Salary/Degree Guides

The Ultimate Counseling Career Guide

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

Reviewed by David Krug David Krug is a seasoned expert with 20 years in educational technology (EdTech). His career spans the pivotal years of technology integration in education, where he has played a key role in advancing student-centric learning solutions. David's expertise lies in marrying technological innovation with pedagogical effectiveness, making him a valuable asset in transforming educational experiences. As an advisor for enrollment startups, David provides strategic guidance, helping these companies navigate the complexities of the education sector. His insights are crucial in developing impactful and sustainable enrollment strategies.

Updated: April 4, 2024, Reading time: 19 minutes

counseling career

Find your perfect college degree

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Do you have a genuine desire to help others? Counseling might be the ideal degree and job for you. The many facets of Counseling include education, rehabilitation, and relationships.

Students are also taught to diagnose mental health, deal with substance abuse, and evaluate behavioral disorders. To be admitted for entry-level positions in this field, you should earn at least a bachelor’s degree. For private practice, you should acquire a license and a master’s degree.

Most of the time, a counselor works and interacts with various patients in a one-on-one or group setting. This work ordinarily includes long meetings, interviews, and discussions. The main objective is to assess the issues that the patient is facing and decide on the appropriate treatment or alternatives.

A counselor should be firm and sympathetic but also determined to aid patients in conquering their psychological and behavioral challenges.

A counselor’s responsibilities include researching and analyzing a patient’s experience and conditions, determining the availability of help and support from the family or the community, and gathering ideas from different counselors and therapists. All these enable a counselor to adequate provide care at all levels.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Counseling as a Degree

The initial step to becoming a counselor is to acquire a bachelor’s degree, although an associate’s degree in the field also leads you to entry-level career opportunities.

You are allowed to study a subject you prefer before proceeding to pursue a master’s program. A degree in Psychology or Human Services establishes a robust framework for further study.

The next stage is to enroll in a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) licensed program and obtain a master’s degree. CACREP-certified programs adhere to the rules and guidelines set by the Council and are headed by a team of counseling specialists.

The significant advantage for students is that these programs meet the prerequisites set by the state licensure board. Some CACREP programs are accessible in the U.S. in both on-campus and online formats.

Most graduate degree programs take two years to complete, provided that you go on full-time study. The courses include Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, Research, and Counseling Methods. After acquiring a master’s degree, counselors should obtain directed clinical experience, as may be required by the academic institution.

A graduate with secondary school recognition and authentication training may look for employment in the counseling field, yet they may face restrictions about their obligations, tasks, and capacity to help patients or clients.

Most employers require an applicant to have a master’s degree in a related field to become a counselor. An advanced degree (alongside licensure) is a necessity for private practice.

A doctorate in Counseling or a related field enables a person to handle research, work in universities and colleges, or take over organization obligations. It is the highest level of instruction that a specialist can obtain.

Types of Counseling Degrees

Counselors must gain a four-year college degree, and commonly a master’s degree, to start their training. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is worthy to enter the required master’s program a while later.

If you have officially earned a bachelor’s in psychology or a related field, your studies will be an advantage while pursuing your master’s degree. A doctorate is not required for this level of specialization; however, some individuals seek one in the wake of working in the field.

Associate’s Degree in Counseling

An Associate’s degree in Counseling, which takes two years to complete, prepares students for specific entry-level positions. If you aspire to be a counselor for the abused or neglected, choose the courses that are relevant to the job, such as ethics, liquor, alcoholism and medication abuse, clinical composition, as well as drugs and conduct.

Finishing these courses will allow you to understand the individual on a level that will enable you to determine the right treatment.

The types of jobs or careers you can carve out with an Associate in Counseling differ from a Bachelor’s, as the latter gets better pay, a more extensive range of responsibilities, and more opportunities for career advancement. As such, associate degree holders typically pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling

Specializing in Psychology for your bachelor’s degree lets you pursue Counseling with ease, but most Counseling degree programs present a mix of science courses. If the research aspect of Counseling interests you, consider graduate school.

Examples of Major Courses

Master’s Degree in Counseling

There are numerous types of master’s programs available in counseling, contingent on your desired degree—whether it’s a Master of Science, Master of Art, or Educational Specialist—and specialization.

Options incorporate general Counseling, Counseling psychology, marriage and family treatment, school Counseling, restoration Counseling, craftsmanship treatment, and others.

