The modern age has a significant need for psychology and mental health services professionals. Unfortunately, between older professionals entering retirement and the explosion of anxiety and depression disorders post-COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for these services is rising. Without more mental health professionals to meet the growing demand, wait times for care will continue to increase.
Graduates of Avila University’s online Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology with a concentration in Mental Health program may need to pursue further education or certifications for most jobs in this field. However, they are still well equipped to enter a workforce with a high demand for professionals with psychology and mental health skills. The program also gives them the foundational knowledge to pursue advanced degrees or certifications to advance their careers.
Why Is the Demand for Psychology Professionals Rising?
According to the Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. already had too few mental health professionals heading into the pandemic. For example, in 2019, approximately 1 in 5 — or more than 51 million people — had a mental illness, and experts in the field struggled to keep wait times to a minimum and provide consistent access to care. In addition, more than half of U.S. counties have no psychiatrists, and at least 150 million people live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas, notes the AAMC.
Now, with the stressors triggered by the pandemic, including the loss of loved ones, loss of income and reduced social outlets, more people have been diagnosed with mental health disorders and need treatment. Regrettably, current mental health practitioners cannot meet the demand.
A 2021 American Psychological Association (APA) survey found that 84% of psychologists who treat anxiety disorders have experienced increased demand for their services since the start of the pandemic — up from 74% the year prior. They saw similar trends in individuals seeking treatment for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders and substance abuse.
Other key findings from the APA survey point to a demand that probably won’t ease anytime soon:
- Referrals for mental health services have risen substantially, with 62% of psychologists reporting an uptick in referral requests in 2021 compared to 37% in 2020.
- Sixty-eight percent of psychologists who maintain a waitlist said it has grown longer since the pandemic began.
- More than 40% of psychologists reported they could not meet the demand for treatment, up 30% from 2020.
“These numbers highlight what we have been saying since the early days of the pandemic — we are facing a mental health tsunami,” APA’s CEO, Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., said of the survey findings. “As more people seek treatment for mental health conditions, the demands on psychological practitioners have increased,” he said, adding that continued investment in “screening, prevention and innovative interventions” can expand critical access to care. However, maintaining those initiatives will require more mental health professionals.
What Is the Job Outlook for Mental Health Practitioners?
Because of this demand for services, psychology and mental health practitioners have a promising job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of psychologists is expected to grow 6% through 2031, as fast as the average occupation and resulting in about 14,100 job openings annually. Schools, hospitals, mental health centers and social service agencies will likely drive much of the demand.
Counselors specializing in mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorders may experience even more remarkable job growth, especially as states prioritize treatment and counseling services instead of jail sentences for criminal offenders. According to the BLS, the job outlook for these careers projects to increase 22% through 2031, much faster than the average occupation and creating about 43,600 job openings each year.
While demand remains strong, people interested in mental health careers often must pursue further education and certification to keep their skills current. Still, graduates of Avila University’s online B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Mental Health program acquire the foundational knowledge to meet these high market demands, confidently enter a secure job market and ensure individuals receive life-enhancing care.