What Can You Do With a Masters in Mental Health Counseling?

Mental health counselor jobs typically require a master's degree. Those wondering if a master's in mental health counseling is worth it can explore the different benefits of the degree, including salary and experience. View article »

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Mental Health Counselor Jobs

Those with a master's degree in mental health counseling will commonly pursue a career as a licensed mental health counselor. However, this degree can also prepare students to work as other closely related kinds of counselors, such as:

  • Rehabilitation counselors
  • Residential counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Outpatient therapists
  • In-home therapists

Depending on the type of counselor or therapist one becomes, these professionals work in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, social service agencies, correctional facilities, courts, homeless shelters, wellness centers, and more.

What Do Mental Health Counselors Do?

A career in counseling primarily aims to help patients or clients through a variety of mental and emotional issues by providing individualized treatment plans with therapy, skill development, and/or behavior modification. Mental health counselors may work with individuals, couples, families, or other groups of people to address issues ranging from issues like stress and low self-esteem to depression and suicidal thoughts. Some may specialize in specific populations, such as children. Specific job duties for mental health counselors may include:

  • Assessing a client's mental and physical condition
  • Discussing treatment with clients and their families
  • Equipping clients with new skills and/or behaviors to combat destructive behaviors
  • Notifying clients of additional community resources
  • Helping families understand a client's condition and training them to help

Is a Master's in Mental Health Counseling Worth It?

Most mental health counselors are required to hold a master's degree and complete an internship for hands-on training. Therefore, for students wishing to become a mental health counselor it is usually worth putting in the work for a master's degree in the field in order to achieve one's career goals. However, there are several other benefits to earning a master's degree in mental health counseling and we discuss them in more detail below.

Mental Health Counselor Salary with a Master's Degree

PayScale.com reported that the average salary for a mental health counselor in September 2019 was $41,223. This salary is expected to increase with years of experience in the field and may also vary due to factors like employer, location, and even education and skills.

Concerning education, the website showed that the type of master's degree you earn in mental health counseling may affect your salary. PayScale.com reported that those with a Master of Arts (MA) in Mental Health Counseling made an average salary of $46,000, as of September 2019, while those with a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Education (MEd) in Mental Health Counseling made an average of $48,000 for the same time period.

Program Format/Experience

Many master's degree programs in mental health counseling are available in online formats for flexibility and may be able to be completed in as little as 21 months. Whether on-campus or online, these degree programs also provide students with plenty of in-person, hands-on training through mental health clinical, practicum, and internship experiences. Some programs may require 100 hours of practicum experience and conclude with a 600-hour internship, which is typically required for licensure in the field.

Other Benefits

Depending on a student's interests and career goals, a master's degree in mental health counseling could also help prepare students to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical mental health counseling. These doctoral programs train students in advanced clinical skills in the field and may prepare students for supervisory, teaching, or research positions.

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