Masters in Counseling

What do you learn with a masters in counseling?

A master’s degree in counseling may enable an individual to work in a wide range of careers. The most common is to work as a professional counselor. Those in the field often have the skills necessary to diagnose and treat numerous types of mental health disorders. The goal of the education process in obtaining a master’s degree is to prepare a student for the numerous challenges and tasks common in the field.

Students typically gain education in human growth and wellness, including from a holistic view. They may gain knowledge of bio-psycho and social aspects of the numerous impairments a person may have. They may also gain skills in promoting mental health throughout a person’s lifetime. Those who wish to work as a professional counselor typically need to take numerous courses in addition to having a bachelor’s degree in the field or a related field.

Employment objectives for those who graduate with a master’s degree in counseling typically include working in a clinical setting. They may work with adults, children, or teens who need help in individual therapy but could also provide group therapy as well. Some may also work in residential and outpatient treatment centers, while others could work as mental health counselors for organizations.

Masters in Counseling Programs

Top 25 Schools Graduating Students with a Master in Counseling

The following are the top schools based on the number of graduating students with a Masters in Counseling degree for the 2022-2023 school year, according to NCES.

College / UniversityGraduatesAcceptance Rate
Sarah Lawrence College3253%
Northwestern University219%
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus1457%
Bay Path University1272%
Keck Graduate Institute12N/A
California State University-Stanislaus1189%
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai11N/A
Augustana University1067%
Boston University1019%
University of Alabama at Birmingham1074%
Case Western Reserve University927%
Indiana State University990%
Virginia Commonwealth University987%
Wayne State University973%
Baylor College of Medicine8N/A
Ohio State University-Main Campus854%
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston8N/A
University of California-Irvine827%
University of Maryland  Baltimore8N/A
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus667%
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center5N/A
Boise State University077%
Johns Hopkins University011%
University of Arizona085%

Courses May Include

1st course Professional Identity, Function and Ethics

Professional Identity, Function and Ethics

This course often covers a broad number of topics in relation to counseling as a profession. Topics may include ethical and legal issues, decision making, and professional identity formation. The course may also looks at the history of counseling as a profession and how it has developed, and the research done in the profession.

2nd course Counseling Techniques

Counseling Techniques

This course often covers how to form a counseling relationship. The course tends to incorporate the use of personal feedback and analysis of interpersonal interactions. Students may learn different techniques for counseling and how to apply them based on a variety of situations.

3rd course Supervision and Consultation

Supervision and Consultation

This course often focuses on theory and practice in the counseling profession. Ethical issues, techniques, legal considerations, and multicultural competency are all topics that may be addressed in this course. The course often uses discussion, lecture, and experiential activities as tools for teaching.

4th course Human Growth and Development

Human Growth and Development

This course often focuses on how humans grow and develop over time and the changes that occur during this. The primary focus may be on physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Diversity and socialization may also be topics in relation to perception.

5th course Integrated Counseling Process

Integrated Counseling Process

This course often focuses on the counseling process by looking at emotion theory and empathic attunement. The interpersonal therapy process and how to apply experimental techniques may also be topics for this course. Role playing, experiential exercises, and group praxis may all be tools used in this class.

6th course Psychopathology


This course aims to provide an overview of psychopathology. Treatment planning for children and adolescents is often the primary focus. This course is usually interactive and may look at neurobiological mechanisms as well as contextual features.

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6 Most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a Masters in Counseling

Many people who are considering a master’s degree in counseling may be unsure of their path. These are some of the most commonly asked questions about this degree and answers to them.

There are numerous potential job opportunities that may be available for those with a master’s degree in counseling. Examples could include working as a school counselor, providing adult or geriatric counseling services, working as an organizational counselor, or working as a sports or health psychologist. Some people may work as a clinical social worker as well.

While it is a personal decision, there could be benefits to completing a master’s degree in counseling. Some people may find it rewarding. Others may find it necessary to secure the type of job they wish to do. Most often, employers may require at least a master’s degree to provide counseling services to individuals or groups.

A Master of Science in Counseling degree often provides students with the information needed to apply for licensing to become a licensed professional counselor (LPCs). These individuals may need to meet the requirements in their state to hold these positions.

Completing a master’s degree in counseling after completing a bachelor’s degree generally takes about 2 years for full time students. Some students may spend more time meeting prerequisites if they did not complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Accelerated programs may be available to help students to get their education faster, too.

There may be many reasons to complete a master’s degree in counseling, but many do so to gain valuable skills and insights into the field of psychology. Doing so may help a student to gain improved communication skills, learn better assessment skills, and better manage the ethical and business aspects of working as a counselor. These skills may be valuable in obtaining a license and building a career path.

No, a master’s in counseling is a degree that aims to help students gain a deeper understanding of human development and behavior. A Master of Social Work aims to provide similar education but generally focuses on societal problems such as addiction and substance use disorders.

Find Funding

Those interested in completing their master’s in counseling may need to obtain funding to pay for that education. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. There are multiple resources available that may help reduce the overall cost of out-of-pocket funding for a college or university. The NCES reports that, for the 2022-2023 school year, the average master’s degree student paid $19,749 for their education.

How may you cover those costs? There are a few ways to do so based on the unique needs of the student. Here are some examples.


NAJA Graduate Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The National Association of Junior Auxiliaries, Inc offers graduate scholarships to those planning to work directly with children.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 1, 2024

Kelsey P. Dresser Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: USC Rossier offers a $15,000 Kelsey P. Dresser Memorial Scholarship to a promising first year Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) student.

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: N/A

APF Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The APF Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship is a $5,000 award that supports graduate level research into mental illness.

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: May 15

Federal Loans

Federal loans are one of the most common ways people may pay for their master’s degree education. These loans are a bit different at the grad level than they are at the undergraduate level, though. It takes careful consideration to determine which may be a good choice for your needs. Federal loans are those backed by the U.S. government. They all have different requirements, and some may be more accessible than others to graduate students.

There are three types of loans available at this level:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These are often available to graduate schools and professional students. Unlike direct subsidized loans, which are typically made available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need, direct unsubsidized loans often do not have a need based requirement. Many students may be eligible for them.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: These are often made available to professional or graduate level students. They are usually designed to pay for educational expenses that are typically not paid for through other loans. Eligibility for these loans is often not based on financial need. However, some may require a credit check to be performed, and borrowers may not qualify without meeting other requirements in some cases.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans: These loans often enable a student to combine all of their undergraduate and graduate level federal debt into one new loan. This consolidation loan is typically provided after a student completes their education.

Invest a few minutes in comparing several federal student loan options before making the decision to invest in them.

Private Student Loans

Another route to consider for paying for a master’s degree in counseling is through private student loans. These loans may offer a mixture of opportunities from third-party organizations that are not part of the government. Each of these lenders sets their own rules for who they lend to and what they charge for doing so. Before making the decision to use these loans, students should consider:

  • Qualifications for them
  • Credit score requirements
  • Interest rates and whether they are variable or fixed
  • Access to repayment options for tough times
  • Consolidation options over the long term

Is Healthcare Social Worker a Good Career?

A healthcare social worker may be one position that some people with a master’s degree in counseling may select. In this field, a person typically provides psychosocial support for individuals and families, or other groups, for numerous needs, including chronic and acute conditions as well as terminal conditions. They may provide support in a hospital setting, hospice location, nursing home, or another location where people are battling mental health disorders alongside medical concerns.

Those working as a healthcare social worker typically advocate for their patients to resolve problems and provide solutions. They can also provide education and support for end-of-life symptoms and help people make informed decisions. Often, healthcare social workers with the patient’s family providing resources within the community for recovery from mental or physical illness as well as from medical conditions. This profession may also involve the use of consultation data and their experience to help coordinate care for the patient as well are rehab and at-home support.

