Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Army Mental Health Specialists

Created by careersinpsychology

Army Mental Health SpecialistArmy Mental Health Specialists (MOS 68X) work under the supervision of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers or psychiatric nurses.  It is an entry-level position open to women, enlisted personnel, active duty personnel, and to those in the Army Reserve.

Army Mental Health Specialists assist with the managed care and treatment of in-patient and outpatient mental health issues and problems, during peacetime or in the field, in the US or in the world.  Army mental health specialists collect and record psychosocial and physical data, and treat and counsel military patients with behavioral, personal, and mental health issues, including addictions and psychological problems.

A number of mental health specialists’ positions are available in the military, varying in scope and responsibility. There are four skill levels, including:

  • Skill Level One: Under careful supervision, collects and records physical and psychosocial data, assists with the treatment of drug and alcohol patients and psychiatric patients, and counsels clients and patients with psychological, personal and behavioral problems/issues.
  • Skill Level Two: Collects and records physical and psychosocial data, and assists with the treatment of drug and alcohol patients and psychiatric patients. Counsels clients and patients with psychological, personal and behavioral problems/issues.
  • Skill Level Three: Collects and then records psychosocial and physical data, assists with the direct treatment and care of psychiatric patients, and drug and alcohol patients. Provides guidance to in/out psychiatric patients, counsels patients with personal, psychological, and behavioral issues to adjust and achieve a more satisfying personal, social and occupational status, as well as assists with the management of patient mental health activity.
  • Skill Level Four: Aids and supports professional staff with the management and supervision of inpatient and outpatient mental health activities.  Assists staff in the care and supervision of patient treatment programs and personal matters. Administers and scores psychological tests. Takes charge, supports and helps staff with fiscal, administrative and technical matters.

What Type of Positions Can an Army Mental Health Specialist Hold?

Army mental health specialists’ actively treat and prevent mental health crises in enlisted personnel. Duties include administering patient interviews and psychological tests, providing counseling, and ensuring a patient’s physical needs are met.

Army Mental Health Specialists are trained to work in a variety of related fields, including:

  • Counselor
  • Social worker
  • Caseworker
  • Psychiatric aid or technician
  • Administrative assistant
  • Chaplin Assistant
  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor

They work on base or in the field; in the US and around the world, during peacetime or during conflict.

Learn more about how to become an army mental health specialist.

Typical Employment Settings for an Army Mental Health Specialist

Army Mental Health Specialists work in a variety of sectors, including:

  • VA Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • In the field – in the US or overseas
  • Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Medical inpatient and outpatient treatment centers
  • Mental health and family advocacy organizations
  • Substance abuse programs

The Army Medical Service Corps also offers mental health specialists significant opportunities to expand into areas beyond traditional clinical roles, including teaching, research, and administration.

Additional opportunities and areas for employment, include:

Ways for Army Mental Health Specialist to Increase Desirability as a Job Candidate

An Army Mental Health Specialist may increase desirability as a candidate by gaining knowledge in psychology, math, and communications, and be impassioned about patient care, counseling, and mental health in military personnel and their families.   They must be enthusiastic about a career in the armed forces, and committed to serving in the military.

Below Is the Educational Path for an Army Mental Health Specialist:

Army Mental Health Specialists must graduate from high school, obtain a 101 or higher skilled technical score on the ASVAB (a multiple-aptitude test that measures abilities and aids in predicting future academic and occupational success in the military). According to GoArmy.com, ideal applicants have knowledge and coursework in psychology, chemistry, general science, biology, and algebra.  Coursework and skills will include:

  • Psychology
  • CPR training
  • Diagnosing issues and problems
  • Training in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
  • Treatment medications
  • Therapy and counseling
  • Personality and mood disorders, including: phobias, depression and schizophrenia

Job training for a Mental Health Specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 20 weeks of Advanced Individual Training, which includes in-patient care.  In basic training, an individual will learn soldiering skills, and 20 weeks of advanced Individual training, which includes practice in in-patient care. Training length varies depending on specialty.

Some of the skills an aspiring mental health specialist will learn are:

  • Emergency medical techniques, including CPR
  • Patient care techniques
  • Counseling techniques

In addition, advanced training for mental health specialist takes place for all branches of the military at the consolidated Medical Education and Training Campus (METC)the METC course combines supervised clinical practice and classroom coursework. Students from learn about " psychopathological disorders, psychological testing, communication techniques, human development, consultation, interviewing, psychiatric behavioral interventions, and Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC).

Formal training (completion of MOS 91B and 91X course conducted under the auspices of the AHS) is mandatory.

While an enlisted member of the Army, mental health specialists often receive:

  • Base pay based on number of years in the Army and rank.
  • Sign-on, retention, and promotion-based bonuses.
  • Free or low-cost health insurance.
  • Assistance with student loans. In some cases, the GI Bill may cover all or some of an Army mental health specialist’s educational costs incurred during or after their service.
  • Monthly stipends for cost-of-living expenses.
  • And more...


Army Credentialing Opportunities OnLine (COOL) lists professional certificates that 68X’s can qualify for based on education, examinations, and experience, including:

  • Mental health specialist
  • Certified social worker
  • Certification in couple or family therapy
  • Alcohol and rug counselor
  • Addiction counselor
  • Grief counselor

Army COOL does not specify whether they'll provide assistance paying examination fees, and the only certification eligible for reimbursement under the GI Bill is National Certified Counselor.

Characteristics Employers Tend to Look for in an Army Mental Health Specialist

In order to succeed as a mental health specialist in the Army, an individual must have the following characteristics, including:

  • Time-sensitive problem analysis
  • Accurate, sound and immediate decision-making skills
  • Ability to operate under stress
  • Ability to apply critical thinking skills
  • Ability to make quick decisions and translate these skills to battlefield conditions when needed
  • Enjoy helping and caring for others
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Interest in chemistry, biology, psychology, general science and algebra
  • High attention to detail

Ways for an Army Mental Health Specialist to Increase His/Her Salary

Army Mental Health Specialists can increase their salary by gaining knowledge and furthering their education.  Advancing in rank (from enlisted member to officer) can also increase opportunities for advancement and increased salary.

Further Opportunities

Army mental health specialists may be eligible for civilian employment, after serving in the Army, by enrolling in the Army PaYS program. The PaYS program is a recruitment option that guarantees a job interview with military-friendly employers that may be looking for trained Veterans to join their organization. more information about the Army PaYS Program can be found at http://www.armypays.com.

Army Mental Health Specialist Continuing Education (CE) Sources

Directly-related or skill-related certifications have the most potential for aspiring mental health specialists to take advantage of the training and education received in the Army, by using the skills and knowledge learned to aid in earning a civilian credential. Credentialing boards determine the requirements for licensure and certification.

Typical requirements include the following:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Work or professional experience
  • Examinations

Contacting the credentialing agency will confirm applicable licensure or certification requirements, and provide application forms and exam preparation materials, as well as information regarding fees associated with applying for a credential. Individuals can also determine if the Army training or experience received is accepted by the credentialing agency, or if any additional steps are necessary.

If the credentialing agency states military experience and training are not recognized, an individual can determine if they can conduct an individual assessment of military training and experience, and what is needed to complete and initiate the assessment.

After earning a credential, it is important to keep the credential active. Check with the credentialing agency regarding the following items:

  • Is there a renewal period for the certification? Many certifying agencies require individuals to renew certification after a period of time.

Are there renewal requirements? Credentialing agencies may require additional education or training after earning a credential. Other agencies may require a certification exam at the end of the renewal period.  Renewal requirements vary by credentialing agency.