Master's in Counseling Psychology: Salary and Career Facts

Earning a master's degree in counseling psychology may lead to a career as a marriage and family therapist or a mental health counselor, depending on your specialization. Read on to learn more about career options, licensing, certification and salary figures. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Careers Are Possible With a Master's In Counseling Psychology?

With a master's degree in counseling psychology it is possible to pursue a career as a marriage and family therapist or a substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor. Graduate studies in counseling psychology help prepare graduates to identify symptoms of disorders that may be affecting individuals, and how relationships can affect a person's mental and emotional health. Marriage and family therapists specialize in working with couples and families, and determining how to address relationship factors that may be impacting a marriage or family negatively. Substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors work with individuals who struggle with issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction or eating disorders. They help clients identify and understand their condition and develop strategies for avoiding addictive or destructive behaviors.

Degree Required Master's degree
Key Responsibilities Diagnose clients or determine the issues affecting them, develop a treatment plan, implement treatment, refer clients to services
Licensure State licensing required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 15% for marriage and family therapists; 22% for substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors*
Average Salary (2015) $53,520 for marriage and family therapists; $42,920 for substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career and Salary Overview for Individuals with a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology

Most master's programs in counseling psychology award either a Master of Art or Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, and usually take at least two years to complete. These degree programs prepare students for careers counseling individuals and groups. Some programs allow students to focus on a specific interest, like family or community counseling. You will likely be required to complete clinical training in a counseling setting. Though you will likely be required to complete a master's thesis, you may have the choice to instead complete a research project as a capstone to the degree program.

What Can I Expect from this Program?

In a Master of Art or Master of Science in Counseling Psychology program, you will take courses that explore group dynamics, research methods in counseling psychology, interviewing and assessment techniques, professional ethics and laws impacting the counseling field. Curricula for Master of Science and Master of Art programs are generally similar, covering similar areas. Some schools may offer both degrees, with slight differences between the two programs, such as the requirement that Master of Art students be familiar with a foreign language.

Clinical experience is commonly a prominent aspect of these programs, but the number of hours required varies from school to school. This training may take place in prisons, mental health hospitals, public schools, individual counseling practitioner's offices, women's shelters or court clinics, and may be tailored to the student's individual interests.

What Can I Do?

With a master's degree in counseling psychology, you may find work in marriage and family therapy or mental health counseling. Marriage and family therapists work with families as groups or individuals to solve issues, keep crises at bay and increase communication between family members, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Marriage and family therapists are not the only counselors that have opportunity to work with families. Monster.com states that it can be part of a mental health therapist's job to educate families. As a mental health counselor, you would be responsible for assessment of your patients' mental health status prior to treatment and then designing a treatment plan. You would also be responsible for patient records and development of intervention and prevention plans as part of your treatment strategy.

How Much Can I Earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2015, the average annual salary for a marriage and family therapist was $53,520. The BLS also reports the average salary for behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors as $49,920.

Certification and Licensure Requirements

According to the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), certification occurs after completion of a doctoral degree. The ABPP offers certification in several specialties, including counseling psychology and clinical psychology. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) notes all 50 states have laws to regulate what marriage and family therapy practitioners can do.

To work as a psychologist, you generally need a doctoral degree, according to the BLS. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers credentials for professional counselors, providing that individuals have met specific criterion for the credential. The process includes graduation from an accredited program, several years of professional counseling experience and licensure in the state you wish to practice in. The BLS points out that licensure requirements vary by state, and NBCC explains that when a state grants a license for counseling, whether it be for mental health counselors or marriage and family therapists, it is a form of permission to practice in that state.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rehabilitation counselors and school and career counselors are professionals who need a master's degree. Rehabilitation counselors work with individuals who have disabilities. Their focus is on helping these individuals live independently. School and career counselors are focused on the success of students in their school. They may help students develop career plans and select classes to prepare for their desired career. Most school counselors need to be licensed, and rehabilitation counselors sometimes need certification or licensure depending on their state or employer.

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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