Highest Paid Counseling Careers

There are a lot of different careers in counseling out there: which is best for you? It's important to understand the intangibles of any job, especially counseling, such as job satisfaction, helping others that may be less fortunate, helping others find a way or a path, or helping someone through a difficult time.

Jobs in counseling are found in many more areas than you would traditionally think. The skills required for a counseling job vary, as does the degree level, but generally speaking you have to have a minimum of a Master's degree, as well as various skills learned along the way. As always, job experience in the counseling field can help.

Pay ranges really do vary, and while the public perception about counseling is that it pays very little, there are counseling jobs that pay very well. Pay ranges typically vary based on experience, degree, location, and job type.

We have researched up-to-date counseling career information from multiple sources online, including the United States Department of Labor. Below you will find the top highest paid jobs in counseling, along with detailed summaries on the following categories:
  • What they do: Summary about what each job does on a day-to-day basis
  • Counseling Degree Requirements: The all-important degree requirements: what is the minimum degree required for this job, and what is the optimal degree for this job?
  • Top Counseling Organizations: The top organization you should know: there are a lot of organizations that you can join, be a part of, or research to become better educated and to increase your network.
  • Top areas of employment: What jobs are needed, and in which areas? How does the career relate to a counseling degree?
  • Online degree program options that could be a good fit for this type of career: We have multiple relationships with schools and universities across the US and they are currently accepting applicants for the counseling program. Be sure to always talk with them to understand entry requirements, costs, and other questions.

Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program

School and Program Information Online Program? GRE Requirements Course Information
Northwestern University
Online MA in Counseling
CACREP Accredited
check_circle Online GRE Scores Not Required 24 Courses (standard program for those with counseling experience) or 27 courses (bridge program, for those with no counseling experience)
New York University
Online Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
MPCAC Accredited
check_circle Online GRE scores are not required for admission. Weekly live classes taught by distinguished NYU Steinhardt faculty.
Vanderbilt University
Online Master's with School Counseling Specialization
SACSCOC Accredited
check_circle Online Ask university representative Live, online classes every week led by Vanderbilt faculty
University of Southern California
Online Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling
Can be completed in less than 2 years.
check_circle Online No GRE requirement Classes led by USC Rossier faculty who are experts in school counseling, educational leadership and family therapy.

Programs That May Be Currently Accepting Applicants

Northwestern’s Top-12 ranked Online MA in Counseling Program prepares the next generation of clinical mental health counselors. [email protected] offers both full and part time options that allow you to earn a degree on your own schedule and a Bridge to Counseling track designed for students with limited previous experience or knowledge in psychology. GRE scores are not required for admission to the program.
Click for more admissions info.

NYU’s online master of arts program in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness prepares students to become professional mental health counselors who guide clients of all backgrounds toward healthy lifestyles.
Click for admissions information.

Become a professional school counselor in K-12 settings with an online Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling from top-ranked USC Rossier School of Education. Complete in as few as 20 months.
Click for admissions information.

Highest Paid Counseling Jobs

1. School Counselor

  • What they do: School counselors can often be found in schools, providing support and guidance to students within. These professionals may work with students to develop educational goals, steps to moving towards a rewarding career or with personal issues that may be impeding their development. Some school counselors play a role in a student’s college planning process, which can be helpful for students with little means of educational support. As a school counselor, you may also be tasked with identifying issues with student progress, including personal or social aspects that can affect individual learning.
  • Degree Requirements: To be a school counselor in the U.S., students must enroll in and complete a Master’s in School Counseling from an accredited university. This degree program can take around 2 years to complete at some schools and also requires that students spend around 1 year in a practicum under a licensed school counselor. This experience requirement can assist students in applying techniques and theories learned within their degree program.
  • School Counselors: $62,990 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: ASCA – American School Counselor Association
  • Top employment areas: School counselors are typically found within educational settings, with some professionals working in the K-5 range and others working in middle and high schools. School counselors can also be a part of university support services at colleges all over the country. In some areas, school counselors may be a part of planning and development services for education within a community.

