Counseling Degree & Career Guide

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What Is Counseling?

Counselors help clients relieve stress and resolve daily and long-term mental health conditions. They may specialize in providing support for individuals seeking career or guidance counseling or living with a condition such as substance misuse. Most professionals need a master’s in counseling and state licensure.

Counseling in the Classroom and Workforce

Counseling can be a fulfilling career for people who have compassion, patience, active-listening skills, and a desire to help others. Fortunately, earning a counseling degree can lead to long-term careers, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% job growth for counselors from 2020-2030. This growth exceeds the national average of 8% for all occupations.

Types of counselors and their respective job requirements vary by state. However, mental health counselors and addiction counselors typically need a master’s degree and supervised field experience to earn a license and practice in any state.

Most counselors work in outpatient facilities, but they can also work in hospitals, schools, and community centers. Guidance counselors may specialize in grief counseling or Christian counseling or become marriage and family counselors or children’s therapists.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling

Is a counseling degree worth it? true

Yes. Counseling degrees are a natural career path for people aspiring to a helping profession. A master's in counseling provides the core coursework and field experience counselors need to prepare for licensure. Students may also earn a bachelor's degree to gain work experience on the path toward a master's in counseling or qualify for entry-level social work or community leadership positions.

Aspiring counselors can also explore their desired area of specialization through a counseling degree.

How long does it take to get a counseling degree? true

Most bachelor's or master's in counseling take four or two years to complete. But some online programs offer faster completion times. While state licensing requirements vary, most states require counselors to complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience over 18 months and a counseling degree.

By contrast, counselors can earn a graduate degree and become eligible for licensure in as few as three years. A doctorate in psychology, which qualifies psychologists for clinical practice, takes 5-6 years to complete.

What jobs can you get with a bachelor's degree in counseling? true

Students earning a bachelor of counseling degree can become assistants to counselors or social workers. Or, they can pursue health education, addiction prevention, or social services jobs. They may work with other physicians as mental health case managers.

A bachelor's in counseling can also lead to health educator, correctional treatment specialist, or social service manager jobs. Some states require only a bachelor's degree for select types of counselors specializing in addiction or career guidance.

Do you need a master's in counseling?

Most states require a master's degree to earn state licensure as a mental health counselor. A master's in counseling provides the academic and field experience necessary to practice counseling in various specializations.

While some states require only a bachelor's degree for select counseling specializations, master's in counseling degree-holders enjoy broader job opportunities and higher salary potential. Additionally, master's in counseling graduates qualify for optional national certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

How much does a counselor make?

Though counselor salaries vary depending on education, experience, and specialization, the BLS reports a median annual wage of $48,520 for addiction counselors in 2021.

Of these types of counselors, marriage and family therapists and school and career counselors earned higher salaries of $49,880 and $60,510, respectively, in 2021. The government and state, local, and private hospitals are among the highest-paying employers of counselors nationwide.

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