The 12 Highest-Paying Counseling Jobs To Consider

Counseling can be an incredibly rewarding career, dedicated to helping others overcome various difficulties in their personal or professional lives. Counselors are a necessary part of society, and, while the job comes with many challenges, it is ultimately satisfying. Counselors can help individuals deal with addictions, strengthen families and relationships, identify professional opportunities, and so much more.

If you are looking to build a career in counseling, understanding the different counseling salaries and job roles may help you choose a focus. Use our guide to the highest-paying counseling jobs as a resource to help you decide which counseling salary and career matches best with your goals. Then find a counseling program that lines up with those goals.

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Counseling Jobs: Salaries and Requirements

Counseling can be a fulfilling and broad career field. Counselors can offer support to those going through difficult times, assist them in establishing an education or career track, or help mend relationships. Jobs in counseling are found in many more areas than you might think. The skills and requirements for counseling jobs vary, but, generally speaking, you need a graduate-level degree and the appropriate certification to pursue a counseling job.

Despite public opinion, salaries for counselors can be competitive. Salaries for counselors typically vary based on experience, degree, location, and job type.

Read on for a comprehensive list of counseling careers and counseling salary information. The list includes the job descriptions for the highest-paid counselor jobs, along with detailed summaries of each job including information on the following:

  • What they do
  • How they make a difference
  • Education and licensure
  • Counseling job salary and outlook
  • Top organization(s) to consider
  • Areas of employment
  • Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program


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    Highest-Paying Counseling Jobs: An Overview

    There are many counseling careers that provide professional fulfillment and satisfaction. However, the pay for these positions can vary greatly. In this section, we explore the highest-paid counselor positions, beginning at the top: school counselor, career counselor, marriage counselor, and family counselor. Read on for detailed descriptions of the roles and their salaries.

    1. School Counselor

    School counselors are some of the highest-paid counselors. They provide support and guidance to students in their school. These professionals may work with students on developing educational goals, devising steps to move toward a rewarding career, or creating strategies to cope with personal issues. School counselors may also assist with a student’s college planning process, which can be helpful for students with little means of educational support. School counselors may also be tasked with identifying issues with student progress, including personal or social aspects that can affect individual learning.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Working with students to develop educational goals
    • Helping students plan for college or careers after high school
    • Identifying issues with student progress

    How They Make a Difference

    Here are some of the ways that school counselors can make a difference in students’ lives:

    • Helping students pick classes to optimize their current education
    • Assisting students planning for their future college careers
    • Acting as an authority figure students can reach out to

    Education

    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 two years to complete and also normally requires that students spend around one year in a practicum under a licensed school counselor. This experience requirement may help students to apply techniques and theories learned within their degree program. Prospective students can look at some of the featured school counseling degrees for more information.

    Licensure to Consider

    Licensed Professional Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    School and career counselors had a median salary of $58,120 per year in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The projected job growth for the position is 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for all positions.

    Top Organization To Know

    ASCA — American School Counselor Association: This organization supports school counselors in their efforts to help students achieve educational and career goals. ASCA provides career development opportunities, resources, and advocacy for school counselors.

    Top Employment Areas

    School counselors are typically found within educational settings, with some professionals working in the elementary schools and others working in middle and high schools. Some school counselors are also 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.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    2. Career Counselor

    Career counseling is another position among the highest-paying counselor jobs. Career counselors can be valuable resources to professionals who need guidance with changing or starting out in a career. These professionals may conduct assessments to determine what type of skills their clients have, which they can use to effectively match them with a profession. Career counselors may also have access to employment information within their area, which can be helpful in referring clients to employers that need skilled employees.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Referring clients to employers hiring skilled employees
    • Assessing clients’ skill sets to identify relevant career opportunities
    • Guiding clients through the process of changing or starting a career

    How They Make a Difference

    Here are some of the ways that career counselors can make a difference in their clients’ lives: 

    • Helping their clients develop realistic career goals to begin building new futures
    • Teaching skills such as interviewing, networking, and resume building that can give their clients a competitive edge in the job market

    Education

    Prospective students who want to be career counselors should earn a master’s degree in a relevant field, such as a master’s in counseling. After completing a master’s program, students can find employment opportunities in the field to help sharpen their in-person skills. Those interested in becoming career counselors can look at some of the featured career counseling programs for more information.

    Licensure to Consider

    National Certified Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    School and career counselors had a median salary of $58,120 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. The projected job growth for the position is 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for all positions.

    Top Organization To Know

    NCDA — The National Career Development Association: This organization provides career counselors with professional development opportunities, resources, and standards to help them make a meaningful impact on their client’s ability to fulfill their professional goals.

    Top Employment Areas

    Career counselors work in high schools, colleges, workforce support agencies, and correctional facilities. The services that they provide can help graduates start their careers, adults change their careers, and professionals advance their current careers.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    3. Marriage Counselor

    Among the highest-paying counseling jobs is that of marriage counselors. Marriage counseling focuses on the strengths and challenges of 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. To aid in strengthening bonds between individuals, these professionals may implement treatment strategies to help partners acknowledge each other’s feelings and exhibit mutual respect.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Working with families, couples, or individuals to identify strengths and challenges within relationships
    • Guiding clients through difficult transitions
    • Identifying problematic relational dynamics

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping couples develop stronger partnerships
    • Assisting clients in understanding their experiences and reactions to each other and then working together to plan their future
    • Aiding clients adjusting to new changes in their lives, such as divorces or separations

    Education

    As with most counseling careers, students must complete a master’s level program and obtain licensure before they can begin to work with clients in the field. There are numerous master’s in counseling programs with a specialization in marriage and family therapy that would be ideal for this line of work. Graduates of these programs may also be required to accrue supervised work experience before having the ability to apply for licensure, though state guidelines vary. Those interested in becoming marriage counselors can look at some of the featured  marriage counselor degrees for more information.

    Licensure to Consider

    Family and Marriage Therapy Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Marriage and family therapists had a median salary of $51,340 per year in 2020, according to the BLS, with a projected growth rate of 22% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    AAMFT — The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: This organization represents the professional interests of its members and promotes marital and family life well-being through research and education.

    Top Employment Areas

    Marriage counselors can work in private practice or in organizations that provide diverse counseling services to the public. Those interested in pursuing licensure in this field should identify which aspect of counseling they would like to work in so they can pursue education in the right focus area.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    4. Family Counselor

    Family counselors often assess family members individually and then in a group to identify areas that need strengthening. Typically, family counselors also implement projects or sessions that encourage honest conversation and joint effort in order to bring families together as a unit. Family counselor is another position among the highest-paying counseling jobs.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Providing group or individual guidance to mediate family challenges
    • Treating psychological or behavioral problems within families
    • Working to strengthen family dynamics

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping families to better understand one another
    • Assisting families with open communication and creating a productive dialogue between members

    Education

    Students considering family counseling as a career should look for college programs that focus on family counseling or marriage and family counseling. 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.

    Licensure to Consider

    Family and Marriage Therapy Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Family counselors had a median salary of $51,340 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. With the projected growth rate of 22% between 2019 and 2029, jobs in this space are increasing much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    AAMFT — The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: This organization represents the professional interests of its members and promotes marital and family life well-being through research and education.

    Top Employment Areas

    Family counseling may be a much-needed service for busy families seeking to improve their relationships. These professionals can be found working in private practices, health organizations, and social service agencies.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    5. Mental Health Counselor

    Mental health counselors are primarily responsible for providing assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of common mental health disorders. This high-paying counseling job provides professionals with the opportunity to work with a wide demographic of patients with a variety of mental health disorders. Their work may include general individual counseling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and trauma-based individual therapies.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating common mental health disorders 
    • Applying various treatment techniques to aid patients
    • Working with a diverse demographic of patients

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping patients to work through issues, stressful situations, and varying conditions, like anxiety or depression
    • Providing a safe space for all types of individuals to open up and explore their minds

    Education

    Students interested in becoming mental health counselors should first look into enrolling in a relevant master’s program. Some example degrees are the master’s in counseling with a mental health specialization, a master’s in mental health counseling, and a master’s in counseling psychology. In addition to the master’s requirement, graduates also must 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 pass a state examination in order to become licensed as a counselor.

    Licensure to Consider

    Licensed Mental Health Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Mental health counselors had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. The number of jobs in this field is projected to increase by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all jobs.

    Top Organization To Know

    AMHC — American Mental Health Counselors Association: This organization’s primary goal is to enable mental health counselors to meet the needs of their patients while advancing the profession through collaboration, research, training, and ethical practice.

    Top Employment Areas

    Many mental health counselors work for companies that provide mental health services to the public. Others work in specialized areas such as education, health care, and grief counseling agencies.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    6. Pediatric Counselor

    Pediatric counselors provide counseling to children who are in need of mental health services or support. Many counseling agencies and researchers believe that early intervention is important for children who have experienced traumatic life events, safety challenges, or just general difficulties within their lives. In this specialized, high-paying counseling job, pediatric counselors use specific techniques to analyze and provide treatment to young children in need of assistance.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Counseling children needing mental health services and support
    • Providing early intervention for traumatic experiences or general life difficulties
    • Using specialized techniques to treat children

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping children adjust to the world around them by building good habits
    • Building on a child’s strengths and talents to help them flourish
    • Providing children with the opportunity to speak to a concerned adult who listens and cares

    Education

    Those interested in becoming pediatric counselors should consider completing an accredited master’s in counseling program with a 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 prospective candidates are encouraged to review the requirements of their state before choosing a program.

