Highest Paying Jobs with a Counseling Degree

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Counseling is a field that has helped countless individuals who have encountered psychological difficulties. It's also a title that can apply to professionals who seek to help people with their finances, career choices, or college career. Essentially, a counselor is trained to listen to their patient and then to help them achieve their best possible life. There are many different sorts of counseling professional, but this page is mostly concerned with mental health counseling professionals.

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How to Prepare for a Counseling Career

Every aspiring counselor needs to prepare for their career and every counseling career will require academic training. Those in the mental health field need to first complete a bachelor's degree, most often in psychology, but social work and addictions counseling are also good options.

Students who are interested in a counseling career where they see individual clients in a therapeutic environment need to continue their education with a master’s degree. A master’s degree in clinical psychology or social work will set the stage to practice psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, with clients.

Aspiring licensed therapists will find that their master’s training includes many hours in clinical practice as interns. This supervised time will help them learn to apply the counseling theories they are learning. Counseling students also undergo therapy themselves. This way they have first-hand experience with the counseling process when they work with their own clients.

After graduation from a master’s degree program, aspiring therapists must still complete requirements to please their state board. Each state can have their own specific requirements, but most will require a certain number of hours of supervised practice, successful passage of a professional exam, and a background check.

Another option is to work with a license as an addiction counselor. These professionals can hold licenses with undergraduate degrees in some states. However, they will not be able to conduct individual therapy or open their own counseling practice. Rather, they can work for alcohol and drug addiction clinics. These positions may include educational duties or work with groups in various positive activities.

Is a Degree in Counseling Worth it?

A counseling degree is a great idea for people who have a burning desire to help others. The degree is necessary for those who are interested in holding state licensure to work in their field. As for the salary, that will depend on many factors, including the setting in which the professional works and their licensure level.

Some counselors work for government social service agencies, where their pay might not meet the standard of counselors in private practice. However, they may also enjoy paid vacations and other generous benefits, including paid healthcare. They, and other counselors, can usually increase their pay rate with either more experience or a higher degree level, if not both.

Those with a PhD in counseling psychology can charge insurers more per hour, which is one clear benefit to all that academic work. PhDs can use the title psychologist and may also find that teaching and speaking opportunities come with those academic credentials. As an added benefit, a psychologist can often give lectures that are paid and can count toward the CEUs they need for their state licensure.

A counseling career can also take many different forms. Counselors who work with a graduate level degree may decide that they want to change their client base. They may want to transition from seeing middle-aged professionals to adolescent substance abusers. They can achieve this with a bit of additional training, which is already required for their license renewal, and a fresh certification. Not many professionals can change their work life with such ease. Options for those who wish to work in a similar field includes certificates and degrees in family therapy, substance abuse counseling services, clinical psychologists, counseling psychologist, school counseling, mental health treatment, grief counselors for traumatic life events, cognitive behavior therapy, and other mental health practitioners that deal with mental and behavioral disorders.

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Job Outlook for Future Counselors

A counseling career can be very fruitful and long lived. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the field is growing. Their figures reflect an 18% growth rate in the years between 2022 and 2032, a rate they note as being much faster than average. Their numbers include addiction counselors as well as those who specialize in couples therapy, adolescent therapy, and even counseling geriatric patients.

Unfortunately, much of this growth may fall to the addiction counseling sector. The opioid crisis may sometimes seem like a memory, but that is unfortunately not the case. New versions of fentanyl are hitting the streets all the time, as well as newer, more potent varieties of methamphetamine. Since law enforcement has difficulty stopping these drugs from hitting the street, counseling professionals are necessary to help with the clean-up after people become addicted.

The counseling market will also naturally expand along with the size of the population. People will continue to need counseling professionals for non-addiction issues such as anxiety, depression, and grief. Essentially, wherever there are humans, there will be some need for counseling professionals.

How to Get a Job in Counseling

Counseling can be a regular job, but it can also be an independent practice with entrepreneurial features. Those who seek more standard employment can seek out government agencies, private rehabilitation facilities, or even hospitals. To land these jobs, counseling professionals need to have the proper credentials, including state licensure.

For addiction counseling, many states offer multiple licensing levels. These levels start by requiring an associate addiction counseling degree and other state requirements. Often, this licensure level also requires satisfactory scores on a professional examination and a background check. Some states may also want supervised hours that may be completed during a training period.

Mental health counselors who work with a graduate level licensure don't always work as employees. Rather, they satisfy their state's licensing requirements and then embark on an independent practice. This is more of an entrepreneurial approach that doesn't require being hired, per se. However, many therapists often join with other mental health or wellness practitioners and form a collective practice. These arrangements are all unique and may require that each professional pay a certain amount for administrative support, rent, and maybe other fees. To join a practice such as this, counselors may need to show that they fit the needs of that practice's mission and can agree to the financial obligations involved.

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Top Paying Counseling Careers

  • Psychiatrist - $230,811
    These mental health professionals are medical doctors who have completed a psychiatric residency. Since their licenses cover all the areas typical for other medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medications. These days, a psychiatric practice is largely concerned with measuring patient blood levels and adjusting medications.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner - $100,503
    These medical professionals are licensed to conduct many of the same sorts of practices as a doctor, but they are not licensed as such. Rather, a nurse practitioner operates under a doctor's license in a practice owned by that MD. They often have permission to prescribe some medications, such as mild antibiotics, but the ultimate responsibility for that prescription falls to the doctor. Education requirements for nurse practitioners.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse - $99,787
    These nursing professionals include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives. APRNs can diagnose medical conditions and help patients manage disease. To become an APRN, it is necessary to hold a master’s degree and to satisfy the state's licensing requirements.
  • Organizational Psychologist - $88,989
    These psychology professionals base their practice in working with groups rather than individuals. Organizational psychologists hold a PhD and work with corporations to help them design and organize their workplace, create a managerial philosophy, and create human resources protocols that help create the most productive, profitable business possible.
  • Psychologist - $86,306
    This title requires a doctorate in counseling psychology. Psychologists can charge more to a patient's insurance and they also enjoy elevated status in the community. Psychologists may be called doctor, but they are not licensed to prescribe medications. Education requirements for psychology majors.
  • Clinical Psychologist - $86,099
    These therapists conduct individual psychotherapeutic treatments under a state licensure. Psychologists hold a doctorate in counseling psychology, as opposed to research psychology, and they are held in high esteem by their community. Psychologists can use their credentials to create opportunities for publishing articles or books, and they sometimes deliver lectures to other therapists, for which they can receive continuing education credits for license renewal. Education requirements to clinical psychology.
  • Mediator - $80,405
    These legal professionals help parties resolve their differences without resorting to a court battle. Some states require that mediators hold a law degree and licensure but that may not always be the case. However, most mediators surely work under the wing of a law practice.
  • Geriatric Counselor - $78,504
    Each phase of life comes with its own psychological issues, and later life is no exception. Geriatric counselors specialize in the sunset years and help their clients manage life as retirees, grandparents, and parents to adult children. Given the aging population in the United States, this is surely a growing field.
  • Sports Psychologist - $76,266
    This field has been gaining traction in light of professional ball players who have sought help to overcome various forms of performance anxiety. Sports psychology as a field tends to produce top notch coaches who understand how to properly motivate their players.
  • Child and Adolescent Therapist - $75,325
    Each therapist tends to focus their practice on specific demographics or behavioral issues. Child and adolescent therapists focus on younger people and their issues. Some are former school counselors, but all have focused their training on these patients.
  • Physical Therapist - $74,344
    When injuries arise, physical therapists can help us back on our feet, sometimes literally. Physical therapists all hold doctorate degrees and work with patients who are experiencing physical disabilities. Some are accident victims who must re-learn to walk with a prosthetic and others may simply be athletes who have a torn ligament.
  • Human Resources Manager - $71,612
    Every firm needs a human resources department and thus a human resources manager. HR managers oversee their department's activities related to hiring new employees, benefits enrollment, and even firing employees. HR managers typically have worked for multiple years as HR specialists.
  • Registered Nurse - $70,881
    These nursing professionals hold bachelor's degrees and state licenses to work as nurses. RNs may supervise licensed practical nurses and certified nurse assistants. RNs typically focus their work on a specific part of the hospital such as the ER, maternity, oncology, or pediatrics, among many other options.
  • Medical Social Worker - $69,665
    These social workers help medical patients receive the best possible care. They review new admissions to a hospital to see that their needs are being met. They may, for instance, see that an older patient may need assistance if they have a hearing difficulty. They also help patients and their families find resources to help with financial or emotional issues.
  • Expressive Therapist (Art, Music, Dance Therapy) - $66,983
    Not all patients respond to the talk therapy prescribed by psychotherapy. Younger patients, in particular, may need to express themselves through other means. This therapeutic modality can help facilitate great breakthroughs.
  • Mental Health Consultant - $66,781
    These mental health professionals work under a state license. They must all hold a master’s degree either in counseling psychology or social work. While they cannot prescribe medications, mental health consultants often make referrals to psychiatrists.
  • Grief Counselor - $65,453
    Inevitably, we all lose a loved one. Grief counselors can help the surviving loved ones overcome the loss of their spouse, parent, child, or others. Since grief comes in many forms, these counselors are equipped to help anyone who has suffered a profound loss.
  • Outpatient Therapist - $65,291
    These therapists typically work for rehabilitation facilities. The facilities may have in-patient services and so patients transition to work with other, outpatient staff up on returning to the community.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker - $62,598
    Social workers who hold a Master of Social Work degree can earn state credentials to work as a LCSW. These professionals conduct individual therapy, much as mental health counselors do.
  • Mental Health Program Manager - $62,399
    This is an administrative position in the mental health field. Program managers may oversee the general operations of a mental health facility. They ensure that the facility has the equipment and resources it needs to deliver proper care to the patients. They also oversee the practice to ensure compliance with legal and professional standards.

