9 Counseling Jobs for Aspiring Advocates

Are you interested in a rapidly growing, helping career? BestColleges spotlights 9 counseling jobs for aspiring advocates.

portrait of James Mielke
by James Mielke

Published August 25, 2022

Edited by Desiree Cunningham
Share this Article
9 Counseling Jobs for Aspiring Advocates
Image Credit: FatCamera / E+ / Getty Images


For compassionate students interested in a helping profession, counseling can be a fulfilling and rapidly growing career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the counseling field will grow 23% by 2030, creating over 75,000 jobs. Whether you're still in college and seeking advice on what to major in or working in an entry-level job after graduation, future counselors can begin their careers at any point.

Throughout the following page, we spotlight the different specializations and career paths for aspiring counselors. Keep reading to see which pathway mirrors your academic interests and professional goals. Find out how you can jumpstart your counseling career.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

9 Careers for Counselors

Addiction Counselor

While job descriptions can vary between specific positions, addiction counselors offer their clients the treatment and support they need to manage drug and/or alcohol dependence. These professionals explore the roots of a client's addiction, offer coping skills, and often coordinate various recovery support groups.

Educational requirements vary between states, but many do not require students to complete advanced degrees. Instead, prospective addiction counselors can complete certificate programs with extensive hands-on learning opportunities.

Adoption Counselor

Whether working for state agencies or private firms, adoption counselors play an essential part of the adoption process. These professionals work with prospective adoptive parents and adoptees alike, shepherding them through the administrative process while offering emotional and educational support.

Because the job requirements can vary, so too can the licensure and certification requirements. Some adoption counselors have backgrounds in social work, while others have extensive counseling training. These professionals typically have a working knowledge of the legal issues in the adoption process.

Child Pediatric Counselor

Child pediatric counselors lean on specialized training to offer support to children struggling with various emotional and mental health challenges. These compassionate workers often have an academic background in child psychology and hold state licensure to practice. Child pediatric counselors work in various areas, including schools, children's homes, social service offices, and juvenile detention centers.

Common skills for child pediatric counselors include patience, conflict management, and active listening.

Grief Counselor

Grief can stem from numerous sources, and grief counselors utilize their training to support individuals coping with the death of a loved one, divorce, miscarriage, or job loss. Grief counselors work in various settings, including private practice, social service agencies, religious organizations, nonprofits, and funeral service organizations.

These professionals typically hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in counseling and hold state licensure. Additionally, many workers pursue a professional certificate in grief counseling.

Holistic Counselor

Most holistic counselors have the academic experience and professional licensure to provide their clients with standard mental health care. But, holistic counselors take a broader approach and consider physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Backed by professional standards and ethics, these professionals assess their client's needs and offer guidance in areas such as nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, and sleep.

In addition to professional licensure and industry best practices, some holistic counselors specialize in alternative care, including acupuncture and massage therapy.

Marriage and Family Counselor

Marriage and family therapists provide their clients with guidance and expertise and have extensive academic and hands-on clinical training. These professionals offer services to clients addressing many challenges, including child behavioral conditions, domestic violence, marital conflicts, and grief.

These counselors work in various settings, including mental health organizations, hospitals, social services, and private practice. Throughout their workday, marriage and family counselors address sources of conflict, manage various crises, and offer practical coping strategies.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors offer generalist counseling and support clients from a diverse set of backgrounds. These professionals lean on their training to treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and grief, and serve individuals and groups. Daily responsibilities can vary, but common tasks include developing treatment plans, introducing clients to coping skills, and referring clients to necessary social and medical resources.

While not required, many mental health counselors enhance their credentials through certifications like National Certified Counselor and Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

Pastoral Counselor

Often utilizing the same training as other licensed counselors, pastoral counselors combine their academic discipline with religious, scriptural, and faith-based elements. These professionals can take various paths to earn their counseling and religious training and often work in hospitals, hospices, churches, and correctional facilities.

Daily job requirements vary, but pastoral counselors support clients dealing with divorce, work-related conflict, substance misuse, and spiritual challenges.

School and Career Counselor

Whether for first-graders or graduating seniors, school and career counselors can play a key role in their educational experiences. Depending on the grade level, daily responsibilities can vary. Elementary school counselors may help students in their social development, while high school counselors offer students critical support when deciding what to do after graduation.

These professionals typically demonstrate strong critical thinking and organizational skills, while approaching student challenges with compassion and understanding.

