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Top Paying States for Mental Health Workers, Substance Abuse & Counselors

Published March, 18th 2020

Our research team dives deep into the latest national Mental Health statistics and provides a unique analysis of current trends for workers.

As more Americans embrace the benefits of mental health services and the stigma surrounding mental illness continues to evaporate, demand for compassionate, qualified mental health professionals should continue to surge across the United States.

In fact, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most roles in mental health services will grow at a more rapid clip than the average job. For example, demand for substance abuse and mental health counselors will climb by 22% through 2028, compared to a growth rate of just 5% for all jobs.

So there’s no doubt that for people with a strong desire to help others improve their mental health, personal relationships and overall well-being, a career in mental health services is likely to be a healthy one. But does that hold true everywhere across this diverse country? Which places are better than others?

We wanted to determine the best places in America for mental health workers, so we turned to data from Indeed, Zillow and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create a Mental Health Workers Index ranking of all 50 states.

We analyzed data on salary income, housing affordability, and residents’ mental health, and our formula compared each state to the national median in each category. The result is a ranking that indicates the attractiveness of each state for mental health workers relative to the typical U.S. state. In other words, the higher the Mental Health Workers Index number, the better we believe the state to be for a long, successful career in the mental health field.

The data that went into our ranking included state-by-state wage and salary information for 15 mental health jobs (see list), annual housing costs, the percentage of income taken by annual housing costs, the percentage of adults with a mental illness and the percentage of adults using mental health services. More details on the methodology of our ranking can be found at the bottom of this page.

In This Section

  • Mental Health Workers Index
  • Best States for Mental Health Workers
  • How We Collected Data for This Analysis
  • Fair Use Statement
  • About PsyDPrograms.org

Mental Health Workers Index

According to the data, the best state for mental health workers is West Virginia, barely taking the top spot over Arkansas. Both states rate highly by virtue of a low cost of living and relatively high rates of mental illness and mental health services usage. Put another way — the average mental health worker will easily afford to live there, and it’s likely they’ll have plenty of people they can help. At the other end of the spectrum are Hawaii and California, which have higher wages but are considerably more expensive places to live than either West Virginia or Arkansas.

What else can we learn from this ranking?

  • Nevada and New Hampshire are the two states closest to the median, with Nevada just above and New Hampshire just below.
  • The Northeast is the only major region of the country without a state in the top 10; the highest-rated Northeastern state is Maine, just a few percentage points better than the median.
  • While the top two states and four of the top 10 are in the South, the region has just as many states in the bottom 10.
  • A slight majority of states (29) are better than the national baseline.
  • Utah has the highest rate of reported mental illness while New Jersey has the lowest.
  • Nevada has the highest annual reported income while Missouri has the lowest.
RankStateAverage IncomeAnnual Housing CostsIncome Used By HousingWith Mental IllnessUsing Mental Health ServicesMental Health Index
1West Virginia$71,935$9,48013.2%23.8%18.6%132.6%
2Arkansas$77,851$9,00011.6%20.3%17.1%131.5%
3North Dakota$68,746$9,18013.4%19.1%15.7%125.4%
4Oklahoma$68,062$9,54014.0%20.4%14.7%122.8%
5Indiana$67,651$10,62015.7%22.5%17.0%121.9%
6Idaho$69,939$11,94017.1%24.5%19.7%121.7%
7Kentucky$68,823$11,22016.3%22.1%19.1%121.4%
8Iowa$67,996$10,62015.6%19.9%18.2%120.8%
9Kansas$63,081$10,20016.2%19.6%16.6%120.2%
10Wyoming$65,325$10,06815.4%20.3%14.9%119.6%
11Alabama$65,483$10,65616.3%21.4%16.0%119.0%
12Missouri$62,177$10,99217.7%21.4%17.0%118.8%
13Ohio$71,344$11,70016.4%21.4%18.3%117.7%
14Mississippi$74,022$10,43414.1%19.5%13.7%116.0%
15South Dakota$68,696$10,74015.6%17.5%15.1%113.6%
16Wisconsin$68,210$11,94017.5%19.3%17.8%113.6%
17Montana$66,995$11,53217.2%20.0%16.0%113.6%
18Utah$62,957$15,00023.8%25.3%19.5%112.4%
19New Mexico$78,607$11,40014.5%19.1%14.1%111.8%
20Louisiana$64,288$12,00018.7%20.6%14.7%110.5%
21Nebraska$64,916$11,64017.9%18.1%15.0%109.7%
22Delaware$67,549$14,40021.3%20.0%17.4%105.6%
23Michigan$68,578$13,80020.1%19.1%16.4%105.0%
24Maine$70,531$16,80023.8%20.8%19.4%103.1%
25Alaska$92,411$14,40015.6%20.5%14.0%103.0%
26Vermont$74,723$19,20025.7%20.7%22.8%102.8%
27Rhode Island$71,442$18,00025.2%21.3%20.2%102.2%
28Tennessee$66,995$13,80020.6%18.3%14.9%102.1%
29Nevada$98,136$15,48015.8%20.7%14.2%100.7%
30New Hampshire$68,818$18,09026.3%20.6%18.5%99.2%
31South Carolina$78,842$15,25219.3%18.3%15.6%99.1%
32Oregon$68,126$18,37227.0%22.5%17.1%98.9%
33North Carolina$69,371$15,26422.0%18.8%15.1%98.7%
34Minnesota$66,290$16,92025.5%19.3%17.3%98.7%
35Pennsylvania$71,800$16,20022.6%18.2%16.4%97.6%
36Connecticut$83,633$17,22020.6%19.0%17.2%97.4%
37Arizona$76,547$16,42821.5%19.2%14.9%96.1%
38Washington$77,219$20,38826.4%22.2%17.0%94.8%
39Colorado$68,713$21,00030.6%21.5%17.3%94.1%
40Illinois$70,154$18,60026.5%18.1%15.0%90.9%
41Georgia$72,220$17,40024.1%18.1%13.0%90.4%
42Massachusetts$77,876$29,40037.8%21.2%20.9%89.6%
43Virginia$69,020$19,80028.7%17.4%14.7%87.9%
44Texas$70,611$17,04024.1%16.2%11.7%87.5%
45Maryland$72,264$18,98426.3%17.0%13.2%86.6%
46Florida$71,811$19,54827.2%17.4%12.4%85.0%
47New York$74,404$27,60037.1%18.3%14.6%79.6%
48New Jersey$91,979$22,80024.8%16.1%12.8%79.3%
49Hawaii$77,004$24,60031.9%17.6%11.4%77.2%
50California$81,356$29,94036.8%18.5%12.0%74.1%
* Mental illness and mental health services usage rates include adults only.
Of course, your mileage may vary, and every person’s living situation is unique. It’s worth noting that four of the five highest-population states are rated among the bottom 10 states in our index, but there are undoubtedly thousands of mental healthcare workers who are making a difference in those states every day.

Best States for Mental Health Workers

We’ve seen how the states performed in our analysis, but let’s take a closer look at how they all got here by looking at the underlying data for each state.

#1. West Virginia

  • Average Annual Income: $71,934.69
  • Annual Housing Costs: $9,480
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 13.2%
  • % With Mental Illness: 23.8%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 18.6%

#2. Arkansas

  • Average Annual Income: $77,850.56
  • Annual Housing Costs: $9,000
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 11.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.1%

#3. North Dakota

  • Average Annual Income: $68,746.16
  • Annual Housing Costs: $9,180
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 13.4%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.7%

#4. Oklahoma

  • Average Annual Income: $68,061.99
  • Annual Housing Costs: $9,540
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 14.0%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.7%

#5. Indiana

  • Average Annual Income: $67,651.36
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,620
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.7%
  • % With Mental Illness: 22.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.0%

#6. Idaho

  • Average Annual Income: $69,939.16
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,940
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 17.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 24.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 19.7%

#7. Kentucky

  • Average Annual Income: $68,822.81
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,220
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 16.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 22.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 19.1%

#8. Iowa

  • Average Annual Income: $67,995.92
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,620
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.9%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 18.2%

