Master's in Counseling Degree Options and Career Paths

What You Can Do With Your Degree

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After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, some students choose to go on to earn a master's in counseling. This degree can be a good alternative to a master's in psychology, in particular for those interested in working in academic or mental health settings.

Types of Degrees

Counseling is certainly not a "one-size-fits-all" option. If you are interested in entering this field, it is important to think about the kind of counseling that you want to perform. There are several types of counseling degrees available.

These degrees vary in terms of academic requirements and specialty areas, so it's important to consider the differences as well as your career goals before deciding which degree is right for you.

Do you want to deal with mental health issues? Then a master's degree in counseling, social work, or counseling psychology might be the best choice. Are you interested in working in an academic setting? Then a Master of Education in counseling would probably be a good choice.

Master of Arts (MA) vs. Master of Science (MS)

Master's degrees in counseling are often offered through a university's school of education. These programs focus on therapies and behavioral modification techniques. Individuals with an M.A. or M.S. in counseling often work as school counselors or career counselors, but they may also be employed in private practices, mental health clinics or hospitals.

If you are interested in opening your own counseling practice, you may find that many states and insurance companies have limited reimbursement options even though mental health service coverage is required by law.

A master's in counseling typically requires around 50 to 60 credits of graduate coursework.

Master of Education (MEd)

Like the M.A. or M.S. in Counseling, the Master of Education in Counseling is offered through an institution's school of education. These programs take two years of graduate study to complete. Individuals with an M.Ed. may go on to work in academic settings as counselors, or they may choose to gain licensure to work in mental health counseling.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

While not specifically a degree in counseling, the Master of Social Work allows graduates to provide counseling services. The MSW degree is perhaps the most popular option because it is recognized in all 50 states, and insurance companies are willing to reimburse those with an MSW degree and Clinical Social Worker (CSW) licensure for services.

This makes it a popular choice for students who are interested in putting their degree to use immediately after graduation. Other good news is that MSW graduates are generally in high demand in many different locations, particularly as the need for mental health services continues to grow.

Master in Counseling Psychology

Another option is a master's degree in counseling psychology. In some states, this degree allows graduates to gain limited licensure to practice psychology. Like the master's in clinical psychology, however, most states require those with a master's in counseling psychology to practice under the direct supervision of a licensed doctorate-level psychologist.

Job Options

Licensed professional counselors can work in a variety of jobs including:

  • Academic counselors
  • Career counselors
  • Marriage and family counselors
  • Mental health counselors
  • School counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors

Licensing requirements can vary by state, so be sure to check with your state's department of labor to learn more about the specific educational, licensing, and certification requirements to work in particular professions.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."