What Can I Do with a Master's Degree in Counseling?

Counselors help others overcome emotional or mental problems and come to peace with the stresses of their lives. A master's degree in counseling can prepare you to become licensed and provide aid to troubled individuals or groups of people. Several sub-categories exist within the field of counseling, such as educational, rehabilitation and mental health counseling; read on to learn more about these three fields. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master's Degree in Counseling Information Overview

In a counseling master's degree program, you acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to help people with a variety of psychological, social and emotional disabilities. Depending on your area of specialization, you may encounter problems with addiction, mental health disorders, vocational needs and trauma. Your job is to provide emotional support for these afflicted individuals and help them to develop self-confidence and trust. In most states, you are required to earn at least a master's degree followed by state licensure and certification.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Licensure Licensure is typically required
Entry-level Education Master's degree
Similar occupations Psychologists, social workers
Work Environment Office settings, care facilities, hospitals, schools


Education, rehabilitation and mental health counselors are all typically required to hold licensure. Qualification requirements vary among these positions, and states may have additional regulations. However, in general, education counselors must complete a master's degree program and a professional internship; sometimes, they also need a state teaching license and teaching experience. Rehabilitation counselors who work directly with patients need to hold a license, requiring a master's degree and completion of 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised practical training. And mental health counselors also need a master's degree plus 2,000-4,000 training hours of supervised clinical work. Once you earn meet eligibility requirements, you have one or more examinations to pass. Continuing education is typically necessary to maintain licensure.

Career Options

Educational and Vocational Counselors

If you'd like to help children, adolescents and adults with personal, social, educational and career dilemmas, you may specialize in educational or vocational counseling. School counselors work at all levels of the school system, from elementary to postsecondary, to help students deal with the stresses and pressures of growing up. In this field, you also help advocate personal growth in students. You may also provide crisis intervention following traumatic or violent occurrences. Vocational counselors help people make important career decisions and develop their job hunting skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2014, there were 246,280 people employed as educational, vocational or schools counselors, and they earned an average yearly salary of $56,040. Elementary and secondary schools employed the most educational, vocational and schools counselors that year. Also, the BLS predicts that an average growth rate of 12% will occur in this field from 2012-2022, adding 31,200 new jobs.

Some specific careers available in the field of educational, vocational and school counseling are:

  • Guidance counselor
  • Academic advisor
  • Career counselor
  • Career services director

Rehabilitation Counselors

As a rehabilitation counselor, you will help people cope with the various disabilities arising from disease, birth defects, accidents or the stresses of daily life. You may work one-on-one with disabled individuals to assess their strengths and weaknesses. You may also advise them on how to improve their lives and get them back on track. Job duties will also usually include monitoring your clients' progress and amending treatment methods as necessary. Your main goal is to increase your patients' independence and employability.

The BLS reported in May 2014 that there were 103,890 rehabilitation counselors employed in the U.S., earning $37,890 per year on average. The top industry employing rehabilitation counselors was the vocational rehabilitation services industry. From 2012-2022, faster-than-average growth of 20% is expected, equating to 23,400 jobs created.

You may encounter specific career titles like:

  • Human services care specialist
  • Vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC)
  • Vocational services specialist
  • Employment instructional associate (EIA)

Mental Health Counselors

Your focus, if you decide to go into mental health counseling, is promoting positive mental health in individuals and groups. You may be asked to evaluate a patient's mental state to determine if there is a risk of suicide. An important aspect of the job is getting patients to open up about their feelings, relationships and events in their personal lives. Be prepared to treat mental and emotional maladies, such as addiction and dependency, grief, depression, low self-esteem and anxiety.

In May 2014, the BLS found that there were 120,010 people employed as mental health counselors, and they earned a mean annual wage of $43,990. The industry employing the most mental health counselors was outpatient care centers. A 29% increase in employment (which is much faster than average compared to all occupations) is forecast for the 2012-2022 decade, and this job growth should open 36,700 positions. Some specific occupational titles you may find in the field of mental health counseling include:

  • Therapist
  • Correctional counselor
  • Behavior support specialist (BSS)
  • Mental health program specialist

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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