Degree programs that lead to doctoral-level careers were generally found to result in higher paying careers, likely due to the extensive training and investment required for students in those programs. The time you have available to commit to learning may influence which degree level you choose to pursue.
Master's level programs in counseling can be found in generalist specializations or focused on specific age groups and clinical treatment groups. The earnings in these fields can be influenced by your level of experience, location, and overall demand for practitioners in your field.
In the sections below, you can read more about the pre-admission considerations to make prior to committing to specific programs, as well as a look into programs that can lead you to the highest paying careers.
Our research team encourages you to choose a specialization that meets your interests and your financial expectations for professionals in your field.
Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program
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MS in School Counseling
GRE scores not required
School counselors help students overcome obstacles and shape successful futures. Walden’s online MS in School Counseling program will give you a solid foundation in school counseling theories, approaches, and best practices while enabling you to gain hands-on experience.Learn More
MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling
GRE scores not required
The counseling field is in need of qualified, compassionate professionals like you to meet the demand for services. In Walden's clinical mental health counseling and school counseling dual degree program, you’ll gain the insights and hands-on training to positively impact the lives of children, adults, and families.Learn More
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
GRE scores not required
Mental health counselors play a valuable role in helping people cope with life’s challenges. Walden’s online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can help you become the competent, compassionate counselor you know you can be.Learn More
Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Choose from General Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis or Pre-Counseling specializationsLearn More
MSW - Social Work
No GMAT or GRE Required
Advance your skills to help be an effective leader, researcher, educator or practitioner in the social work field. Capella’s CSWE-accredited MSW program offers a strong focus on leadership, advanced practitioner skills and using technology to expand the reach and effectiveness of social service programs. No GRE required.Learn More
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
No GMAT or GRE Required
Capella’s CACREP-accredited program is designed to help you prepare for state licensure. Gain knowledge and skills in wellness theory and research, relationship building, assessment and treatment, cultural competence and ethical practice. No GRE required.Learn More
Counseling & Therapy
GRE Not Required
Offering master’s degree programs in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Doctoral degree program available in counselor education & supervision. No GRE required.Learn More
MA: Addiction Counseling
100% online, 8-week courses
Our graduate degree in addiction counseling is designed to fulfill or exceed the requirements for many national and state board organizations. Online and on campus. Training Champions for Christ since 1971.Learn More
BS in Psychology - Applied Behavior Analysis
No GMAT or GRE required
Gain skills and knowledge to help transform the lives of people living with autism and other intellectual disabilities. Study with confidence in a program that meets the educational requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst® (BCaBA) examination. Applicants must meet additional requirements to qualify.Learn More
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Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs
What to Look For in a Counseling Degree
Incoming students in the field of counseling should consider different factors of degree programs prior to applying for admission into any program.
1. Review State Licensing Expectations
If you are interested in becoming licensed as a counselor in any specific discipline, you should first spend some time reviewing your state's expectations for licensed professionals.
2. Consider CACREP Accredited Counseling Programs
Most states require that future counselors hold at least a Master's in Counseling that has received accreditation from The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This agency is the leading organization for counseling accreditation in the U.S.
3. Consider Online Counseling Programs
Another consideration for incoming counseling students is whether to pursue a degree in-person or online. Your personal obligations such as work or a busy family life may influence which option you choose - both being potentially acceptable for most master's-level programs.
Counseling degree programs can be found in both the traditional and online environments. Both types of programs can provide you with high quality curricula and opportunities for growth in the field, making either a great option for you to consider for your career pursuits.
4. Look For Internship or Clinical Requirements
Prior to applying to any program, you should also review the internship or practicum requirements for your program. Universities may have differing expectations of students when it comes to the internship component, so it can benefit you to thoroughly review this component so that you can plan accordingly.
5. Consider Post-Degree Experiences
In addition to practicum requirements, you should also consider the post-degree experience requirements that each of these specializations require for licensure. It can be beneficial to locate a willing supervisor or mental health clinic within your community that would be willing to supervise you after graduation from your program.
6. Then, Consider Counseling Salaries
Before choosing a specific treatment area for your degree program, you should review the average salaries of professionals in this field, the demand for counselors in this discipline, and the common work environments and clinic settings you can work in throughout your career.
