Why Earn a Master’s in Psychology & Counseling?
For graduate students completing a graduate degree in psychology progam or counseling, this is the point at which they begin to learn about the actual counseling process. Their career opportunities begin opening into various counseling-related fields; marriage and family counseling, addiction counseling, licensed mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, clinical psychology, a psychologist dealing with mental health disorders, etc. At this level, graduate students also have the opportunity to consider whether they want to progress into doctoral training.
A good master’s degree in psychology & counseling should include a counseling practicum located within the area. This brings up whether students should opt for full-time classes or part-time. If they continue working, a part-time schedule will be more amenable to work; if they decide to attend classes full-time, then they will need to take extended leave or a sabbatical. Full-time attendance can be completed in two years.
Excellent psychology & counseling master’s programs are available throughout the country. Some are on-campus programs and others are online programs. No matter how psychology students choose to take their master's program, their psychology coursework is likely to include courses that focus on the following subjects.
- Clinical Psychology
- School Psychology and Social Science
- Social Psychology
- Mental Health Disorders and Human Behavior
- Industrial/Organizational Psychology
- Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Counseling
- Research Methods in Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Ethical Practice
- And More
You may have noticed that psychology and counseling are referred to as two separate roles. While the goal for both roles is similar, offering relief to people who are dealing with mental illness or trauma, counseling is a more hands-on process. You’ll have the chance to get to know your clients and their issues and help them by offering them interventions, recommendations, and solutions using different counseling techniques. You're also more likely to deal with trauma or difficult life issues rather than mental health disorders.
You’ll be able to choose the various demographic groups you may want to work with. These may include children, teens, adults, those struggling with mental illnesses, or people who have committed crimes and must complete counseling sessions as a part of their probation. Your interests will guide your final choice.
The best thing about a master's in psychology degree is that these master's programs prepare students to finally be a licensed psychologist.
If you see yourself performing a wide range of duties, than earning your master’s degree in counseling may not fit your goals. No matter what specialization or group you work with, you will be counseling people. Not much else. You will take notes and develop treatment or medication plans and you might do some administrative work if you run your own practice, but there may not be much variety to your work days. You can specialize in school psychology and counseling, mental health counseling or clinical psychology, addictions or rehabilitation counseling, or general health counseling. If you wish to do more, than you may want to look into a Master of Social Work (MSW) or other, similar master's programs in psychology.
Another issue with earning your master’s degree is the cost in both time and money. If you go on to earn your master’s right after a bachelor’s program, you are spending two more years in school, or longer if you decide to earn your master’s degree in psychology while working. Master’s programs are also not cheap, which means adding to your educational debt.
Overview of a Master's in Psychology & Counseling
What Psychology & Counseling Master’s Degrees are Available?
- Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology:
This degree allows you to reach your professional goal of empowering other people to achieve progress in their lives. As a 48-credit program, you’ll obtain advanced counseling and psychology skills. Once you have graduated and are working, you’ll be able to help clients identify the sources of psychological distress and maladaptive behavior patterns.
- Mater of Arts in Psychology, Counseling:
This program introduces you to psychological assessments (psychometrics), research, treatment options, group counseling, and clinical issues in human diversity. In your practicum or internship, you’ll work with agency clients under the supervision of a licensed counselor. In your classes, you’ll learn how to apply career development theories and techniques to work on career problems and issues.
- Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology:
In this program, you’ll be able to choose from six options in specific concentrations: health psychology, Latino mental health, marital & family therapy, trauma & crisis intervention, treatment of addiction disorders, or child & adolescent treatment. If you choose a dual enrollment program, you’ll be able to pursue various credentials (licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor or as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst).
In this degree program, you’ll have to select the graduate admission requirements that best fit your status as an incoming student. If you are entering clinical mental health counseling (CMHC), a bachelor’s degree is mandatory. Your undergraduate GPA must be 3.0, though a higher average is preferred. Highlight all work, life, and volunteer experiences. Detail your motivation in pursuing this field, along with your goals.
If you are an international student, you should take the TOEFL or IELTS test and submit your scores. You’ll also need to submit official transcripts that prove you have earned a bachelor’s degree.
How long does it take to earn a Psychology & Counseling Master’s?
A master’s program in psychology and counseling may take up to two years to complete, including your internship or master’s thesis if you choose this option. Once you graduate, you’ll have to take state-mandated testing in your state to earn your license, which allows you to practice officially. This applies no matter what specialization in counseling you may choose; social work, counseling, psychology, marriage and family therapy. Your practicum or internship will take place while you are involved in your master’s degree program.
Potential Careers in Psychology & Counseling with a Master’s
- Child and Family Therapist
Most employers prefer that job candidates have at least a master’s degree in psychology and counseling. Your responsibilities will include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), diagnosis, and treatment planning, in which you administer psychological evaluations to your clients and their parents. If you arrive at any diagnoses, your counseling sessions and treatment planning will revolve around addressing these issues. You should also have skills in counseling and group therapy. Expect to interact regularly with other professionals who are involved with the child’s family, especially if the children are placed in foster care.