2. Career Counselor

  • What they do: Career counselors can be a valuable resource to upcoming adults and professionals seeking guidance in obtaining a career. These professionals may conduct assessments to determine what type of skills their clients have, which can help them in effectively matching them with a profession. Career counselors may also have access to career information within their area, which can be helpful in referring clients to employers that are in need of skilled employees.
  • Degree Requirements: If you are intrigued by the field of career counseling and wish to become a part of this field, your first step should be locating a master’s level program to enroll in. Master’s in Counseling programs can assist you in gaining the skills necessary to conduct relevant assessments and provide planning for those you treat. Once you have completed your master’s program, you can find practicum opportunities in the field to help sharpen your in-person skills. Once you have completed these steps, you can register for a state examination and move forward with your licensure.
  • Career Counselors: $49,150 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: NCDA – The National Career Development Association
  • Top employment areas: If you take on a job as a career counselor, you could find yourself working in high schools, colleges, workforce support agencies or even correctional facilities. The services that you can provide can assist your clients in finding meaningful work that can change the quality of their life for the better.

3. Marriage Counselor

  • What they do: Marriage counseling is a form of counseling that focuses on the strengths and challenges present within marriages, relationships and partnerships. Professionals within this line of work may work to identify issues that cause strain within a relationship, through individual and group assessments. In order to provide assistance in strengthening bonds between individuals, these professionals may implement treatment strategies to help partners acknowledge each other’s feelings and exhibit a mutual respect.
  • Degree Requirements: As with most counseling careers, you must complete a master’s level program and obtain licensure before you can begin to work with clients in the field. There are numerous Master’s in Counseling programs that can allow students to choose a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy – which would be ideal for this line of work. Graduates of these programs may also be required to gain some useful supervised work experience before having the ability to apply for licensure.
  • Marriage Counselors: $48,790 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: AAMFT – The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Top employment areas: Marriage counselors can be a useful partner in gaining a stronger and more prosperous relationship. Professionals in this field can work in private practice or in organizations that provide diverse counseling services to the public. If you are interested in pursuing licensure in this field, you should identify which aspect of counseling you would like to pursue in order to accurately prepare.

4. Family Counselor

  • What they do: There may nothing for stressful than a rocky family life. Families with growing children or stressful careers may seek assistance from family counselors to help stabilize their relationships with one another and move towards a happier life. Counselors within this area of expertise may assess family members individually and then in a group to identify areas that need strengthening. Typically, counselors may also implement family projects or sessions that encourage honest speaking and working together in order to bring families together as one unit.
  • Degree Requirements: If you are considering family counseling as a career choice, you should look for college programs that focus on family counseling or marriage and family counseling. These specializations can often be found in Master’s in Counseling programs at universities across the U.S. The minimum requirements for family counselors include the completion of a master’s level program in counseling, a supervised practicum and the completion of a state examination in counseling. These steps can help professionals obtain licensure and begin working in the field.
  • Family Counselors: $44,760 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: AAMFT – The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Top employment areas: Family counseling may be a much needed service for busy families seeking improvement within their own home. In this current day, these professionals can be found working in private practice in cities all over the U.S. You might also find services through mental health organization and even in social services.

5. Mental Health Counselor

  • What they do: Mental health counselors may be primarily responsible for providing assessment, diagnosis and treatment of common mental health disorders. These professionals can typically work with people of all ages that are having a difficult time managing their mental health. Some of the different techniques exhibited by these professionals may include general individual counseling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy and trauma-based individual therapies.
  • Degree Requirements: If you are interested in becoming a mental health counselor, you should first look into enrolling in a master’s program suitable for your career field. Some example degrees are the Master’s of Counseling with a Mental Health specialization, a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. In addition to master’s requirement, graduates must also complete a supervised work experience requirement that includes shadowing and conducting counseling under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor. Most states require that counselors complete around 1,000 supervised practicum hours and complete a state examination in order to become licensed as a counselor.
  • Mental Health Counselors: $42,190 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: AMHC – American Mental Health Counselors Association
  • Top employment areas: As a mental health counselor, you may find that there are several different areas in which you can make a difference. A large majority of mental health counselors work for companies that provide mental health services to the public. Other mental health counselors may work in specialized areas such as education, healthcare or even grief counseling agencies. Mental health may be one of the more important aspects of overall health that deserve extra attention from trained professionals. As the years progress, there may be a more widespread application of mental health services throughout the country.

