What Can You Do With a Masters in Professional Counseling?

A master's degree in professional counseling prepares students to support and counsel clients in several potential focus areas. Careers can include school counselor, family and marriage therapist, mental health counselor and substance abuse counselor.

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School Guidance Counselor

School counselors assist students with social, behavioral and personal problems while helping them develop the life skills necessary to resolve these issues. They also work to identify possible domestic abuse or other family-related problems that may be affecting a student's social, emotional and academic development.

School counselors may work at primary or secondary schools. Elementary school counselors observe children and work with teachers and parents to ensure that a student's academic and developmental needs are being addressed. High school counselors help students with college and vocational issues, such as enrollment, financial aid, resume writing and interview techniques. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school counselors in May 2014 earned an average annual salary of $56,040.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors work with clients and the families of clients who are suffering from emotional or mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress, grief, poor self-esteem and addiction. They may work with community organizations or private practice. The BLS reports that mental health counselors earned an average of $43,990 per year in May 2014.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors assist people with substance abuse and addiction problems by helping them to identify the emotional and behavioral issues related to their addictions and developing recovery programs to help them cope. This type of counseling may be done on a one-on-one basis or with a group of peers facing similar issues. Substance abuse counselors earned an average annual salary of $41,870 in May 2014, according to the BLS.

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Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists work to assist family members in addressing mental, emotional and communication problems. They may counsel individuals, couples, families or groups to help identify perceptions and behaviors that are problematic in a family environment. They then work to provide tools to help people better understand and manage familial issues. The BLS reports annual average earnings of $51,730 for marriage and family therapists in May 2014.

Master's Degree in Professional Counseling Overview

Professional counselors work with individuals, families and communities to support optimal human growth and development. A Master of Arts in Professional Counseling prepares aspiring counselors to empower clients to resolve life issues, such as personal and interpersonal conflicts as well as various mental health problems. Licensure is required to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC), and requirements for earning a license vary from state to state.


Coursework for a master's degree in professional counseling includes topics such as human growth and lifespan development, human sexuality, multicultural counseling, research methods, assessment and evaluation, ethics, advanced psychopathology and advanced counseling techniques. Programs may be offered with tracks or concentrations centering on particular issues, such as drug abuse, or particular clients, such as married couples.

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