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Best degrees to study for a career in mental health

The global pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of good mental, as well as physical, health. With this focus likely to continue after the world recovers, we’ll need mental health professionals more than ever.

For UK Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re highlighting the top degree subjects related to the field — some of them might surprise you! From Art and Design and Occupational Therapy, to Mental Health Nursing and Psychology, these are some of the best degrees to study for a career in mental health.

Art and Design

University of Brighton art students socialising

Art and Design degrees might not seem related to mental health. However, they’re actually a great choice for creative students interested in working in a caring profession.

Both making and engaging with art have been shown to improve mood, and are an effective complementary treatment for depression. In fact, there is a whole profession dedicated to helping people through the healing properties of art: art therapy.

Art therapists work with people of all ages with a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. A great way to start out is with a degree in Art and Design.

With Kaplan, you can study degrees like Art, Art History, Craft, or Curating. You can also choose to study at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, at a university that’s highly ranked for the subject. For example, you could study an MFA in Art in Arizona State University, ranked #15 in the USA for Fine Arts master’s programmes (U.S. News Best Grad Schools 2023)!

Drama and Music

Drama and performing are great ways to enhance your self-confidence. Therefore, it makes sense that much like art therapy, drama therapy is used to promote mental wellbeing. Drama therapists help people to set goals, express their emotions and work through trauma. They work in a variety of settings, including schools, mental health care facilities, and even prisons.

Registered drama therapists typically need to study a specialist postgraduate course: to get there you’ll need a related undergraduate degree. You have some great options through Kaplan’s university partners, such as the University of Essex, which ranks 6th in the UK for Drama and Dance (Guardian University Guide 2023).

Alternatively, you can study at one of our top US university partners, such as Arizona State University (ASU). ASU’s school of Music, Dance and Theatre offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in music therapy, so you can help people by encouraging them to engage with the musical arts.

Close up view on two Violoncello in orchestra
Close up of a healthcare professional holding a tube

Mental Health Nursing

You might think only doctors like psychiatrists treat mentally ill patients, but nurses play an important role in their recovery, too. If you study Mental Health Nursing at university you’ll learn the same skills as other Nursing students. You will also undertaking specialist training allowing you to work in the mental health field, including clinical placements.

When you graduate, you can look forward to a satisfying career helping patients and their families as they recover. Through Kaplan, you can study a BNurs at the University of Birmingham, which ranks 14th in the UK for Nursing (Complete University Guide 2023).

Alternatively, study a related BSc at the University of Nottingham, ranked 11th nationally for the discipline (Complete University Guide 2023).

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists play a vital role in society by helping people who have suffered illness or injury to get back to their normal lives. They might work in schools, hospitals or doctor’s surgeries, and private employers may also have their own occupational health service.

Studying an Occupational Therapy degree is a great way to effect positive change in people’s lives. Not only does helping people get back to school, work, or their hobbies have a positive impact on their mental health, but you can also choose to specialise in mental health.

This could mean working with people suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression to help them overcome any obstacles they may face. Occupational Therapy is rewarding and fulfilling, and your skills will always be in demand, making it a great career choice.

You can study Occupational Therapy at the prestigious Russell Group member, the University of Liverpool, ranked 4th in the UK for the discipline (Complete University Guide 2023). The subject is also offered at the careers-focused UWE Bristol, ranked 25th in the UK for Occupational Therapy (Complete University Guide 2022).

Psychology and Counselling

Psychology and Counselling are easily among the best degrees to study for a career in mental health. You could become a psychologist or counsellor, working in a range of different settings. In fact, these skills are valuable in many fields, from business to sports coaching.

Many of our partner universities in the USA and UK offer a range of fascinating Psychology or Counselling degrees. For example, you could study Personality and Social Psychology or Mental Health Counselling at Pace University in New York, the USA’s #2 academic city (QS Best Student Cities 2022)!

Social Policy and Administration

An attorney writing on a book

Social Policy and Administration is ideal for students with an interest in mental health policy. A Social Policy degree with a concentration in mental health will allow you to study the causes of mental ill health in society, and the steps we need to take to address it.

For example, graduates of the University of Glasgow’s MSc in Global Mental Health have gone on to work in mental health policy and planning or research. Other career paths you could take also include working as a mental health adviser or advocate for local or national governments, international agencies and non-profit organisations.

Plus, Glasgow ranks 13th in the UK for Social Policy and Administration (Complete University Guide 2023)!

Shape your future with a degree

If you would like to study one of the best degrees for a career in mental health in the USA or UK, Kaplan can help. We offer pathway programmes to prepare you for university-level study overseas, and can guide you through the application process for a degree abroad.

Check out the links below or contact us for further details.

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