According to the National Study of Health and Wellbeing, almost half (42.9 per cent) of Australians aged 16-85 have experienced a mental health disorder at some point in their life. And if trends in ABS data are anything to go by, the numbers are likely to increase.
As Australia grapples with a growing mental health crisis, the need for qualified mental health professionals who are hungry to drive positive change has never been greater. But the demand for these services outstrips the current supply of trained practitioners and many institutions aren’t equipped to provide the contemporary postgraduate education necessary.
All this indicates this is a critical time to become a qualified mental health worker and be on the forefront of a fast-moving industry that makes a profound difference in people’s lives.
But with so many mental health careers to choose from, how can future and current mental health professionals know the best path to pursue? Here, we explore five of the most rewarding mental health careers in Australia, to help you make the best choice for your career ambitions.
Counsellors are highly trained practitioners who work with individuals, couples or families experiencing one or a number of relational, emotional, financial or psychological challenges. As a counsellor, you can work in a number of clinical settings, including hospitals, educational institutions, mental health clinics, private practice, community centres, and more. The role typically involves holding private 1:1 sessions to provide support and strategies to clients to help them manage their stress, anxiety or relevant challenges.
In Australia, counsellors can choose to stay more general in their practice or specialise in a particular area they may be interested in such as school counselling, family or couples counselling, alcohol or substance abuse counselling and more. The specific pathway to this profession will depend on whether you wish to specialise, and if so—what in. Because there is such variance in the type of counselling work available, the earning potential varies too.
The role of a social worker involves working with clients to help find solutions to their problems, or in some cases advocating for social equity. Experienced social workers may choose to specialise in particular areas such as family therapy, youth issues, or even more strategic roles such as policy and management, research, or academia.
Much like counsellors, social workers provide their services across a number of settings including schools, hospitals, community centres, private practices and more. But unlike counsellors—who mostly provide direct clinical care—social workers tend to focus on connecting clients with the resources they need to improve their circumstances. However, both professions require specialised mental health qualifications.
In Australia, salaries can range from approximately $80,000 to $117,000, depending on your level of experience.
In the wake of COVID-19 fatigue, reduced working immigrant visas and lower student enrolments, Australia’s nursing industry is facing a huge shortage. To incentivise more industry entrants, state governments are introducing significant pay increases across the board. Another notable trend in this profession is the growing need for nurses with mental health training, as an increasing number of patients present with the need for mental health-related support.
Mental health nurses provide holistic care to address the mental health needs of a patient in the context of their wider health circumstances. Nurses can provide care to patients and their families in hospitals, mental health clinics, aged care facilities, schools, or private settings. They can also opt to specialise in other areas including neonatal, palliative care or oncology. The specific pathway required to become qualified will depend on the type of nursing you wish to pursue, as will the earning potential.
In Australia, entry-level nurse salaries average around $76,000 a year, and more experienced workers average around $122,000. Nursing can also lead to a number of advanced and higher-paying positions, including Nurse Practitioner or a Nurse Director earning $130,000 and beyond.
Community mental health worker
A community mental health worker is one of the many jobs in mental health in need of qualified, change-driven professionals at the helm.
Broadly speaking, this role helps to bolster local communities by providing support to people who are suffering from mental health challenges, along with their family and friends. In practice, this can look like working with clients on a day-to-day basis, helping them navigate additional support services such as health, financial or welfare, and supervising their overall progress toward their personal goals. Most often, community mental health workers provide their services in community centres—but they may also make private visits to see clients in their homes.
In Australia, community mental health workers earn on average between $70,000+ and $105,000 a year.
Occupational therapists are an integral part of the mental health workforce. The role involves working directly with clients who may be living with a physical or mental disability. One of the many rewarding mental health careers, the focus of occupational therapy is enabling clients to live independently and participate in everyday activities. In the words of Occupational Health Australia, occupational therapists provide “strengths-based, behavioural-oriented and goal-directed services to help improve clients’ mental health and wellbeing”.
Much like the above jobs in mental health, OTs can work across a number of settings including mental health centres, hospitals, nursing homes, private practices and at-home care. In Australia, occupational therapist salaries can range from approximately $83,000 - $110,000+ depending on your level of experience.
Which VU Online degree is right for me?
The first step toward the career of your dreams is becoming qualified.
VU Online has a number of mental health profession pathways available, The right one for you will depend on which mental health profession you feel most called to and where you’re currently at in your career.
Depending on your career path, a postgraduate qualification can be an invaluable step in your pathway. For more information about each course, visit our website or contact us.
Master of Mental Health
This postgraduate qualification opens a number of doors in the mental health industry, including the majority of the professions listed above—plus a mental health clinician, mental health peer worker, mental health technician and more.
With a contemporary curriculum designed by mental health experts, the Master of Mental Health online is designed for allied health and social care professionals who want to gain the knowledge and skills to lead multidisciplinary teams and programs.
Graduates will be equipped to collaborate across all mental health services and confidently lead interventions to improve a client’s mental health and wellbeing. There’s also an online Graduate Certificate in Mental Health available if you need further qualifications to meet the entry requirements.
Master of Child and Adolescent Mental Health
The online Master of Child and Adolescent Mental Health is perfect for current and aspiring mental health professionals who want to provide much-needed support for the mental health of adolescents. Possible career outcomes include youth worker, family or school counsellor, adolescent social worker, and other mental health professions specialised in youth and family services. The course equips graduates with work-based knowledge and skills needed to successfully engage with a range of children, adolescents, families, carers and clinicians across education, therapeutic, community and clinical settings.
If you want an introduction to the discipline, the Graduate Certificate in Child and Adolescent Mental Health will give you a foundational understanding of child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing. Once completed, you will have the option to upgrade to the full masters degree.
Master of Mental Health Nursing
With the demand for specialist nursing in mental health greater than ever, a Master of Mental Health Nursing can create many career opportunities. This comprehensive course equips students with the specialised skills to lead multidisciplinary teams and drive transformational change. It also meets the Australian College of Mental Health (ACMHN) Credential education requirements.
If additional study is needed to meet entry requirements for this course, the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing are available. These pathway degrees help students establish a strong foundation and deliver mental health nursing practice to produce better outcomes for patients.
Get ready for a career that drives positive impact in the lives of many
Between post-pandemic impacts, increasing socio-economic pressures, growing prevalence of technology and inadequate mental health services, Australia is crying out for driven, dedicated and highly trained professionals who want to use their expertise to improve the lives of others. With accredited, accelerated and comprehensive curriculums and flexible study options available, VU Online’s Master of Mental Health, Master of Mental Health Nursing and Master of Child and Adolescent Mental Health provide the perfect pathways to the most in-demand advanced careers in the industry.
Our mental health programs are flexible to help you balance work and study and prepare you for a rewarding career. Learn more about the online Master of Mental Health, Master of Mental Health Nursing and Master of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and take the first step towards driving positive impact.