How to Become a Counselor

While professional counseling requirements can vary between specific jobs, the traditional path involves high school graduates or GED certificate-holders earning a bachelor's degree in counseling. Some areas of counseling offer entry-level positions for those with or without undergraduate degrees, but licensed counselors typically complete accredited master's programs in counseling. Master's in counseling programs typically do not require applicants to have a bachelor's in counseling, so this degree is a solid option for individuals going back to college.

During a master's in counseling program, students gain extensive hands-on experience through an internship. In addition to building essential counseling skills, a summer internship can help students meet the requirements for state licensure. Those interested in pursuing an internship or co-op should apply to multiple venues to ensure they secure a position.

Students pursuing a counseling career should also consider which specialization area mirrors personal interests and professional goals. Whether a group, grief, family, or holistic counselor, students can tailor their coursework and clinical work to their area of interest.

Counselor Salary

Counselor salaries can vary based on the specific role, experience, location, and specialization. According to the BLS, the median salary for counselors was nearly $49,000 per year in May 2021. That said, the top 10% of counselors — often with ample experience, advanced degrees, and specializations — earned more than $77,980 during the same period.

How to Find a Counselor Job

Finding the right counseling job first relies on discovering which specialization area of counseling fits the individual. As a result, finding the right counseling job begins in the classroom and at the internship. But once a student determines a career path, various options and resources exist to assist in the job hunt.

Along with stand-out academics, the best counseling programs inevitably provide career services to help graduates land a job after college. Additionally, schools often have a network of graduates that can connect students with potential employers. Counseling students can also attend in-person and virtual career fairs.

Beyond school resources, counseling graduates can take advantage of job search sites and counseling-based professional organizations for potential job opportunities.

Counselor Professional Organizations

  • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals The NAADAC is the largest national organization for professionals in addiction services, including counselors, social workers, and administrators. This organization offers professional certifications and provides educational resources and opportunities for clinical training.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors The NBCC plays a significant role in the counseling world through credentialing, professional standards, and ethical guidelines. In addition to overseeing professional credentialing, NBCC offers career resources and continuing education.
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) represents over 50,000 marriage and family therapists in North America. This group develops the academic standards for graduate-level education and clinical supervision while playing a role in the evolving clinical standards and professional ethics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counselor Jobs

What is the highest-paid counseling job?

The earning potential for future counselors depends largely on their level of education, professional experience, clinical expertise, and geographic location. Top-earning counselors typically hold at least a master's degree and have advanced clinical experience and professional certificates. Those experienced, top-earning counselors often work in private practice.

Additionally, counselors who take on leadership positions tend to earn more than those tackling entry-level positions. Experienced professionals can expand their career opportunities through certificate programs in business, management, and health informatics.

What is the best counseling job?

The best counseling job is the one that best suits the needs of the counselor. Counseling leans on a set of foundational skills, but students have the opportunity to focus their curriculum and clinical experiences around various specializations in the field. Common counseling specializations include mental health, school, pastoral, and addiction.

In addition to counseling specializations, the professional setting can also impact how fulfilling a counselor may find their particular position. For the entrepreneurial-minded, beginning a career in private practice counseling is a solid option. For individuals interested in the intersection of religion and counseling, a career in pastoral counseling could prove fruitful.

Can I become a counselor with an online degree?

For both undergraduate and graduate students, online counseling programs are a popular option. When reviewing potential online programs, seek out programs that hold accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP).

Online programs are often flexible and affordable, allowing students the opportunity to continue working while keeping up with academic requirements. While online, stand-out online programs offer extensive student support, including tutoring, mentoring, career services, and mental health services.

How much money can I make as a counselor?

Counselors can focus on areas including pastoral, school, mental health, addiction, family, and more. So, considering there are so many counseling specializations, the earning potential can vary. Additionally, experience, education, geographic location, and specialized training can impact how much a counselor makes.

The BLS reports that counselors made a median annual salary of about $49,000 in May 2021, with the top 10% making more than $77,980. Counselors in administrative, management, and leadership roles tend to make the most.

What is the fastest way to become a counselor?

For individuals who want to pursue state licensure as counselors, the path is pretty rigid. The academic and clinical requirements of counseling programs create an academic pathway that takes about two years to complete. Add four years for a bachelor's degree, and most students will take at least six years to begin their careers.

That said, it is not uncommon for online students to complete coursework more quickly than on-campus learners, and some schools offer accelerated programs.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.