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Master's in Counseling

Counseling Degree Options and Career Paths


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, especially for those interested in working in academic or mental health settings.

Types of Master's in Counseling Degrees

There are several different types of counseling degrees available. These degrees can vary in terms of academic requirements and specialty areas, so it is important to consider the differences as well as your career goals before deciding which degree is right for you.

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling: Master's degrees in counseling are often offered through a university's school of education. These programs generally 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. Those interested in opening their own counseling practice may find that many states and insurance companies have limited reimbursement options. A master's in counseling typically requires around 50 to 60 credits of graduate coursework.

  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counseling: 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 MSWs for services.

  • Master in Counseling Psychology: Another option is a master's degree in counseling psychology. In some states, this degree allows graduates to gain a 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 with a Master's in Counseling

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

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

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