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Education And Career Overview For Counseling

Are you interested in pursuing a career in counseling? Counseling may be a great field for individuals who want to help others work through a wide variety of potentially difficult issues. This very broad term encompasses several different subfields and counselors can work in nearly any setting. Some of the most common types of counselors are:

  • Marriage and Family Counselor
  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Guidance and Career Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Education Counselor

Degree Options

Counseling degree programs are offered at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. It’s important to note, however, that in order to practice as a counselor in the United States, you will need to complete the licensing and certification process in your state. Application guidelines vary, but most states requirecandidates to have, at minimum, a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.

Undergraduate Degree

There are very few associate-level degrees in counseling and not too many more bachelor-level ones. Most individuals interested in counseling begin their academic career with a related degree, like psychology or human services. While a counseling degree will provide access to a limited number of entry-level positions, those who seek an undergraduate degree are typically preparing for further education in the field. Programs will vary, but most bachelor’s degrees are comprised of 120 credit hours of coursework that students can expect to complete within four years.

Graduate Degree

As previously mentioned, a graduate degree is generally a requirement for certified counselors throughout the country. A master’s degree in counseling allows students to specialize in a particular area. While there are general counseling programs available, most professionals prefer to earn a degree that focuses on a specific subfield, like school counseling or art therapy. Degree programs vary and can consist of30 to 60 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students can generally complete course requirements in two to three years.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree isn’t necessary for certification, but many counseling professionals seek one in order to further specialize, to qualify for administration positions, or to pursue a higher education career.Programs vary, but usually consist of60 to 120 hoursand take anywhere from three to five years to complete.

Fields of Study

There are a number of career paths to choose from once you’ve decided to pursue a career in counseling. Some of the most common fields of study include:

  • Community Counseling
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Art Therapy
  • Career Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Guidance and Career Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Educational Counseling
  • Music Therapy
  • Grief Counseling
  • Eating Disorder Therapy
  • Child Development Counseling
  • Debt Counseling

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most counseling occupations will see a 13 to 23 percent increase in employment. While this projection varies depending on the specific type of counseling offered, the overall outlook for the profession is good. Salaries also vary, ranging from a median annual wage of $34,860 for rehabilitation counselors and $55,410 for school and career counselors in 2017. (Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary)


Business and Financial Occupations. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on August 9, 2018 from:

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