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Mental Health Masters Degree Programs

Get information on master's degree programs in mental health counseling. Learn about required courses, clinical experience, job outlook and licensing requirements.

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Essential Information

Many universities offer Master of Science or Master of Arts degrees in mental health counseling. These programs combine classroom courses on psychology, counseling, community programs and professional ethics with clinical work in a mental health treatment facility. Graduates of such programs can earn their professional counselor licenses. Mental health counselors may work in various environments, including schools, psychiatric hospitals, mental health institutions and drug rehabilitation facilities.

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Master's programs in mental health counseling seek to educate students in advanced concepts, like assessment, human psychology and clinical instruction. Candidates are usually expected to complete a minimum number of hours with patients in clinical rotations. Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling degrees qualify students to sit for the professional licensing exam; in some cases, candidates may pursue licensing concurrent to their attendance in the program.

Educational Prerequisites

All graduate program applicants must hold bachelor's degrees. Many programs require students to submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants may be required to have completed specific undergraduate in math, science and psychology. Some highly selective programs interview applications as part of the admissions process.

Program Coursework

Master's degree programs in mental health counseling emphasize research, and candidates may be required to complete an original thesis as part of the curriculum. Typical courses in a mental health counseling program include the following:

  • Counseling theory
  • Group counseling
  • Testing and assessment
  • Research methods for counseling
  • Community mental health
  • Multicultural counseling
  • Lifespan human development

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( predicts the number job openings for mental health counselors will exceed the number of available mental health counselors between 2010 and 2020. According to BLS data from 2012, the median annual salary for mental health counselors was $40,080.

Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counselors are one of five mental health professions recognized by the National Institute of Health. Similar to the Master of Science program discussed above, candidates earning Master of Arts in Mental Health degrees study a broader range of subjects including psychology, diagnostics and ethics. Candidates in this program must complete a mandatory minimum number of clinic hours with patients.

Educational Prerequisites

Students interested in a graduate degree are required to hold a bachelor's degree. Applicants to mental health counseling programs must submit GRE scores for admission. Many programs require that applicants have a minimum GPA of 2.5 for their undergraduate transcripts.

Program Coursework

In addition to clinical practice, mental health graduate students will be required to take many theoretical courses. Courses may include the following:

  • Group dynamics
  • Psychopathologies
  • Personal psychology
  • Professional and personal ethics
  • Grief counseling
  • Clinical instruction
  • Family counseling
  • Clinical supervision

Popular Career Options

Those with Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Mental Health Counseling are qualified for many counseling positions. Some of these job titles include the following:

  • High school counselor
  • Elementary school counselors
  • Vocational counselors
  • Rehabilitation counselors
  • Marriage and family therapist
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics