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What is the best way to Enter the Mental Health Field?

7th May 21

As more attention is paid to supporting and preventing mental health issues, more people are considering mental health related careers. Which is good considering new roles and services are being formed to address the mental health needs of society. With so many options available, you may be wondering which career path will allow you to help those in need of support.

This will largely depend on the amount of time you’re willing to invest upfront, and where your interests lie.

Mental health is a field that positions you to make a real difference to the mental well-being of others. It’s a career with a strong sense of fulfilment that other careers can lack, which makes it an increasingly popular choice.

Luckily, there are plenty of mental health related careers to choose from as so many jobs are involved in the sector. And some of these don’t require degree level qualifications.

You’re likely to be familiar with a few of these. But there are many career options that you may not realise are related to mental health.

To help you explore your options, we’ve listed some of the more obvious roles you can perform. As well as those that are lesser known and what you’ll need to get started in each.

learndirect - What is the best way to Enter the Mental Health Field?

Common Careers in Mental Health

The mental health field has been a rapidly expanding area of study for years. With each new theory or insight, further questions are raised as a result. Combined with a rapidly evolving, and increasingly complex society, it highlgihts a greater need for mental health support.

This leading to an entire sector focussing on improving our ongoing mental health and bringing with it ample career opportunities.

Mental Health Support Worker

Work with children, young people, adults or older people in various settings. Helping them with all manner of difficulties, from substance misuse, diminishing abilities, or even settlement after fleeing conflict or persecution.

Whatever area you focus on, you’ll provide support to affected individuals and families. Which can include anything from emotional support to assisting them with daily chores.

Becoming a mental health support worker is a popular option because it’s so dynamic and varied. Not to mention it doesn’t require official qualifications. Making it easier and quicker to transition into a mental health related role.

While studying isn’t essential, it can be extremely beneficial to bulk up your CV with relevant skills. You can study numerous courses online that will help support your application and earn you higher rates of pay. But for the most part, employers will be looking to assess your character, values and passions when establishing your suitability.

Psychological professions

There are various roles that can be pursued in psychology, psychiatry or psychotherapy. These typically deal with more intense human behaviours and mental health challenges. As such, they require degree and postgraduate level qualifications.

These roles are different, but they do overlap:


Study how people think, act, react and interact. Their work centres around analysing an individual’s behaviours by assessing their motivations, thoughts and feelings that lead to them. With the option to specialise in the behaviours of those with mental ill-health. Psychologists don’t have to be medically qualified.


Medical doctors who study mental health problems. You would be focused on diagnosing, managing and preventing these challenges in people. Often psychiatrists will specialise in areas like child and adolescents, old age, forensic, psychiatry of intellectual disability or medical psychotherapy.


Work with individuals, couples, groups and families to help them overcome stress, emotional, relationship, or habitual problems. Using talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapies,  psychoanalysis, arts and play therapies. They are generally psychiatrists, psychologists or other mental health professionals who’ve invested further time to specially train in psychotherapy. After which, they become fully qualified doctors.

You can study degree’s relating to these careers after completing an Access to HE Diploma (Psychology).

learndirect - What is the best way to Enter the Mental Health Field?

Mental Health Nurse

Another popular option because of its diverse workload is becoming a mental health nurse. You’ll help patients recover from periods of mental ill-health and to come to terms with their diagnosis. All the while encouraging them to actively take part in managing their challenges effectively.

You can specialise in areas you’re interested in or suited to, like working with individuals with personality disorders or psychosis. You’ll form part of the multidisciplinary team that supports the individual and carry out care plans designed by them and other stakeholders.

To become a mental health nurse you need to be registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). In order to do this, you must complete a pre-registration mental health nursing degree.

You can enrol on a nursing degree after completing an Access to HE Diploma (Nursing).

Lesser known Careers in Mental Health

There are many important roles directly involved with mental health which often go overlooked. But they provide equally essential support to individuals with enduring mental health disorders and challenges every day. What is important to know is that many professions provide the option of specialising in mental health. So there are more opportunities to explore than you might think.


With more than 1 in 10 women affected by mental ill-health during pregnancy or after birth, midwives provide important mental health support. You can become a specialist mental health midwife to be better placed to help new mothers. Working with maternity service providers to deliver specialist care to mothers and families facing mental health challenges.

Besides being a midwife, there are no set entry requirements for this role. However, mental health or counselling related courses will help give you relevant knowledge and skills.

You can study towards a midwifery degree with an Access to HE Diploma (Midwifery).

Special Educational Needs Teacher (SEN)

Teachers and teaching assistants in SEN work primarily with children with learning difficulties or disabilities.

Mental health support can play a part in these roles, but it won’t necessarily be the focus. Regardless, you’ll help students and pupils of varying needs and abilities to get the most out of their education and enjoy learning.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and to complete a teacher training programme in SEN to become an SEN teacher. As a teaching assistant, you can enter the field by taking online courses that provide you with specific SEN knowledge.  

Life Coach

As a life coach, you’re also able to specialise in mental health, otherwise known as a health and wellbeing or wellness coach. You’d help clients manage and overcome challenges by providing them with tools that help them achieve their personal wellness goals.

You’ll typically help with less severe conditions like anxiety or stress, referring those with more severe cases onto appropriate services.

There’s no regulated framework to become a life coach. But studying courses in coaching and mental health will evidence your ability to support people effectively and safely.

learndirect - What is the best way to Enter the Mental Health Field?

Advocacy Worker

An advocacy worker acts on behalf of those who cannot represent or speak for themselves supporting at risk individuals or those who have diminished capacity. Ensuring their views and desires are taken into account when professionals are planning their care provisions and support service.

You can specifically provide support to individuals with mental health issues. While you can secure this position without specific qualifications, advocacy and mental health courses can be incredibly beneficial.

Just be aware that for statutory advocacy roles, like IMHA and IMCA, you’ll need the Level 3 Certificate in Independent Advocacy Qualification.

Mental Health in Your Current Role

Another option that would see you working with mental health would be incorporating related duties into your current role. Mental health support in the workplace is something many businesses now realise they should provide, it’s a good opportunity to upskill.

Many online courses would equip you to assist colleagues experiencing mental ill-health. From mental health in the workplace for managers to mental health first aid and mental health advocacy in the workplace. All of which can be studied from the comfort of home and completed in a matter of days or weeks. It’s important to note that these courses don’t make you a qualified mental health professional and where possible the individual should be encouraged to seek support from mental health services.

The more people who are educated and aware of the challenges facing those with mental ill-health, the quicker things will improve. Reducing the number of individuals facing these challenges and improving mental wellbeing for everyone.

No matter your choice, you can start working your way to enter the mental health field with an online course. You could take an Access to HE Diploma in Psychology that would enable you to study a mental health related degree. Or study numerous mental health related short courses to equip you with specific skills.

Either way, learndirect can help. As the UK’s leading online course provider, we have many courses that can help you reach your career goals. And with a new faculty dedicated to mental health education, we’ll have something to help you transition into your ideal role.

Find out more by clicking the link below.

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