6. Pediatric Counselor

  • What they do: Many different counseling specializations are current in today’s society. One field of counseling that may be seeing growth is pediatric counseling. Some counseling agencies and researchers believe that early intervention is important for children that have experienced traumatic life events, safety challenges or just general difficulties within their lives. The job of the pediatric counselor is to use specialized techniques to analyze and provide treatment to young children in need of assistance.
  • Degree Requirements: Those interested in becoming pediatric counselors may be tasked with completing an accredited Master’s in Counseling program with specialization in pediatrics or youth counseling. These programs can help prepare counselors for working with young children, as well as teach techniques that are unique to pediatric clients. Graduates must also engage in a supervised work component beneath a licensed counselor. Licensure requirements vary by state, so prospects are encouraged to review the requirements of their state before choosing a program.
  • Pediatric Counselors: $42,190 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: ACAC – The Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Top employment areas: If you are interested in pursuing a career in this area of counseling, you may expect to find positions available in counseling centers, educational support services, through social service agencies and even through court referral services. The services that pediatric counselors can provide may assist children with developing healthy coping skills for use throughout their lives. Pediatric counseling may be an up-and-coming area of expertise for counselors looking for specific certification for their career.

7. Grief Counselor

  • What they do: Grief counseling is an area within the field of counseling that seeks to address the needs of clients that are experiencing grief. Grief is not limited to losing a loved one or dealing with emotions from long-term illness. People can experience grief through loss of a job, a child leaving home or even the loss of a pet. Using specialized techniques, professionals in these positions may work with their clients to establish feeling of security when talking about people they have lost, remove the stigma from mourning and promote healthy coping strategies. Professionals in this field should have extensive knowledge of loss and grief and its effect on people that have experienced them.
  • Degree Requirements: The minimum educational requirements for grief counselors is a Master’s in Counseling with specialization in Grief Counseling. The degree program you choose should contain the proper accreditation for licensure. Completion of a degree program is not the only step, however. Graduates of these programs must apply their knowledge of grief counseling during a supervised work experience and state examination. Once these steps have been successful, applicants can then apply for licensure.
  • Mental Health Counselors: $42,190 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: The American Academy of Grief Counseling at AIHCP
  • Top employment areas: A large majority of grief counselors currently work in private practice. Some professionals in this field may work in crisis services that are dispatched in the even of a large-scale traumatic event or crisis, while others may partner with hospitals or funeral homes wishing to provide additional support services to those being served.

8. Geriatric Counselors

  • What they do: Geriatric counselors can be a leading source of support for people entering old age. Professionals in this field may analyze the emotions, behaviors and concerns of people within this age group in order to develop a helpful treatment plan to increase their quality of life. Some issues common with clients in this realm of counseling may include long-term illness, loneliness, regret or even fear of death. Counselors may use specialized techniques and referral services to help get clients involved in practices that can increase their overall happiness and a more positive outlook.
  • Degree Requirements: The first step to becoming a geriatric counselor is locating an accredited Master’s in Counseling program. There are many throughout the U.S. that can provide students with a great quality program that includes a geriatric counseling specialization. Completing this program and taking part in a supervised practicum can assist future counselors with gaining the skills necessary to help their clients while in the field. A state examination may also be required before officially applying for licensure.
  • Geriatric Counselors: $42,190 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: AGS – The American Geriatrics Society
  • Top employment areas: If you decide to pursue a career as a geriatric counselor, you can seek out positions in counseling centers, social services or even in partnership with retirement homes and hospitals. A lot of clients may come through referral services through these organizations, since a large number of clients disclose their concerns or despair when being seen for normal check-ups. If you are interested in opening your own geriatric counseling office, this could also be a great option.

9. Veteran Counselor

  • What they do: The rise in PTSD cases for veterans of military services may be the primary reason why the field of veteran counseling has grown so popular. As a counselor within this field, you may address issues such as depression, trauma experiences and PTSD within your general clientele. Your job would be to assess clients to determine the nature of their struggles, so that you can create an effective counseling plan to help them improve their overall mental health. You can work with members of the military that are currently active, family members of military members or those that have been discharged after years of service.
  • Degree Requirements: If you are interested in becoming a veteran counselor, you should seek out Master’s in Counseling programs that focus on the needs of military members and their families. There are plenty of accredited programs available throughout the country that can set you on track for licensure in your future. Depending on the state you live, you may have to engage in a supervised practicum that includes working with licensed veteran counselors within the field. This experience on top of your degree can lead you to applying for licensure and working in the field.
  • Veteran Counselors: $42,190 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: MGCA – The Military and Government Counseling Association
  • Top employment areas: As a veteran counselor, you can seek out positions in many different areas within society. Some counselors within this area of specialty may work directly with the government, providing support services to military members and their families. You may also work in private practice or in counseling agencies within your area. Regardless of which area you choose to work, you could make a difference in the lives of veterans you work with.

