Earning Potential (or Lack Thereof) for Mental Health Professionals

The counseling field continues to grow and develop into a much bigger industry, and the trend doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.  In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 29% growth in the field over the next twenty years.  Check out the link below for more details:

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mobile/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

After you click on the above link, notice the median pay for a master's level clinician: $41,500 per year or $19.95 per hour!!  How can this be?? This is the saddest reality of our field- people spend 4-5 years to get a bachelors degree, 2-3 years for a masters degree, 2-3 years interning, and for all that effort and expertise earn $20 an hour!  Ridiculous.  I can't think of any other profession that requires so much expertise and is compensated so little.  Remember, this isn't even the starting income, it's the median income for all people in the field.

Heck, even assistant principals of schools (no offense educators- using this as an example of another master's level professional in a helping profession) make 60-70 grand, plus benefits, retirement, and great time off. 

So, why is this?  Why are highly trainined clinicians paid so little in comparison to other professionals with equivalent levels of education?  I wish I knew the answer!

Maybe it's because counselors are much better at advocating for others than they are themselves.  The money you make has a direct correlation to the value of your services.  There are countless studies proving that the more people pay for something, the more value they perceive from that product or service.

What are your thoughts?  How do mental health professionals increase their financial value in our current economic environment?  How can you get paid what you are worth?