What Can You Do With a Masters in Counseling Degree? [2020 Guide]

What can you do with a Masters in Counseling degree? Earning this degree will equip you to help people face their problems and improve their lives.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Counseling Degree

During your master’s program, you’ll gain valuable counseling skills with which you can make a real difference for others.

Masters in Counseling Programs Specializations

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Although there may be some crossover between counseling careers, there are some important distinctions to consider.

General Counseling

counselor talking to a patient in her office during counseling

Getting a generalist master’s degree in counseling will give you the flexibility to go many different directions with your career. If you’re undecided on a particular job path, pursuing a program like this will give you the flexibility to explore various options during your time in school.

Another reason to consider this degree is if it’s the only one available at your school. Not all colleges offer specialized counseling master’s degree programs. If you have your sights set on a particular school, don’t worry if they only offer a generalist degree.

After graduation, you’ll still have the necessary skills for working in private practices, social service agencies, residential facilities and elsewhere.

The curriculum for a general counseling program will include classes on counseling theories, family therapy, cultural diversity and substance abuse. You’ll complete an internship or a practicum in which you’ll try out your skills in a supervised setting.

Marriage and Family Therapy Counseling

marriage therapist giving advice to a couple

Family dynamics can be tricky. Sometimes people need help navigating these important relationships. If you’re interested in making a difference for couples, parents, children and siblings, then a degree in marriage and family therapy might be a good choice for you.

Marriage and family therapists often work in private practices and social service agencies. You might work one-on-one with individuals, hold sessions for whole families or run group programs in which people from various families can work through similar issues together.

With this degree, you could also work in a substance treatment center to help families affected by addiction.

Your coursework will include classes about counseling people throughout the lifespan; for example, you’ll discuss therapy techniques to use with children, adolescents and adults. Other courses will address group counseling, grief therapy, gender and sexuality issues, career counseling and addiction. Before graduation, you’ll need to complete an internship.

Mental Health Counseling

mental health counselor comforting her patient

Becoming a licensed counselor may be your goal. Titles vary from state to state; examples include licensed mental health counselor and licensed professional counselor. No matter which term your state uses, if this is your goal, it’s important to choose a licensure track for your master’s. A degree in mental health counseling may be the way to go about it.

Licensed counselors often see clients in private practice, whether in independent offices or shared clinics. Hospitals and faith-based organizations sometimes have counselors on staff. To provide mental health services for at-risk populations, you could look for a job with a social service organization, a correctional facility or a community center.

To prepare, you’ll study counseling theories and techniques. Because you’re likely to counsel people with mental health disorders, you’ll learn to assess conditions, consider diagnoses and plan treatments. An internship will be an important part of your studies.

Substance Abuse Counseling

substance abuse counselor listening to one of her patients during group therapy session

Although medication often plays a role in substance abuse treatment, counseling can be one of the most important components of an addicted person’s recovery plan.

If you desire to see people transform their lives and break free from addiction, then this master’s program may be for you. This career path often appeals to those who have struggled with substance abuse themselves.

Substance abuse counselors often work in inpatient or outpatient rehab facilities. You could also provide services in a transitional housing unit where people live after completing a rehab program. Another option is to work in a school or a community agency to run prevention programs and counsel addicted adolescents.

For this program, you’ll study how addiction affects the body and the mind. You’ll discuss working among diverse groups, advocating for societal change, helping people through crisis situations and running group therapies. The curriculum will include practicums or an internship.

Top 10 Things You Can Do with a Counseling Degree

1. Mental Health Counselor

Mental Health Counselor comforting her patient in a clinic

In your role as a mental health counselor, you’ll help people process the struggles of life and find help with their mental health conditions. Some of your clients will have diagnosable mental health disorders. Others may need support to process grief, stress, transitions or relationships.

Conducting assessments will be an important part of your job. By evaluating clients, you can work to identify mental health conditions. Then, you can establish counseling treatment plans, and you may recommend that some clients seek medication.

Many mental health counselors work in private practice. Others offer their services through community agencies, corporations or hospitals.

2. Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage Therapist listening to a couple during therapy session

To help people build strong, healthy relationships, think about a career in marriage and family therapy. You’ll help families bring peace to their homes.

