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What can I do with a master's in counseling? Careers, tips and more

By Laurie Davies

Graphic featuring various counseling related icons with woman at desk and the words "Field of Study: Counseling"

At a glance

  • Mental health counselors treat clients with a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief and relationship problems.
  • The demand for mental health counselors is high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 18% job growth between 2022 and 2032.
  • As the stigma around mental healthcare lessens, the demand for mental health services may continue to increase.
  • One in five Americans experience mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

What is counseling?

According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is a collaborative effort between a counselor and client(s) that aims to:

  • identify goals and potential solutions to problems that cause emotional turmoil
  • improve communication and coping skills
  • strengthen self-esteem
  • promote behavior change and optimal mental health

If it sounds simple, it’s not. Human behavior is complex and so too is Mental Health Counseling! But, as any successful counselor will tell you, there’s almost no more gratifying job than helping someone overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of a fulfilling, productive life. You could be the difference-maker that helps clients elevate their well-being and make recovery a reality.

If you would like to help others as a counselor, you’ll need a mix of soft skills based in interviewing and assessment, along with theoretical knowledge  based in human psychology. According to, skills that those practicing mental health counseling should have include:

  • Active listening (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, etc.)
  • Questioning (skill in questioning techniques)
  • Note-taking (recording important points for further analysis)
  • Interpretation (placing vague information into context)
  • Nonverbal communication (identifying attitudes and feelings based on body language)
  • Self-awareness (awareness of how body language, gestures and tone affect clients)
  • Trustworthiness (building and maintaining trust)
  • Empathy (seeing a client’s situation for their perspective)
  • Emotional compartmentalization (maintaining professional boundaries)
  • Information recall (remembering information from previous sessions)
  • Confidentiality (respecting the privacy of information clients share)
  • Record-keeping (maintaining detailed records and session notes)

A mental health counselor should also master skills in counseling ethics, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development and the differences between one-on-one and group dynamics. The variety of skills is understandable, given the number of career paths that are possible with a mental health counseling degree.

Right about now you might be asking, “So, what can I do with a master’s in counseling?” Or perhaps your heart is racing because a counseling program sounds like the right fit for you. Either way, read on.

What is a master's in counseling degree?

To pursue a career as a mental health counselor, you’ll need to earn master’s degree in counseling and meet the requirements for licensure in the state where you want to practice.

At University of Phoenix, a Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MSC/CCMH) is a 60-credit, online  clinical mental health counseling program and can be completed in three to four years, including practicum and internship requirements. Students in the Phoenix area also have the option to complete an accredited, campus-based version of this program. (The Phoenix, Ariz., campus counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)).

In addition to core classes, clinical mental health counseling program students attend three residencies with online and in-person components that are designed to develop their counseling skill sets. These soon-to-be counselors also gain hands-on working experience through required clinical placements This can help prepare students to work with a variety of populations in different settings

Licensing requirements vary by state, so be sure to review the state licensure requirements in the state where you wish to practice.

Job outlook for mental health counselors

Job growth for mental health counselors is projected to be 18% between 2022 and 2032, according to BLS. This is much more robust growth than the projected national average growth rate of 8% for all professions. They may find work in both the public sector, such as agencies, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, as well as in private practice.

BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2022-2032 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

Christina Neider, EdD, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Phoenix says several interrelated factors may be driving this trend. “The pandemic definitely heightened the need for access to mental health care. Meanwhile, the stigma around mental health care is [declining]. You see athletes talking about it openly. A whole-person concept is becoming more of a topic with healthcare clinicians,” Dr. Neider says.

This adds up to increased demand for skillful mental health counselors who have achieved a counseling degree.

Break the stigma mental illness infographic

What careers can you pursue with a master's in counseling?

With the jobs outlook pointing in such a positive direction, you might be wondering about the kinds of careers you could pursue once you earn a master’s degree in counseling.

According to U.S. Department of Labor figures cited by the American Counseling Association, more than 665,500 counselors work with patients ranging in age from children to seniors in agencies, organizations, private practice, personal and healthcare delivery systems and other settings.

According to O*Net, the national primary source of occupation information developed under the sponsorship of the Department of Labor, reported job titles for mental health counselors include behavior analyst, school counselor, mental health counselor, correctional counselor and case manager.

What would it look like to be a master’s level counselor, specifically? What kind of career path can those pursuing mental health counseling expect? Average salary, education requirements and job outlook are highlighted below.

Mental Health Counselor

Overview: Mental health counselors treat clients with a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress and suicidal impulses. They also help with emotional health issues and relationship problems.

National Median Salary: $53,710 in May 2023 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors, according to BLS.

Education Requirements: A master’s degree and an internship is typically required, according to BLS.

Job Outlook: 18% between 2022 and 2032, according to BLS.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website. BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2022-2032 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

Where to get a master's in counseling

The MSC/CCMH program at University of Phoenix is designed to prepare competent professional counselors who will contribute as leaders in the field of mental health. Earning your MSC/CCMH at University of Phoenix has distinct advantages. These include:

  • Experienced Faculty. Full-time faculty with a high level of expertise in counseling and supervision teach in the program. This is a hallmark of programs that are accredited or potentially eligible for accreditation.
  • The MSC/CCMH online program curriculum aligns to CACREP standards.
  • Students take one class at a time and can attend online whenever it fits their lives — day or night.
  • The MSC/CCMH program is offered in most states. Check availability in your region.
  • The latest version of the MSC/CCMH program includes telehealth curriculum — a pandemic-related access feature important to both students and the clients they serve.

The MSC/CCMH program involves a variety of delivery formats depending on the subject matter and the competencies to be developed. These formats involve, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Class lecture
  • Assigned readings
  • Role-plays
  • Small, in-class group work
  • Discussion
  • Small group collaborative presentations
  • Small group and independent research

While University of Phoenix does not guarantee job or salary outcomes — those hinge on geographic location, experience, competition and other individual factors — this much is clear: the demand for skilled mental health counselors is high.

At University of Phoenix, students learn from practitioner faculty with deep experience in clinical practice and supervision. That means, in other words, that students learn from Professional counselors and counseling educators who are active in the field.

Studying mental health counseling may be the first step on a rewarding professional journey, and the Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of Phoenix offers an ideal pathway to putting theory into practice.

Learn more about why mental health is at the forefront of national discussion.

Get started on your Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling at University of Phoenix!

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