A master’s degree takes two to three years to complete. This degree offers a mix of learning and hands-on involvement in classroom settings.

Examples of Core and Major Courses:

You’ll also need to complete lab work and a clinical internship, as well as pass examinations to meet accreditation and licensure requirements. Some Counseling jobs require a master’s degree, a license to practice, and at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

Master’s in Counseling programs include:

Doctorate in Counseling

A doctoral degree isn’t necessary for you to become a professional counselor, even though you may pursue it to raise your chances of making it in the scholarly community.

Here are the Doctorates in Counseling:

The coursework for a Ph.D. in Counseling may incorporate classes on cutting-edge studies of clinical assessment, singular Counseling practice, family treatment, and research designs.

Regular doctorate programs take around five to seven years of focused study and research. Students undergo a supervised internship, take comprehensive exams, do direct research, and compose a dissertation.

Contingent upon the school, some Ph.D. programs don’t require a master’s degree but typically require additional academic credits from non-master’s degree holders.

Counseling Degree Specializations

Counseling refers to a field that consists of various opportunities in all Counseling subfields. Counselors may also aid their clients by utilizing approaches in these fields:

Here are the popular specializations of Counseling:

School Counseling

School counselors take on advisory work in public or private secondary schools. Their duties involve assisting secondary school students in excelling in school, aiding them in planning for school, and urging them to take an interest in extracurricular activities that will help improve both their social and personal lives.

Most school counselors need a graduate-level degree in School Counseling or a related field and have a state-issued qualification.

Career Counseling

Career counselors provide individuals with the direction they seek in deciding on their ideal careers and planning for them. Usually, this involves full-time work.

Employers for this particular position are located in career centers, universities, colleges, and government organizations. There are also career counselors who do private practice.

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counselors handle emotional and psychiatric disorders. A master’s degree and state license are requirements to become a mental health counselor. Clinical experience is also required, along with passing examinations needed for training.

Marriage Counseling

A marriage counselor provides an unbiased evaluation and assists couples in resolving their marital problems. Distressed couples seek the assistance of a marriage counselor to salvage the relationship.

A few pastors, churches, and religious groups also advise couples to seek marriage counseling before their wedding.

Marriage counselors work all day in health centers, faith-based organizations, and similar settings. This is a fast-rising specialization with excellent prospects for future employment.

Recovery or Rehabilitation Counseling

Rehabilitation counselors work in youth direction organizations, senior centers, and restoration centers. One of their fundamental roles is to assist individuals with disabilities in adjusting to their environment.

They also deal with people seeking help with recovering from personal ordeals and getting back on their feet with new career pathways and endeavors.

Online versus Traditional Counseling Degrees

Counseling students can choose to study on-campus or online. Both formats educate students with vital skills for the assessment, treatment, and observation of their patients’ conditions. Both formats feature similar courses, such as counseling techniques, human advancement, and psychopharmacology.

Traditional Counseling degrees typically require students to take an internship. Some academic institutions consider credits for work experience in this field.

The online counseling degree may come with a minimal residency prerequisite of one to two weeks while in the program. You can also opt for the hybrid format that blends on-campus and online coursework.

Numerous schools offer online undergraduate Counseling degrees to students searching for flexibility and convenience as they pursue their educational and professional goals.

Online colleges and universities that provide counseling programs typically emphasize reinforcing the self-motivated, working professionals with flexible scheduling in a convenient, accelerated format.

If you want to earn a degree in Counseling, whether online or on-campus, the first step is to decide on the level of degree you would want to work with.

The most widely recognized degrees in Counseling for every level are Bachelor’s (B.A. or B.S.), Master’s (M.A., M.S., or M.Ed.), and Doctoral (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). You also need to select the program type that is of great interest to you based on the individuals you will be working with, the workplace, or the salary range.

Be sure your degree program is properly accredited!

Financing Your Counseling Education

Considered a prominent major for adults, Counseling programs are highly preferred by students of various age groups coming from a wide range of backgrounds and social status.

Whether you are a new college student attending a traditional school or a distance learner deciding to pursue the degree, a common concern is financing your education. Thankfully, there are several types of financial aid for you.


For bachelor’s degree students, Pell Grants are most accessible. The federal government funds the Counseling studies of qualified students.

Another needs-based government program is the FSEOG, which may be limited in terms of availability for each qualified student. Because grants do not require repayment, they are perfect for those who are eligible.


Students studying Counseling at the master’s or doctorate level can turn to subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.

Subsidized loans are regarded as need-based, and the federal government pays the interest. Unsubsidized loans are accessible to all students, and the interest is paid periodically.

State and University Financial Aid

Many academic institutions offering Counseling as a degree run their scholarship programs. Master’s and doctorate student scholarships are granted based on the degree specialization.

Scholarships from Private Organizations

Various types of organizations and businesses offer scholarships. A considerable number of them require students to meet the specific criteria they set.

With the broad range of financial aid forms and scholarships available in colleges and universities, students who are determined can become the professional counselors they have always wanted to be.

Counseling Salary and Job Outlook

Counseling offers a wealth of career pathways. Counselors and therapists can choose from numerous areas of specialty in different work settings. Their salaries depend on a number of factors, including specialization, level of experience, designation in an organization, and type of employment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in 2026, job opportunities for substance abuse counselors, social disorder counselors, psychological wellness counselors, as well as marriage and family counselors, will rise by 20%.

The demand for counselors in schools and workplaces will be up by 11 percent in 2026, while the job outlook for recovery counselors will see a 10% increase.

According to BLS, “instructive, direction, school and professional counselors” earned an average of $56,040, while the top 10% of earners in the same profession made $86,610 on average in 2015. Licensed psychological wellness counselors receive an average yearly salary of $42,840.

Here are other professional counselors’ average yearly earnings:

Regularly, counselors who work in neighborhood or state government agencies are paid the highest counselor salary, followed by workers in hospitals and residential facilities. Counselors doing private practice earn even more.

Part-time Counseling Jobs

As a counselor or therapist, you have numerous career opportunities to share your knowledge, skills, and passion for helping the community around you.

If you are looking for new professional pathways to gain extra income or benefits, some jobs are readily available for part-time positions in traditional hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, private firms, and other organizations. The occupations listed below are provided on a part-time basis.

10 Unique Counseling Careers

Counseling occupations are typically found in traditional hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, or academic institutions. However, with a little creativity and passion, you can successfully transition to a career that is related to counseling but different enough to keep you going.

These professions might require learning a new set of skills or additional extensive training to be qualified, but earning a bachelor’s degree is more than enough to start.


Writers get to share their knowledge, observations, and opinions about the world. They are self-driven, creative, and hardworking individuals who share insights about the counseling field through blogs, scholarly journals, or self-help websites.

They have technical knowledge of mental health subjects with complicated terms and concepts that can be translated for the ideal audience. Also, they can write for professionals with a general understanding of the subject.


If you’re a counselor who has a passion for working with childcare, a nanny is a suitable occupation for you. This is for you if you are the best babysitter in your neighborhood and you love being around children. They are considered proxy mothers who get to work round the clock and go home at the end of their day.


Consultants can be experts on a specific target audience, especially in a therapeutic setting. As such, you can explore business ventures or join a consulting firm. If you have the talent of the right marketing and branding, you can work with people, companies, and agencies that would benefit from your expertise.

Talk Show Host

If you have a degree in counseling or a related field, excellent communication and personal skills might be one of your best assets. Whether it’s radio broadcasting, television, or podcasting, talk show hosts understand how to keep conversations going, ask numerous questions, and manage their guests.


Counselors who love administrative work and management might be suitable to work as administrators. They can work in non-profit organizations, traditional hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, testing centers or outreach communities, showcasing their organizational skills, leadership skills, and mission.


Nowadays, the demand for mental health services and support is increasing due to the complexities of lifestyle. If you take advantage of the internet, you can establish your own online business catering to the self-help industry.

You can publish e-books, create webinars, and develop podcasts that talk about a specific problem for a target audience.

Art Therapist

If you have the creative talent and passion to help people, a career as an art therapist may be the perfect fit for you. Art therapists are people who withhold their judgment while showing a deep appreciation for the healing power of the arts. They help people of different ages and backgrounds find healing through artistic expression.

Music Therapist

Music Therapists use their passion and therapy training to help others find healing, recovery, inspiration, and solace through music. Music’s healing powers can be a simple remedy for people suffering from mental health issues.