Some clients will need to see you individually, and others will come to your office as couples or parent-child sets. Under your supervision, they can discuss problems at home and start to see things from the other’s point of view.

You could provide these services in private practices, but some social service agencies also hire family counselors. In a drug rehab facility, you could help families who are dealing with the effects of addiction.

3. Substance Abuse or Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Behavioral Disorder Counselor comforting her patient

Helping people manage addiction and learn to live without drugs and alcohol can be a challenging but rewarding career. You might be drawn to this field if you or a family member has experienced addiction and recovery.

In addition to working with people who have substance abuse disorders, counselors may also provide help with other addictive behaviors. These include gambling and eating disorders.

You could work as an addiction counselor in an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. Social service agencies and halfway houses also hire for this role. Clients may come to see you in a private practice office.

4. Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation Counselor checking an elderly patient

As a rehabilitation counselor, you’ll have opportunities to support people with disabilities or impairments. If you want to see people achieve their full potential and live independently, this can be a fulfilling career opportunity.

Some rehabilitation counselors work with people who have physical, mental or behavioral disabilities. You could also serve senior citizens with memory loss or physical limitations. Another option is supporting veterans who have PTSD after combat.

Long-term care facilities often need rehabilitation counselors. Community programs for youths, seniors or veterans may also have openings. Your roles might involve connecting clients to medical services, job opportunities and community supports.

5. Career Counselor

Career Counselor listening to a patient in his office

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having a job that you love. If you want to help others find that satisfaction, then you might do well as a career counselor.

In this role, you’ll help people evaluate their strengths and consider various jobs. This might involve administering aptitude tests and discussing work history. You could also help people write resumes, prepare for job interviews and solve workplace problems.

Career counselors sometimes work at colleges to help students shape their future plans. You could also help clients in a social service agency improve their employability or help professionals improve their resumes.

6. School Counselor

School Counselor talking to a teen student

Counseling children often takes place in school settings. As a school counselor, you will help kids with their social skills and their mental health.

Counselors help students succeed academically and socially. In this role, you’ll talk to kids about their struggles, help teachers create supportive school environments, and dialogue with parents about their children’s needs. At the high school level, you’ll help students make college and career plans.

School counselors work in elementary, middle and high schools. Both public and private schools can benefit from on-site counselors. You may need special training or state teaching licensure to do this job.

7. Social or Community Service Manager

Community Service Manager listening during a group therapy session

Knowing how to relate to people and help them work through their problems can make you an effective manager in a community or social services organization.

As a manager in a service organization, you’ll coordinate staff and oversee programs that provide necessary supports for individuals in need. For example, you might run career counseling programs for welfare recipients or drug-prevention programs for at-risk teens.

You’re likely to work in a nonprofit setting. Places hiring for this role may include community centers, medical clinics, faith-based organizations and residential facilities. Many jobs are with local or state government agencies.

8. Probation Officer

Probation Officer helping a criminal offender in filling up a form

As criminal offenders change their behavior and learn to make different choices, they need support and guidance. You can fill this important role by becoming a probation or parole officer.

In this job, you’ll need to meet regularly with the offenders on your caseload. You may need to administer drug tests, provide mental health evaluations, visit homes and neighborhoods, serve as a career advisor and stay in touch with court officials. Keeping accurate records will be an important part of your job.

You’ll perform this job as part of the court and corrections system. You may work for the local or state government.

9. Human Resources Manager

Human Resources Manager having a conversation with a colleague

Employees want to know that their employers care about them as individuals. You can provide strong, compassionate, caring leadership for workers as a human resources manager. Your efforts will help employers be their best, both professionally and personally.

As a human resources manager, you can use your counseling skills to settle workplace conflicts and disputes. You may also rely on your knowledge of human thought and behavior to head up training and professional development programs.

Human resources managers usually work in office settings. You might take this role in a midsize or large business, a government bureau, or another organization.

10. Sales Manager

Sales Manager meeting with fellow managers

For a non-traditional approach to using your counseling degree, consider pursuing a job as a sales manager. Your knowledge of relationships may help you build connections with clients and head up effective sales teams.

