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Salary and Career Info for a Masters in Counseling Degree

A master's degree in counseling provides options if you are interested in a career in counseling. This article describes different counseling paths available with this degree, as well as salary information and job duties for each type.

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Master's degree programs in counseling typically cover counseling theories, mental health issues, professional ethics, research methods and lifespan development, and therapists may specialize in marriage and family therapy, school counseling or substance abuse counseling.

Essential Information

Students who earn a master's degree in counseling examine topics in counseling theories and techniques, mental health issues, professional ethics, research methods and lifespan development. Program options allow students to specialize their training to fit their career aspirations, whether they be marriage and family therapy, school counseling or substance abuse counseling.

Career Title Mental Health Counselor Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselor Rehabilitation Counselor Marriage and Family Therapist
Annual Mean Salary* (2015) $45,080 $42,920 $56,490 $38,040 $53,520
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 20% 22% 8% 9% 15%

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mental Health Counselor Career Information

Mental health counselors help individuals or groups become more emotionally stable and independent. They may assist people suffering from suicidal thoughts, addiction, depression, grief or stress. After an initial interview, counselors develop an appropriate treatment plan and work with the client to determine realistic goals. Mental health counselors may be employed at hospitals, outpatient clinics, residential facilities, correctional institutions or private practice offices.

Salary Information

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that mental health counselors earned a mean annual salary of $45,080. Specific salaries vary depending on the type of industry.

On average, local government paid $55,220, individual and family services paid $43,200, and outpatient care centers paid $44,310.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Career Information

Substance abuse counselors develop treatment plans to help people function independently without drugs or alcohol. Because substance abuse is a multi-faceted problem, counselors often provide coping strategies for depression and anxiety and assist with anger management and vocational training. Substance abuse counselors work with individuals and groups in residential and outpatient substance abuse facilities, hospitals and correctional institutions.

Salary Information

The mean annual wage for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in May of 2015 was $42,920, as stated by the BLS. At that time, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals paid counselors a mean annual wage of $45,340 per year, while those working in residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities earned a mean annual wage of $38,500. Counselors employed at outpatient centers made a mean annual wage of $42,290.

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Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselor Career Information

Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors may work at colleges, secondary schools or vocational centers. Counselors take into account clients' education, skills and work history to explore satisfying career possibilities. They may also provide job skills training or use aptitude and personality tests to help individuals determine appropriate career paths.

Counselors who work in elementary or secondary schools also focus on students' educational, social and emotional growth. School counselors teach age-appropriate lessons, which may cover such topics such as friendship skills, conflict management, drug education, study skills and anger management. Individual student planning becomes more significant in high school settings, as counselors help students evaluate their goals and plan accordingly.

Salary Information

Salaries for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors differ based on the amount of training and the type of facility. The BLS listed the mean annual salary for education, school, guidance and vocational counselors at $56,490 in May of 2015. Those employed at colleges and universities earned a mean annual salary of $49,770, while counselors at junior colleges made $56,730 annually. Elementary and secondary school counselors earned a mean annual salary of $63,760 during the same year.

Rehabilitation Counselor Career Information

The goal of rehabilitation counselors is to promote independence and positive mental health for people with mental and physical disabilities. Counselors assess the needs and abilities of clients and then work with the individual to develop a rehabilitation plan. The clients' personal and vocational needs are best met through a group effort with other professionals and community agencies, such as employers, physicians, therapists and psychologists.

Other tasks may include jobs skills training, client advocacy and community outreach to reduce the stigma of disabilities. Rehabilitation counselors are employed in government rehabilitation agencies, independent living centers, private offices, community agencies, correctional institutions and halfway houses.

Salary Information

Because of the range of employment opportunities for rehabilitation counselors, salaries can vary. Vocational rehabilitation counselors made a mean annual salary of $38,040 in 2015, as stated by the BLS. Those working for state governments earned a mean annual salary of $48,570, and residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities paid a mean annual salary of $32,170 at that time.

Marriage and Family Therapist Career Information

Marriage and family therapists treat emotional and mental health issues and promote positive interaction within families. They work with family members, individually or in a group, to improve their communication and relational skills in an effort to prevent future crises. Employment opportunities exist for marriage and family therapists at community agencies, private practices, correctional institutions and residential facilities.

Salary Information

The BLS states that the mean annual salary for marriage and family therapists in May of 2015 was $53,520. Therapists working for the state government earned the most at a mean annual salary of $73,110, while those working in individual and family services made a mean annual salary of $46,300 and outpatient care centers paid $50,220.

A master's degree in counseling qualifies you for many different career paths, usually based on what specialty you choose while studying. Salary varies greatly depending on the type of counseling and where the counselor is employed,

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