Opportunities for Advancement in Counseling

Counselors help clients deal with a wide variety of mental and behavioral difficulties. After working as a counselor, many individuals may wish to pursue a role that will either enhance their clinical function or enable them to manage community programming.

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Career Growth Opportunities for Counselors

Counselors play an important role in helping clients deal with problems of everyday life, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Entry-level counselors can enter the field with a bachelor's degree. After working in the field, many counselors will wish to pursue further education to offer enhanced clinical services, potentially as a licensed professional counselor, school counselor, behavior analyst, or psychiatrist. Other counselors may wish to manage community programs. Details about some of these options are presented below.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education or Experience
Licensed Professional Counselors $45,468 (2018)** 23% (mental health counselors) Master's degree
School Counselors $55,410 (school and career counselors) 13% (school and career counselors) Master's degree
Board Certified Behavior Analysts $57,736 (2018)** 23% (substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors) Master's degree
Social and Community Services Managers $64,100 18% Bachelor's degree and experience
Psychiatrists $216,090 11% Medical degree and residency

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale

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Career Information

Licensed Professional Counselors

Counselors may wish to advance in the field and be able to offer more direct counseling services to their clients. These individuals may wish to study to become a licensed professional counselor, or LPC. In most states, LPCs may operate a private counseling practice, or they may be employed by a variety of community service agencies. LPCs offer counseling for a variety of mental health concerns, including grief, anxiety, and depression. While licensure requirements vary by state, most require a master's degree in counseling, post-master's experience, and completion of the National Counselor Examination or a similar assessment.

School Counselors

Counselors have developed skills in making connections with individuals. Obtaining further certification to undertake a role as a school counselor in an elementary or secondary school might be a good fit. School counselors administer programs in schools to help students develop academically, socially, and in career-related areas. They must be very knowledgeable about child development and testing procedures. At the high school level, school counselors also help students make plans for college or for future employment. They must frequently collaborate with parents, teachers, and administrators. School counselors must have a master's degree in school counseling and be certified by their state of practice.

Board Certified Behavior Analysts

Some counselors may enjoy their work in helping individuals to make better choices regarding behaviors. These counselors may wish to move into a role as a board certified behavior analyst. Behavior analysts work with clients with behavioral or developmental disabilities. They assess their clients using a range of instruments to objectively define various behaviors, and then create a research-based treatment plan. Behavior analysts must have completed a graduate degree that includes coursework in behavior analysis. They must then have post-master's experience in behavior analysis. When these requirements are completed, they are eligible to sit for the BCBA examination.

Social and Community Services Managers

Counselors often work for non-profit organizations, and some may wish to move up to management positions within these agencies. Social services managers play an important role directing outreach programs, analyzing the effectiveness of interventions, and hiring or onboarding new staff members. Typically, social and community services managers have a bachelor's degree and experience, however a master's degree may be preferred.


Some counselors may wish to offer therapeutic services as a medical professional. These individuals may consider obtaining the extensive training needed to become a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists focus their medical care on treating mental illness. Many offer psychotherapy. They can also prescribe medication that may be recommended to treat or improve mental conditions. To become a psychiatrist, one must complete medical school. After medical school, prospective psychiatrists must complete a residency, which is typically four years.

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