#9. Kansas

  • Average Annual Income: $63,081.23
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,200
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 16.2%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.6%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 16.6%

#10. Wyoming

  • Average Annual Income: $65,325.35
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,068
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.4%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.9%

#11. Alabama

  • Average Annual Income: $65,482.88
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,656
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 16.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 16.0%

#12. Missouri

  • Average Annual Income: $62,176.80
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,992
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 17.7%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.0%

#13. Ohio

  • Average Annual Income: $71,344.07
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,700
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 16.4%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 18.3%

#14. Mississippi

  • Average Annual Income: $74,022.04
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,434
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 14.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 13.7%

#15. South Dakota

  • Average Annual Income: $68,696.13
  • Annual Housing Costs: $10,740
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 17.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.1%

#16. Wisconsin

  • Average Annual Income: $68,209.79
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,940
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 17.5%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.8%

#17. Montana

  • Average Annual Income: $66,995.12
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,532
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 17.2%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.0%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 16.0%

#18. Utah

  • Average Annual Income: $62,956.97
  • Annual Housing Costs: $15,000
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 23.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 25.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 19.5%

#19. New Mexico

  • Average Annual Income: $78,607.45
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,400
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 14.5%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.1%

#20. Louisiana

  • Average Annual Income: $64,288.00
  • Annual Housing Costs: $12,000
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 18.7%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.6%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.7%

#21. Nebraska

  • Average Annual Income: $64,915.85
  • Annual Housing Costs: $11,640
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 17.9%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.0%

#22. Delaware

  • Average Annual Income: $67,548.92
  • Annual Housing Costs: $14,400
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 21.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.0%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.4%

#23. Michigan

  • Average Annual Income: $68,578.15
  • Annual Housing Costs: $13,800
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 20.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 16.4%

#24. Maine

  • Average Annual Income: $70,531.27
  • Annual Housing Costs: $16,800
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 23.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.8%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 19.4%

#25. Alaska

  • Average Annual Income: $92,411.31
  • Annual Housing Costs: $14,400
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.0%

#26. Vermont

  • Average Annual Income: $74,722.60
  • Annual Housing Costs: $19,200
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 25.7%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.7%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 22.8%

#27. Rhode Island

  • Average Annual Income: $71,441.61
  • Annual Housing Costs: $18,000
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 25.2%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 20.2%

#28. Tennessee

  • Average Annual Income: $66,994.63
  • Annual Housing Costs: $13,800
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 20.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.9%

#29. Nevada

  • Average Annual Income: $98,135.77
  • Annual Housing Costs: $15,480
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 15.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.7%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.2%

#30. New Hampshire

  • Average Annual Income: $68,817.72
  • Annual Housing Costs: $18,090
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 26.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 20.6%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 18.5%

#31. South Carolina

  • Average Annual Income: $78,841.80
  • Annual Housing Costs: $15,252
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 19.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.6%

#32. Oregon

  • Average Annual Income: $68,126.45
  • Annual Housing Costs: $18,372
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 27.0%
  • % With Mental Illness: 22.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.1%

#33. North Carolina

  • Average Annual Income: $69,371.13
  • Annual Housing Costs: $15,264
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 22.0%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.8%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.1%

#34. Minnesota

  • Average Annual Income: $66,289.60
  • Annual Housing Costs: $16,920
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 25.5%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.3%

#35. Pennsylvania

  • Average Annual Income: $71,800.20
  • Annual Housing Costs: $16,200
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 22.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.2%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 16.4%

#36. Connecticut

  • Average Annual Income: $83,633.31
  • Annual Housing Costs: $17,220
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 20.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.0%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.2%

#37. Arizona

  • Average Annual Income: $76,546.59
  • Annual Housing Costs: $16,428
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 21.5%
  • % With Mental Illness: 19.2%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.9%

#38. Washington

  • Average Annual Income: $77,218.85
  • Annual Housing Costs: $20,388
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 26.4%
  • % With Mental Illness: 22.2%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.0%

#39. Colorado

  • Average Annual Income: $68,712.83
  • Annual Housing Costs: $21,000
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 30.6%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 17.3%

