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How to become a mental health worker

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay


The career of a mental health support worker is undoubtedly one of the most meaningful jobs currently in demand. The opportunity to make a long-term, positive impact in the lives of others; empower those who need it most; and bolster much-needed support for the critical area of mental health can be an incredibly rewarding experience for those with the right skills.

If you fancy yourself a people-person with an interest in social wellbeing and psychology, we break down the steps to becoming a mental health worker in Australia below.

What qualities do you need to be a mental health support worker?

  1. Excellent people/communication skills
  2. Empathy and compassion
  3. Good judgement
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Resilience

1. Excellent people/communication skills

As a mental health support worker, you’ll primarily be spending your time with clients – listening to their concerns, providing advice, and forging long-lasting, healthy connections. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are therefore a must, helping you foster an open, friendly, and trusting environment for both you and your patients.

2. Empathy and compassion

Going hand-in-hand with people skills, mental health workers require a high level of empathy and compassion to help navigate their clients’ fears and concerns. With each patient working through their own unique mental health challenges, support workers must learn to place themselves in their shoes – helping them gain a better grasp of their clients’ thoughts and feelings.

3. Good judgement

Excellent judgement skills can go a long way in the mental health support field, as this allows you make perceptive, unbiased decisions concerning your patients’ treatment. Such abilities help you “read between the lines” and gain a deeper understanding of your client’s situation, leading to more effective resolutions.

4. Critical thinking

As a field focused on solving (or minimising) personal health problems, critical thinking skills are non-negotiable. Mental health support workers are consistently pushed to work through new challenges with their clients and developing the best possible treatment plans, requiring high levels of reasoning, reflection, and analysis. 

5. Resilience

Lastly (though certainly not least), mental health workers will need plenty of passion and resilience to maintain a successful career. As a sector focused on improving and managing the varying life concerns of others, workers are often prone to great levels of emotional stress and burnout. A strong, confident, and driven character, however – will have you reap the overwhelming rewards of the profession, regardless.

How much do mental health workers get paid in Australia?



According to the latest Payscale statistics, the average mental health worker in Australia earns a median of $61,000 AUD per year – with the highest-earners receiving a salary of approximately $80,000 per year.
However, annual pay in this sector tends to increase along with experience. Mental health workers later in their career tend to earn 22% more than the average. In-demand skills such as counselling, crisis intervention, client interaction, and group therapy skills can also help bolster one’s salary.

How do I become a mental health worker in Australia?

  1. Explore your various career options
  2. Get qualified through relevant training
  3. Consider joining an association
  4. Build experience through a traineeship

1. Explore your various career options

Before diving into the mental health industry, it’s important to firstly weigh out your options. The sector offers pathways to varying specialties, including the role of a youth worker, social worker, mental health nurse, and a disability support worker.

Charting out your current skillset and interests can help you determine the best mental health roles for your specific career goals and personality. Have a flair for connecting and working with younger individuals? Perhaps the sector of youth work is your best fit. Looking to not only physically, but intellectually and emotionally empower those with a disability? Then you’ll likely find success in the area of disability support.

Wherever your passions in mental health lie, be sure to consider them before finding employment – helping you pinpoint the in-demand roles that best fit these goals.

2. Get qualified through relevant training

Once you’ve decided on your career path, your next step is completing the appropriate education.

Fortunately, plenty aspiring to the mental health field no longer a require a degree-level qualification to get started. According to Labour Market Insights, nearly a third of current health care and social assistance workers are qualified under vocational education and training (VET) courses, with many now available for online study.

Upskilled, for instance, currently offers an online CHC43315 – Certificate IV in Mental Health program, allowing students to get nationally-certified for entry level jobs in mental health without the hassle of attending a physical campus.

Having a certification (or a few) under your belt will not only grant you the thorough skillset to succeed in the industry, but can also help you stand out among potential employers in the job market.

3. Consider joining an association

Plenty of professional bodies in the mental health sector are available across Australia, helping industry newcomers connect with other fellow professionals, bolster their field reputation, and keep up to date with the latest events and professional happenings.

Such associations include The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), the Mental Health Professioanls’ Network (MPHN),  and the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMHA).

These organisations offer their members a plethora of industry benefits, including mentoring programs, credentialing programs, webinars, and online networks (though these may vary depending on the association).

As these bodies often require their members to align with a certain standard of skill, those involved with them typically boost their employability and value on the job market. 

4. Build experience through a traineeship

Finally, those looking to build their field experience may want to consider undertaking apprenticeship or traineeship opportunities. Such programs often result in a nationally-recognised qualification, granting you both the credentials and on-the-job experience you need to draw in potential employers.

You’ll get the chance to familiarise yourself with the work environment and culture of your chosen specialty, expand your professional network, and learn alongside industry veterans – granting you much deeper insight into your desired role.

Upskilled’s mental health certificate course offers a similar opportunity in the form of “work placement”, requiring students to complete a minimum of 80 hours in an appropriate counselling or community services environment. This allows students to graduate with both the technical skills and valuable experience needed to find full-time employment.

With thorough, comprehensive subjects exploring the basics of mental health support – including areas of crisis management, self-advocacy, and recovery-oriented practice – Upskilled’s CHC43315 – Certificate IV in Mental Health program can equip you with the fundamentals required to kickstart your career in the field. Gain the technical skills to assist clients from all walks of life, as well as the soft skills needed to form long-lasting professional relationships.

Best of all, the program’s online delivery allows you train at a time, place, and pace that suits you best.


Build the skills you need for a rewarding mental health career, and enquire with us on the course today.
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