PNW area over-saturated with counseling students & therapists?
February 11, 2015 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Looking to relocate to Oregon or Washington but concerned that job searching in behavioral health may be difficult. I have heard there are a plethora of social workers in the Portland area but I have not been able to determine if this is true.

My wife and I are considering moving to the Pacific Northwest area. Specifically, we are considering Western Oregon from Portland down to the California border, as well as the Seattle or eastern/south-eastern areas of Washington. Specifically wine producing areas that are not in California. That's her interest but this question is regarding my ability to be employed.

I am currently a graduate student in clinical counseling. I have a history working in human resources and this is my second career. My previous career was in behavioral health, but clearly on the administrative side. I currently work as a behavioral health tech to get more clinical experience as I work on my graduate degree.

I've done some minor research and searches on jobs, but it is difficult to know the # of respondents such job posts receive. I have heard that Portland has numerous universities that offer graduate behavioral health programs (Clinical Psychology like mine, Social Work). Unfortunately this might make it difficult to stand away from the pack when getting experience, internships etc.

Any information on this geographical area and field would be most appreciated. Thoughts, suggestions, opinions, etc. We currently reside in Florida and really prefer the west coast but California can be very costly. Also, if any locations are recommended, any other opinions about those locations would be appreciated too.

Much thanks.
posted by Kitty Cornered to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not in your field, but my wife is. We live in Portland, and….its…uh…insane. She got lucky, and had a really strong network to get the job she had. I can't speak for Washington on a whole, but in Oregon, and Southwest Washington there is indeed a glut of counseling students and therapists. Portland and the rest of the valley (mostly where you've described you would prefer to live) especially does indeed have a shit-ton of schools pumping out graduates in those fields…and they have a tendency to stick around as long as they can muster.

This is anecdotal, but out of the 10 or 12 folks that were in my wife's graduating class (from a really, really good school) three are with agencies (very low paying ones), three or four are private practice to varying success levels, and the rest either moved, or got other careers because the market is too tight.

Not so anecdotal: when an opening happened in my wife's office (in the metro area, but outside of Portland's borders), they had over 200 qualified applicants from not only the city and region, but from all over the country. For a single opening. The odds are straight up stacked against you in that regard.

Getting licensed in Oregon is on the harder end of the spectrum in terms of state-licenseing and the reciprocity can be really, really hard from some states. You'll want to check with the Oregon board for reciprocity from your state, and any other state that you can easily get licensed in. My wife got her NH license to practice, because for some reason NH's license transferred flawlessly to an Oregon license, but neither her Maine, nor her prior work getting an Oregon license would count towards transferring. It is bananas. And having and Oregon licensure in place will increase your odds.

Internships out here are often always handled by university programs, so unless you're enrolled out here chances are you won't have access to them.

You are probably in for an uphill climb in the valley; if you look elsewhere to less popular areas for living, you might have some more luck.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:45 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Slight edit; the 10-12 people my wife was close with from her graduating class. There weren't just ten of them…there were plenty, those were just her buddies.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:54 PM on February 11, 2015

Can you leverage any of your HR experience to add some depth to your degree?
posted by childofTethys at 8:27 PM on February 11, 2015

I appreciate all the information. I felt a sinking feeling when I read furnace.heart's info but it was what I had to hear. It's good to get the info and move forward with real accounts.

We really love the willamette valley (McMinnville, Newberg, and surroundings) but I worry about the small job market. Portland seems a good jumping off point but oy...too many other professionals like me it sounds like. Salem seems to have more job opportunities as the capitol but I still concern myself with the overwhelming number of qualified candidates. I'm also looking at Seattle, Walla Walla, Olympia, and again...all along the western Oregon route from Portland to California. Ashland, Eugene, Medford, Salem and the surrounding areas.

childofTethys has a good point with utilizing my HR experience. I am so ready to move away from that area, but I may need to do that as a bridge to my career. Great point and much appreciated.

I feel that a private practice is something I want to move forward to with time and experience but licensure is the first. This requires a few years of experience with a community mental health center or the like and that is what I am most worried about.

If anyone else wants to add on with knowledge of the area, even if much later than the question is posed, please do so! I am planning this months to years in advance and any information is much appreciated.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 6:06 AM on February 13, 2015

I'm definitely not knowledgeable on this - but I suspect that the Columbia Gorge might have a little bit better odds than the metro area, especially if your experience and training allow you to search a bit outside the box. Might be worth checking into? (The Gorge certainly fits your "wine-producing" requirement - and it's at the edge of the geographical area you define.)
posted by stormyteal at 9:58 PM on February 13, 2015

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