#40. Illinois

  • Average Annual Income: $70,154.39
  • Annual Housing Costs: $18,600
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 26.5%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 15.0%

#41. Georgia

  • Average Annual Income: $72,219.85
  • Annual Housing Costs: $17,400
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 24.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 13.0%

#42. Massachusetts

  • Average Annual Income: $77,875.87
  • Annual Housing Costs: $29,400
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 37.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 21.2%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 20.9%

#43. Virginia

  • Average Annual Income: $69,019.60
  • Annual Housing Costs: $19,800
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 28.7%
  • % With Mental Illness: 17.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.7%

#44. Texas

  • Average Annual Income: $70,611.16
  • Annual Housing Costs: $17,040
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 24.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 16.2%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 11.7%

#45. Maryland

  • Average Annual Income: $72,264.17
  • Annual Housing Costs: $18,984
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 26.3%
  • % With Mental Illness: 17.0%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 13.2%

#46. Florida

  • Average Annual Income: $71,811.15
  • Annual Housing Costs: $19,548
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 27.2%
  • % With Mental Illness: 17.4%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 12.4%

#47. New York

  • Average Annual Income: $74,404.49
  • Annual Housing Costs: $27,600
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 37.1%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.3%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 14.6%

#48. New Jersey

  • Average Annual Income: $91,979.03
  • Annual Housing Costs: $22,800
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 24.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 16.1%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 12.8%

#49. Hawaii

  • Average Annual Income: $77,004.37
  • Annual Housing Costs: $24,600
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 31.9%
  • % With Mental Illness: 17.6%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 11.4%

#50. California

  • Average Annual Income: $81,355.71
  • Annual Housing Costs: $29,940
  • % of Income Taken by Housing: 36.8%
  • % With Mental Illness: 18.5%
  • % Using Mental Health Services: 12.0%

Conclusion

While thousands of mental health professionals are already well-established in their careers wherever they live, there are thousands more who are just starting out and even more students who are only now beginning their educational journeys. It’s true that there are dozens or even hundreds of factors that play into where a person chooses to live and work, but our Mental Health Professionals Index indicates that some states are clearly better options than others.

How We Collected Data for This Analysis

The salary data used in this analysis came from Indeed.com. We used average salaries for 15 jobs in mental health for each state from over 10,000 employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed over the past 36 months. In some cases, annual salaries were listed, but for jobs where hourly, weekly or monthly rates were listed, those were converted to an annual full-time equivalent.

Here are the 15 jobs we analyzed:

  • Behavior Therapist
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Clinician
  • Counselor
  • Family Therapist
  • Mental Health Case Manager
  • Mental Health Technician
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Registered Mental Health Nurse
  • School Psychologist
  • Social Worker
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Therapist

To quantify housing affordability for mental health professionals in each state, we used data published by Zillow.com that estimated the median rent list price for a two-bedroom dwelling in each state at the end of 2019. Zillow data can be accessed here and changes regularly.

Information on the prevalence of mental illness and mental health services was published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration during its most recent research cycle, which ran from 2017-2018. Our data, which the agency published in 2019, covered the percentage of adults in each state with a mental illness and the percentage of adults who used mental health services in the past year.

Additional Resources

Fair Use Statement

PsydPrograms.org is committed to helping professionals seeking a clinical psychology career to learn about the top Psy.D programs according to a number of our internal rating systems. You also can read extensive university reviews, learn about scholarships, student guides, and a wealth of related career information in Psychology, Counseling, Social Work and more. We hope to reach as many people as possible. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as PsydPrograms.org. https://psydprograms.org/best-worst-places-in-america-for-mental-health-workers/

About PsyDPrograms.org

PsydPrograms.org is the largest online psychology graduate community for students seeking PsyD degree programs, helping thousands of mental health career professional visitors each month. Over the past 10 years that we have been online, we have helped tens of thousands of readers make more informed decisions involving graduate psychology PsyD degree & career decisions.

All of our expert writers and test reviewers have advanced degrees in relevant fields. This piece was in part authored and reviewed by Ann Steele, Ph.D., Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding this research or any other material on our website, you can email us at editor@psydprograms.org

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Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.