Counseling Psychology Masters & PhD Degree Programs

What is a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?

A Master’s in Counseling Psychology degree centers on working with patients. You may learn how to assess mental health challenges. Then, plan a treatment approach to improve patient well-being. Studying counseling is not just about understanding others. Most programs help you get to know yourself, too. Expect to evaluate your own strengths and pursue human growth. You’ll be ready to help your patients thrive. counseling psychology masters & phd degree programs infographic

written by Shannon Fandler

What Can You Do with a Masters in Counseling Psychology?

You could pursue community and social service career paths. Look for these in a variety of settings. Like a private practice. Or a community counseling center. The industry is growing faster than average. There are 12% more jobs projected between 2019 and 2029. Areas like professional counseling for drug abuse may have the most need. The same with school counseling. And counseling for career development. Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor roles are also growing. They should increase 25% between 2019 and 2029. That’s much faster than average. In fact, the field expects to add 79,000 new jobs. Many of these new roles may relate to mental health counseling. Also, addiction. And mental health services for veterans. The largest employers for counselors are outpatient centers. In particular, those that offer mental health and substance abuse help. One trend worth noting is the use of integrated care. This means a group of specialists work together. They use their different skills to treat many kinds of problems. Integrated care has led to fast growth for roles like Marriage and Family Therapist.

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Counseling Psychologist?

27% of Counseling Psychologists said they needed to earn a Master’s degree for their jobs. But, most Counseling Psychologists earn a doctoral degree.

Steps to becoming a Counseling Psychologist include (according to BLS.gov):

  1. Earn a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.
  2. Complete clinical experience. In most cases, that includes an internship. Also, one to two years of supervised professional experience.
  3. Earn licensure. Check your state’s requirements to learn more. You can do so at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
  4. Pursue continuing ed courses. In some states, you’ll need continuing education to maintain your license.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Masters Degree?

Your graduate degree could be a step toward a career in Psychology. Or other areas, like social services. Most Counseling Psychologists must earn a doctoral degree in Psychology. These pros help people understand and manage personal challenges. They guide patients through issues at home, work, or the community. Some techniques they use include group counseling. And cognitive behavioral therapy. Marriage and Family Therapists usually earn a Master’s degree in Psychology. Or, a related field. They help patients work through relationship issues. Family therapy can help patients cope with divorce. Or the loss of a loved one. Your graduate program could help you prepare for other career paths, too:
OccupationAverage SalaryEmployment
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists$81,330108,060
Marriage and Family Therapists$53,86042,880
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers$47,830112,040
Psychologists, All Other$93,44012,880

Top States for Employment: Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
California18,720$86,310
New York10,540$86,820
Texas5,550$64,130
Pennsylvania5,250$69,420
Massachusetts4,890$77,580

Top Metro Areas for Employment: Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$117,760340
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA$110,010230
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$106,160240
Hanford-Corcoran, CA$105,540150
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$102,260660

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Demand for Counseling Psychologists is growing. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Psychologist roles are projected to grow 3% between 2019 and 2029. Prospects may be best for those who have earned a doctoral degree. Or an education specialist degree. And, those who have post doctoral work experience. There may be more prospects for Psychologists in certain areas. Like rehab psychology. Or working with the elderly.

Popular Counseling Psychology Degrees

Counseling Psych degrees are reported by NCES under the category of Psychology. Let’s look at the most recent update of the data (2009/10). Across the U.S., there were 32,762 Psychology degrees awarded to grad students. The majority (82%) of these programs were at the Master’s level.
ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Counseling – MasterCalifornia State University, Long BeachMAC
Graduate Certificate in AddictionsPurdue University GlobalN/A
Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy – Military Family TherapyNorthcentral UniversityAM
Master in Marriage and Family TherapyLos Angeles Education Center of Campbellsville UniversityMFT
MS in School Counseling – Marriage, Couple, & Family CounselingWalden UniversityN/A
Certificate in Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselors (CADC)Loyola University ChicagoN/A
M.A. Clinical Mental Health CounselingThe Chicago School of Professional PsychologyMA
Doctor of Philosophy: Counselor Education and SupervisionLiberty University OnlinePhD
Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision QualitativeGrand Canyon UniversityPhD
Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological StudiesRegent UniversityPhD
Counseling, M.S. – Substance Abuse Counseling and EducationNova Southeastern UniversityMS
M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy, Trauma StudiesPacific Oaks CollegeN/A

What is the Difference Between a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling?

MA in Counseling Degree Guide

Masters in Counseling Psychology

Masters in Counseling

Sponsored Degree Example: MA in Counseling PsychologySponsored Degree Example: Online MA in Counseling – Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Specialization
Length of Program: A minimum of 60 credits (licensure track)Length of Program: 60 credits
About the Program: Considering an MA in Counseling Psych? This one covers theory, practice, and advocacy. You’ll study contexts of counseling. These range from the scientific to the cultural. Core coursework and field experience teach professional counselor skills.About the Program: This program covers how to rehab patients. You’ll learn how to help patients with various challenges. Like an injury. Or addiction. And, you could study skills like case management.
Courses include:
  • Lifespan Development
  • Clinical Evaluation
  • The Counseling Profession
  • Family Counseling
Courses include:
  • Medical & Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
  • Counseling Theories
  • Addictions in Counseling
No specific program accreditationNo specific program accreditation. The curriculum is designed based on CACREP standards.
sponsored
If your goal is to pursue a career as a Counseling Psychologist, you may need to earn a doctorate. PhD programs in this field often use a scientist practitioner model. Candidates may do the following:
  • Explore the science of psychology
  • Conduct research
  • Study the skills needed to work with patients
  • Learn to communicate effectively
  • Study when and how to do interventions
  • Learn how to work with diverse patients
A PhD program covers more than a Master’s program. It may also be a standard for earning psychology licensure, depending on your state. Some PhD programs need you to have earned a Master’s degree, first. Usually that’s in psychology, counseling or a related field. Others accept students with a Bachelor’s degree.

What Are the Requirements for a Master’s in Counseling Psychology Degree?

Most master’s programs in this field need between 30 and 50 credits of coursework. Or more. Expect to take courses on both the theory and practice of counseling. You’ll study how to assess patients. And work with families and groups. You’ll learn about mental health disorders. Such as, depression and anxiety. And, you’ll explore evidence based treatments.  Common courses include:
  • Counseling Theory. Expect to take courses that delve into the how and why of counseling. Case studies and role playing may help you learn ways to work with patients.
  • Multicultural Counseling. Most programs touch on cultural sensitivity. It’s a great chance to uncover your biases. Like, those related to race, sex, age, and more. So, you can better serve your patients.
  • Legal and Ethical Issues. Many programs offer a course on standards, laws, and ethics. You may study issues like patient confidentiality. And other laws that keep patients safe.
Finally, most Master’s programs also include a practicum. And, one or more internships. The goal is for students to gain supervised experience. Of course, the process of becoming a licensed professional counselor does not end there. Check with your state to learn about next steps after graduate school. Wondering about admissions? Not all degree programs have the same requirements. But you may need:
  • Transcripts for all higher education experience
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of Recommendation

What Should I know About APA Accredited Programs?

For certain Psychology careers, some states require you to graduate from an APA accredited program. That’s the American Psychological Association. It accredits doctoral Psychology programs. They also accredit internship and post doctoral residency programs (This is key if you need to pursue clinical practice). APA bases accreditation on many factors. Like, curriculum quality. And the skills you’ll learn in the program. Choosing an accredited program is key. It helps make sure your program meets set standards. Other accrediting organizations include:

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?

Earning a Master’s in Counseling Psych may take around two years for full time students. You may be able to find part time programs. And online programs could help you earn your degree in a more flexible format. Earning a doctorate takes much longer. Most programs take between four and six years. And don’t forget licensure requirements. Meeting these can take more time after you graduate.

What Is The Cost of a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?

The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year according to the NCES. You could find program more affordable than the average. And some are more expensive. This chart shows graduate tuition for four schools. (They offer psychology masters programs.) We compared those costs to the most affordable and most expensive college options.

Top 58 Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs

  • Offering two quality, competency-based online learning formats: FlexPath & GuidedPath
  • Online degrees in business, counseling, education, health administration, human services, information technology, nursing, public health, psychology and social work.
  • 97% of alumni agree FlexPath provided the flexibility they needed to pursue their degree (Alumni Outcomes Survey 2017)
  • Purdue University Global

  • Northcentral University

  • Los Angeles Education Center of Campbellsville University

  • Walden University

  • Loyola University Chicago

  • Liberty University Online

  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

  • Regent University

  • Nova Southeastern University

  • Pacific Oaks College