There are numerous types of careers in counseling you may be able to pursue with your master’s degree in counseling. Some potential career options for individuals with a graduate degree in counseling might include marriage and family therapy, school counseling, recreational and art therapy, rehabilitation counseling, and substance abuse counseling.  Job responsibilities, certification, educational requirements, and potential earnings vary greatly among different areas of concentration.  

Marriage and Family Counseling[i]

  • Roles and responsibilities: Marriage and family counselors work with individuals, couples, and families to help them live successful, happy, and healthy lives within relationships and in relationship to others. They primarily help clients identify emotional and mental disorders and habits that are destructive or unhealthy and guide them, through counseling, to engage in more healthy and satisfying relationships.
  • Required certifications: All states in the U.S. require marriage and family counselors to have a master’s degree and license in the state in which they wish to practice. Depending on the job and state in which the counselor wishes to work, marriage and family counselors may also be required to obtain national certification.
  • Required Education Level: Master's Degree
  • 2012 Median Annual Salary: $41,500
  • Job Growth Projections 2012-2022: 29%, faster than the average of all other occupations

School Counseling[ii]

  • Roles and responsibilities: School counselors work primarily with students to help them develop the academic and social skills they need to succeed in school. They might fill the role of social counselors and help students who are being bullied, teased, or otherwise not fitting in or struggling with any social aspect of school; or they might act as academic counselors and help students develop study skills, select schools and prepare to apply to colleges, and identify potential career paths. In addition, some school counselors might work with school staff to help them succeed as teachers or administrators.
  • Required certifications: Schools typically require counselors to have a bachelor’s degree but commonly prefer that counselors have a master’s degree. If counselors want to operate a private practice (helping students out of a private office or as a contractor for a school, for example), they must be licensed through the state in which they want to practice.
  • Required Education Level: Master's Degree
  • 2012 Median Annual Salary: $53,610
  • Job Growth Projections 2012-2022: 12%, as fast as the average of all other occupations

Recreational and Art Therapy[iii]

  • Roles and responsibilities: Art therapy has two essential forms: one in which the art therapist guides the process of creating art and designs the process to be therapeutic in and of itself, or one in which the art therapist allows the client to create art and then analyzes the meaning of the client’s work. In these two cases, and in other forms of art therapy, the emphases is on the art therapist offering an opportunity to create art, the client using the opportunity to heal, and the art therapist providing some therapeutic guidance.
  • Required certifications: Depending on their location, setting and responsibilities, most art therapists must become registered art therapists (ATRs), board certified art therapists (ATR-BC), licensed art therapists, or licensed mental health therapists. Most art therapists have at least a master’s degree in counseling or art therapy. More information can be found through the American Art Therapy Association.
  • Required Education Level: Bachelor's or Master's Degree
  • 2012 Median Annual Salary: $42,280
  • Job Growth Projections 2012-2022: 13%, as fast as the average of all other occupations

Rehabilitation Counseling[iv]

  • Roles and responsibilities: Rehabilitation counselors work with individuals who have mental or physical disabilities that affect their ability to live and work independently. Rehabilitation counselors help such individuals obtain the resources, skills, and support necessary to live and work as independently as possible.
  • Required certifications: Certain facilities hire rehabilitation counselors who only have a bachelor’s degree, but most prefer that their counselors have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Some positions, depending on the location (state), setting, and circumstance require state and/or federal certification, while others do not.
  • Required Education Level: Master's Degree
  • 2012 Median Annual Salary: $33,880
  • Job Growth Projections 2012-2022: 20%, faster than the average of all other occupations

Substance Abuse Counseling[v]

  • Roles and responsibilities: Substance abuse counselors provide treatment and support to individuals suffering from addiction, disorders, and other behavioral issues or challenges. Their primary goal is to help clients recover from addiction and to resolve or modify unhealthy or problematic behaviors.
  • Required certifications: According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the educational and certification requirements for substance abuse counselors “range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the setting, type of work, state regulations, and level of responsibility.
  • Required Education Level: High School Diploma or Equivalent
  • 2012 Median Annual Salary: $38,520
  • Job Growth Projections 2012-2022: 31%, faster than the average of all other occupations

counseling and therapy masters degree programs and graduate programs


Sources: [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/school-and-career-counselors.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm