There are few jobs as trying — and as intensely rewarding — as many forms of counseling positions.
Counseling and psychology degrees require a certain kind of student: self-confident, hard-working, independent, and ambitious. The subjects are among the most demanding, equal parts theory and practice, but also rewarding and impactful. The next generation of counselors, social workers, psychologists, educators, and advocates faces broad and persistent problems. Are you up for the challenge?
Counselors engage a range of areas, from school and family counseling to mental health and addiction studies. While core competencies often overlap, undergraduate and graduate counseling students will specialize in a practice, including in-class instruction and case study practicum work. (Some students specialize in multiple areas).
Psychology students begin at the theoretical level before progressing to clinical course work. Similar to counseling, students at each degree level have the opportunity to emphasize an area of study, though undergraduate psychology graduates often pursue careers outside the discipline.
To provide more context, let’s take a closer look at the advantages of a degree in counseling or psychology.
Why Study Counseling and Psychology?
- Counseling and psychology degrees feature rigorous, practical curriculums. In addition to foundational theory, both counseling and psychology incorporate experiential components into course work to provide real-world learning opportunities, including practicums, internships, capstone experiences, and more. Most degrees require a clinical hours minimum, and master’s programs tie in student’s current jobs.
- Counseling and psychology degrees are multidisciplinary. Perhaps contrary to popular opinion, neither counseling nor psychology are niche subjects. Counseling programs feature studies in public policy, public health, human behavior, substance abuse and addiction, education, family dynamics, and more. Psychology includes studies in biology, sociology, cultural anthropology, public policy, statistics, and more. Of course, both disciplines often feature courses in the other, as well.
- Counseling and psychology graduates can pursue a variety of careers. Because each degree is multidisciplinary, graduates can be found in numerous fields beyond their academic discipline, from government and nonprofits to business, finance, management, and technology. (Before dropping out of Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg was a Psychology major.)
- Counseling and psychology graduates make a difference. No matter their career path, counseling and psychology impact their communities, organizations, and world in a positive, socially cognizant way. Equipped with a sharp knowledge of human motivation and behavior – the good and the bad – counseling and psychology grads understand the challenges society faces as well as anyone. Most important, they have the ability to solve those challenges with compassion, patience, and will power.
Job Prospects and Salaries for Counseling and Psychology Graduates
The job outlook is positive for counseling and psychology professionals across multiple fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, school and career counseling jobs are expected to grow 13% through 2026, adding over 36,000 new jobs with a median annual salary of $54,560. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling jobs are projected to grow 23% – more than double the average – and median annual pay is $42,150. Rehabilitation counselors will grow 13%, adding 15,000 jobs. Psychology jobs – including for clinical psychologists, developmental psychologists, forensic psychologists, industrial–organizational psychologists, and others – will expand 14% to add approximately 23,000 new jobs by 2026.
Still, this data only covers jobs within each discipline. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of careers counseling and psychology students can pursue, including from outside their traditional academic background. (Note that some of these jobs may require a master’s degree.)
Types of Jobs for Counseling and Psychology Graduates
- Social Worker: Help individuals and families solve and cope with problems, including potential diagnosis and treatment for mental, behavioral, and emotional issues
- Median Annual Salary: $46,890
- Marriage and Family Therapist: Help couples manage, discuss, and overcome marital and familial problems
- Median Annual Salary: $49,170
- School Counselor: Help students develop necessary academic and social skills to excel in school
- Median Annual Salary: $54,560
- Human Resources Specialist: Recruit, interview, and place an organization’s new hires, as well as coordinate employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training
- Median Annual Salary: $59,180
- Industrial–Organizational Psychologist: Leverage psychological principles, methods, and skills to improve workplace productivity, environment, and morale
- Median Annual Salary: $75,230
- Management Analyst: Develop and implement strategies to increase organizational efficiency
- Median Annual Salary: $81,330
- Health Services Manager: Plan, direct, and coordinate services hospitals, clinics, or other health facilities
- Median Annual Salary: $96,540
Undergraduate Degrees in Counseling and Psychology
For those interested in psychology, whether as a career or general discipline, be sure to read our ranking for the Top 10 Bachelor’s in Psychology Degrees. Including programs from Northeastern University, Penn State World Campus, and Arizona State, each of these psychology tracks are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate adult learners and non-traditional students. Available specializations include Clinical Psychology, Criminal Behavior, Cultural Psychology, Educational Psychology, Health Care Management, Human Resource Management, and Applied Pastoral Counseling.
Graduate Degrees in Counseling and Psychology
Master’s degrees in counseling and psychology run the gamut.
For those interested in a career in policymaking, advocacy, or nonprofits, a Master’s in Public Health might be the right fit. Specialization and certificate options include Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health, Public Health Practice, Global Public Health, and Veterinary Public Health.
The Master’s in Social Work is another popular degree, with occupations projected to grow 16% through 2026, adding nearly 110,000 new jobs. Core courses include Social Environment, Racial Justice & Cultural Intersectionality of Oppression, Social Welfare Policy, Social Work Research, Social Work Ethics, and Communities and Organizations.
For professionals counselors that want to specialize, check our rankings for the best online master’s degrees in Substance Abuse Counseling and School Counseling.. The former is especially important right now: a 2013 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Survey on Drug Use and Health report revealed that about 23.5 million Americans over age 12 have had some form of substance use disorder, and the ongoing opioid epidemic has surpassed the crack epidemic of the 1990s. Addiction and substance counseling will add over 60,000 in the next decade.
School counselor positions require a master’s degree and generally take two years to complete. Courses may include Foundations of School Counseling, Multicultural Counseling, Careers Counseling, Developmental Guidance, Counseling Theory, Individual and Group Therapy, and Organizational Leadership, among others.
Popular Online Universities offering Psychology and Counseling Degrees
- University of Maryland University College
- Ashford University
- Liberty University
- American Public University System
- University of Phoenix
- Kaplan University
- University of Massachusetts Online
- Walden University
Find the Right Counseling Degree
Peruse the most popular online psychology and counseling programs as well as our rankings of the best counseling schools above.
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