Talk Data to Me: Hiring Trends for Mental Health Providers in Schools

Human Capital Management

There has been a lot of recent discussion in K-12 spheres, including in past Frontline blogs, about the ongoing teacher shortage. Not only does the problem of large numbers of job openings with limited numbers of applicants available to fill them apply to teaching positions, but it also persists for mental-health-related positions. This is concerning given the increase in student and staff mental health needs. As school districts often find themselves with budgetary restrictions that may hamper their ability to seek such professionals, the hope is that federal stimulus bills, like the American Rescue Plan, can help provide some relief and flexibility.

So, to what extent are school districts trying to address the additional mental health needs of their students and staff? Are mental health professionals being sought after, and did COVID relief funds actually make an impact in meeting this need?

Data from Frontline Education’s Recruiting & Hiring solution — which is representative of national district norms — provides a glimpse into which roles that help support student mental health are being prioritized by district hiring managers.

Are school districts posting more jobs for mental health providers in 2021?

Many district personnel can influence student mental health, including social workers, school counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, and other designated mental health professionals. Below is an interactive chart showing the number of districts with a job posting for the aforementioned job titles over time. The chart is sliceable by locale (rural, suburban, urban) and district size.

Note related to graph: This controls for changes in the total number of districts that use Frontline Recruiting & Hiring.

Which school districts are posting jobs related to mental health?

Above the normal ebbs and flows of hiring seasons throughout each year, there are clear jumps in the numbers of districts seeking professionals to address mental health this year, particularly between weeks 15 and 22 (mid-April through early June). This bump transcends locale but is particularly prominent in rural and suburban districts. Interestingly, the increase in mental health hiring is clear in large and medium districts – but no obvious changes in hiring are apparent in extra large or small districts.

This spike may have been a result of the fact that schools are placing a greater emphasis on student mental and emotional health in the wake of the pandemic. The spike in open positions coincided with the availability of federal stimulus funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and other legislation to increase district budgets to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on schools.

In fact, some of the ESSER and ARP state plans specifically call out that states hope to spend ARP funds on social workers and counselors in schools to help address student well-being. Since funds through these federal legislations are available through 2023, if current data is any indication, we can expect more jobs for mental health professionals to be posted in the months to come.

What about other roles that support student mental health?

It is heartening to see data that shows districts are actively hiring more school counselors and social workers. However, while school counselors and social workers are critically important when it comes to supporting student and overall community health, there are others in districts who heavily contribute to the well-being of students and families – notable examples being school psychologists and school nurses. And while our data doesn’t show an uptick in the demand for school psychologists or school nurses specifically, hiring trends for those positions remain in step with the trends of recent years. It is definitely a possibility that we will see increasing demand for school psychologists and nurses as well as the pandemic continues and its effects on student health become more evident.

Kevin Agnello

Kevin is a Data Analytics Engineer for Frontline Education. He is a former high school mathematics teacher and holds a Master's Degree in Educational Curriculum and Instruction, a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology, and is working on a dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.