What Can You Do With a Masters in Counseling?

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By definition, a counselor is a person who fosters a professional relationship with their clients, thereby empowering diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish their mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. Counselors help individuals develop strategies to overcome obstacles; strengthen their self-esteem; and promote behavioral change and a healthier mental state.¹

There are several specialties that a person with a Masters in Counseling can pursue. Each of these specialties come with a varied work setting, level of pay, and demographic to work with.

School Counseling

A school counselor is an important member of the education team. Although the responsibilities or a school counselor will differ from school to school, their broad responsibilities include:

  • Helping students manage their emotional health and behavior
  • Working with students to develop effective study habits
  • Helping develop academic and career goals for their students
  • Collaborating with teachers and parents to help students succeed
  • Teaching classes on important topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and college preparation
  • Identifying neglect and abuse
  • Providing parents with outside referrals so students can receive additional support

School counselors work in both private and public schools with a variety of grade levels. They  generally work full time, and receive extended vacation time in the summer months or when school is not in session. According to research by the American Counseling Association, the average school counselor’s primary salary is $53,299 per year. ²

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counselors work to help clients manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders. They do so through asking questions, helping their clients understand their problems, and developing strategies to better help their clients cope and improve their day-to-day lives.

Depending on the setting, mental health counselors day-to-day expectations can include:

  • Diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders
  • Developing strong bonds with their clients, allowing them to feel safe enough to share their emotions and experiences
  • Helping clients process their emotional responses to big life changes, such as death, divorce, layoffs, or marriage
  • Guiding clients while they make decisions about their future
  • Referring clients to additional support systems in the community, such as support groups, or treatment facilities

The workplace setting for a mental health counselor varies, as they can be employed in their own private practice, a hospital, a substance abuse treatment center, or college. Generally speaking, counselors work full time, and depending on the setting may work evening and weekend hours to accommodate clients who work full time. Some work with specific populations, such as people in the LGBTQ community, children, or college students. The average primary salary for mental health counselors starting out, is a reported $40,421 per year. ²

Couple and Family Counselor

A couple and family counselor is someone who helps couples who are experiencing issues in their relationship and would like outside advice to resolve those issues. Couple and family counselors can work individually or in group settings to accomplish this goal. Some of the common problems couple and family counselors help resolve are:

  • Counseling couples through affairs
  • Jealousy issues
  • Intimacy issues
  • Financial strains and concerns
  • Disagreements on raising children

Due to the highly confidential nature of this kind of therapy, most couple and family therapists have their own practice. Others, are employed in a combined practice with other counseling specialists. The average salary for those starting out is $43,190 per year. ³

Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling

A substance abuse counselor is a professional who seeks to help clients reform their behavior and overcome addictions by offering support, rehabilitation, and guidance. This treatment can happen in a personal or group setting, and their responsibilities can encompass:

  • Developing treatment plans to help addicts cope and recover
  • Finding out the root cause of the addict’s behavior, and helping them to avoid situations that trigger relapse
  • Recognizing additional barriers that may hinder a person’s ability to recover
  • Helping clients recognize signs and symptoms of a potential relapse

Substance abuse and addiction counselors can work in a variety of settings. Employment in state institutions is common, meaning that substance abuse counselors work in prisons, hospitals, and drug treatment centers, and health departments. The average yearly salary for substance abuse counselors rests at $35,534 per year. 4

While earning a Masters Degree in Counseling, students develop the skills necessary to help clients of all ages and backgrounds cope with life’s challenges. While the demographic of the clients they serve, and the day-to-day responsibilities of the counselor vary depending on the student’s chosen specialty, counseling is a rewarding profession for those hoping to make an impact on their communities.


¹ https://www.counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling/overview