What Can You Do with a Degree in Counseling?

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A counseling degree can open up the doors to various counseling careers. This career path may be a good fit for you if you have a passion for working directly with people and have a knack for compassion and understanding.

Counseling Careers

Within this versatile degree program, you will learn essential skills for providing a wide range of counseling services to clients in a variety of settings.

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From marriage and family counselors to addiction specialists, there are many different opportunities available to those who graduate with a counseling degree.

What Can You Do With a Counseling Degree?

what can you do with a counseling degree

Many students enter into a counseling degree program with the intention of providing one-on-one counseling services to patients in need of support or behavioral and mental health treatment. This can be accomplished through a private counseling practice or by finding employment in the school or healthcare settings.

There are a number of different specializations within a counseling degree that you can choose from to further develop the skills needed for the professional workplace. Your specific licensure, specialization, and experience can have a big impact on the salary that you earn.

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For example, you may choose to help families navigate difficult times by becoming a marriage and family therapist where you can expect to earn an annual median salary of $49,880. Perhaps you enjoy working with the younger generation and are interested in becoming a school counselor.

You can also opt to help improve your community by serving as a community health worker. There are many counseling jobs with a bachelor’s degree or masters degree.

10 Things You Can Do with a Degree in Counseling

There are a variety of mental health counseling careers you may decide to work toward with a degree, some of which include school, career, and rehabilitation counselors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are a few careers associated with counseling.

1. Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and Family Therapist visiting her clients

Education Requirement: Master’s degree

Marriage and family therapists help clients build healthy relationships. They may work in private practices with individuals, or with couples and families. Typically, these therapists teach clients how to process emotions, strategies to cope with difficult situations, and positive behaviors.

These professionals also look at dynamics within the family unit and evaluate how familial relationships may be affecting clients’ mental health.

2. Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation Counselor in a group session

Education Requirement: Master’s degree

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, and other disabilities. They teach them to live independently at various life stages, such as students, working professionals, and elders.

To do this, rehabilitation counselors evaluate their clients’ abilities, put together treatment plans, and help them address issues like substance abuse and trauma. Some rehabilitation counselors may also advocate for the rights of disabled people and professionals in the workplace.

3. School Counselors

School Counselor evaluating a student

Education Requirement: Master’s degree

School counselors help students navigate challenges they may face in school, and help prepare them for a career after graduation. They may do this by evaluating their students’ abilities, helping them develop skills for optimal learning, and giving them tools to overcome social obstacles.

Elementary school counselors may partner more with parents and guardians, while high school counselors may focus more on preparing students for college.

4. Career Counselors

Career Counselor discussing with a fresh grad

Education Requirement: Master’s degree

Career counselors may be career coaches or college advisors. Career coaches generally help working professionals discover their desired career path, and follow the steps to land a job they want.

College advisors typically help college students figure out their postgrad plans. They may teach them job search techniques like writing a resume, navigating job boards, and handling interviews.

5. Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance Abuse Counselor in a session with a group

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

As their title suggests, substance abuse counselors help people recover from a variety of addictions, including alcohol and drug use. To do this, these counselors evaluate their clients, come up with treatment plans, and help clients develop positive behaviors.

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Substance abuse counselors may also enlist the help of family and friends to create a support network, and they may recommend facilities or programs to provide additional assistance.

6. Mental Health Counselors

Mental Health Counselor comforting a patient

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

Mental health counselors assist with a wide variety of mental health issues their clients may experience. As a mental health counselor, you may help with depression, anxiety, grief, and more.

By teaching clients strategies to address their mental health challenges, these counselors may help these issues become more manageable. They may help children or adults, since people of all ages can struggle with mental health.

7. Community Health Workers

Community Health Worker getting feedback from a resident

Education Requirement: High school diploma

As a community health worker, you may advocate for residents in your community, and act as a middleman between residents and healthcare and social service organizations. These professionals gather data from their residents and use it to help improve their wellness.

Community health workers may perform basic healthcare tasks, such as first aid and diabetic foot checks. They also generally spend time discussing healthcare concerns with their community.

8. Health Education Specialists

Health Education Specialists strategizing for educational program

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

Health education specialists teach their communities health and wellness strategies, as well as resources where they can learn more. To do this, they may create educational programs and events, train community health workers, or help people find organizations for further assistance.

They may work in healthcare facilities, nonprofits, and public health departments, among other settings, and their responsibilities may differ depending on their clients and environment.

9. Child and Family Social Workers

Child and Family Social Worker, evaluating a kid

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

These social workers work with children and families to assess and help them cope with, day-to-day problems. These can include neglect, housing, and more. Child and family social workers try to protect children and help struggling families.

They may help families apply for benefits, adjust to difficult situations, or respond to crisis situations like child abuse. These social workers may assist with adoption and foster homes.

10. Clinical Social Workers

Clinical Social Worker diagnosing behavioral issues of a client

Education Requirement: Master’s degree

Clinical social workers require more education than other types of social workers because they typically can diagnose mental and behavioral issues. They may also need supervised clinical experience and a license from their state.

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Clinical social workers may provide group or individual therapy and may create treatment plans in collaboration with doctors and other healthcare workers. They also help clients develop strategies for coping with challenging issues. While these are common roles associated with counseling, there are many more specializations in this field.

Degrees in Counseling

Students getting a Degree in Counseling

While any degree in counseling may help teach you the skills needed to pursue a counselor career path, the type of degree you get may affect which roles you can qualify for.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling: A bachelor’s degree may help with the pursuit of entry-level counseling job opportunities, such as social workers and substance abuse counselors. It typically takes 4 years to get a bachelor’s degree, although that timeframe can differ depending on your program, schedule, and other factors.
  • Master’s Degree in Counseling: Master’s programs in counseling generally take around 2 years to complete, and students can learn how to counsel individuals and groups. A master’s degree may help you stand out when working toward positions like school counselors, marriage and family therapists, and rehabilitation counselors.
  • Doctoral Degree in Counseling: Many graduates with a doctorate degree in counseling pursue careers in research, leadership, or teaching. Research doctorate degree options include Ph.D. in Counseling and Ph.D. in Social Work, while professional doctorates may include a Doctor of Social Work or a Doctor of Psychology.

In addition to these degrees, some states and roles may require additional training and certification.

Counseling Careers & Salaries

Counseling Careers & Salaries

In addition to the various specializations within counseling, some students who are majoring in counseling utilize their knowledge to apply for other job positions across a range of different fields. This is good news for those who are still trying to decide on a career in counseling vs. social work, for example.

Whether you are interested in working with a non-profit organization or running community outreach programs within your region, the skills you learn during the course of your Counseling degree program are marketable for a variety of careers in counseling.

In the table below, we have put together a list of the top 40 counseling careers & salaries according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can use this information to get a general overview of what to expect after graduation and help you choose an academic and counseling career path that best supports your long-term goals.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Industrial-Organizational Psychologists $105,310
Clinical Directors $101,340
Psychologists, Hospitals $99,330
Sociologists $92,910
Psychologists, Ambulatory Health Services $83,770
Clinical and Counseling Psychologists $82,510
Psychologists $81,040
Social Scientists $80,890
School Psychologists $78,780
Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $77,500
Family Service Center Directors $74,000
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary $71,010
Counselor Education Professors $63,910
Elementary School Counselors $63,460
Public Relations Representatives $62,800
Life Coaches $61,900
Social Workers, Local Government $61,190
Public Health Social Workers $60,840
Education Counselors $60,510
Probation Officers $60,250
Survey Researchers $59,740
Family Therapists, Outpatient $57,930
Rehab Counselors, Hospital $55,330
Child and Family Counselors $49,880
School Counselors, Colleges $49,430
Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Workers $49,150
Psychotherapist Social Workers $49,130
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520
Social Service Specialists $48,400
Government Community Health Workers $47,400
Community Organization Workers $47,390
Community Health Workers $46,590
Grief Counselors $45,160
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors, Residential Facility $42,900
Rehab Counselors $38,560
Social And Human Service Assistants $37,610
Human Service Assistants, Individual and Family Services $37,370
Psychiatric Technicians $36,570
Rehab Counselors, Community $36,380
Social Service Assistants, Nursing and Residential Care Facilities $34,030

The future of those working within the counseling career outlook looks bright, and the BLS shows overall positive growth trends over the next decade. This is due in large part to the increased awareness of the importance of mental health and the expanded insurance coverage now available for counseling and therapy services.

