Demand for Mental Health Professionals Rising in Oregon

by Luke Coury

June 30, 2024

Oregon has a critical need for behavioral health services. Mental health conditions for Oregonians, especially for young adults and adolescents rose dramatically during and after the pandemic. While this mirrors larger trends across the nation, the need for mental health professionals is especially high in Oregon. According to a report by the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon ranks fourth in the nation in unmet mental health needs.


Mental Health Services Encompass a Wide Range of Occupations


Mental health-related occupations have the broad purpose of helping others maintain and improve mental health and behavior. Exactly how mental health professionals assist their clients varies, however. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists nine groups of occupations that fall into this category:

Demand for Mental Health Workers Continues to be Elevated in 2024


Demand for mental health workers is at an all-time high. Online ad posting measured by the Conference Board-Lightcast’s Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) index almost doubled from a quarterly average of just over 1,600 in the twelve quarters before the first quarter of 2021 to an average of nearly 3,000 in the twelve quarters after.



The record high demand for mental health workers in 2023 represents a divergence from the economy-wide trend. According to the Oregon Employment Department’s Job Vacancy Survey, demand for workers across Oregon’s economy reached record levels in 2021 and 2022 before cooling slightly in 2023. Demand for mental health professionals, however, remained historically strong in 2023.


Among mental health occupations, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors had the highest number of online job postings in the first quarter of 2024 at 900. The next highest occupations were about half that - around 400 ads for social and human service assistants, around 400 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors and about 350 for mental health and substance abuse social workers. Rounding out the top five, clinical and counseling psychologists had about 200 postings.

Graph showing First Quarter 2024 Online Job Postings by Occupation


Demand Projected to Remain Strong Through 2032


The Oregon Employment Department projects jobs mental health services will continue to grow strongly over the next decade. This is consistent with the ever-rising public need for mental health services.  


Almost all the occupations listed above are projected to grow faster than the 10% growth for all occupations. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are projected to grow by 27%, more than twice as fast as the total for all occupations. Growth is also stronger for clinical and counseling psychologists (24%), community health workers (19%), psychiatrists (16%), mental health and substance abuse social workers (16%), psychiatric technicians (15%), and social and human service assistants (13%). Only psychiatric aids (7%), and educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (7%) had growth rates lower than the total for all occupations.

Graph showing Most Mental Health Jobs Will Grow Faster than Average, Occupation Growth Rate: 2022-2032 Oregon Projections


Strong growth in mental heath careers is projected to add over 4,000 jobs in mental health professions over the next decade. While growth is an important part of projected openings, most job openings in the next decade will come from existing workers who retire or switch careers. About 25,000 job openings are projected in mental health professions due to growth, as well as replacing workers exiting the workforce or changing careers.

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