Behavioral health students are getting jobs before graduation to fill the growing need

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Leslie Aldous Will Walk Into Graduate School In Late April But Joins A Growing List Of Behavioral Health Majors Already Hiring In The Field.

Ethan Connery He’d be the first person in his extended family to walk the graduating stage in two weeks, so it was important to Grand Canyon University A student to embark on a career that can bring him success. Accounting seemed normal. He was good at that.

But something didn’t fit. He did not see himself “sitting in a little booth.” He wanted to be on the move, and help people more personally. When he changed his major to behavioral health sciences, it may have given some parents pause. It is not known as a high paying profession.

Times have changed. The increased need for mental health services has led to projected job growth of 22% in behavioral health fields from 2024 to 2031, much faster than the average for all jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So three months after calling mental health agency La Frontera EMPACT at a campus job fair, Connery gave an interview in February.

“I was offered a job the same day,” said Connery, who began his position as a crisis response specialist in Phoenix a full month before his April 28 graduation.

He’s doing directing and then job shadowing for a few weeks, so he’s going to be out on the streets right after graduation. “Legal first week out of college, doing my own thing. It all came together,” he said.

“I will be sent in with the Crisis Response Team to provide assistance to people so that they don’t end up doing something drastic,” he said.

Ethan Conner Cropped
Ethan Connery

Connery credits his training at GCU, where the coursework offered him “insight into what others might call madness and shows you ways to tackle it.”

He joins a growing group of behavioral health and counseling majors at GCU who drop jobs long before graduation—nearly 25% of students in the past three years, according to Kathy BrittonChair and Instructor of Behavioral Health Sciences and Professional Counseling.

“Part of it is that behavioral health is woefully understaffed right now, as is nursing and teaching. So the minute our graduates hit the job market, they get rounded up.”

or before. Some of her students already work with children with autism or in care companies that need behavioral health technicians or hospitals as psychotechnologists.

She said the addition of an integrated healthcare model in some large companies has raised the need for more trained mental health professionals.

And then it was the epidemic. Something about the pandemic has really driven people’s need for behavioral health, Britton said, so we’ve got more hospitalizations and suicide rates are up slightly. “And we also had a significant resignation, which affected behavioral health organizations as well.”

When behavioral health agencies came to campus, she noted, they were armed to offer better salaries and more attractive benefits packages, including placement bonuses and tuition reimbursement, “things we’ve never seen before in behavioral health.”

“And they love our GCU students.”

My parents are very grateful to the university. I’m excited that they’ll see me walk across the stage, already with a job I can attribute to her.”

Leslie Aldous

She said interest in behavioral health programs in GCU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences has grown rapidly, and the number of students studying in it is expected to increase by a third next fall, driven by a younger generation who both want to be of service and see her career prospects as promising.

“They’re Generation Z and they grew up in the pandemic, so I think that has a lot to do with it,” Britton said. Boomers started talking more about behavioral health, then millennials were very open about mental health and language normalized. So when the next generation came along, it was normalized to another level, with an emphasis on holistic care.”

What they learn in GCU’s growing programs also helps them get jobs.

when Leslie Aldous I sat down for her interview at Centria Autism in Phoenix, and she began talking about what she calls a relatively new concept, applied behavior analysis.

“I was offered the job during the interview because of my knowledge,” she said.

She had already seen her first clients, well before her graduation in April, take classes in the morning while working at her new job in the afternoon.

“I wanted to help people, so being able to do that before I graduated and do what I envisioned it to be, is amazing,” Aldous said.

“The most important thing is to be able to stand up for someone who is unable to stand up for themselves in a way that is received. It allows children to have a higher quality of life.”

And now the first-generation college student can tell her parents that college has paid off.

“GCU has been the missing piece of the puzzle of what I am achieving. My parents are very grateful to the university.” “I’m excited that they’ll see me walk across the podium, already with a job I can attribute to.”

Grand Canyon University Senior Writer Mike Killen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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