How to Become an Army Mental Health Specialist
Army mental health specialists (military occupational specialty [MOS] 68X) work under the direction of psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and/or psychiatric nurses. Women, enlisted individuals, those on active duty, and members of the Army Reserve are all eligible for this entry-level position.
Inpatient and outpatient mental health concerns and problems are handled, cared for, and treated by Army mental health specialists either in the U.S. or across the globe during either peacetime or in the field during conflicts. As well as treating and counseling military patients with personal, behavioral, and mental health concerns — including addictions and psychiatric disorders — Army mental health specialists gather and record psychosocial and physical data from them.
Step 1: Complete an Army Mental Health Specialist Degree
Army mental health specialists are required to complete high school and get an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) skill technical score of 101 or above (ASVAB is a multiple-aptitude exam that assesses aptitude and helps predict future performance in the military in terms of academics and employment). GoArmy.com claims that the best candidates for this role have training in:
• General chemistry
• General science
Coursework and necessary skills will consist of:
• CPR training
• Diagnosing issues and problems
• Training in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
• Treatment medications
• Therapy and counseling
• Personality and mood disorders, including phobias, depression, and schizophrenia
After the completion of 10 weeks of basic combat training, an Army mental health specialist must complete 20 weeks of individual advanced training, which will include some inpatient treatment. Depending on a trainee's specialty, training duration can vary.
A prospective mental health specialist will master a variety of abilities, including:
• Emergency medical techniques, including CPR
• Patient care techniques
• Counseling techniques
Additionally, all military forces get advanced training as mental health specialists at a combined Medical Education and Training Campus (METC), which integrates classroom instruction with supervised clinical practice. Psychopathological disorders, psychological testing, communication techniques, human development, consultation, interviewing, psychiatric behavioral interventions, and combat operational stress control (COSC) are among the topics taught to students.
It's absolutely necessary to complete this formal training (MOS 91B and 91X courses must be completed under the supervision of the Army Health System [AHS]).
A mental health expert serving in the Army as an enlisted soldier can anticipate receiving:
• Up to $129,020 to go to college while serving
• Up to $86,536 to go to college after serving in the military, with rent covered by the military for three years
• Up to $20,000 sign-on bonus
• Student loan repayment of up to $20,000
• Free medical and dental care
• 30-days of paid vacation
• Free travel
• Additional benefits
Step 2: Become Licensed as an Army Mental Health Specialist
The criteria for Army mental health specialist certification and licensing are set by Army credentialing organizations.
As an example, certification and licensing requirements may include:
• Work or professional experience
By getting in touch with the correct Army credentialing organization, you may check the relevant license or certification criteria, get application forms, materials for relevant tests (see Examination, below), and details on the costs of applying for credentials. Additionally, applicants may find out whether any extra procedures are required or if the credentialing agency will accept their specific Army training or expertise.
Internship / Practicum Experience
An Army mental health specialist who's passionate about counseling, patient care, and the mental health of military members and their families can become more desirable as a candidate for this role by being knowledgeable in psychology, arithmetic, and communications. They must be committed to serving in the military and be excited about a military career.
The best chance for aspiring Army mental health specialists to benefit from their military training and education is via directly relevant or skill-related certificates, which they may also use to help them get civilian credentials.
According to their tests, training, and work experience, 68X applicants may be eligible to get the following professional certificates, according to Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL):
• Mental health specialist
• Certified social worker
• Certification in couple or family therapy
• Alcohol and drug counselor
• Addiction counselor
• Grief counselor
Army COOL makes no mention of whether it will help with test costs, and the National Certified Counselor credential is the only one that qualifies for GI Bill reimbursement.
U.S. states don't have formal requirements for individuals who desire to work as Army mental health specialists, as the Army determines these.
Step 3: Applying for an Army Mental Health Specialist Job
The Army offers a variety of roles for mental health specialists, each with a different set of duties. There are four degrees of skill that qualify specialists for these roles, which include:
Skill Level 1: Individuals at this skill level collect and record psychosocial and physical data under close supervision, aid in the treatment of mental and drug/alcohol patients, and provide psychological, personal, and behavioral counseling to clients and patients.
Skill Level 2: Individuals at this skill level gather and record psychological and physical data, aid in the treatment of mental and drug/alcohol patients, and provide psychological, emotional, and behavioral counseling to mental patients and other clients.
Skill Level 3: Individuals at this skill level gather and record physical and psychological data, aid with the direct care and treatment of mental and drug/alcohol patients, assist in the management of patients' mental health activities and offer direction to in- and outpatient psychiatric patients. Additionally, they counsel patients with psychological, personal, and behavioral disorders to make changes and attain a more productive personal, social, and vocational status. They also help support professional personnel with the administration and oversight of outpatient and inpatient mental health activities.
Skill Level 4: Individuals at this skill level help personnel with the management of private issues and patient treatment plans, conduct and evaluate psychological exams, command leadership positions, offer assistance, and support personnel with financial, administrative, and technological issues.
What Careers Can I Pursue With an Army Mental Health Specialist Degree?
Army mental health specialists make sure that enlisted individuals with mental health crises are aggressively treated. Among the responsibilities included are conducting psychological evaluations and patient interviews, offering therapy, and seeing to patients' physical requirements.
The following are some of the roles in which Army Mental Health Specialists are qualified to work:
• Social worker
• Psychiatric aid or technician
• Administrative assistant
• Chaplain assistant
• Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor
• Administrative assistant
Additionally, the Army Medical Service Corps provides major opportunities for mental health professionals to go beyond their core clinical duties and into fields like research, teaching, and administration.
Additional work options include roles as a:
• Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician 3
• Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician 4
• Medical Exercise Specialist
• Medical Administrative Assistant
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for mental health counselors (a category that includes Army mental health specialists) is predicted to grow at a rate of 25% between 2019 and 2029.
Where Can I Work with an Army Mental Health Specialist Degree?
Army Mental Health Specialists are employed in many different areas, including:
• VA hospitals
• In the field – in the U.S. or overseas
• Psychiatric hospitals
• Medical inpatient and outpatient treatment centers
• Mental health and family advocacy organizations
• Substance abuse programs
Step 4: Learn About Army Mental Health Specialist Salaries
According to the BLS, median annual salaries for mental health counselors (which include Army mental health specialists) were $48,520 in the United States as of 2021. BLS reported that mental health counselors earn median annual salaries as high as $66,190 in Utah and as low as $63,430 in New Jersey, states that have the highest employment levels for this job category.
Army mental health specialists may be able to raise their pay by learning more and pursuing further education. Increased prospects for development and higher pay may also be achieved by moving up in rank (from an enlisted soldier to an officer).
After they serve in the Army, mental health specialists who participate in the Army Partnership for Your Success (PaYS) program may be qualified for employment in the private sector. A job interview is guaranteed via the PaYS program with military-friendly firms that may be searching for skilled Army veterans to join their teams.