Just as with computer science careers and careers in criminal justice, when considering a career in counseling, it is always a good idea to look at the statistical job information for the specific career ideas you are interested in pursuing, as the different specializations often have varying employment trends.

For example, the BLS projects that mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists will see 14% occupational growth over the next 10 years.

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Those working as school and career counselors will see a 10% increase in jobs, while substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can expect a growth rate of 22%. These numbers are all at or well above the national average growth across all occupations, which is excellent news for those looking to pursue a degree in counseling.

While the figures listed are annual median wages, the actual wage you earn may be different based on degree level and overall experience. For example, jobs for masters in counseling graduate students will likely pay more. Counseling is a highly rewarding field that will put your professional skills to the test through a wide range of job responsibilities.

How to Know if a Career in Counseling is Right for Me

what can I do with a counseling degree

While there are a variety of factors that can determine whether you enjoy your job, including pay, schedule, and co-workers, finding a fulfilling career path can be a great step in the right direction. Here are some indications that you might enjoy pursuing a career in counseling.

  • You love helping people. The primary function of counselors is to help others, whether by helping someone recover from an addiction or advocating for residents in their community to have increased access to healthcare resources.
  • You’re not afraid of a challenging career. Because counselors can see people going through difficult times, counselors may have to help their clients effectively navigate these situations
  • You want to help your community. Although some counselors work with individuals or small groups, there are different types of counselors that may help communities as a whole, such as community health workers.
  • You enjoy learning about mental health. While pursuing a counseling degree, you may study biology, psychology, and other science-based subjects that can teach you to understand human behavior.
  • You would like a flexible career. Many counselors, especially ones with private practices, have the benefit of being able to make their own schedules.

Counseling may also be a fit for you if you’re looking for a career with a positive job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school, career, mental health, and substance abuse counselors are all expected to experience faster-than-average job growth.

What Is a Counseling Degree?

Child Counselor speaking to the parent of patient

Counseling degree programs focus on developing your communication and emotional intelligence skillset while introducing you to a wide range of cognitive and behavioral therapy methods. You will likely delve into an in-depth analysis of psychology and counseling theories throughout the course of your program to help you fully understand the wide range of situations that you will face throughout your counseling career.

Most accredited universities offer counseling degrees starting at the bachelor’s level, although the majority of students go on to earn graduate degrees in order to meet state licensing requirements and practice in a professional environment. During your course study, you will be able to choose a concentration within your degree program that may include the following options:

  • Christian Counseling
  • Addiction Counseling
  • School Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling

There are a variety of different types of counseling programs available, and regardless of which one you choose, you will likely be required to complete in-person internships and fieldwork within a variety of environments in order to successfully graduate from the program and obtain professional licensure.

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If you are interested in working towards your degree at your own pace, we suggest looking into the different online counseling degrees. Many accredited universities now offer virtual degree programs within this field that make it possible for students to juggle the demands of career or family obligations.

What Skills Do You Learn in a Counseling Degree?

Career Counselor in a session with a client

While in a counseling degree program, you may gain a psychological understanding of why people think and act the way they do. To practically apply this knowledge, you may learn how to analyze and address client behavior.

A counseling degree may teach you diagnostic and assessment skills so you can analyze client actions and assess the underlying causes and potential disorders. You may also learn about interpersonal communication, which can be critical when effectively helping others. Additional skills you may learn include crisis intervention, leadership, and program management.

Is Counseling a Good Career?

Yes, counseling is a good career for many professionals. Online counseling careers can be very fulfilling, as they typically involve helping or teaching others how to improve their lives.

