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Counseling Psychologist: Career Options and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a counseling psychologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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A counseling psychologist provides guidance to their clients. This is a general field, so a number of career options are available, such as working in a school, government agency, hospital, or being self-employed. The place of employment is usually determined by level of education and experience.

Essential Information

Counseling psychologists help patients manage emotional problems and mental illness through talk therapy and other methods. Various levels of postsecondary education are available, but generally the more advanced education pursued, the more variety of jobs and higher salary available.

Required Education Doctoral degree
Other Requirements Licensure is typically required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 20% for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $76,040 annually for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Counseling psychologists provide mental health services to assist clients of all ages with personal or interpersonal problems. These professionals may help those with emotional, social, health-related, vocational or developmental concerns. Depending on their education and experience, counseling psychologists have numerous work opportunities. For example, while bachelor's degree holders are limited to working for the federal government or assisting psychologists, those with a master's degree may be employed by school districts and private firms.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists who have earned a doctorate have the best opportunities in the job market (www.bls.gov). These professionals may become professors and researchers, or work for government agencies, hospitals, professional organizations and private consulting companies.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, the average salary as of May 2015 for all clinical, school, and counseling psychologists, was $76,040, and job openings for this group were expected to see an 20% increase between 2014 and 2024.

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Education Requirements

The BLS reports that most counseling psychologists need an advanced degree, such as a master's or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), in order to practice. While not every graduate school requires an undergraduate major in psychology, a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field is considered the first step toward becoming a counseling psychologist.

Bachelor's Degree

Psychology courses generally cover topics in biological basis of behavior, child psychology and personality theories. Students may also take classes on group dynamics, counseling, statistics and social psychology. Aspiring psychologists may also begin gaining experience by obtaining internships that allow them to perform research, assist with consultations and receive feedback from peers.

Master's Degree

A 2-year master's degree program in counseling psychology introduces students to more advanced courses in psychological testing and evaluation. Programs may delve into concepts in psychopharmacology and behavior modification, and students may complete practical work in actual counseling situations.

Ph.D. or Psy.D. Degree

A doctoral degree in counseling psychology usually takes five years to complete. Some programs require applicants to have a master's degree, while others admit students with relevant experience. These programs offer courses in quantitative analysis and research design to help students complete research projects and papers. The BLS notes that upon completion of these programs, graduates may need to complete one year of supervised postdoctoral work.

The amount of career options for a counseling psychologist is limited by their credentials. Those interested in this field start out by earning a bachelor's degree, but graduate education in counseling psychology is needed to work in most settings. Licensure is typically required as well.

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