Other Career Options

  • Psychotherapist - $61,155
    These mental health professionals are licensed to conduct individual psychotherapy with patients. This is the talk therapy that many of us are familiar with.
  • Veteran Counselor - $56,898
    These counselors specialize in the veteran population. They help vets overcome issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as general issues related to reintegration into civilian life. Veteran counselors must have at least a master’s degree and state licensure.
  • Marriage/Family Therapist - $56,843
    This counseling specialty focuses on married and even non-married couples and their families. The profession requires special training in family dynamics and counseling.
  • Guidance Counselor - $55,414
    This counseling position does not require licensure but does help students lead their best lives. Guidance counselors work in high schools and help students find the best college for them, while also advising students who are interested in vocational or military experience.
  • Human Resources Specialist - $54,852
    This title often goes to entry-level HR professionals who work in an HR department. They may help with benefits rollouts, maintain the personnel records, and even conduct orientation sessions with new hires.
  • Special Education High School Teacher - $54,658
    These educational professionals are indeed a special breed. SPED teachers work with a range of populations including the hearing or visually impaired, developmentally disabled children, and kids with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
  • School Counselor - $53,840
    These counseling professionals must complete at least a master’s degree in counseling and earn a state licensure. Most states also require that they pass a subject-specific test such as the PRAXIS, much like a teacher. Education requirements for school counseling.
  • Special Education Elementary School Teacher - $51,870
  • Special Education Middle School Teacher - $51,667
  • Social Worker - $51,607
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor - $51,432
  • School Social Worker - $51,061
  • Bereavement Counselor - $49,546
  • Career Counselor - $48,913
  • Rehabilitation Counselor - $48,447
  • Mental Health Counselor - $47,691
  • Domestic Violence Counselor - $47,001
  • Crisis Counselor - $45,290
  • Behavioral Therapist - $44,910
  • Substance Abuse Counselor - $43,362
  • Community Health Worker - $42,116
  • Social and Human Services Assistants - $42,033
  • Peer Counselor - $40,384
  • Therapeutic Mentor - $38,614
  • Mental Health Associate - $36,474
  • Pastoral Counselor - $36,000
  • Mental Health Technician - $35,456
  • Preschool Teacher - $35,312
  • Direct Support Professional - $34,883
  • Mental Health Aide - $30,333
  • Psychiatric Aide - $25,966