There are a variety of counseling roles with different specializations, including substance abuse, rehabilitation, and career counselors. You may choose to pursue a counseling role that is specific to your skills and interests. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several careers associated with counseling are expected to grow faster than average, including mental health and school counselors.

How Much Do Counselors Make?

Rehabilitation Counselor assessing his elderly client

Counselors can make a wide range of salaries, depending on education, skills, experience, and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for school and career counselors and advisors is $60,510, although it’s $63,460 in elementary and secondary schools.

The median wage for social workers is $50,390, with marriage and family therapists being $49,880. Rehabilitation counselors come in slightly lower at $38,560. With any counseling career, the job setting may have an impact on salary.

Where Do Counselors Work?

Counselors can work in a variety of settings, depending on what type of counseling they do. For example, school counselors may work in elementary, middle, or high schools, while career counselors may advise students on college campuses about their future career paths.

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Some professionals, such as substance abuse, rehabilitation, or marriage and family counselors, may work in private practices or healthcare facilities. Social workers and health education specialists may work in government offices or hospitals, among other settings.

Can You Be a Counselor With a Bachelor’s Degree?

Mental health counselor evaluating a client

It depends on what state you would like to practice in. Counselors with bachelor’s degrees also are typically supervised by a professional with seniority, or work in a supporting role.

Depending on the state, there may be opportunities for substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, and more with a bachelor’s degree requirement. Examples of jobs with a masters in counseling requirement include clinical social workers and career counselors.

A bachelor’s degree may help professionals pursue other opportunities in the counseling field, such as social workers and health education specialists.

What Are Entry Level Counseling Jobs?

Entry Level Counseling Jobs

After receiving a degree, there are a variety of jobs you may choose to pursue that typically require no prior work experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are a few median salaries associated with entry level counseling roles.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Career Counselors $60,510
School Counselors $60,510
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880
Substance Abuse Counselors $48,520
Rehabilitation Counselors $38,560

Although these entry-level roles generally don’t need to see previous work experience, it may be advantageous to have completed an internship or certification prior to applying.

What Are the Highest Paying Counseling Jobs?

Highest Paying Counseling Jobs

Your salary can depend on your education, skills, experience, and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these roles are among the higher-paying jobs associated with counseling.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Nurse Practitioners $123,780
Physician Assistants $121,530
Physical Therapists $95,620
Psychologists $81,040
Registered Nurses $77,600
Social Workers, All Other $61,190

Many of these roles require additional education, certifications, or years of experience, but a counseling degree may help you stand out when pursuing these types of careers.

What’s the Difference Between a Counselor vs. Therapist?

While there are similarities between counselors and therapists, a few key differences between these two careers are below.

Counselor Therapist
  • Offer short-term care
  • Help clients solve day-to-day problems
  • Hold limited appointments for each client
  • Offer long-term care
  • Help with mental health work
  • Continuously help their clients

Both counselors and therapists are trained professionals that help people with their mental and behavioral health. In general, therapists focus more on improving mental health conditions, while counselors help people overcome life challenges.

Is a Counseling Degree Worth It?

what can you do with a masters in counseling

Yes, a counseling degree is worth it for many professionals. Counseling can be a rewarding career path, as it involves helping people improve their mental health, and ultimately their lives.

Counseling may also be a worthwhile pursuit if you’re hoping to work in a growing field. Many careers associated with counseling should experience faster than average job growth over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Marriage and family therapists are projected to grow by 14%, community health workers by 16%, and rehabilitation counselors by 11%. Substance abuse counselors are expected to grow by 22%.

Getting Your Degree in Counseling Online

Man getting his Degree in Counseling online

If you’re interested in a career in counseling, there are various roles you may choose to pursue in this field. Counselors can help with substance abuse, rehabilitation, careers, and more.

A degree in counseling may also help you qualify for roles like health education specialists, community health workers, and other jobs where you can make an impact. An online counseling degree may grant you flexibility while you’re in school, as many of these programs allow students to attend classes on varying schedules.

To get started, try exploring accredited universities to see if a degree in counseling is right for you.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.