Many schools offer Master of Arts or Master of Science in Professional Counseling programs; other schools offer similar programs under varying names. These programs are designed to prepare bachelor's holding students to attain Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) status or the equivalent in a given state. An entrance interview and high undergraduate GPA and GRE scores are likely required to enroll. The programs may be generalist in nature, while others allow for concentration in a specific area, such as marriage and family, school, or community counseling. Consisting of coursework, internships, and workshops, they typically require 2-3 years of study. Counselors must become licensed according to the laws of their home states. Voluntary certifications can be earned by passing national board examinations.
Master's Degree Programs in Professional Counseling
Students complete a combination of didactic courses and practical training experiences. Class topics may include:
- Counseling techniques
- Group counseling
- Developing counseling programs
- Marriage counseling
- Family counseling
- Counseling theory
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counselors in general were expected to experience solid employment opportunities during the 2019-2029 decade (www.bls.gov). However, a counselor's specialty area may affect job availability. For example, counselors who treat mental health disorders and/or who practice marriage and family counseling were expected to have 22% job growth from 2019-2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. At the same time, the growth projected for school counselors was 8%, and for substance abuse counselors it was 25%. Salaries for counselors also vary widely; for instance, in May 2020, the mean annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $51,550; school counselors earned substantially higher wages, with a mean salary of $62,320.
Licensure, Certification and Continuing Education Information
Licensing requirements beyond completion of a master's degree program may differ according to individual state and area of specialty. Most states require counselors to practice in a supervised setting for a period of time in order to be eligible for full licensure.
Some counselors may want to pursue voluntary certifications in addition to state licensing. Certification is offered by, for example, the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
Related programs in counselor education are available at the doctoral level for professional counselors interested in moving into teaching or research positions. Other relevant doctoral-level programs include counseling psychology; graduates of such programs may qualify for licensure as clinical psychologists.
A master's degree in professional counseling can lead to a variety of jobs within the field depending on a student's interests and specialization. Licensure will be required to work as any kind of counseling (usually with supervised practice beforehand) with professional certification and doctoral degrees available to improve their employ-ability and skills.