Non-Traditional PathsThinking about a job or career in mental health? Consider these alternative routes for getting there.
Traditional Education & Training Programs
Enroll in an education or training program offered at a high school, community college, or university where you can take core classes or earn a certificate, credential, or degree. Explore the rich variety of education & training programs.
Other Education & Training Programs
Enroll in an education or training program offered by a consumer organization (see the consumers section), professional or trade association (e.g., CASRA ), hospital, or county or regional vocational training center where you can take core classes or earn a certificate, credential, or degree. Explore the rich variety of education & training programs.
On-the-Job Experience & Training
Accept an entry-level position and gain relevant job experience and on-the-job training to advance in your career. Work your way up and into a career that makes sense for you by taking advantage of additional education and training opportunities offered by your employer or at a local community or 4-year college.
Work Release Programs
Some employers offer educational advancement incentives to employees. Ask your current employer about programs that offer scholarships, tuition forgiveness, or continue pay your salary while you work and attend college. In return for these career enhancement incentives, your employer will probably require some type of long-term employment commitment from you.
Personal Experience with Mental Health Services
Utilize your personal experience as a consumer or consumer family member to become a mental health professional. Some employers solicit consumer and consumer family members for direct service positions. Go to our agency search page and, visit the individual agency human resource websites, and research the job openings offered by the various mental health agencies.
Seek training & advice from consumer programs sponsored by your county mental health or vocational rehabilitation program. We've listed some of these programs below. You might try contacting these groups for information about training in your area.
Mental Health Consumer Concerns in Contra Costa County; Alameda County's Step Up Program; "BestNow" offered through Alameda County's Vocational Training Program; SPIRIT training in Contra Costa County.
Some jobs specify that experience with mental health services is a job requirement. Look through the Job Titles and Descriptions for those positions.
Seek employment in a mental health setting as a non-professional
What if you lack the qualifications to become a mental health professional or are unsure about working as a mental health professional? Take a job, for example as a clerk, secretary, fiscal analyst, bus driver, or food worker, in a mental health setting. See how it feels to work there. If you like working in that type of setting, explore the steps needed to transition to a mental health job.
Talk with current mental health workers/professionals
Interview others who work in the mental health field. Find out what they like about their jobs & professions and the kinds of career pathways they pursued.
Is your time limited? Are you concerned about quitting your job for a field about which you know little? Offer to volunteer in one or more mental health settings. See how you like the work and whether a change in careers makes sense for you. You can identify possible volunteer possibilities by contacting the agencies listed on our agency search page.