Your Guide To Masters In Counseling Programs

Welcome to! Our staff helps connect students with educational opportunities in the counseling field. For over ten years, we’ve provided reliable resources and an on-going community of support for prospective counseling students. Our site blogger, Dr. Barbara LoFrisco and our podcast host, Megan Hawksworth, also provides our readers with extensive expertise in their chosen area.

As an introduction, click the questions below to learn more about your degree options and working as a counselor:

  1. The Different Types Of Masters In Counseling Programs
  2. Can I Get A Masters Degree In Counseling Online?
  3. What Are The Certification And Licensure Requirements For Counselors?
  4. What Are My Career Options In Counseling?
  5. What’s The Average Salary With A Masters In Counseling Degree?

Can I Get A Masters Degree In Counseling Online?

Whether you’re considering enrolling at traditional brick-and-mortar institution or at an online university, you should look at every degree program with a critical eye. It is crucial to know if the program is accredited by a National Accreditation Agency, if it properly prepares students for licensure and certification exams, and if it offers a specialization/focus aligns with your career goals. Online programs offer more flexibility for students’ schedules.

The following sponsored programs fulfill these criteria and might make excellent options:

The Different Types Of Masters In Counseling Programs

There are a few options when it comes to graduate-level degrees in counseling. Which one you choose depends largely on your interests and what you plan to do with your degree after you graduate.

When doing your research, it is important to understand the different types of degrees. Each has its own unique program structure. The following are the most common counseling degrees and where they can lead:

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling: MA programs often focus on theoretical understanding and include seminar-style classes and advanced level reading and writing.
  • Master of Science (MS) in Counseling: MS programs focus more on the technical and hands-on aspects of the counseling practice.
  • Master of Education (MEd) in Counseling: MEd programs are typically designed to develop skills relevant to a wide range of careers in social service and mental health agencies, as well as preparing graduates to become certified as school counselors.
  • Masters in Counseling Psychology: Counseling psychology programs prepare graduates for research, teaching and/or counseling in a variety of settings with an emphasis on causes, diagnosis, and treatment strategies.

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What Are The Certification And Licensure Requirements For Counselors?

Licensure requirements for counselors depend largely on your career focus, as well as the location in which you’d like to practice. Licensing requirements for counselors vary by state, and each state requires applicants to earn an accredited degree, complete a specific number of post-graduate supervised hours, and pass an exam to be fully licensed. If you wish to practice in specialized field such as substance abuse or family therapy, you might need additional certification or a license.

To help you better understand how licensing and certification works, we’ve broken down both state and national requirements for counselors who wish to practice in the US: The following table offers a useful overview of licensure rules and certification requirements:

National CertificationState Licensure
What is national certification? National certification is a voluntary process entirely separate from state licensure. It is not a license to practice; however, holding a national certification can assist counselors in obtaining a state license.What is state licensure? State licensure is mandatory to practice counseling independently. These standards are set by regulatory boards in each state.
Name of national credential: National Board for Certified Counselors issues the National Certified Counselor (NCC) in addition to three specialty certifications in addictions, clinical mental health and school counseling.Name of state credential: Licensure differs from state to state; however the most common titles are: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
National certification examinations: Students must pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).National state examinations: State counselor licensure boards contract with NBCC to use one or both of the following exams: NCE and/or NCMHCE.

National certification requirements:

  • Must complete a master’s degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Must complete 3,000 hours of counseling experience as well as 100 hours of supervision over a two year time period after graduation.
  • For graduate students who have completed CACREP accredited tracks, the post-master’s experience and supervision requirements are waived.
  • Receive a passing score on the NCE.

State certification requirements:

  • Must complete a master’s degree in counseling or related field of study from a regionally and/or nationally accredited institution.
  • Must have counseling experience and supervision.
  • Receive a passing score on the NCE exam and/or NCMHCE. Note: Some states require a passing score on mental health laws exam of that state.

*Licensure varies by state; however, all states do require that students have a combination of the following:

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What Are My Career Options In Counseling?

There are many different educational and professional paths you can take to have a fulfilling career in the counseling field. The table below lists the most common careers, as well as degree programs that are relevant to those careers. Counseling is a diverse field, encompassing several specialties. If you’re unsure of what kind of degree you should get, our guide will help you better understand your options.

Type of CounselorRelevant Degree Programs
Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor: Substance abuse and addiction counselors provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.
Career Counselor: Career counselors help clients determine and plan for possible career paths by assessing their education, skills, interests, and personality.
Clinical Mental Health Counselor: Clinical mental health counselors help clients deal with a spectrum of mental and emotional disorders, as well as to promote mental health and wellness.
Geriatric Counselor: Geriatric counselors help individual and families deal with the aging process, such as issues related to retirement and loss.
Marriage, Couple, and Family Counselor: Marriage, couple, and family counselors assist clients across of variety of mental and emotional disorders and relationship issues.
Rehabilitation Counselor: Rehabilitation counselors help client with disabilities live independent, productive lives through unique treatment plans and therapy options.
School Counselor: School counselors are trained to promote the academic, career, and personal/social development of all K-12 students within the school setting.
Spirituality and Religious Counselor: Spirituality and religious counselors are devoted to helping clients draw on their spiritual values to deal with mental and emotional disorders.
Trauma and Crisis Counselor: Trauma and crisis counselors help clients deal with the emotional impact of tragic events through a variety of processes including group and individual counseling.

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What’s The Average Salary With A Masters In Counseling Degree?

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for mental health counselors is estimated to grow 23% from 2016 to 2026. This increase is largely attributed to federal healthcare reforms, which has given more people access to health insurance. The BLS also expects more military veterans to seek out mental health services in the coming years.

The job outlook for marriage and family therapists is also promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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Meet Megan… & Join Our Community!

Megan Hawksworth, a licensed marriage and family therapist who treats individuals, couples, and families, is our Mastering Counseling Podcast host. Megan earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Northwestern University, and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Family Institute at Northwestern University. On each episode, Megan conducts an in-depth interview with a leading therapist or counseling/therapy professional, where they explore the ins and outs of working in a counseling practice, treating clients, and more.

And please don’t forget to follow our Facebook page so you can connect with our community. We regularly post on topics related to nursing assistant degree programs, updates in the field, tips for students and prospective CNAs, and much more!

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Find A Masters In Counseling Program

Research your Masters in Counseling program options with our database of over 225 schools. Search by subject, tuition, campus or online to find a Masters in Counseling degree that fits your needs.
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