Speech Writer

If you are a counselor with excellent communication skills or gifted with words, consider working as a speechwriter. In this job, you help individuals express their ideas better through speech writing.

Yoga Instructor

There have been studies that yoga can transform your life for the better. Perhaps it heals people from their emotional and mental struggles as well as improves posture. Yoga instructors have a passion for sharing their wisdom in improving physical and psychological health and well-being.

Top Travel Counseling Careers

There are several travel career opportunities for counseling majors. While the majority of these professionals are in companies or clinical settings, some of them have the chance to travel for work.

If you love to meet people from different walks of life and cultures, you can consider a counseling career that involves a lot of travel.


What are the advantages of earning a Counseling degree?

The opportunities for counseling work are extraordinary in the present market. As a result, new counselors can opt for many professions. There is a wide range of fields for Counseling degree holders, and all of them offer fulfilling and exciting opportunities that pay well.

Counseling is a profession required in many sectors. The specialization you choose should complement your interests and strengths. Whether you choose to be a counselor for the military or a counselor for children, you should choose a career that you know will be fulfilling as you help others.

A Counseling degree leads to a career that contributes to society by changing lives. The significance of this work can’t be overstated. A stellar example is counseling abused kids.

This job may be one of the hardest, but nothing compares to the work that counselors do to free these innocents from the burden of their past. In the same manner, counseling couples to save their marriage can be quite challenging, but it is also fulfilling.

What specific skills do Counseling degree students need to enhance or develop?

Before pursuing a Counseling degree, it is essential to know whether you have soft skills, referring to your inborn personality and character traits, that are necessary to feel satisfied by the work and to provide the most efficient assistance to the general population that one serves.

Here are a few traits and skills that a competent counselor should possess:

Curiosity. As a counselor, you need to have a desire to learn more about other individuals in detail. Without a genuine interest in people, you can’t be relied on to assist them and provide the help they need.

Self-reflection. How you think, act, and demonstrate yourself as a counselor has a significant effect on the nature of care you can give to clients. Competent counselors must honestly and precisely assess themselves to discover better ways of interacting with others.

Listening. The objective of all counselors is to understand the person they are interacting with and working within a very personal way. As such, a counselor needs to be an active listener.

Accessibility with limitations. Every counselor must exhibit a delicate harmony between being physically available and emotionally accessible to their patients without going beyond personal or professional boundaries. Counseling sessions fundamentally involve a dynamic interaction between the patient and the counselor.

Adaptability. A one-size-fits-all strategy for Counseling doesn’t work. The best counselors are those who can readily adjust to the patient’s experience, personality, and struggles while taking into account the external factors associated with the case.

Humor. Counseling is an intense and awkward process for everyone involved. A counselor should know when to inject humor to lighten the mood and keep the focus away from depressing or frustrating circumstances. You should do these without trivializing the patient’s concerns, fears, and issues.

What are the accreditations and certifications for the Counseling profession?

In the field of counseling and therapy, the type of licensure you acquire depends on the program you have completed.

The primary accrediting bodies for Counseling are the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA).

It is always suggested that you notify your state licensing board to confirm that the coursework you completed complies with the requirements in your place of work or professional practice. Conditions can change by state and based on the area of specialization.

What can you do with a degree in Counseling?

Generally, counselors work at jobs in:

In many cases, companies and organizations require a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or social work. The most common counseling work includes:

Training Counselors work with K-12 students or in a school setting to help students achieve personal and academic success.

Restoration and Recovery Counselors help individuals who have disabilities get back on their feet through training.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors deal with patients’ issues concerning alcoholism, drugs, eating disorders, and more.

Health & Wellness Counselors seek to improve the emotional well-being of individuals, families, and groups by addressing depression, stress, and low self-esteem.

Doctors in Counseling usually work in or are associated with social services organizations and private companies. Counselors with a Ph.D. may also choose to:

How do I advance in my Counselor career?

In terms of professional advancement, Counselors who have become instructors have an edge over their peers because of their training and experience. Many of them also move into administrative roles in other sectors.

Licensure and accreditation, which are granted by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the National Certified Counselor (NCC), are significant factors in professional advancement in counseling.

To obtain a license to practice, comply with all the requirements that may vary by state. Generally, counselors undergo supervised training and experience in the field for a year or two to be eligible for licensed practice.

Additional Resources:

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.