Master of Science (MS): Mental Health Counseling Degree Overview

A Master of Science (MS) degree program in mental health counseling prepares students to provide treatment and intervention for emotional and mental disorders. Some programs provide the chance to specialize in a particular counseling area or client population.

Essential Information

Nearly all states require mental health counselors to complete a master's degree and then take continuing education courses to maintain licensing. Those who want to work as mental health counselors in public schools may need a teaching certificate as well. Graduates of MS programs are eligible to apply for counseling licensure. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in a closely related field of study, and programs generally last two years.

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Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

In these programs, students learn ethics, counseling theory, career development, diagnostic strategies, and group counseling. They may be able to focus their studies on a specialty area, such as families or youth. Class topics commonly include:

  • Counseling applications
  • Diagnostic measuring tools
  • Research methods
  • Family, group, and individual counseling
  • Crisis intervention
  • Clinical assessment

Popular Career Options

Graduates can find work in mental health clinics, family service centers, prisons, schools, and courts. They may pursue jobs as:

  • Psychiatric technicians
  • Vocational rehabilitation counselors
  • Mental health counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Behavioral analysts
  • Clinical psychologists

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that mental health counselors should see a job growth of 20% over the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average ( The median annual salary for mental health counselors in May 2015 was $41,880. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors should see 22% growth from 2014-2024, which is also much faster than average. These counselors earned a May 2015 median annual wage of $39,980.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a master's degree program in mental health counseling often go on to earn a doctorate. Mental health counselors are required by most states to take continuing education courses to maintain their license. Advanced graduate certificate programs are available in a variety of subjects. Furthermore, counselors can pursue optional certification through agencies such as the National Board for Certified Counselors.

A master's degree program in mental health counseling helps prepare students for a variety of careers working with individuals suffering from mental illnesses or substance abuse problems. After earning this degree, students may earn certification and begin working as a counselor or pursue doctoral-level studies in related field.

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