Top Highest Paying Degrees
1. Doctor of Psychiatry
The Doctor of Psychiatry is a graduate program that can prepare learners for treating clients with severe psychological disorders, substance abuse disorders, or other mental health presentations. This program generally includes general medicine courses and a residency requirement in a psychiatric setting. Graduation at this level and completion of all residency requirements can lead to licensing as a psychiatrist within the applicant’s state.
- Degree Requirements: Prior to pursuing a Doctor of Psychiatry, students must complete a bachelor’s program that meets all pre-medical course requirements. Acceptance into a medical program that offers psychiatric specialties may be your next step towards licensing and a career in this field.
- Graduation Requirements: Doctor of Psychiatry degree programs require that learners engage in 2 years of course work related to general medicine and an additional 2 years of clinical rotations within their chosen specialty areas. Completion of the outlined program sequence can result in graduation for involved learners.
- Salary Average: $220,380 median salary per year
- Licensure: Upcoming psychiatrists must engage in a medical degree program and residency requirement prior to sitting for their board examination. Once students have completed all requirements including the board examination, licensing can take place within the applicant’s state.
- Top Organization: The leading organization for individuals working in the field of psychiatry is the American Psychiatric Association. Membership with this organization can include access to research, advocacy, and conferences related to practice in this area of expertise.
- Where Could You Work?: Psychiatric professionals at the doctoral level can pursue careers in private practice after receiving the appropriate licensing and insurance. Psychiatrists can also be part of larger treatment teams in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and mental health clinics.
2. Doctor of Counseling/Psychology
The Doctor of Counseling or Psychology is a graduate degree program focusing on advanced practice within mental health fields. During this degree program, students can learn advanced diagnostic techniques for working with clients with complex mental health disorders, devastating trauma experiences, or abnormal behavior. This program can also include research training for doctoral level professionals. Completing this degree and supervision requirements can result in licensing as a Doctor of Counseling or Psychologist in the field.
- Degree Requirements: The Doctor of Counseling/Psychology is a degree program found at the graduate level. In order to be accepted into this program, applicants must hold at minimum a Bachelor’s in Psychology or Psychology for some programs or a minimum Master’s in Psychology or Counseling for alternative programs.
- Graduation Requirements: Once enrolled in the Doctor of Counseling/Psychology program, students must complete 4 years of advanced coursework, supervised practicum requirements, and an applied doctoral research project prior to graduation. Each university has varying final project requirements for enrolled learners.
- Salary Average: $79,010 median salary per year
- Licensure: Licensing as a Doctor of Counseling/Psychology can take place after completion of an accredited doctoral program and completed 2-year supervised experience component. Applicants must also successfully pass a board examination prior to being approved.
- Top Organization: Popular professional organizations for professionals in this field include the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association. Both entities can provide upcoming professionals with extensive support and guidance throughout their careers.
- Where Could You Work?: Doctoral level counselors and psychologists can play a role in the development of new treatment and assessment through research-oriented positions. These type of careers are often found in research hospitals and universities. Alternatively, counselors and psychologists may also work in private practice, for mental health agencies, or with specialized hospitals or treatment centers.
3. Master’s in Pediatric Counseling
The Master’s in Pediatric Counseling is a subfield of general counseling that is focused specifically on the mental health treatment of children. Courses within this program may focus on developmental mental health considerations, the effects of trauma in youth, and interpersonal family relationships. Students in the Master’s in Pediatric Counseling program can also learn specific counseling techniques for children at different developmental stages.
- Degree Requirements: The Master’s in Pediatric Counseling requires incoming students to hold at minimum a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Counseling, or Social Work.
- Graduation Requirements: In order to successfully graduate from this degree program, students must complete all required coursework and internship/supervision requirements included within the program’s curriculum.
- Salary Average: $67,340 median salary per year
- Licensure: Licensing requirements can vary from state to state. Most areas require that applicants for licensing hold an accredited Master’s in Counseling degree, complete a 2 year supervision component, and pass the board examination for counseling professionals before receiving a professional license.
- Top Organization: The Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling is an organization that can provide counselors with knowledge and guidance relevant to treatment of individuals within these specified age groups.
- Where Could You Work?: Once licensed, professionals can obtain positions working for local mental health organizations, private practice, or even within healthcare clinics. Counselors may also be employed by state agencies focused on providing direct care to children and adolescents.
4. Master’s in Career Counseling
If you are interested in helping people meet their full potential, the Master’s in Career Counseling could be the right choice for you. This degree program can train students on the assessment of individual skills for vocational growth. During this program, you can learn skills related to the identification of interruptive behavior to help people overcome blockades that may be holding them back from independence and career success.
- Degree Requirements: If you desire to be accepted into Master’s in Career Counseling degree programs, you must first complete a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Counseling, or other related field.
- Graduation Requirements: Most Master’s in Career Counseling programs require that enrollees participate in an approved curriculum and any field requirements that may be a part of the overall degree requirements. Students may also be required to participate in applied research projects towards the end of their program.
- Salary Average: $56,310 median salary per year
- Licensure: Licensing in the field of Career Counseling can involve graduation from an accredited master’s program and completion of a supervised experience component. Before applying for a license within your state, you must also pass a board examination for professional counselors and submit all documentation related to your education and experience to your state’s licensing division.
- Top Organization: Professionals in this field often look to the National Career Development Association for new information and guidance throughout their careers. Membership to this organization can provide you with a deeper insight into resources, assessments, and treatment programs available for use in the field.
- Where Could You Work?: Licensed Career Counselors can work independently by contract or for employment search agencies within their community. Counselors in this area may also partner with social service agencies, correctional facilities, or court systems in order to work with people in need of career development.
5. Master’s in School Counseling
The Master’s in School Counseling is the degree of choice for individuals interested in becoming licensed School Counselors. This program includes a look into child and adolescent development, mental health in youth, and individual/group therapy practices in the school system. Students in this program can also engage in learning about educational programs, student assessment, and vocational counseling for high school learners.
- Degree Requirements: Students interested in pursuing a Master’s in School Counseling must first enroll in and graduate from a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Counseling, or other related educational field.
- Graduation Requirements: A large number of Master’s in School Counseling programs outline requirements such as curriculum completion, supervised internship requirements, and graduate project completion within their graduation requirements.
- Salary Average: $56,310 median salary per year
- Licensure: Before you apply for licensure, you should hold an accredited Master’s in School Counseling and successfully complete 2 years of supervised on the job experience in the field under a qualified supervisor. A board examination for upcoming School Counselors may also be required in your state.
- Top Organization: Professional organizations like the American School Counseling Association can be great options for new counselors entering into the field. You membership with this organization can provide you with access to like-minded professionals and opportunities for continual learning during your career.
- Where Could You Work?: The majority of School Counselors currently licensed in the U.S. likely work for school systems providing guidance to enrolled students. Alternative careers at the government level may be available for professionals interested in influencing change, as well as those for research organizations seeking new assessment and planning options for school systems.
6. Master’s in Marriage Counseling
During a Master’s in Marriage Counseling program, learners may delve into the psychology of relationships in an effort to better understand healthy and unhealthy dynamics. This program is required for learners interested in becoming licensed as Marriage Counselors from state to state and can include generalized and specific counseling techniques for individuals and groups.
- Degree Requirements: If you have previously completed a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling, Psychology, or Social Work, you could qualify for entry into Master’s of Marriage Counseling degree programs.
- Graduation Requirements: The Master’s in Marriage Counseling degree program requires around 2 years of enrollment from learners in addition to a supervised internship experience. Completion of these factors and master’s projects can help you become approved for graduation at your university.
- Salary Average: $50,090 median salary per year
- Licensure: Master’s level counselors may be required to complete accredited degree programs and submit proof of a 2 years supervision component with an approved licensed supervision. The last step towards licensure is a board examination and final application to your state agency.
- Top Organization: The most popular professional organization for professionals in this line of counseling is the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. This organization encourages growth and constant learning for its members and can be a great place to network throughout your experience in the field.
- Where Could You Work?: Marriage Counselors can be found in multiple setting including private offices, mental health agencies, and social services agencies.
7. Master’s in Family Counseling
The Master’s in Family Counseling program was designed to help learners understand normal and complex relationships in the family unit. While in this program, you can learn more about healthy communication techniques, boundaries, and individual contributions to a healthy family relationship. These skills can help you better assess and providing treatment for families presenting with strained or damaged relationships.
- Degree Requirements: Prior to applying to Master’s in Family Counseling degree program, prospects must first complete a bachelor’s program within related fields. Most programs accept bachelor’s programs from popular fields such as Psychology or Counseling as prerequisites for this program.
- Graduation Requirements: Graduation from a Master’s in Family’s Counseling is often achieved after completion of the 2-year curriculum and any internship components involved in the program.
- Salary Average: $50,090 median salary per year
- Licensure: Licensing requirements for Family Counselors can be found through your state’s licensing agency. Most states require a minimum of an accredited Master’s in Counseling program plus 2 years of supervised clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed Family Counselor.
- Top Organization: Professionals entering into the field of Family Counseling can become members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. This popular agency is a gathering place for counselors interested in progression in their field, networking with other professionals, and sharing research and knowledge to promote better relationships in the family unit.
- Where Could You Work?: Family Counselors can be found in many settings within society. You can work in large-scale mental health clinics that provide varying specific services, private practice, or even for social welfare agencies that work directly with families in need.
8. Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
Degree programs focusing on Mental Health Counseling can often provide focus into common mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder. During this program, learners can gain skills relevant to diagnosing these disorders, developing treatment programs, and follow-up care for those being treated. General counseling skills for short-term or symptomatic mental health symptoms may also be included in this program’s curriculum.
- Degree Requirements: If you are interested in being accepted into a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling, you should first enroll in and complete a Bachelor’s in Psychology or Counseling. Some master’s programs may also accept related bachelor’s degree graduates from social service disciplines.
- Graduation Requirements: Once enrolled in the Master’s in Mental Health Counseling, you may be required to complete around 2 years of course work in addition to a master’s project consisting of independent research or applied work in the field.
- Salary Average: $44,360 median salary per year
- Licensure: The path to licensing as a Mental Health Counselor involves obtaining an accredited Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. After your degree experience, you can begin to pursue hours towards a 2 year supervision component in the field. The last step to professional licensing is passing the board examination for counseling professionals and submitting your application to your state’s licensing division.
- Top Organization: The American Mental Health Counselors Association is the largest organization for professionals working in this field. Joining can provide you with access to new research into assessments, techniques, and gathering opportunities within your community.
- Where Could You Work?: Many Mental Health Counselors work in their own independent practice after receiving licensure. Others can work as part of larger counseling organizations, for social service agencies, or even in businesses that provide mental health services to their employees.
9. Master’s in Geriatric Counseling
Geriatric Counseling programs at the master’s level can often provide students with a look into the physical and emotional effects of aging on individuals in the geriatric age group. This knowledge is often partnered with general counseling skills in assessment and diagnosis in an effort to create knowledgeable experts in Geriatric Counseling.
- Degree Requirements: Degree requirements for the Master’s in Geriatric Counseling includes the completion of a bachelor’s degree in a field related to psychology or counseling. Degrees in gerontology, social work, and sociology may also be considered for this program.
- Graduation Requirements: Once you have been accepted into this master’s program, you can expect to complete 2-3 years worth of courses. Most programs also include a supervised internship or practicum requirement and master’s project prior to graduation.
- Salary Average: $46,630 median salary per year
- Licensure: Licensing requirements can vary by state. The most common expectation of upcoming licensees is completion of an accredited master’s program and board certification through an examination. Applicants must also engage in a 2 year supervision component under a licensed Geriatric Counselor.
- Top Organization: New professionals entering the field can seek out resources and support through the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry. This organization can provide guidance in mental health resources to new and seasoned professionals in the field.
- Where Could You Work?: Geriatric Counselors can often be found in community mental health centers and in private practice. Some rehabilitation centers and aging care facilities may also employ counselors in this specialization.