Getting products or services into customers’ hands will your main goal as a sales manager. By effectively overseeing a team of sales representatives, you can expand your company’s reach. Setting goals and analyzing trends may help increase your team’s sales.

As a sales manager, you may work for a manufacturer, a wholesaler or a service provider. You could also hold a job in the retail sector.

Counseling Careers & Salaries

Counseling Careers & Salaries

Counseling is a fast-growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that positions for substance abuse, behavioral and mental health counselors will rise 22% between 2018 and 2028. Whether you’re just getting started in this field or have years of experience, your skills will be in demand by clients and employers.

Entry Level Counseling Jobs

Are you looking for a job that you can do while you earn a master’s degree in counseling? These entry-level positions in community and social services can help you get your foot in the door.

Career Median Annual Salary
Probation Officer $53,020
Social Worker $49,470
Social and Human Services Assistant $33,750

As a social worker, you’ll be limited in the responsibilities that you can take on at this point in your training. For example, you may be able to serve as a case manager or perform administrative duties, but you won’t qualify as a licensed clinical social worker without a master’s degree.

Mid-Career Counseling Jobs

Marriage Therapist meeting with a couple in her office

Once you earn a master’s degree in counseling, many more job opportunities in this field will be available to you.

Career Median Annual Salary
Marriage and Family Therapist $50,090
Substance Abuse or Behavioral Health Counselor $44,630
Mental Health Counselor $42,840
Rehabilitation Counselor $35,630

Keep in mind that licensure is required for many of these positions. Each state sets its own rules for licensing counselors, and the titles can vary from state to state as well. Before enrolling in a master’s program, it’s a good idea to confirm that the courses will satisfy your state’s requirements for the type of counseling you plan to do.

Highest Paying Counseling Jobs

Sales Managers checking a document

Some of the highest salaries in counseling require extra certifications. For example, some states want all school counselors to hold a teaching license in addition to having a counseling degree. Other top-paying jobs for this degree aren’t in counseling at all. Rather, they’re positions that can benefit from the skills learned in a counseling program.

Career Median Annual Salary
Sales Manager $124,220
Human Resources Manager $113,300
Social or Community Services Manager $65,320
School or Career Counselor $56,310

It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily have to pick one of these top-paying jobs to earn a good salary with a master’s in counseling. Simply gaining experience and adding credentials to your resume can help you move beyond the median earnings in jobs like mental health counseling or family therapy.

How Much Do Counselors Make with a Masters Degree in Counseling?

family therapist talking to a family during counseling

Counseling salaries vary based on experience, line of work and area of the country. On average, though, those who work in substance abuse, behavioral disorders and mental health earn $44,630 each year.

You might earn more as a marriage and family therapist, a school counselor or a community services manager.

Is a Masters in Mental Health Counseling Worth It?

Almost every licensed counseling job requires a master’s degree. Getting a graduate education is worth it because helping others transform their lives is a job that proves rewarding again and again.

You’ll be able to look back and remember many times that your counseling truly made a difference for others.

Can You Be a Therapist With a Masters in Counseling?

behavioral therapist listening to a patient during counseling

The terms “therapist” and “counselor” are often used interchangeably, and you may be qualified to perform certain types of therapy after getting a counseling master’s degree. For example, you could become a marriage and family therapist.

With additional training, you might be ready for Behavior Analyst Certification and a career in behavioral therapy.

What Can I Do With a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling?

As a clinical mental health counselor, you’ll provide assessment and treatment for people who have mental or behavioral health disorders. You may also assist others who are having a hard time with the stresses of life.

Places of employment include private practices, health clinics, hospitals, social service agencies, residential facilities, outpatient centers and universities.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Counseling?

human resource manager interviewing a job applicant

With a Master’s in Counseling, you will help people improve their lives. You might restore relationships as a marriage therapist, provide lifesaving intervention as a substance abuse counselor or increase job satisfaction as a human resources manager.

Whichever path you choose, your work will make a real difference for the people around you. To get started with this fulfilling calling, submit applications to counseling master’s programs.

This article is brought to you by
Isaac Collins
Isaac Collins
Joy Mays
Joy Mays