What Can I Do with a Degree in Counseling?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in counseling. Find information on counseling careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in counseling.

Overview

Counseling professionals provide a broad range of social, emotional and psychological supports for communities, families and individuals. Persons interested in this profession typically have a deep desire to work with and help others. Additionally, individuals in this field are often leaders who are capable of inspiring and motivating others to change. Although the specific duties that are performed by the counselor will vary based on the specific type of counseling services that are provided, counselors will be required to work with others to address pertinent challenges impacting health and well being.

Individuals seeking employment as counselors will need to acquire an extensive amount of post-secondary education. Counselors in most fields require at least a Masters Degree in order to receive certification or licensure from their state. Counselors working in private practice may, in some states, be required to obtain a Doctorate Degree. In addition to the education needed to enter into the counseling profession, individuals interested in a career in this field must also be able to work with others as part of a professional care team. Counseling professionals typically provide support in a specific are for the client with additional health issues addressed through other services (e.g., physicians, social workers, etc.). Thus, individuals in this profession must be able to engage in collaboration with other health professionals to provide comprehensive care for the client.

Careers

Counseling includes a broad range of disciplines that each focus on different client needs. Some of the most common careers in counseling are reviewed below.

Educational, Vocational and School Counselors: These professionals work with students to provide them with support in selected a career or vocation. Additionally, professionals in these positions provide support for students struggling with mental health issues.

Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors primarily work with individuals struggling with a disability, illness or disease. These professionals provide personal and vocational counseling to help the client manage challenges that may arise in engaging in basic tasks of daily living.

Mental Health Counselors: These professionals work specifically with individuals that have been diagnosed with a mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, etc.). Mental health counselors work with individuals and families to provide coping supports and resources for managing mental illness.

Substance Abuse Counselors: Counselors working in this discipline provide support for individuals struggling with addiction. Addiction issues can include: alcohol, drugs, gambling and eating disorders.

Salary

Due to the high level of education required for counselors, median salaries for this group are typically quite good. Although the specific area of specialization for the counselor will impact wages, the median annual salary for all counselors was $51,050 in 2008. Professionals at the top of the profession had salaries of $82,330 annually and professionals at the bottom of the profession had median salaries of $29,360. Counselors employed in elementary and secondary schools had the highest median earnings in 2008: $57,800. Counselors working in vocational rehabilitation services had slightly lower salaries at $25,220 annually. The professional’s place of employment will also impact salary level. Counselors working in general medical and surgical hospitals had median salaries of $44, 130 in 2008 while professionals working in residential mental health facilities had median salaries of $31,300. Self-employed professionals working in private practice had the highest earnings of all counseling groups. The professionals typically have well established practices with long-term clients.

Job Outlook

In general the counseling profession is projected to grow faster than average at 18 percent through 2018. Even though this growth is quite high, the reality is that growth will be dictated by the specific area of specialization for the professionals. Specifically, demand for vocational counselors is expected to increase faster than average because of demand for career change services. Decreased demand for school counselors may result because of budget cuts that limit support services provided in the schools. Employment for mental health counselors is expected to increase as a result of increased reimbursement for mental health services under medical insurance contracts. Job prospects are also expected to increase because of a lack of qualified professionals currently available in the field. Current enrollment of professionals in counseling practice does not match the number of projected job openings over the next several years. As such, more trained professionals will be needed to fill these vital roles.

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