To do this job, a healthcare social worker often needs some tech skills, including database user interface tools, medical software, office suite software, and presentation software. Additionally , numerous skills may be needed including social perceptiveness, service orientation, active listening skills, and coordination skills. Healthcare social workers may also need to use deductive reasoning, problem sensitivity, and oral comprehensions skills.

Typically, work activities include assisting and caring for other people, intervening during a crisis situation to help their clients, collaborating with others to provide assessments, referring clients to community programs, and counseling both clients and families on numerous topics.

Most often, a person working in a social worker position like this needs to have a master’s degree. Many states do not require those with a bachelor’s degree to provide counseling or employers may not allow it. Some may benefit from a Ph.D. as well. They may also need some experience in the field, and there are some situations where on-the-job learning may be beneficial (though not for the social worker skills).

Counseling masters information, healthcare social workers
  • Social perceptiveness – Being aware and understanding of others’ reactions.
  • Service orientation – Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Speaking – Talking to others to convey information effectively.

2022 Median Salary for Healthcare Social Workers

The median annual salary for people working as a healthcare social worker in 2022 is listed below by state. This information is from BLS.

State2022 Median Annual SalaryState2022 Median Annual Salary
New Jersey$71,660Missouri$47,410
New York$60,440Nebraska$54,340
North Dakota$58,890New Hampshire$71,200
Oklahoma$53,020New Mexico$63,180
Pennsylvania$62,410North Carolina$63,110
South Carolina$59,270Ohio$59,720
Utah$68,050Rhode Island$74,110
Virginia$55,280South Dakota$48,950
West Virginia$56,940Wyoming$60,780

Is a school psychologist a good career?

Working as a school psychologist is often a path for those who wish to work on diagnosing and implementing numerous interventions on a school based level to help with the behavioral, educational, or developmental needs of students. These individuals may address problems that arise during the school year. They may also design and implement performance plans. Often, they advise school-based personnel.

The tasks required in a school psychologist position may include compiling and interpreting student test results, diagnosing conditions, and providing special education support services. They may also report child endangerment, neglect, or abuse to the authorities.

Those working in this field often need a range of skills, including good listening, speaking, and monitoring skills. They may also need solid reading comprehension skills and the ability to use critical thinking to resolve problems. Oral comprehension and expression may also be key, as are deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.

Work tasks in this field often include administering standardized psychological and sometimes physical tests, gathering information through observations and interviews, and interpreting research to guide school-wide operations.

To complete these tasks, individuals typically need to have a master’s degree in the field. Some may require a Ph.D. You may also gain that skill, which is generally extensive, by working in an assistants position initially, allowing the student to get 5 to 7 years of experience.

Counseling masters programs information, school psychologists
  • Active listening – Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Reading comprehension – Understanding written information in work-related documents.
  • Speaking – Talking to others to convey information effectively.

2022 Median Salary for School Psychologists

Below are the median annual salaries for those working as a school psychologist in 2022 across each state, as reported by BLS.

State2022 Median Annual SalaryState2022 Median Annual Salary
New Jersey$94,010Missouri$59,730
New York$99,750Nebraska$77,650
North Dakota$68,740New Hampshire$76,870
Oklahoma$63,950New Mexico$94,050
Pennsylvania$86,220North Carolina$68,360
South Carolina$63,140Ohio$90,040
Utah$68,910Rhode Island$84,210
Virginia$88,300South Dakota$72,040
West Virginia$64,110Wyoming$80,610

Sandy Baker


Sandy has extensive experience writing educational articles for topics ranging from online education to college degrees. She’s worked with several Ivy League colleges to create blogs, newsletters, sales material for recruiting as well as “how to manage” college lifestyle pieces. Additionally, she’s written for well-respected study abroad programs helping students to find international opportunities spanning the globe from South America to Africa and Asia.

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