Employment outlook and career guidance for Army Mental Health Specialists

Army Mental Health Specialist

Army Mental Health Specialists (MOS 68X) work under the supervision of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers or psychiatric nurses. It's an entry-level position open to women, enlisted personnel, active duty personnel, and those in the Army Reserve.Army Mental Health Specialists assist with the care and treatment of inpatient and outpatient mental health problems and issues, in peacetime or on-site, in the U.S. or around 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 problems, including addiction and mental health issues.

There are a number of mental health specialist positions in the military, varying in scope and responsibility. There are four skill levels, including:

  • Skill Level One: Collects and records physical and psychosocial data under careful supervision, assists in the treatment of drug, alcohol, and psychiatric patients, and counsels clients and patients with mental, personal, and behavioral problems.
  • Difficulty level two: collects and records physical and psychosocial data and helps treat drug and alcohol patients and psychiatric patients. Counsels clients and patients with mental, personal, and behavioral problems.
  • Skill level three: collects and then records psychosocial and physical data, assists in the direct treatment and care of psychiatric patients and drug and alcohol patients. Provides counseling for in/out psychiatric patients, counsels patients with personal, psychological, and behavioral problems to adjust and achieve a more satisfactory personal, social, and vocational status, and assists in managing patients' mental health activities.
  • Skill Level Four: Assists and supports professional staff in the administration and supervision of inpatient and outpatient mental health activities. Assists personnel with supervision and monitoring of patient treatment programs and personal issues. Administers and scores psychological tests. Assumes, supports, and assists staff with fiscal, administrative, and technical matters.

What types 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 conducting patient interviews and psychological testing, 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:

  • Counselors
  • Social Worker
  • Caseworker
  • Mental health aide or technician
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Chaplin Associate
  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselor

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

Learn more about becoming an Army mental health specialist.

Typical terms and conditions of employment for an Army mental health specialist

Army mental health specialists work in a variety of sectors, including:

  • VA hospitals
  • Clinics
  • On-site – in the U.S. 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 professionals significant opportunities to expand into areas outside of traditional clinical roles, including teaching, research and administration.

Additional opportunities and areas of employment include:

  • Psychologist
  • State certified psychiatric technician 4
  • State Certified Mental Health Technician 3
  • Medical Exercise Specialist
  • Medical Administrative Assistant Certification

Ways for an Army mental health specialist to increase attractiveness as a candidate

An Army mental health specialist can increase candidate appeal by gaining knowledge in psychology, math, and communication, and being passionate about patient care, counseling, and mental health for military members and their families. Must be enthusiastic about a career in the armed forces and committed to military service.

Below is the educational pathway for an Army mental health specialist:

Army mental health specialists must graduate from high school and have a technical score of 101 or higher on the ASVAB (a multiple aptitude test that measures skills and helps predict future academic and career 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 include:

  • Psychology
  • CPR training
  • Diagnosis of problems and problems
  • Training in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV)
  • Treatment medications
  • Therapy and consulting
  • Personality and mood disorders, including: phobias, depression, and schizophrenia

Vocational training for a mental health specialist requires 10 weeks of basic combat training and 20 weeks of advanced individual training, including inpatient care. In basic training, a person learns soldiering skills and 20 weeks of advanced individual training that includes practice in inpatient care. Training time varies depending on the subject.

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

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

In addition, the Consolidated Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) hosts advanced training for mental health specialists for all branches of the military – the METC course combines supervised clinical practice and classroom work. Students learn about "psychopathological disorders, psychological testing, communication techniques, human development, counseling, interviewing, psychiatric behavioral interventions, and combat operational stress control (COSC).

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

While an enlisted member of the Army, a mental health specialist can expect:

  • Up to 129.020 US dollars to go to college while on duty
  • Up to 86.$536 to go to college after military service, with rent covered by the military for three years
  • Up to 20.000 US dollar sign-up bonus
  • Repayment of the student loan in the amount of up to 20.000 US dollars
  • Free medical and dental care
  • 30 furlough
  • Free ride
  • AND MORE..


Army Credentialing Opportunities OnLine (COOL) lists professional certifications for which 68X may qualify based on training, exams and experience, including:

  • Mental health specialist
  • Certified social worker
  • Certification in couples or family therapy
  • Alcohol and drug counselor
  • Addiction Counselor
  • Grief counselor

Army COOL does not indicate whether they provide assistance with payment of exam fees, and the only certification that can be reimbursed under the GI Bill is National Certified Counselor.

Characteristics employers look for in an Army mental health specialist

To be successful as a mental health specialist in the military, an individual must have the following characteristics, including:

  • Time critical problem analysis
  • Accurate, informed, and immediate decision-making skills
  • Ability to operate under stress
  • Ability to apply critical thinking skills
  • Ability to make quick decisions and transfer those skills to battlefield conditions when needed
  • Enjoy helping and caring for others
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Interest in chemistry, biology, psychology, general natural sciences and algebra
  • Lots of attention to detail

Ways for an Army mental health specialist to increase his or her salary

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

Other possibilities

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 an interview with military-friendly employers who may be looking for trained veterans to join their organization. For more information on the Army PaYS program, visit http://www.armypays.com.

Army Mental Health Specialist Continuing Education (CE) Sources

Directly related or skill-based certifications have the greatest potential for aspiring mental health specialists to leverage training and education acquired in the military by using the skills and knowledge you gained while earning a civilian credential. Credentialing boards establish requirements for licensure and certification.

Typical requirements include the following:

  • Training
  • Education
  • Work or professional experience
  • Exams

Contacting the credentialing agency confirms applicable licensing or certification requirements and provides application forms and exam preparation materials, as well as information on 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 additional steps are required.If the credentialing agency indicates that military experience and training will not be credentialed, a person can determine if they can complete an individualized assessment of military training and experience and what is required to complete and initiate the assessment.

Once a credential has been obtained, it is important to keep the credential active. Check with the credentialing agency for the following:

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

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