatment

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

Graduates of an associate's degree program in mental health go on to earn baccalaureate degrees that will guide them toward specific vocations, such as mental health technology or mental health nursing. Some associate's degree recipients can go directly into positions such as these:

  • Shelter manager or director
  • Family support services case worker
  • Mental health rehabilitation assistant
  • Nursing home administration assistant
  • Group facilitator

Earning an associate's degree could also prepare students for jobs as social and human service assistants. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of these professionals was projected to increase 28% from 2010-2020, which is significantly faster than the national average of 14%. As of 2012, social and human service assistants made median hourly wages of roughly $14.00 per hour, as noted by the BLS.

Continuing Education

Many baccalaureate degree programs are available within the field of mental health. Some of these include a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health and Human Services, a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health and Addiction Studies. Aspiring psychologists and substance abuse counselors must complete even more advanced academic programs at the master's degree level and above. More advanced programs in the mental health field often contain clinical and research components in addition to regular coursework.

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