Best Cities for Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors often promote healthy behaviors, helping their patients with preventative measures. Here at ValuePenguin, our own kind of evaluation, which looks at four data points (number of jobs, average salary, cost of living and location quotient), should help these professionals determine where they're wanted and needed most.

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Best Five Cities for Mental Health Counselors

Of the 276 cities reporting data, these five earned our best score, comprising the factors of median salary, cost of living and location quotient. Speaking of salary, the 120,010 mental health counselors employed in the U.S. in May 2014 earned $43,990 on average, or an hourly wage of $21.15, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Recording a ValuePenguin score (52) that was 83% lower (and therefore better) than the study's average, Colorado Springs comes out on top. The first of three Colorado cities to crack our top 25 -- Boulder (23rd) and the Fort Collins-Loveland area (24th) are the others -- Colorado Springs also rose to this spot because of its sheer number of mental health counselor positions. Although with 630, it still falls wells short of the usual suspects: Philadelphia (4,260 jobs), Washington, D.C., (3,480), New York City (3,720) and Boston (3,430), among others. Colorado Springs, the most populous city among our top five, is also home to the national Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

2. Fairbanks, Alaska

With the study's fifth-best location quotient -- a metric that points to the actual demand for a mental health counselor, as a percentage of all other occupations -- Fairbanks narrowly secured the second spot. The first of two Alaska cities to crack the top five, Fairbanks-based mental health counselors earn an annual average salary of $53, 290, which turned out to be 21% higher than the study's average. Fairbanks, the least populous city among our top five.

3. Anchorage, Alaska

A fifty-minute flight south of Fairbanks, Anchorage registered the study's only other sub-60 ValuePenguin score to secure the third slot in our national rankings. Facing an exceptionally high cost of living -- it's 35% more expensive to live here than it is in the average American city -- mental health counselors are fittingly paid the study's second-highest salary ($64,080); only those professionals in the dissimilarly inexpensive Tyler, Texas earn more ($74,060). Also, Alaska as a whole has the country's highest annual mean wage ($58,800) when it's broken down on the state level.

4. Mankato, Minnesota*

The "second-smallest best" city in our top five, Mankato -- and it's metropolitan statistical region partner North Mankato -- come in the penultimate spot of our top five best cities for mental health counselors. Despite just 110 such professionals working in this region, the counselors here are paid relatively handsomely, earning an annual average salary of $60,120, the sixth-highest figure captured in our study.

*Statistical region includes: North Mankato, Minn.

5. Roanoke, Virginia

The fifth and final city to record a sub-70 ValuePenguin score, Roanoke (69) rounds out our top five; see the full top 100 below. The Virginia city is the most affordable place to live among the best five cities for mental health counselors; in fact, it's 11 percent cheaper to live here than a given city in the U.S. Roanoke also sports the study's 13th-best location quotient, which points to the healthy demand for counselors within its city limits. Alexandria, a four-hour drive southwest of Roanoke, is home to many of the nation's trade groups, including the American Counseling Association. Lastly, Virginia as a whole has the nation's third-most jobs as far as states are considered.

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a large one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with populations less than 100,000 people, midsize cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 500,000. Here are our findings:

