Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT): Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a cognitive behavior therapist. Learn about education requirements, certification options, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist?

A cognitive behavioral therapist assists clients in unlearning bad behaviors that they have probably grown up with all their lives. Cognitive therapists use their skills in psychotherapy to help their patients recognize negative patterns and, with practice, reverse those patterns. Since feelings are very powerful in people, it would be your job to help alter the depressive or anxious feelings through a safe and professional manner.

As a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT) you will take an active, goal-oriented approach to treating psychological disorders by using various psychological treatment methods. The following chart provides an overview for a career path as a cognitive behavioral therapist.

Degree Required Master's to work as counselor, Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology to work as psychologist
Education Field of Study Psychology
Certification Optional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists)*
Median Salary (2015) $72,580 (for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a branch of psychological treatment that attempts to retrain an individual's negative thought patterns in order to treat mental illnesses or disorders. As a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT), you would take an active, goal-oriented approach to treating disorders, helping patients to recognize and adjust the mental basis of their emotions. You could work in a traditional psychologist's setting such as a private or group practice or in a hospital or clinic.

What Education Do I Need?

Because CBT is a branch of psychology, you need the same education as any type of psychologist. Starting in high school and college you should enroll in psychology classes and major in psychology, if possible. After you have completed your bachelor's degree program, you should take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit those scores when applying to a doctoral program. The American Psychologist's Association (APA) accredits Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree programs ( There are also master's degree programs in psychology available, though a master's degree allows you to work as a counselor, not a psychologist.

Though there are a few programs that focus on cognitive therapy, most likely you will be able to take a few courses in CBT or you may need to seek additional CBT training after graduation. The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is named after developer of CBT and offers training courses for those wishing to further specialize their knowledge and practice ( There are multiple organizations in the country that stem from the original research and training of Dr. Beck.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Though certification is not required, the Academy of Cognitive Therapy ( offers a certification in cognitive therapy (CT). To become CT certified, you must submit documentation of your experience and education. The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) offers the Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CCBT) designation, which is awarded after you have completed a master's or doctoral degree program, six years of cognitive-behavioral therapy experience, submitted three letters of recommendation from mental health professionals and completed a certification program as recognized by the NACBT (

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that clinical, counseling and school psychologists, a group that includes cognitive therapists, made a median annual wage of $72,580 ( reported in March 2017 that CCBTs with 1 - 4 years experience earned a median salary of $28,000 while those with over 5 - 9 years had a median salary of $44,000.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a master's degree there are several related careers that could be to your liking. One profession could be as a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist. You'd be busy working with patients with emotional disorders, or listen to and advise couples dealing with family issues. School and career counselors work with students of all ages by helping guide them through academic issues or personal problems.Or maybe you would prefer the academic side of human behavior and want to become a sociologist. Sociologists utilize observational studies as well as research to examine groups, cultures, races and even social institutions.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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