    Licensure to Consider

     National Certified Counselor Licensure or Licensed Professional Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Pediatric counselors, as part of the broader category of mental health counselors, had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. The BLS expects a 25% growth in jobs between 2019 and2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    ACAC — The Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling: This organization is committed to ensuring that all children and adolescents have equal access to mental health services. ACAC provides a network of information and support for counselors in this field.

    Top Employment Areas

    Pediatric counselors may find positions in counseling centers, educational support services, social service agencies, and court referral services. The services that pediatric counselors can provide may assist children with developing healthy coping skills for use throughout their lives.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    7. Grief Counselor

    Grief counselors have one of the highest-paying counseling jobs. They provide services to patients experiencing all types of grief. Grief is not limited to losing a loved one or dealing with emotions from a long-term illness. People can experience grief through the loss of a job, a child leaving home, or even the loss of a pet. Using specialized techniques, professionals in these positions work with their clients to establish a 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 their effects on people.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Guiding clients through all types of grief
    • Introducing and encouraging healthy coping mechanisms
    • Working with clients to establish a feeling of security

    How They Make a Difference

    • Giving clients the space to explore their feelings without judgment
    • Helping clients understand the nature of their feelings and move on in a healthy way

    Education

    The minimum educational requirement for grief counselors is a master’s in counseling with a specialization in grief counseling. Graduates of these programs should also apply their knowledge of grief counseling during a supervised work experience and state examination. After completing these steps, applicants can apply for licensure.

    Licensure to Consider

    National Certified Counselor Licensure or Licensed Professional Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Grief counselors, as part of the broader category mental health counselors, had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    The American Academy of Grief Counseling at AIHCP: This organization seeks to provide high-quality training and educational programs to support practicing counselors. The American Academy of Grief Counseling also aims to maintain quality standards in its certification and fellowship programs.

    Top Employment Areas

    A large majority of grief counselors currently work in private practice. Some professionals in this field work in crisis services that are dispatched in response to large-scale traumatic events or crises, while others may partner with hospitals or funeral homes wishing to provide additional support services to those being served.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    8. Geriatric Counselors

    Another high-paying counseling job is that of a geriatric counselor, who can be a leading source of support for people in 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, and fear of death. Counselors use specialized techniques and referral services to help get clients involved in practices that can increase their overall happiness and give them a more positive outlook on their lives.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Providing support to aging individuals
    • Developing treatment plans to improve clients’ quality of life
    • Implementing techniques to help clients maintain a more positive outlook

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping clients to enjoy their time 
    • Giving older adults a different perspective on the future to increase their quality of life

    Education

    The first step to becoming a geriatric counselor is choosing an accredited master’s in counseling program. Completing this program and taking part in a supervised practicum can help future counselors gain the skills necessary to help their clients. A state examination may also be required before officially applying for licensure.

    Licensure to Consider

    National Certified Counselor Licensure or Licensed Professional Counselor

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Geriatric counselors, as part of the broader category of mental health counselors, had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    AGS — The American Geriatrics Society: This organization is designed to improve the care and quality of life for older people through the spectrum of healthcare professionals. AGS advocates for patient care, education, research, and public policy programs.

    Top Employment Areas

    Students interested in becoming geriatric counselors may seek out positions in counseling centers, social service agencies, or retirement homes and hospitals. Many clients may come through referral services within these organizations since a large number of clients disclose their concerns or despair when being seen for normal checkups.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    9. Veteran Counselor

    The rise in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses among veterans of military services may be the primary reason why the job of veteran counselor has grown so much and become one of the highest-paying counseling jobs. Counselors within this field may address issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD within their general clientele. They will likely assess clients and then create an effective counseling plan to help them improve their overall mental health. They may 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.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Addressing complex issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD in patients
    • Creating individualized, effective care plans for patients
    • Helping patients improve their overall mental health

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping clients cope with past trauma in their current lives
    • Giving clients a place to vent their stress and anxiety so that they can focus in the line of duty
    • Creating a framework for clients to understand the effects of their trauma and how to cope with them

    Education

    Those interested in becoming veteran counselors should seek out master’s in counseling programs that focus on the needs of military members and their families. Depending on their state’s requirements, candidates may have to engage in a supervised practicum that includes working with licensed veteran counselors within the field.

    Licensure to Consider

    National Certified Counselor Licensure or Licensed Professional Counselor Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Veteran counselors, as part of the broader category of mental health counselors, had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    MGCA — The Military and Government Counseling Association: The MGCA provides mental health counseling, education, and support services to members of the armed forces.