10. Substance Abuse Counselor

  • What they do: Substance abuse counselors can provide counseling and support to individuals that have experienced or are working through substance abuse issues. In a normal day’s work, substance abuse counselors may see people that are currently staying in rehabilitation facilities or those that have been released and are adjusting to a substance-free lifestyle. Part of the job of this type of counselor may be analyzing patterns of behavior and identifying issues related to the use of dangerous substances. Lifestyle changes and treatment plans can be put into place to help people live healthier lives.
  • Degree Requirements: Degree requirements for substance abuse counselors includes completing a relevant master’s program and taking part in a supervised work experience. If you might be interested in pursuing this career, you should choose a Master’s in Counseling program that provides specializations in Substance Abuse Counseling. After completing your degree, you can take part in a supervised work experience which can help you on your way to licensure within your state.
  • Substance Abuse Counselors: $42,140 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: NAADAC – The Association for Addiction Professionals
  • Top employment areas: Substance abuse counselors can be found in many counseling realms, such as general mental health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, high schools and colleges and even within healthcare. This increasingly important aspect of counseling can help to increase the quality of life for people living in communities of all shapes and sizes.

11. Behavioral Counselor

  • What they do: Behavioral counseling can be used when working with individuals that exhibit serious behavioral problems in a social setting. Studies of behavior may have shown that techniques such as reinforcement, punishment and teaching alternative behaviors are effective in helping people change their behaviors for the better. Counselors within this field can assist people of all ages in developing more socially-acceptable habits that can increase the ability to progress normally.
  • Degree Requirements: Behavioral counseling requires that professionals engage in master’s-level programs focusing on counseling. You can choose to enroll in a Master’s in Counseling program that provides some focus on behavior or behavioral science, with some programs even offering dual specializations for you to choose from. Your degree program should also contain the right level of accreditation in order to be considered for licensure in the future. Completion of this degree program should be followed-up by a supervised practicum experience under a licensed counseling professional. This experience generally takes around 1 year to complete.
  • Behavioral Counselors: $37,210 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: NACBT – National Association for Cognitive-Behavior Therapists
  • Top employment areas: Behavior counselors can apply their skills in any setting that can provide counseling services. Professionals in this field can work independently, providing services to those that call upon them, or in mental health agencies that provide well-rounded services to the public. It is not uncommon to also find behavior counselors in educational settings, working to help students find more effective behaviors to promote learning.

12. Rehabilitation Counselor

  • What they do: Rehabilitation counseling is all about helping people become more independent. Services may be provided to people that have suffered from debilitating injuries or illness, loss of jobs, experience of traumatic life events or even substance abuse. If you decide to work in this field, you may be tasked with providing assessment and treatment services to people from very diverse walks of life. You may be expected to have knowledge of various healthcare and legal policies, as well as have access to resources to assist in providing services to your clients. The services provided by rehabilitation counselors can help people get back on their feet and lead normal, happy lives.
  • Degree Requirements: Rehabilitation counselors may be required to graduate from an accredited Master’s in Counseling program focusing on rehabilitation. These programs can be online or in-person, as long as the university contains the right type of accreditation for licensure. Once a degree program has been completed, students can then move on to working in the field under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Most states require that graduates complete about 1 year of field training before becoming eligible for testing and licensure.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $34,760 on average per year (BLS).
  • Top organization to know: ARCA – The American Rehabilitation Counseling Association
  • Top employment areas: Rehabilitation counselors can be an important component in providing supportive services to people with a large variety of challenges. These professionals can be a part of referral services for hospitals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, the legal system or even businesses. Some rehabilitation counselors may also operate their own clinics and accept people seeking services independently.

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed writeup of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.