How much does the average Psychologist, counselor, MFT, or social worker make? Are salaries rising or falling relative to inflation? Therapist salary data can tell us a lot about the overall health of the professions. I’ve gathered 15 years of therapist salary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to see what insights can be gained from it.
Barry Duncan has an article in the current Psychotherapy Networker asking, “Why would anybody become a therapist?” The job offers low pay compared to other jobs with similar training requirements. Workers in community mental health are often stretched beyond the breaking point. And as we’ve covered here regularly, employer abuses of therapists are unfortunately common. When even a single therapist pushes back against exploitation, it makes a real difference. But that doesn’t happen very often.
Duncan’s article offers some interesting overlaps with our past coverage here. It can explain fairly well why even the best therapists can be easy targets for exploitation at work.
California suffers from a severe and worsening mental health workforce shortage. In fact, much of the US is in the same boat. There simply aren’t enough qualified mental health professionals to meet our country’s needs.
At the same time, therapists in private practice often complain about their local markets being saturated. There are so many therapists in some places, it seems, that it’s hard to get a career off the ground.
As it turns out, there’s truth to both of these perspectives.
In January we launched our #PostThePay campaign. Every California job applicant has a legal right to know the pay of the position they’re applying for. When employers post pay information in job announcements, they save themselves time and promote fair wages in the mental health field. But how can you help ensure fair wages if you’re already employed? What if you know the pay of a position, but aren’t quite satisfied about it? Here are some ways you can advocate for better pay in therapy and counseling jobs.
Today, too many job listings for therapists and counselors are vague about pay, if they mention it at all. It’s part of a culture in mental health that keeps salaries low and professionals feeling disempowered. When employers #PostThePay — even as a range — both employers and applicants benefit.
That’s why we’re launching a social campaign encouraging employers to do exactly that.