Becoming a Clinical Therapist: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
What're the pros and cons of a clinical therapist career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a clinical therapist is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Clinical Therapist

Clinical therapists, also known as licensed clinical social workers, help figure out what kind of mental or emotional issues are troubling someone and help them cope with it. As you continue to read, you can learn additional pros and cons to becoming a clinical therapist.

PROS of Becoming a Clinical Therapist
Work can be seen as rewarding when a client's life is improved*
Different clinical areas of specialization are available for this career*
Opportunity to work in private practice by yourself or with others*
Employment outlook is good*

CONS of Becoming a Clinical Therapist
Graduate education is typically needed for employment*
Licensing requirements in most states*
Weekend and evening work can be required depending on the scheduling needs of a patient*
Large caseloads can be stressful*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

A clinical therapist meets with patients who are suffering from depression, anxiety or other emotional, mental or behavioral disorders. When meeting with a patient for the first time, you'll speak with them and attempt to diagnose them. From there, you'll come up with a treatment plan for them. This might involve therapy sessions in group, family, couples or individual settings. Part of the process of coming up with a treatment plan is learning about the client's history. You'll typically work with other healthcare professionals such as doctors to make sure that the treatment plan for the patient is appropriate. Sometimes changes that occur in a patient's life require you to help them to adjust to the change. As you spend more time with your patient and evaluate them, you'll occasionally have to change the treatment plan in order to better address to the progress of the patient.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) didn't have employment growth information specifically for clinical therapists. However, you can examine the job growth of social workers to get an idea of what the job outlook for clinical therapists was. The BLS projected an employment growth of 19% for social workers from 2012-2022. In comparison to other jobs, this is faster than the average growth. Employment growth can vary depending on the specialty on which a social worker focuses.

Salary Info

Since the BLS didn't have specific information on clinical therapist wages, you can look at social worker earnings in order to get an idea of what clinical therapists might earn. As of May 2014, mental health and substance abuse social workers made roughly $45,000 in average annual wages. School, family and child social workers had average incomes of $46,000 or so. Around $54,000 was the yearly salary on average for healthcare social workers. All other social workers had annual incomes of about $58,000, on average.

Career Requirements

Training and Education

A master's degree in social work is the minimum educational requirement for this career. Aspiring clinical therapists most often earn the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree as undergraduates, although a degree in psychology is also acceptable. To become a clinical therapist, you'll have to possess a state license. You'll typically need two years or 3,000 hours of experience, an MSW and to pass an exam to earn your license, although requirements vary by state.

What Do Employers Want?

Clinical therapists are generally expected to have good listening skills. An employer counts on a clinical therapist to effectively understand the needs of a client by listening to the issues the client brings up. Organizational skills are also important to employers since clinical therapists have to manage the paperwork for multiple patients. Continue to read below to learn what some real employers wanted in clinical therapists from job postings that were taken in November 2012.

  • A clinical therapist position in Illinois called for someone willing to be on call for crisis situations.
  • An opening in Alabama needed a clinical therapist who had two years of supervisory experience.
  • In Utah, a clinical therapist job was available to someone with two years of experience working with adolescents and youths.
  • A counseling center in Alaska preferred a clinical therapist with outpatient counseling experience.

How to Stand Out as a Clinical Therapist

In private practice, the ability to track down new clients might help you stand out from other clinical therapists. If you're easily able to make connections with other professionals in related fields, you can receive referral clients from them. In addition, when you have a regular list of clients, it is important to possess time management skills. You can stand out from other clinical therapists by being able to properly and effectively manage your time in a way that addresses all of your clients. Problem solving skills are also important for clinical therapists who're interested in standing out because you'll need innovative and practical answers to the problems facing your clients.

Other Occupational Options

If you'd like to counsel clients dealing with mental health issues but hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than social work or psychology, a similar job you could consider pursuing is mental health counselor. Mental health counselors can hold a bachelor's degree in most any field, but need a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or in counseling. In this occupation, you try to help patients who are suffering from emotional or mental disorders. You'll persuade patients to discuss their issues with you and help work through these problems. You might work with social workers and psychiatrists to ensure that a patient is receiving the proper care. The BLS in May 2011 found that mental health counselors earned around $43,000 on average. From 2010-2020, a 36% employment growth was projected for mental health counselors.

Another alternative career you may want to look into is school, clinical or counseling psychologist. As a psychologist, your general job duties consist of recording and interpreting how people interact with each other along with a person's interaction with the environment. The purpose of this is to understand human behavior and how people process things. Choosing a specific area of psychology such as counseling, clinical or school determines the primary focus of your work. The BLS reported that this occupational group was expected from 2010-2020 to see a 22% growth in employment. About $73,000 was the average annual earnings for clinical, counseling and school psychologists in May 2011.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA: Health Systems Management

What is your highest level of education?

Bryant & Stratton College

  • Health Services Administration - AAS

What is your high school graduation status?

Liberty University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences: Exercise and Sport Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences: General
  • Doctor of Health Sciences: General

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your highest level of education?