10. Master’s in Behavioral Counseling
The Master’s in Behavior Counseling is a specialized counseling degree program that focuses on the assessment and modification of behavior. While in this program, students can learn skills related to identifying negative behavior patterns, developing a trauma-focused or change-focused intervention program, and changing an environment for the encouragement of behavior change.
- Degree Requirements: On the path to a career in Behavioral Counseling, you should first complete a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Sociology, or Counseling. Some master’s programs may even accept graduates from unrelated disciplines.
- Graduation Requirements: The graduation requirements for Master’s in Behavioral Counseling include the 2 year curriculum, master’s project, and required internship components. Universities can vary on internship length and expectations.
- Salary Average: $44,630 median salary per year
- Licensure: Once you have graduated from an accredited Master’s in Behavioral Counseling program, you may then be required to participate in a 2 year supervised clinical experience requirement. Before applying for licensing through your state, you must also pass the board examination for counseling professionals and submit this documentation with your initial licensure application.
- Top Organization: New Behavioral Counselors entering the field can pursue membership to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. This agency is a popular resource for professionals in this area of expertise seeking continuing education and support during their careers.
- Where Could You Work?: Behavioral Counselors can work as part of all-inclusive mental health agencies within the community. With appropriate licensing, counselors in this area can also work in private practice or contract with schools, businesses, and social service agencies.
11. Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance Abuse Counseling programs at the master’s level can educate learners on treatment of individuals with addiction issues through the use of common therapeutic and environmental interventions. This program can allow learners to explore the biological and emotional influences involved in addiction and the supportive services that can support positive change.
- Degree Requirements: Before applying to the Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling, you should first complete a bachelor’s program in areas like psychology, counseling, or social work. Some universities vary on prerequisite degree requirements for entering their programs.
- Graduation Requirements: The Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling typically includes a 2 year curriculum that includes both an in-person practicum and master’s project. Completion of each curriculum piece can lead to graduation within 2-3 years for most students.
- Salary Average: $44,630 median salary per year
- Licensure: The licensing requirements for counselors from state-to-state typically include similar components. Students should hold at minimum an accredited Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling degree and complete 2 years of supervised clinical experience. The last step towards licensure in your state is registering for and passing the board examination for counselors.
- Top Organization: A national organization that seeks to educate professionals to reduce Substance Abuse issues within the U.S. is the Association for Addiction Professionals. This agency can act as a guiding resource for professionals providing supported services to individuals with Substance Abuse issues.
- Where Could You Work?: Substance Abuse Counselors may have access to versatile career options include those in private practice. After licensing, you can work for mental health agencies, within social services agencies, or partner with the court system. Substance Abuse Counselors can also work in rehabilitation centers as a resource for those currently receiving services through a Substance Abuse program.
12. Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling
In a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling program, students can be introduced to the emotional effects of physical, developmental, and emotional disabilities. Common counseling techniques in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment may also be a major part of this program which can combine with Rehabilitation-specific expertise to form effective treatment protocols for individuals in this treatment group.
- Degree Requirements: If you are considering a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling, you should begin your educational experience at the bachelor’s level. Most master’s programs ask for you to currently hold a Bachelor’s in Psychology or Counseling prior to applying.
- Graduation Requirements: When you enter into a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling, you can expect to complete course work related to providing care to individuals with physical and mental disabilities in a therapeutic setting. You may also be required to complete an internship experience and master’s research project prior to graduating.
- Salary Average: $39,930 median salary per year
- Licensure: Completing an accredited master’s program can be your first step towards licensure. Most states require that applicants participate in a 2 year supervision component and board examination prior to receiving a professional license.
- Top Organization: The American Rehabilitation Counseling Association can be a great resource for upcoming and current counselors in the field. Access to conferences, free resources, and professional networking are just a few of the many benefits associated with membership in this agency.
- Where Could You Work?: Rehabilitation Counselors can find careers working for community counseling agencies or start their own independent practice. You can also pursue careers with nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in need of therapeutic support professionals.
- BLS: Counselors
- BLS: Mental Health Counselors
- Payscale: Child Counselors
- BLS: Psychologists
- BLS: Marriage and Family Therapists
- BLS: School Counselors