Grief Counselor Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a grief counselor. Learn about education and licensure requirements, employment opportunities and salary information 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 Grief Counselor?

Grief counselors may work with individuals who are terminally ill, the loved ones of a patient with a terminal illness, or the friends and family of a person who has passed away. They often work in health care settings such as hospices. They provide emotional support for those who are coping with grief, and they may provide counseling for individuals or groups. They document their assessments, develop treatment plans, and document the progress of their patients.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Counseling, social work
Training Required Internships, practica, two years of post-graduate clinical experience
Licensure Required State-mandatory licensure, social work and counseling licensure preferred, additional The American Institute of Health Care Professionals (AIHCP) certification optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 20% for mental health counselors*
Average Salary (2015) $45,080 for mental health counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Grief Counselor Do?

A grief counselor focuses primarily on loss, mourning or bereavement. In this field, you'll help individuals or families address the issues surrounding a death and its impact. You could also counsel people during or after a major event that caused grief, such as divorce, suicide, a miscarriage or bankruptcy.

Where Can I Work?

As a grief counselor, you can either stay in the field or pursue a number of other positions, such as mental health counselor, funeral director, law enforcement officer, substance abuse counselor or psychologist. You could also work in different types of places. Social service and community agencies, churches and other religious organizations may have opportunities. In addition, business-employee assistance programs, funeral service businesses and private practice may also be options.

What Education Do I Need for This Career?

Since this field has several career paths, your education would be determined by which path you chose; however, the most traditional path is a mental health counseling program. Typically, employers prefer to hire grief counselors with a field background and licensure in marriage and family counseling, social work or another branch of counseling. As with most mental health professions, you'll need to have an undergraduate degree. Degrees such as psychology, sociology and even social work may help further your progress in this field. After completing an undergraduate degree program, you could pursue a master's degree in mental health counseling with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy, grief counseling, social work, pastoral counseling or any other program that facilitates the practice of mental health counseling.

Each state has its own requirements for practicing in this field, but most require you to take a standardized test from a state-authorized organization, complete clinical work in the field, get a license and maintain your license through courses on a regular, pre-determined basis. You can also voluntarily pursue certification in grief counseling through organizations like the American Institute of Health Care Professionals if you have a foundation in a career like ordained ministry or funeral directing.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for mental health counselors in 2015 was $45,080. Those with certification in marriage and family counseling, as well as those with more experience, can expect to earn more.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Healthcare social workers and marriage and family therapists are professionals who work in the same general field as grief counselors. Healthcare social workers may work with patients who are ill or injured to help them cope with how their illness or injury is affecting their life. They may also work with the families of patients, and help them process their feelings and how they're affected by the illness or injury. Like grief counselors, they may see patients individually or in groups. Healthcare social workers need a bachelor's or master's degree in social work.

Marriage and family therapists need a master's degree. They work with couples and families who are facing challenges in their marriage or family life. They may meet with patients individually, or in groups, like grief counselors. They need to document their assessments, treatment plans and patients' progress. They may also work with families who are coping with a family member who has been affected by illness or injury, or families who are coping with the loss of a family member.

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