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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. View article »

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  • 0:03 Professional…
  • 0:48 School Guidance Counselors
  • 1:44 Mental Health Counselors
  • 2:17 Substance Abuse Counselors
  • 2:49 Marriage & Family Therapists
  • 3:22 Counseling Master's Degrees

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Video Transcript

Professional Counseling Careers

There are many job options for a graduate with a master's degree in professional counseling. Let's explore these careers as well as the master's degree programs that prepare students for this line of work. Professional counselors work with individuals, families, and communities to support optimal human growth and development. A professional counseling master's degree 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, and requirements for earning a license vary from state to state. Let's take a look at four career options for graduates.

School Guidance Counselors

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 cases 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 (or the BLS), school counselors in May 2016 earned an average annual salary of $57,620.

Mental Health Counselors

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 in private practice. The BLS reports that mental health counselors earned an average of $46,050 per year in May 2016.

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  • Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance Abuse Counselors

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 $44,160 in May 2016, according to the BLS.

Marriage & Family Therapists

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 problematic perceptions and behaviors that exist 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 $54,090 for marriage and family therapists in May 2016.

Counseling Master's Degrees

Professional counseling master's degree programs may include a thesis, internship, or capstone experience. Students also further develop their skills in research, critical thinking, analysis, and counseling. Programs may be offered with tracks or concentrations centering on particular issues, such as drug abuse, or particular clients, such as married couples.

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
  • Advanced counseling techniques

Graduates with a master's degree in professional counseling are qualified to work with individuals, families, and communities to address conflicts, life issues, human development, and more. Specific job titles in the field include school guidance counselors, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and substance abuse counselors.

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