What Can You Do With a Master’s in Counseling?
Discover Traditional and Alternative Careers for Counselors
What can you do with a master’s in counseling? In short, a counseling master’s degree opens the door to many fulfilling careers assisting people through mental, emotional and physical struggles. And with career growth for mental health counselors and school counselors expected to increase a healthy 23 percent1 and 13 percent,2 respectively, through 2026, now is as fruitful a time as ever to explore your options for counseling careers.
Read on to learn more about different types of traditional counseling careers as well as alternative careers for counselors.
Traditional Counseling Careers
Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Related Fields
One of the most common career paths for individuals with a master’s degree in counseling is clinical mental health counseling. To become a clinical mental health counselor, you should enroll in a Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in counseling program, most of which will offer a concentration or focus in clinical mental health counseling. Some programs drill down further with specializations, such as the Military and Veterans Counseling specialization offered within the Online Master of Education in Counseling (M.Ed.) with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from William & Mary.
Clinical mental health counselors work with individuals, families and/or communities in mental health centers, hospitals, Veterans Affairs clinics and other treatment centers. These counselors are typically trained in diagnosis, treatment, referral (if necessary) and prevention.
In addition to a master’s degree, most mental health counseling jobs require individuals to pass licensure exams to be able to practice. Licensure credential titles and exams vary by state. While licensed professional counselor (LPC) is the most common title in the U.S., other valid titles granted by state professional counselor licensure boards include:3
- Licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC)
- Licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC)
- Licensed professional counselor of mental health (LPCMH)
- Licensed clinical mental health counselor (LCMHC)
- Licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
- Licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP)
- Licensed professional counselor-mental health (LPC-MH)
- Licensed professional counselor-mental health service provider (LPC/MHSP)
- Licensed mental health practitioner-certified professional counselor (LMHP-CPC)
- Licensed mental health practitioner-licensed professional counselor (LIMHP-LPC)
Depending on the curriculum, a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling can also provide the necessary instruction for students to serve in the following positions, though some positions may necessitate additional licensure or specialized coursework:
- Rehabilitation counselor – Clients include those with cognitive, physical, psychiatric and sensory disabilities
- Addiction counselor – Clients include individuals and families affected by alcohol, drugs, food-related, gambling, sexual and other addictive disorders; this position may require a Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner (LSATP) credential
- Marriage and family counselor – Clients include individuals, couples, and families with familial relationship and communication issues
- Military and veterans counselor – Clients include active-duty military personnel and veterans as well as their families
All CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling programs require students to complete a supervised practicum and internship,4 and these field experiences also allow students to determine if a particular area of counseling fits their personal and professional preferences.
School counseling is another common career path for those with a counseling master’s degree. School counselors work in public and private elementary, middle and high schools. Job duties will vary depending on the age of students, but school counselors typically help students overcome social or behavioral problems, develop effective study habits, hone interpersonal skills, and create a plan to achieve their academic and career goals.5
Most school counseling positions require a master’s degree and any applicable state licensure or certifications.
Career counselors, sometimes referred to as career coaches, work with adults of all ages and stages of employment. Career counselors often work in the career services department of a junior college or four-year college or university to assess a student’s career goals and help them decide on a major or coursework that complements their intended path. They might perform mock interviews, review resumes and portfolios, and connect students to potential internship and job opportunities.
Outside of higher education, career counselors and coaches may work as private consultants to help individuals consider their career options, transition into a new career, polish their interviewing skills and/or resolve workplace issues. Requirements for each position will vary, but many career counseling jobs require a master’s degree in counseling or a related area.
Alternative Careers for Counselors
Now that we’ve answered the question “What can you do with a master’s in counseling?” let’s discuss what else you can do with a master’s in counseling. The following are alternative career options for those who are interested in counseling (or already have a counseling master’s degree) but who don’t necessarily want to work with clients in the traditional sense.
Counseling educators teach aspiring counselors in junior college or four-year institutions. While many professorial positions require a Ph.D. in counseling, smaller institutions may offer academic positions to those with a master’s degree in counseling and years of experience. You may also find work in a larger private or public high school that offers courses in psychology or other applicable fields.
Counselors are typically perceptive individuals who possess impeccable verbal and written communication skills. These skills can greatly benefit a career in research, from interviewing subjects one-on-one to conducting focus groups to drafting clear reports. As LCP Natosha Monroe wrote in her American Counseling Association blog, “The field of social sciences offers many opportunities for people to assist in research and projects in capacities such as research creation, data collection, statistical analysis and reporting.”
If you have a master’s in counseling and years of experience on the job, you are most likely a subject matter expert with knowledge to share. Consider writing about emerging issues in the counseling field and submitting pieces to social science-related magazines and blogs such as Counseling Today or Psychology Today. While freelance writing may not be a plausible full-time career for you, you can make connections, share valuable insights and earn extra income by publishing your work.
Which counseling career will you pursue?
If a career in clinical mental health counseling, military and veterans counseling or school counseling interests you, learn more about the transformative Online M.Ed. in Counseling from William & Mary, a “Public Ivy” university that is home to esteemed counseling faculty.
1. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm
2. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm
3. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-requirements/state-professional-counselor-licensure-boards
4. Retrieved on July 29, 2019, from cacrep.org/section-3-professional-practice/
5. Retrieved on July 29, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-2