Average annual salary: $43,200
- Child Psychologist
You’ll work with children 17 years old or younger. These children may be diagnosed or require identification of emotional, social, behavioral, or mental health problems. You will use a multidisciplinary approach that allows you to think of the child’s school, home, and social environment when developing your treatment plan. You may work in a large clinic, school, or in private practice. You will help children with struggles that are a result of their traumas. They may struggle with depression, sexuality issues, and/or learning difficulties. In this specialty, you are required to have a doctorate degree.
Average annual salary: $68,900
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Your job duties depend on the setting in which you work. Your main job responsibility is to provide therapy to individuals who need emotional or mental health support. You may also coordinate hard or soft services to help clients meet their everyday needs. You may work in a mental health clinic, hospital, home healthcare company, substance abuse treatment center, or a residential nursing facility. You may diagnose new clients after assessing their psychological history.
Average annual salary: $56,500
- Counseling Psychologist
As a mental health professional working directly with clients, you help them to improve their emotional, mental, and behavioral health. You’ll use psychological techniques, addressing issues such as interpersonal conflicts, anxiety, or depression. You’ll also provide assessments and diagnoses before you provide treatment. You will perform risk assessments, evaluate the outcome of therapy sessions, and keep accurate patient records. You may begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, but your state may require counseling psychologists to hold master’s or doctoral degrees.
Average annual salary: $54,500
Salary by Occupation
|Psychology Program Manager||$67,600||$78,000||$100,000|
Options to Advance
If you want to focus on clinical psychology and counseling, then choose a PsyD major. At this level, you’ll also provide psychological services to clients who need your help. At this educational level, the material you encounter and study in your classes and research is much more detailed. You may have touched some on this material at the master’s level, but because there is so much more of it to learn, you won’t go into much depth.
If you want to do more research, then a PhD helps to prepare you, as a clinical psychologist, to do more research. A PhD allows you to develop those highly advanced problem-solving skills. You’ll learn a new way of thinking. You may be surprised to find that, as you are working on your doctoral degree program, your communication skills are becoming sharper. Even if they were excellent before, now they are top-notch.
Best Master of Science in Psychology & Counseling Programs
Northwest University has split its undergraduate and graduate schools into two separate campuses, located in different cities. The undergraduate school is based in Chicago, Illinois, while the graduate program is based in Evanston, Illinois.
- Master of Arts in Counseling
Adams State University
At Adams State, students can be sure they are learning from the very best. The university takes steps to ensure it is hiring experts in their disciplines. The administration focuses on teaching excellence, with commitment to giving individualized attention to each student.
- Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Master of Arts in School Counseling
Regis University is ideally located, with a view of the Rocky Mountains. It is also a Jesuit Catholic university, which means you’re going to receive a challenging, rigorous education. Students are encouraged to develop a global perspective and speak for those with no voice.
- Master of Arts in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Lesley University works to prepare its graduates with the skills, understanding, knowledge, and strong ethical judgment they need in the working world. It uses a transformative educational model, exposing students to research, active learning, and diverse forms of artistic expression.
- Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology
Arizona State University
Arizona State has committed itself to helping every student create their own success, both academically and in their lives. ASU provides access to an education that encourages every student to become a lifelong, universal learner. Students learn in laboratories, classrooms, on campus, and after their graduations.
- Master of Counseling
Traditional Schools Offering an MS in Psychology & Counseling
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
From a small private, non-profit, accredited university to an online university serving more than 90,000 students, Southern New Hampshire University has shown that it is able to adapt to today’s educational demands. On-campus, 3,000 students attend SNHU. This university is one of the fastest growing in the country.
- Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling
The Family Institute, in partnership with The Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies and Northwestern University, offers an online master’s degree in counseling. Northwestern University itself is a highly ranked private research and teaching university.
- Master of Arts in Counseling
California Southern University
Costa Mesa, California
With regional accreditation, California Southern University offers degrees in several disciplines, from an associate all the way up to doctoral degrees. Created in 1978, CalSouthern works to deliver a high quality, online education that is affordable and convenient for every non-traditional student.
- Master of Arts in Psychology
- Master of Science in Psychology
This independent, not-for-profit university was founded in 1950. Today, it offers 43 programs of study, culminating in degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. Students can choose from traditional (in-person), online, and hybrid classes.
- Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling (online)
Brandman University knows its strength is the people who learn, live, and work there. Online classes and services are focused on adult learners; providing the learning environment necessary for students to learn effectively. Everyone, from leadership to staff, works as a team.
- Master of Arts in Psychology and Counseling
Psychology Counseling Degrees & Career Paths