Best Cities for Mental Health Counselors

Top 100 Cities for Mental Health Counselors

Rank

CityAverage SalaryJobsLocation QuotientCost of LivingScore

1

Colorado Springs, CO$52,0806302.8210052

2

Fairbanks, AK$53,2901203.7613358

3

Anchorage, AK$64,0803302.1313559

4

Mankato-North Mankato, MN$60,1201102.449862

5

Roanoke, VA$49,5404103.048969

6

Bay City, MI$51,6501003.147873

7

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA$53,9501,7301.8411178

8

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA$58,7202002.0416581

9

Newark-Union, NJ-PA$51,6101,6801.9612585

10

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ$50,0506602.199587

11

Manchester, NH$51,4302102.3111590

12

Springfield, MA-CT$47,1509803.8010791

13

Chico, CA$50,3701502.4411892

14

Las Cruces, NM$59,3401101.7893103

15

Mansfield, OH$48,5101102.5786109

16

Canton-Massillon, OH$47,7003302.2488115

17

Peabody, MA$48,2502102.34140116

18

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$48,7603,8401.82157117

19

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$46,5401,6102.49106119

20

Barnstable Town, MA$61,6201301.47161122

21

Idaho Falls, ID$55,510801.6890122

22

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA$50,3306301.5186126

23

Boulder, CO$48,7802801.88145127

24

Fort Collins-Loveland, CO$48,1702401.96109133

25

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT$47,9808701.74117140

26

Cheyenne, WY$48,370802.1198140

27

Madera-Chowchilla, CA$61,130501.3697143

28

Norwich-New London, CT-RI$54,4801501.31111144

29

Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH$45,7602202.97135147

30

Akron, OH$54,2103201.1280148

31

Trenton-Ewing, NJ$45,6305002.51106149

32

Camden, NJ$50,3305601.2491153

33

Harrisonburg, VA$46,2501202.19105167

34

Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA$47,5402601.61139168

35

Worcester, MA-CT$43,2308303.75115169

36

Pueblo, CO$44,0001803.6485170

37

Philadelphia, PA$43,5504,2602.57101172

38

Eugene-Springfield, OR$46,7202301.81103173

39

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$55,7602500.97113174

40

Lynchburg, VA$42,5805406.1990176

41

Reno-Sparks, NV$49,7302101.2294177

42

Winchester, VA-WV$44,2801503.02112180

43

Salem, OR$59,7001300.96102180

44

Oshkosh-Neenah, WI$52,790801.0493189

45

Elizabethtown, KY$49,890501.3093192

46

Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO$44,9802,1001.79108192

47

Oklahoma City, OK$47,0006901.2986193

48

Taunton-Norton-Raynham, MA$45,730802.11129194

49

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA$45,0603501.7985195

50

Charlottesville, VA$47,7001201.36109195

51

Bakersfield-Delano, CA$59,1702100.8296198

52

Lancaster, PA$43,9204202.0994198

53

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$58,4606300.73187202

54

Greenville, NC$46,0401201.7192202

55

Richmond, VA$40,7501,7803.2498206

56

Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA$49,160501.22115207

57

Fayetteville, NC$47,1501501.3394207

58

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre, PA$41,1806302.7885208

59

Provo-Orem, UT$52,6801500.8797208

60

New Bedford, MA$44,8201202.07116208

61

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI$47,0801,8101.12104208

62

Pittsburgh, PA$43,0701,9301.9288210

63

Nashua, NH-MA$53,4701000.89119211

64

Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, MA$42,4202202.75135213

65

Tacoma, WA$43,9004401.83106216

66

Pocatello, ID$42,520902.8990219

67

Logan, UT-ID$51,090500.9897220

68

Olympia, WA$46,4101201.40114222

69

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA$50,1202,7600.77144224

70

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL$48,5402,7900.84111225

71

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI$46,0404301.2084227

72

Spokane, WA$43,0503401.9191227

73

Coeur d'Alene, ID$43,2101102.1799229

74

Tulsa, OK$47,9803400.9088231

75

North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL$47,2202301.0092231

76

Tucson, AZ$46,4203401.0991234

77

Duluth, MN-WI$41,2402602.3296235

78

Toledo, OH$46,4502801.0582235

79

Waterbury, CT$43,3701101.99107237

80

Altoona, PA$44,580901.6986238

81

Jackson, MS$46,0602601.1586238

82

Asheville, NC$41,1603402.21105238

83

Battle Creek, MI$41,9101102.2081239

84

Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA$39,1602103.71100240

85

Burlington-South Burlington, VT$44,5001701.59125241

86

Abilene, TX$47,360601.0785241

87

Danbury, CT$41,6101402.27133245

88

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA$45,0203401.2493246

89

Tyler, TX$74,060600.6690247

90

Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY$56,1201400.66119248

91

Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH$42,9401101.94125250

92

Reading, PA$40,3403102.1082253

93

Fort Wayne, IN$47,4501600.8886253

94

Winston-Salem, NC$41,3203401.8390257

95

Decatur, AL$54,030300.7191258

96

Salt Lake City, UT$52,9203500.59106258

97

Bend, OR$63,180400.66111258

98

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC$48,2105700.7194261

99

Columbia, SC$48,5902300.7295262

100

Anderson, SC$53,790400.6988263

Methodology

These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.

1. What can mental health counselors earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for mental health counselors based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88 percent more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for mental health counselors in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of mental health counselors in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a counselor's services.

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