    Top Employment Areas

    Veteran counselors can work in many different settings. Some counselors within this specialty area work directly with the government, providing support services to military members and their families. They also work in private practice and in counseling agencies.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    10. Substance Abuse Counselor

    Substance abuse counselors can provide counseling and support to individuals who have experienced or are experiencing substance abuse-related issues. In a normal day’s work, substance abuse counselors may see people who are currently staying in rehabilitation facilities or those who have been released and are adjusting to a substance-free lifestyle. Duties of those in this high-paying counselor job may include analyzing patterns of behavior and identifying issues related to the use of dangerous substances. Lifestyle change suggestions and treatment plans can be offered to help people live healthier lives.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Treating patients in and out of rehabilitation centers
    • Analyzing behavioral patterns and identify the dangerous use of substances in patients
    • Establishing treatment plans to help patients live healthier lives

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping patients to reclaim their lives
    • Helping patients to live without drugs or alcohol

    Education

    Requirements for substance abuse counselors include completing a relevant master’s program and taking part in a supervised work experience. Students who want to specialize in substance abuse counseling may choose a master’s in counseling program with a focus on substance abuse counseling. After earning a degree, graduates can take part in a supervised work experience before applying for licensure.

    Licensure to Consider

    Licensed Mental Health Counselor Licensure or Board Certified Behavior Analyst Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Substance abuse counselors had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    NAADAC — The Association for Addiction Professionals: This organization works with its members to create healthier lifestyles for families and communities through prevention and intervention.

    Top Employment Areas

    Substance abuse counselors can be found in many counseling settings, such as general mental health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, high schools and colleges, and health care organizations.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    11. Behavioral Counselor

    The next high-paying counseling job on the list is that of a behavioral counselor, who addresses and treats patients with moderate to severe behavioral problems. Counselors within this field can assist people of all ages in developing more productive techniques to deal with these issues.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Treating patients with behavioral health conditions
    • Helping patients establish healthy habits and coping mechanisms
    • Diagnosing behavioral health conditions in patients

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping patients to understand their problematic behaviors so they can lead better lives
    • Teaching patients coping mechanisms to help them deal with stressful situations

    Education

    Behavioral counseling positions require completion of a master’s-level program focused on counseling. Students may choose to enroll in a master’s in counseling program with a focus on behavior or behavioral science, with some programs offering dual specializations. Completion of this degree program should be followed by a supervised practicum experience under a licensed counseling professional. This experience generally takes around one year to complete.

    Licensure to Consider

     Board Certified Behavior Analyst Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Behavioral counselors had a median salary of $47,660 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    NACBT — National Association for Cognitive-Behavior Therapists: This organization is focused on the promotion of cognitive behavioral therapy as a treatment within the mental health field through training and certification.

    Top Employment Areas

    Behavior counselors can apply their skills in any setting that provides counseling services. Professionals in this field can work independently in private practice 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.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    12. Rehabilitation Counselor

    Rehabilitation counseling, the last on the list of highest-paying counseling jobs, is all about helping people become more independent. Services may be provided to people who have suffered from debilitating injuries or illness, loss of jobs, the experience of traumatic life events, or substance abuse. Those who work in this field are tasked with providing assessment and treatment services to people from very diverse walks of life. Rehabilitation counselors may be expected to have knowledge of various health care and legal policies, as well as have access to resources to assist in providing services to clients.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Helping patients regain independence after an injury or traumatic experience
    • Assessing and treating diverse patients
    • Having knowledge of health care and legal policies

    How They Make a Difference

    • Helping patients cope with previous events and re-enter their lives
    • Encouraging healthy and productive exercises and coping mechanisms in patients

    Education

    Rehabilitation counselors may be required to graduate from an accredited master’s in counseling program focusing on rehabilitation. Once a degree program has been completed, graduates can then move on to working in the field under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Most states require that graduates complete about one year of field training before becoming eligible for testing and licensure.

    Licensure to Consider

    Board Certified Behavior Analyst Licensure

    Salary and Job Outlook

    Rehabilitation counselors had a median salary of $37,530 per year in 2020, according to the BLS. The occupation is expected to grow by 10% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than average.

    Top Organization To Know

    ARCA — The American Rehabilitation Counseling Association: This organization is committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, with specialized training in counseling. Members are encouraged to become involved with ARCA’s educational efforts.

    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 work in referral services for hospitals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, the legal system, or businesses. Some rehabilitation counselors may also operate their own clinics and accept people seeking services independently.

    Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

    Find a Career in Counseling

    After reviewing the highest-paying counseling jobs, salaries for counselors, and work environments for counselors, you can decide which counseling career may be right for you. While counseling job salaries may differ, each counseling job can be fulfilling in its own way. If you are still unsure about what to do next, explore the list of counseling degrees and careers here. Take a look around, and find a good program for you.

    Sources:
    American School Counselor Association, School Counselor Roles & Ratios
    Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, Counseling Specialties
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Rehabilitation Counselors

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