Top Counseling Masters Programs: Psychology Graduate Degrees
Masters in Counseling: Overview
Masters in Counseling Programs center on a range of counseling modalities, working with different patient populations, and even new and established best therapy techniques. Courses may touch on giving career advice; coping with tragedy, trauma, or loss; addiction, abuse, mental illness, or physical disability.
Earning a masters degree in counseling is also an essential top step on the path to licensure as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in the United States, meaning some programs are designed to support that goal.i With the different paths to choose in the field of Counseling and Therapy, it is important to evaluate each graduate program against your interests and ambitions.
What Is A Masters in Counseling?
Counseling Masters and Therapy degrees help aspiring counselors and therapists develop the knowledge base and methodology they need to help their patients in individual or group counseling settings. This could include people with emotional or behavioral problems, people suffering from mental health disorders, or people coping with major life changes. In many cases, a masters of counseling curriculum might touch on the needs of a range of patient types. However, some masters in counseling programs may instead allow students to focus on one specific area of need.
Masters in Counseling Programs
Prospective applicants to a Counseling Master’s Program typically include a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, GPA scores set by the university, personal essay, reference letters, MAT or GRE scores, and possibly, liability insurance. That being said, some colleges offer a dual degree program where students can earn a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in 5 years.ii Earning a Master’s degree in counseling is part of a longer process towards state licensure. Most Masters Degree in Counseling take about 2 years of full-time study to complete.
Potential Counseling Coursework
While specific courses are likely to vary between universities and programs, the topics covered and the experiences offered may remain somewhat consistent. For example, in addition to in classroom learning, students may complete both lab work and clinical training through practicum and internship opportunities. This may especially be the case if the program is designed to prepare students for potential licensure.
Masters in Counseling Programs Coursework
Here are a few examples of the types of courses and topics you’re likely to find in best counseling masters programs.
- Counseling theories
- Communication techniques
- Prevention and crisis intervention
- Social Policy
- Human Services and delivery
- Diagnostics, Assessment and treatment
- Professional counseling orientation
- Mental health issues
- Professional ethics
- Research methodology
- Human development
- Interpersonal relationships
DID YOU KNOW?
93% of School Counselor hold a Master’s degree, 4% a Post-master’s certificate. This group includes Career Counselors and College Counselors.iii
Types of Counseling Masters Programs
Counseling Masters Programs typically confer either a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling. The completion of either degree is typically a prerequisite for the licensing process. In many cases, the words counseling, therapy, and psychotherapy may be used interchangeably to professions with similar licensure requirements. As such, masters programs using these terms may also share a great deal. However, to practice as a licensed psychologist has different requirements, meaning psychology and counseling psychology masters programs are also likely to be different. iv
Master of Arts in Counseling
The Master of Arts in Counseling is often a more general counseling degree. It is typically chosen by students who prefer research and teaching, or as a stepping-stone to a Ph.D. in Counseling. To apply, students typically need to hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, or in some cases sufficient related coursework. Often this track culminates in the completion of a thesis or research project.
Master of Science in Counseling
Master of Science in Counseling Programs are often chosen by students aiming for clinical practice, meaning they might be seeking licensure. They may also want to work in a specialized counseling practice, focused on areas like substance abuse, family and relationships, trauma, or mental health. As a result, M.S. programs may tend to be more focused, and include more science and math courses.
Applicants typically need to hold a bachelors in a related field. MS Counseling programs may either culminate in either a thesis or internship experience, depending on the goals of the program.
Areas of Concentration in Masters in Counseling Programs
Many students pursuing a masters degree in counseling enter their program specific goals in mind, for example working with certain types of patients. Students like this may prefer a program that helps them to prepare specific skill sets related to that goal. Counseling masters programs may facilitate this by offering a range of unique specializations or concentration areas. Some examples include:v
- Counseling psychology
- Substance abuse counseling
- Marriage and family therapy
- Art therapy
- Rehabilitation counseling
Counseling Masters Program Formats
Because Counseling Masters Programs serve students from all different backgrounds, learning styles, and levels of experience, they may also offer a range of program formats to accommodate those needs. Several options you may consider are described below.
- Online Masters in Counseling: Also referred to as distance learning, earning a masters in counseling online could be a convenient option for working students who need to balance their education and career. These programs use technology to offer the support and interpersonal interaction students may need in a portable, flexible format.
- On Campus Counseling Masters Programs: Earning your counseling masters degree in a graduate school setting means having access to all the resources that campus might offer. That could include hands-on experience in labs and simulated work settings, research materials and guidance, and even using the connections your program may have in the local community to land that counseling internship.
- Hybrid or Blended Counseling Masters Programs: A combination of online and campus-based learning, these programs offer a compromise between the two formats. By studying in a blended program you could get the flexibility you need without giving up on the perks of being associated with a campus community.
Accreditation of Masters Degrees in Counseling Therapy
Apart from considering their preferred format and type masters in counseling program, students may also prioritize program accreditation, since this is a measure of quality against industry standards. In fact, some employers prefer to hire graduates of a CACREP accredited counseling program.vo The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits masters and doctoral degree programs in counseling and these related specialties:viii
- Addictions counseling
- Career counseling
- Clinical mental health counseling
- Marriage, couple and family counseling
- School counseling
- Student affairs and college counseling
What Can I Do With A Masters Degree in Counseling?
Students graduating with a masters of counseling often aspire provide counseling services to patients in private practice settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook in this profession is favorable. For example, for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, projected growth from 2016 to 2026 at 20%.ix
To become a licensed counselor, you must be licensed in the United States. While the specifics may vary between states, listed below are some example licensure requirements for counselors across the country. i
- A master’s degree in counseling
- 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post degree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency
- Passing a state-recognized exam
- Maintaining the credential by completing annual continuing education classes
[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm |[ii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm[iii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1012.00 |[iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm |[v] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Counselling |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm |[vii] cacrep.org/for-students/ |[viii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm |[ix] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm | bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm
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Schools with Top Masters in Counseling Programs: Psychology Graduate Degrees
GradSchools.com offers 318 Top Counseling Masters Programs: Psychology Graduate Degrees
Grand Canyon University
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
University of Oregon
University of North Dakota
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Pacifica Graduate Institute
Florida Institute of Technology
Lock Haven University
Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies