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Developing your career: Mental health

With mental health issues affecting around 1 in 4 people, the rise in demand for skilled workers to support those with diagnosed conditions is set to continue.

The government has promised an extra 21,000 posts in mental health services by 2020 to help meet increasing pressures and deliver its long-term vision for the sector.
Group of people sitting discussing issues


Whether you’re interested in working directly in the care or treatment of those experiencing mental health issues, or contributing to the development and management of services which support them, there are opportunities to work in a range of sectors including:
  • health and nursing
  • social care
  • education
  • criminal justice
  • charity sector.
The skillsets required vary, and there are different pathways, so take the time to do thorough research into roles that interest you to support a course choice that is best suited to your ambitions.

You’ll find valuable information about how to plan your career and secure your next steps on our Careers site.

How the OU can help

Our courses offer the opportunity to qualify in a specific profession such as the BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing and the Foundation degree in Counselling.  We also have courses which provide foundation knowledge and skills relevant to a range of mental health careers, offering access to job opportunities or the opportunity to take further study or vocational training to qualify for some professional roles.

Undergraduate qualifications

BSc (Honours) Nursing (Mental Health)

This unique, practice-based degree allows healthcare support workers or healthcare assistants to work part-time while studying towards becoming a registered Nurse with a specialism in mental health.

Foundation degree in Counselling

Developed in partnership with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body, this qualification is suitable for anyone wishing to qualify as a professional counsellor. It explores different counselling approaches and includes modules focused on mental health, considers medical and health psychology approaches, and how the external environment influences understandings and experiences of mental health. We also offer a Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling.

BSc (Honours) Psychology with Counselling

If you’re looking to take your first step towards qualifying as a counselling or practicing psychologist1, this degree provides a theoretical basis in counselling and a broad understanding of psychology.  It looks at how we understand mental health conditions, diagnosis and treatment options, and how psychology is critical to understanding mental health, relationships, education and employment. This course is also accredited by the British Psychological Society.

1Significant further study and experience will be needed beyond the degree to qualify.

BSc (Honours) Psychology

Our psychology degree provides a strong foundation for a career in the health and social care sector and is the ideal first step towards preparation for further study, training and the experience required for a career as a practicing or professional psychologist. It allows you to focus your studies on mental health or counselling, amongst others. It is also accredited by the British Psychological Society.

I had always been interested in psychology. My father had schizophrenia and I wanted to understand what was going on in his brain. The flexibility of the OU course appealed to me but in the end it was the quality of the degree. Doing an OU degree was a life changer for me. I am now a senior lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Griffith College.

Ian Cox, BSc (Hons) Psychology
Counsellor talking with patient

BA (Honours) Health and Social Care

Providing a solid understanding of health and social care policy, theory and practice, this degree is suitable for anyone with an interest in health and social care, including mental health. It applies new ideas to real life situations and explores new ways of working across agency and professional boundaries. You’ll have the opportunity to choose modules focused on mental health covering a range of topics including mental health practice, the nature of mental health treatment and the impact of competing perspectives that characterise the world of mental health.

BA/BSc (Honours) Open

Our most flexible programme, the Open degree allows you to build a unique qualification with any subjects you like, including a range of modules focused on mental health, psychology and counselling.

Postgraduate qualifications

MSc in Psychology

This postgraduate qualification, relevant for existing professionals and those wanting to pursue a career in the health services, provides an advanced understanding of a range of fields in psychology including counselling, cognitive, social and forensic psychology.

MSc in Mental Health Science

This postgraduate qualification covers key topics such as stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis and dementia. It’s for anyone with an academic or professional interest in mental health science and its biological and psychological underpinnings. It also explores current issues and research at the forefront of mental health science.

Short Courses for personal or professional development

Teacher Training: Embedding Mental Health in the Curriculum

Through this new microcredential you’ll learn how to embed mental wellbeing in your teaching. You’ll discover how to apply inclusive teaching strategies and learn how to design appropriate learning activities that are conducive to students’ mental health.


Studying with the OU has been a positive experience. I’m now a volunteer for a local charity and I’m interested in doing counselling there, which is also my final module. I’ve become a different person, I want to be out there helping others.

Jennifer Wright, BSc (Hons) Criminology and Psychological Studies*
Jennifer Wright
*Now available as the BA (Honours) Criminology and Psychology