Different Types of Counseling Master's Degrees

If you'd like to become a counselor, you'll want to enroll in a master's degree program that focuses on the group you'd like to counsel, such as students or families. Read on to find out more about what you'll learn in each of the different types of graduate counseling programs. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Counseling Graduate Degree Programs Are Available?

Because counseling is such a broad discipline with so many different areas of clinical and professional focus, there are numerous different types of counseling master's degree programs available. Though exact course content varies by area of concentration, most programs educate students in theories and methods of counseling with a focus on mental health issues affecting the specific demographic they're studying. Students also receive plenty of clinical experience in counseling, with programs typically requiring completion of multiple semesters and numerous hours of clinical practice or field work. In many cases, these hours either meet the clinical practice requirements for graduates to take their state licensure exams in counseling, or give them a head start in qualifying for exams. Master's degree programs typically take about two years to complete, and some schools offer courses online.

In addition to the more common types of counseling graduate programs detailed below, some schools also offer degree programs in vocational counseling, genetic counseling, or pastoral counseling. Vocational counseling programs prepare students to help people select and pursue careers or re-enter the work force. In a genetic counseling program, you'll learn how to provide mental health services to people with genetic diseases or other family health disorders. Pastoral counseling programs educate students in offering mental health services to members of faith-based communities.

Degree Areas of FocusSchool, clinical, family, and addictions counseling programs most common; vocational, genetic, and pastoral counseling programs less common
School Counseling ProgramsMaster of Arts or Master of Science in counseling K-12 students or college students
Clinical Counseling ProgramsClasses in diagnosis and treatment, internships at mental health facilities
Marriage and Family Counseling ProgramsFocus on intimacy, relationships, and family dynamics
Addictions Counseling ProgramsGraduate certificates for current students or graduates of related master's programs

What Will I Learn in a School Counseling Degree Program?

If you want to work with students as a counselor, you can earn a Master of Arts or a Master of Science degree in school counseling. Most master's programs prepare graduates to work with children in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12), but some programs focus on counseling college students. In addition to taking traditional courses in counseling research, theory, and diagnosis, you'll learn how cultural, gender, and family issues may affect school-aged students. Required courses in counseling methods teach aspiring counselors how to help students through crisis, substance abuse issues, and the ups and downs of adolescence. Most programs also require courses in legal and ethical issues in school counseling. Last but not least, mandatory clinical practice courses give students hands-on experience in counseling patients, complete with required diagnosis case studies and progress notes.

What Will I Learn in a Clinical Counseling Degree Program?

In a clinical counseling master's degree program, you'll learn to work with various populations who seek mental health assistance in a variety of settings, including community-based nonprofits, hospitals, government agencies, and psychological treatment centers. Because these programs prepare students to provide counseling services to so many different types of people as opposed to just one segment of the population, course options and requirements may vary widely. Some topics commonly covered in counseling degree programs include:

  • Case management
  • Treatment planning
  • Developmental psychology
  • Crisis intervention
  • Group counseling
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Counseling across age groups
  • Research and methodology

As with all counseling master's programs, students are also required to complete a heavy dose of clinical practice hours, which are usually consolidated into a handful of required internships or practical courses. In most cases, Master of Arts of Master of Science degree programs meet state licensing requirements to work as a clinical mental health counselor, although requirements may vary from state to state.

What Will I Learn in a Marriage and Family Counseling Degree Program?

If you want to provide counseling to couples and families, you can enroll in a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy. Graduate programs in this area are typically offered as Master of Science or Master in Family Therapy degree programs, although some schools allow students to declare family therapy as a concentration area within a general master's degree in counseling program. These programs educate students in counseling both married and unmarried couples as well as families, with some courses focusing on the differences between various family systems. Required courses cover diagnosis and treatment of issues common to romantic relationships, such as gender differences, sexuality, intimacy, sexual abuse, and divorce. Field work is also large part of the curriculum. Most programs require completion of several hundred hours or several semesters' worth of hands-on practice, which generally meets state requirements to become a licensed marriage and family therapist after graduation. Some programs also require students to complete a final project in a relevant family counseling-related topic.

What Will I Learn in an Addictions Counseling Program?

Graduate students or master's degree-holders interested in becoming substance abuse counselors can earn a graduate certificate in addictions counseling. Certificate programs are usually open to anyone who has graduated from or is currently enrolled in a counseling-related master's degree program. They typically require students to complete a handful of electives in topics relevant to diagnosing and counseling people in drug and alcohol recovery, including:

  • Substance abuse assessment
  • Addictive behavior
  • Rehabilitation treatment theories
  • Group addiction counseling
  • Spirituality in recovery
  • Counseling families of addicts

Certificate programs typically culminate in a required internship at a substance abuse treatment facility.

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:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »