Those who have completed a master’s in counseling have gained advanced training in clinical skills, allowing them to move further forward in the field of mental health. As a result of having this degree, people can expect to earn a substantial salary, as well as being in high demand. Naturally, exactly how much these degree holders can earn will depend on a variety of factors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average overall salary for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists was $43,190 per year at master’s degree level as of May 2015.
Factors that Influence Salary
There are a number of factors that influence what people can earn with a master’s in counseling. These factors include:
• Which industry they work in
• The type of organization they work for
• Their geographical location
• Their years of experience
• Where they graduated from
• The role they take on
The role you take on as a professional with a master’s in counseling is perhaps one of the most influential factors on how much you will earn. Hence, if your interest is particularly in receiving the best possible salary, then choosing the right role is very important. One of the key reasons why people are so interested in earning a good salary, besides the fact that they want to be comfortable, is the fact that completing a master’s degree in counseling is a significant investment. The average cost of finishing a full master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000, depending on where you study and how you study. That is a significant amount of investment, and although your salary will likely increase by an average of $17,000 per year, it will still mean that it will take you quite some time to realize a return on investment. Choosing the right program, particularly by making sure that it’s highly ranked and properly accredited and maintaining a high GPA, is vital towards seeing that return on investment in a much quicker way.
Jobs and Salaries for Master’s in Counseling Degree Holders
Once you are able to finish your master’s in counseling, a number of positions are open to you, each with different average earnings. It is up to you to determine which of those positions are of the greatest interest to you, and you can then use that information to ensure that you take elective courses that fit in with your chosen career path. Some of the key positions are:
1. School, educational, and vocational counselors, with average earnings of $53,660 per year
2. Substance abuse and behavioral health counselors, with average earnings of $63,030 per year
3. Mental health counselors, with average earnings of $39,615 per year
4. Marriage and family therapists, with average earnings of $48,600 per year
5. Rehabilitation counselors, with average earnings of $32,350 per year
Key Factors that Affect Earnings
There are a number of key factors that will affect how much you earn. The annual salaries above are national averages, when there is actually a huge variation between them, depending on various key factors. These key factors include:
1. Who you work for. The larger your employer is, the more likely it will be that your salary will be very competitive. The lowest salaries are generally earned within the nonprofit sector, and the highest are earned in the private sector.
2. Where you work. This is down to two things. First of all, the cost of living is higher in certain parts of the country than in others, and this generally correlates to average earnings. Secondly, demand is hugely important. The more demand there is for master’s in counseling degree holders, the more likely that you will be offered a substantial salary, as well as a range of other benefits and perks. Location is very important, as it impacts insurance requirement, continuous education requirements, and licensing requirements as well. At the same time, different locations have different community resources, available funding, crime statistics, and population makeups as well.
3. How much experience you have. The higher the salary you want to earn, the more experience you need to gather. This is why it is generally recommended for people to try different forms of counseling first, before they move on to a specialized area of the profession. In so doing, they gain far more experience in a wider range of subjects, while at the same time ensuring that they protect themselves by avoiding a degree specialization that they are actually not interested in.
4. The kind of practice you end up working for. With a master’s in counseling, you can get to work in a private practice, human resource departments, nonprofit agencies, hospitals, schools, clinics, and so on. Each of these have very different pay grades, and how much you will earn therefore varies greatly as well.
Is It Worth It?
The big question is whether or not obtaining a master’s degree in counseling is worth the investment of both time and money. The simple answer is that it is. More and more organizations have set it as a minimum requirement for counseling positions, and even if they haven’t, you greatly increase your job prospects by holding a master’s degree.
But you do have to consider the implications of this type of degree as well. As previously stated, it requires a significant investment of both time and money. Furthermore, once you have this master’s degree, you may become licensed in a specific field of counseling and, while this does further improve your career prospects, it also means that you will have to invest more significantly in continuous education credits in order to maintain your license. The requirements for continuing education will vary from one state to the other.
How to Find the Best Degree
Overall, the best way to earn the most money with a master’s degree in counseling is by choosing the right degree. This means that you find an institution that is properly accredited, which means they have received accreditation for both their school and for the program itself. Additionally, you need to critically look at the curriculum of their program. While you will generally see very similar core courses regardless of which school you choose, the elective courses will vary greatly. This is why it is important to already have somewhat of an idea of what you would like to do in terms of your career, so that you can choose a school with elective courses that align with those career goals.
- Licensed Professional Counselor Salary (United States). (2017, Jan. 18) Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Licensed_Professional_Counselor/Salary
- Master of Arts (MA), Counseling Degree Average Salar. (2017, Mar. 25) Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Arts_(MA),_Counseling/Salary
- Mental Health Counselor. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/mental-health-counselor
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm