logo

Careers in Counseling

Counseling is a helping profession that offers unique, and sometimes challenging, opportunities to aid others in overcoming emotional and social setbacks and adopting healthy behaviors. Nationally, over 700,000 counselors are employed across the major counseling practice areas.1-5 Because counselors are involved with building their clients’ mental well-being while ensuring that treatment is within ethical and practice guidelines, a formal education and licensure are typically required. There are many different types of counseling degrees from which to choose, although a master’s degree is the entry-level requirement for most counseling careers. The counseling degree you choose will also be impacted by the area of counseling that you wish to practice. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of counseling, what counselors do, how to become a counselor, and what the job and salary market looks like for counselors in the coming years.

Table of Contents
Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Counseling
What Do Counselors Do?
Types of Counseling Careers and Salary Information
Management Careers in Counseling
Best States to Be a Counselor Index and Counselor Job Outlook
Counselor Career Interviews
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Counseling

Are you interested in a career that lets you work with people while improving their quality of life? From stress and anger management to addictions counseling, counselors help clients from all walks of life deal with challenges that might otherwise seem overwhelming. Here are 10 reasons that a career in counseling might be for you.

  1. You want a career where you can help people. Counselors working in all practice areas are focused on helping people understand themselves and others and adopting healthy behaviors.
  2. You’re interested in mental health. Counselors are more focused on “talk” therapy for common challenges, whereas psychologists’ scope of practice includes diagnosing and assessing disorders.
  3. You’re not interested in earning a doctorate. While some counselors do hold doctoral degrees, most counseling licenses require a master’s degree.
  4. You want to work for and with the local community. Counselors have many opportunities to enrich the communities in which they work.
  5. You enjoy challenging work. Counselors may see both the best and the worst sides of people who are facing serious life issues and must remain objective and calm in stressful conversations.
  6. You’re seeking a career in a growth industry. According to projections, demand for counseling services and counselors is expected to be between 12.6% and 23.4% through 2026.6
  7. You want a career that gives back. Even counselors who work in private practice frequently collaborate or volunteer with community agencies and nonprofits.
  8. You’re interested in working directly with a certain population. Often, counselors specialize in helping certain populations, providing opportunities to become experts in their areas of interest.
  9. You’re interested in the “science of the mind.” Counselors use scientifically-backed methods to help their clients and have a deep understanding of the biological basis of behavior.
  10. You want a career that offers flexibility. Counselors frequently set their own appointments and schedules.

What Do Counselors Do?

While counselors have broad as well as deep responsibilities, at its core, counseling helps people overcome challenges. These challenges can be mental, physical, social, or economic. The primary tools that a counselor uses to help clients overcome these challenges are mental, such as the ability to analyze how one’s actions impact others and oneself and the ability to analyze different decisions within a certain context to arrive at the best choice.

In addition to mental tools, counselors help their clients learn adaptive behaviors as well as improve tools for understanding others (which can be romantic partners, children, coworkers, and so on). For example, an addictions counselor may teach clients that instead of visiting places that are related to their addiction and potentially returning to negative behaviors, it is more productive to choose to go somewhere positive, such as the gym or the park, to overcome feelings of stress.

To be successful, a counselor must believe that people have the ability to change their behaviors and attitudes in positive ways. It is these kinds of positive change that define progress in counseling and therapy. In fact, the most satisfying moments in a counselor’s career are often when a client successfully overcomes a challenge using the tools and behaviors learned in counseling sessions.

Counselor Job Description

Careers in counseling can be exciting since no two days are likely to be the same. However, while clients and challenges change, the fundamental tasks that support a counselor’s job tend to be consistent among the different types of counseling. In a typical day or week, counselors will:

  • Hold sessions with individuals and groups facing mental health challenges.
  • Help clients access tools and research that will assist them in reaching their goals.
  • Guide clients in analyzing their decisions and how these have an impact on their goals and quality of life.
  • Maintain and regularly update clients’ case files.
  • Refer clients to other specialists when needed, such as psychologists or doctors.

Types of Counseling Careers and Salary Information

Though there are many similarities between the different types of counseling, one major difference that can be found among different types of counselors is their work environment. Some counselors specialize in school counseling, providing mental health, academic, and/or career counseling to school-aged children. Others specialize in mental health counseling for adults, which can be general or specialized such as in addictions counseling or behavioral counseling. Another major area of practice is marriage and family therapy, helping married couples and larger family units adopt healthy dynamics and methods of communication. Nationwide, jobs growth for each of the five major divisions of counseling (educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors; marriage and family therapists; mental health counselors; rehabilitation counselors; and substance abuse counselors) is expected to be faster than the national average for all occupations, ranging from 12.7% for rehabilitation counselors at the lower end to 23.4% for marriage and family therapists at the high end through 2026.6

While most of the different types of counseling fall into one of the major categories outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are also sub-specialties within these areas, such as gambling counselors as an addictions specialty, career counseling as a specialty within school counseling, and grief counseling as a specialty within professional counseling. To help you learn about the major responsibilities of each category of counseling and the differences between them, we provide an overview of each specialty below the following table, which outlines the different degrees commonly required for counseling licensure as well as job outlook and counselor salary information.

OccupationDegree RequiredUS Number Employed6,7Avg. Annual Job Openings6,7Avg. Annual Salary7,8Top-Paying Industry7,8Industry with Highest
Employment7,8
Art TherapistsMA/MS Art Therapy or Counseling20,0001,100$47,860N.Av.Health Care and Social Assistance; Government
Counseling PsychologistsMA/MS to PhD Counseling Psychology162,00014,600$76,990N.Av.Educational Services; Health Care and Social Assistance
Counselors, All OtherMA/MS Counseling31,8004,500$42,930Religious Organizations ($74,740)State Government, Excl. Schools & Hospitals (3,770)
Educational, Guidance, School, & Vocational CounselorsMA/MS School Counseling291,70036,700$57,040Federal Executive Branch ($71,470)Elementary & Secondary Schools ($67,670)
Genetic CounselorsMA/MS Genetic Counseling3,100900$81,880Outpatient Care Centers ($108,670)General Medical & Surgical Hospitals (1,030)
Health Education SpecialistsBA/BS to MA/MS Health Education or Counseling61,0008,900$55,220Federal Executive Branch ($102,660)General Medical & Surgical Hospitals (12,760)
Marriage & Family TherapistsMA/MS Marriage & Family Therapy41,5009,700$49,610State Government, Excl. Schools & Hospitals ($72,520)Individual & Family Services (20,030)
Mental Health CounselorsMA/MS Counseling157,70036,500$47,790N.Av.Health Care and Social Assistance; Educational Services
Occupational TherapistsMA/MS Occupational Therapy130,40031,000$84,950Child Day Care Services ($108,650)Offices of Other Health Practitioners (37,260)
Recreational TherapistsBA/BS to MA/MS Recreational Therapy19,2001,300$48,220Federal Executive Branch ($71,050)General Medical & Surgical Hospitals (3,240)
Rehabilitation CounselorsMA/MS Rehabilitation Counseling119,30015,100$35,950Insurance Carriers ($65,680)Vocational Rehabilitation Services (35,110)
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder & Mental Health CounselorsHigh School Diploma to MA/MS Counseling260,10060,300$46,240Junior Colleges ($63,740)Outpatient Care Centers (64,090)
Therapists, All OtherBA/BS to MS/MA24,1004,800$52,650Management of Companies & Enterprises ($90,660)Offices of Other Health Practitioners (2,800)

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists, also known as couples counselors, help their clients manage interpersonal relationships with romantic partners, family members, and other social groups. This includes helping clients process their emotions, reactions, and behaviors along with learning new methods of coping with issues and communicating with others. They must be licensed by the state in which they work, which typically requires earning a master’s degree. Marriage and family therapists may refer clients to other mental health professionals or inpatient facilities where necessary. Most professionals in marriage and family therapy work in private practice, meaning they have at least some independence to set their own schedules and choose their clients. Common work settings for licensed marriage and family therapists are individual and family services (30%), offices of other practitioners such as doctors or psychologists (20%), outpatient care centers (12%), and state government (9%); only 9% of marriage and family therapists are self-employed.9 Learn more about marriage and family therapy careers on our Marriage and Family Therapy Career Guide.

Mental Health Counselors

When most people think of mental health counselors, they are thinking of licensed professional counselors, also known as licensed professional clinical counselors, LPCs, and LPCCs. So what do counselors do? As the title suggests, licensed professional counselors have a license from the state in which they work to practice mental health counseling, which typically requires a master’s degree Their scope of practice allows them to perform specific interventions and diagnoses (which vary by state). Mental health counselors usually practice in a clinical setting, meaning that there is a formal relationship between them and their clients, typically with the goal of addressing specific issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression. They may work with clients one-on-one or in group settings and will also collaborate with other mental health professionals who have different scopes of practice, such as psychologists, doctors, and social workers. In addition to mental health counseling that aims to promote positive behaviors and ways of thinking, licensed professional counselors will help clients access community resources such as support groups and social services. Licensed professional counselors commonly work for agencies and hospitals, but can also be found working in private practice, depending on the state and license requirements. Most mental health counselors (grouped with substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors by the BLS) work in outpatient centers (19%) or individual and family services (16%), followed by hospitals (10%), residential facilities (10%), and government (9%).10 Get an in-depth view of what these counselors do and find out about counselor education requirements on our guide to mental health counselor careers.

School Counselors

What do school counselors do? School counselors work in K-12 private and public schools providing students with mental health, career, and college counseling services. Because this job involves assessing and diagnosing students’ abilities, aptitudes, and in some cases, mental health challenges, a master’s degree is required to work in this career. School counselors must also become licensed in order to work in public schools. Professionals in this field will work with students to outline goals (be they career, academic, performance, or abilities related) and methods of achieving those goals. They frequently work with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and must investigate, report, and refer any cases involving abuse, serious developmental or mental disorders, and/or neglect through the appropriate channels. School counselors may also lead group counseling, such as grief counseling when a crisis impacts the school population. The area of focus varies depending on the school population; in elementary schools, the focus is usually on skills development and diagnosis of special needs, whereas in high schools, counselors may specialize in either mental health-related counseling or career and college-related counseling. Learn more about what school counselors do and school counselor education requirements on our school counseling career page.

Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors, more generally known as addiction counselors, work with individuals who have an addiction that interferes with their day-to-day functioning. Counselors will work with their clients to develop new skills and behaviors aimed at reducing and, eventually, eliminating the abused substance from their lifestyle. Addiction counselors very often help their clients access support resources such as job placement agencies, support groups, and community support programs. Substance abuse counseling will often also involve the families of those struggling with addiction in group counseling sessions. The requirements to become a substance abuse counselor vary widely by state; in some states, addiction counselors may only need a high school diploma, whereas in others, the entry-level requirement is a master’s degree. In still other states, the requirements are somewhere in between. Learn more about careers in addictions counseling and addictions counseling education requirements on our Guide to Substance Abuse Counselor Careers.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who have disabilities in order to help those clients improve their quality of life. Note that this occupation is not to be confused with rehabilitation therapy, which is physical therapy for those recovering from an injury. Rehabilitation counselors’ clients may be youth, adolescents, or adults, including the elderly. In addition to helping clients cope with and adjust to their disabilities, rehabilitation counselors perform the important responsibility of helping clients identify and improve on their strengths. Rehabilitation counselors also advocate for their clients with other professionals, including those working in living facilities, schools, and medical care. The majority of rehabilitation counselors work in community and vocational rehabilitation services (30%), with other common settings including individual and family services (18%), state governments excluding schools and hospitals (14%), and nursing and residential care facilities (12%).11 The typical entry-level education for this career is a master’s degree. The average annual salary for rehabilitation counselors as of 2019 is $35,950 per year, and job growth in this field is expected to reach 12.7% through 2026.11,6 Learn more about this pathway on our rehabilitation counselor careers page.

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapy is an approach to counseling that engages clients through relaxing activities such as playing music, making arts and crafts, and dancing. Recreational therapists can be found working in all types of settings, from hospitals and nursing homes to government-run programs and private clinics. They may diagnose and assess clients, plan activities designed for specific needs and populations, help patients build skills and coping mechanisms, and collaborate with other members of clients’ care teams. Adaptive activities and strength-building are crucial focus areas in recreational therapy, with activities designed to improve clients’ physical and mental well-being. Requirements for recreational therapist certification vary by state, though the entry-level degree for this field is generally a bachelor’s degree. The average annual salary for recreational therapists as of 2019 was $48,220 per year, with projections estimating 6.8% job growth through 2026.12,6

Behavioral Health Counselors

Behavioral health counseling is a subfield of mental health counseling that focuses on reducing negative behaviors (such as addictions or self-harm) by redirecting clients to positive behaviors (such as exercise). Behavioral health is a broad field that extends beyond substance abuse counseling, which is often considered a type of behavioral health. For example, a behavioral health specialist may help an obese person who is trying to lose weight evaluate his or her attitudes and actions in relation to food and exercise in order to build a healthier physical profile. At its core, the work is about changing behaviors for positive impacts. Because of the strong degree of overlap between behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse counseling, the BLS groups these occupations together.1,10 The average counselor salary for this occupational group is $46,240 per year as of 2019, with job growth projections showing a 23.2% increase in available positions through 2026.10,6

Gambling Counselors

Gambling counselors perform similar work to substance abuse counselors, except instead of treating addictions to substances, they treat addictions to gambling. This addiction is also known as problem gaming, problem gambling, or pathological gambling. Gambling counselors must learn how to identify and evaluate problem gambling habits; assess and develop treatment plans; help clients access other resources that help address the problem behaviors; and, where necessary, refer clients to inpatient treatments and other professional help. The profession of gambling counselor is usually grouped together with mental health, behavioral disorder, and substance abuse counseling.1,10 However, a few states recognize gambling counseling as a separate license, such as Nevada, which requires candidates for the Certified Problem Gambling Counselor license to have at least a bachelor’s degree in an acceptable field of the social sciences.

Pastoral Counselors

Pastoral counselors, sometimes called ministerial counselors or counselor-ministers, are church-affiliated leaders who provide mental health-related counseling to members of their congregation. For example, church-based pre-marriage counseling would be considered a form of pastoral counseling. Other issues that pastoral counselors may address include family illness, bereavement, grief counseling, and interpersonal problems. In some cases a pastoral counselor may also hold a leadership position in his or her church; in others, especially with large congregations, the pastoral counselor may focus only on counseling. The requirements to become a pastoral counselor vary by state and by the church with which the pastor is affiliated. The leading national organization for pastoral counselors, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), notes that the modern standard requirement for entering this career is a master’s in counseling with the associated professional counseling license.13 Select states, including Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee, have a specific pastoral counseling license.13 There may also be church-based requirements, such as Christian counseling certification for certain denominations, to consider for becoming a Christian counselor.

Management Careers in Counseling

In addition to these counseling careers, there are also management careers within the field of counseling. Like managers in any field, counselors in management roles tend to have higher qualifications than their peers; they may have years of experience in the field, advanced counseling education, and/or hold an advanced license or special credential. Some states, such as Kentucky, require counseling supervisors to hold a state credential (in Kentucky, the LPCC Supervisor or LPCC-S). Other states, such as Arkansas and Maryland, require counseling supervisors to be credentialed with the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) as Approved Clinical Supervisors (ACS). Many states, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, also recognize the addiction-related Clinical Supervisor (CS) credential from the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).

The BLS reports data on two management roles related to the counseling field: social and community service managers and medical and health services managers. Social and community service managers supervise support staff as well as coordinate social service programs and community organizations. Medical and health services managers direct the medical and health services of a facility or medical practice or a specific department within a facility. Both management jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but the BLS notes that master’s degrees are commonly preferred, if not required.14,15 For social and community service managers, the average annual salary is $65,320 per year with projected job growth of 18% through 2026; and for medical and health services managers, the average annual salary is $99,730 per year with 20.5% job growth expected through 2026.14,15

Best States to Be a Counselor Index and Counselor Job Outlook

We developed the table below to help you learn about counselor salary by state, hiring outlooks, and our calculation of the best states to be a counselor. This table uses BLS data for salary, employment, and job outlook information for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors as a proxy for the counseling field overall, as this is the area of counseling most people think of when they consider “counselors.” However, there are different types of counseling, such as school counseling and genetic counseling, where counselor salary and employment data may be higher or lower.

To calculate cost of living relative to salary, we used the real estate value for the average home provided by Zillow as of August 2019. Using the average home value relative to average salary provides a view of how far the salary will “stretch” in a given state. In step with job growth estimates through 2026, this can give you an overall idea of the counselor job outlook in a given area. Sort any column in descending or ascending order by clicking on the header. The US average is used as a baseline for comparison.

RankStateUS Average2018 Average Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor Salary1$47,920Zillow Home Value Index (8/2019)16$229,600% of Median Home Value Average Salary Buys
(Higher =
Better)20.9%
2016 Total Counselors (all categories) Employed6744,4002026 Projected Total Counselors (all categories) Employed***870,70010-year Growth (2026 vs 2016)617%Best States for Counselors (Avg=1)1
1Arkansas$52,110$128,40040.6%4,3305,18020%1.60
2Utah$66,330$344,00019.3%5,8308,07038%1.51
3West Virginia$39,950$98,30040.6%4,0704,72016%1.50
4Oklahoma$48,670$124,80039%8,3009,39013%1.37
5Iowa$47,600$145,70032.7%8,73010,19017%1.31
6Michigan$48,440$153,90031.5%16,06018,86017%1.28
7Ohio$47,040$141,40033.3%24,68028,44015%1.27
8Indiana$44,550$147,40030.2%9,50011,15017%1.25
9Virginia$49,860$262,30019%24,21031,05028%1.24
10Texas$47,010$198,10023.7%47,14057,57022%1.21
11Kentucky$42,240$147,30028.7%8,4809,93017%1.21
12Alabama$42,640$133,80031.9%7,0507,96013%1.18
13Nebraska$49,850$168,60029.6%4,4505,10015%1.18
14Arizona$42,310$255,80016.5%15,07019,25028%1.18
15North Carolina$48,900$188,20026%15,99018,88018%1.16
16Georgia$45,150$191,80023.5%15,66018,87020%1.15
17Tennessee$38,030$169,70022.4%13,59016,38021%1.15
18North Dakota$55,220$208,30026.5%1,7902,08016%1.12
19Nevada$51,130$292,30017.5%3,9804,97025%1.12
20Missouri$38,150$162,40023.5%16,26019,34019%1.12
21Colorado$48,490$380,80012.7%14,57018,85029%1.10
22Mississippi$39,710$129,30030.7%4,3704,85011%1.10
23Florida$44,140$237,00018.6%30,51037,58023%1.10
24South Carolina$38,410$169,80022.6%7,5308,79017%1.05
25Kansas$41,330$140,90029.3%4,7705,24010%1.04
26Louisiana$40,380$147,20027.4%10,28011,46011%1.01
27Pennsylvania$45,740$175,60026%43,26048,32012%1.00
28New Mexico$47,040$196,80023.9%4,0404,59014%1.00
29Wyoming$56,690$232,00024.4%1,3101,47012%0.96
30Wisconsin$42,650$190,30022.4%12,71014,48014%0.96
31New York$51,380$304,50016.9%56,12066,94019%0.95
32Montana$45,160$239,30018.9%3,2703,79016%0.92
33Connecticut$52,070$244,20021.3%14,03015,92013%0.91
34South Dakota$41,790$194,40021.5%2,5102,81012%0.88
35Vermont$46,950$208,80022.5%2,7303,04011%0.88
36Oregon$59,390$347,80017.1%10,08011,68016%0.87
37Delaware$44,660$236,40018.9%2,8903,30014%0.87
38Illinois$44,250$182,60024.2%25,83027,9208%0.85
39Idaho$46,920$270,90017.3%4,5905,18013%0.80
40Maryland$46,350$289,10016%12,34014,05014%0.79
41New Hampshire$43,600$279,20015.6%3,1303,56014%0.78
42Washington$48,430$391,00012.4%17,98021,10017%0.78
43Alaska$62,920$318,00019.8%1,7001,8509%0.76
44Washington DC$59,850$564,50010.6%3,6804,33018%0.76
45Maine$50,600$235,90021.4%2,7902,9305%0.70
46California$50,950$548,7009.3%86,300100,80017%0.69
47Massachusetts$47,880$407,30011.8%26,07029,52013%0.65
48Minnesota$49,280$238,80020.6%9,94010,3104%0.65
49Hawaii$54,550$616,6008.8%2,7003,09014%0.60
50New Jersey$58,410$328,20017.8%14,45015,2305%0.60
51Rhode Island$50,020$283,50017.6%1,3101,3705%0.60

Counselor Career Interviews

Our interviews with licensed counselors provide insights into the challenges and rewards that counselors working in mental health, marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation, school, and substance abuse counseling see every day, along with expert advice for those who are just starting out as well as those who are already in the field and thinking about their next steps.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of counseling?

There are many different types of counseling, each of which may be adapted to a specific problem, age group, and therapeutic approach. According to the BLS, there are five main categories of counselors: educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors; marriage and family therapists; rehabilitation counselors; substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors; and counselors, all other. Nearly all counselors in the US will fall into one of these five categories, but as you might guess, “counselors, all other” encompasses a huge range of different types of counseling. This can include geriatric counseling, pastoral counseling, genetic counseling, health counseling, and more.

How much do counselors make?

Salaries for counselors vary widely based on their specialty area, education, location, and experience level, as well as other factors. However, for the five main types of counselors identified by the BLS, the average salary overall was $46,354 per year as of 2019.1-5

How much do addictions counselors make?

Addictions counselors are grouped with behavioral disorder and mental health counselors by the BLS. As of 2019, this group earned an average annual salary of $46,240 overall.1

What are the highest-paying counseling jobs?

The highest-paying counseling jobs will vary by state and geographic area. However, nationally, the highest-paying counseling jobs are educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors ($57,040 average per year) and marriage and family therapists ($49,610 average per year).2,3

How much does a counselor make with a master’s degree?

The salary for a licensed professional counselor can vary depending on many factors including geographic area, experience, education level, and specialty. However, to become a licensed professional counselor, you must have a master’s degree. According to the BLS, the average counselor salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health professionals – the category that includes LPCs – was $46,240 per year as of 2019.1 Overall, junior colleges were the top-paying industry for counselors, at an average of $63,740 per year, followed by insurance carriers at an average of $62,250 per year.1

Can professional counselors diagnose?

One of the key differences between licensed professional counselors and psychologists is the scope of practice for diagnosing and assessing mental disorders. The rules change from state to state, but in general, professional counselors are only able to diagnose a narrow range of disorders, such as addiction. More serious disorders must typically be diagnosed by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor.

What do counselors do?

What counselors do will vary according to the type of counselor they are and their practice focus area. However, all counselors provide services designed to help their clients become more self-reliant and overcome specific challenges such as addiction, disability, and family crisis.

What does it take to be a counselor?

To be successful in counseling, you must be able to remain calm in potentially stressful situations as clients will rely on you to provide objective advice in situations that can be extremely upsetting. You must have a calm demeanor, an ethical approach to care, and a commitment to the profession.

Is there a counselor definition that describes what counselors do?

There are almost as many counselor definitions as there are counselors! However, one commonly accepted definition for counseling comes from the American Counseling Association: “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.” Within this framework, a counselor is a person who helps diverse groups and individuals reach their mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

Do you need a license to be a professional counselor?

Yes, in most states, you need a license to be a professional counselor. The minimum educational requirement for professional counseling licensure, including marriage and family therapy licensure, is usually a master’s degree. There may, however, be exceptions; for example, in some states, substance abuse counselors may only need a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree plus substance abuse-specific training and certification.

What do school counselors do?

School counselors work in K-12 schools helping students make academic, college, and career choices. They also help students’ social development by providing direct counseling and may be involved in planning schoolwide curricula that help all students develop positive habits and achieve personal growth. School counselors frequently consult with classroom teachers on student needs and will be a critical part of the care team for students who are under Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and similar plans due to developmental or physical disorders.

Where do substance abuse counselors work and how much do they make?

Substance abuse counselors can be found working in many different settings, from formal inpatient treatment facilities to more informal AA-type meetings. The work environment will typically have an impact on pay; for example, in many cases addictions group counselors are unpaid volunteers. The BLS groups substance abuse counselors with other professional counselors, who have an average salary of $46,240 per year.1

How much do marriage and family therapists make and what do they do?

Marriage and family therapists earn an average annual salary of $49,610 per year as of 2019.2 The top-paying work setting for marriage and family therapists is state government (excluding education and hospitals), with an average counselor salary of $72,520.2 Marriage and family therapists focus on helping clients improve their communication skills and coping mechanisms in order to improve their interpersonal relationships. This may take the form of couples therapy but can also take the form of family therapy or even therapy to deal with coworkers and other types of relationships.

What is the difference between counselor vs. therapist?

The terms counselor and therapist are frequently used interchangeably, making it difficult to reach a consensus or a firm definition of the differences between a counselor vs. therapist. One difference between counselor and therapist is the licensure terms commonly used. “Therapist” frequently refers to someone working in marriage and family therapy, whereas “counselor” frequently refers to someone working in another field of counseling – though not always! Another difference between counselor and therapist can be the scope of practice: Licensed counselors are generally able to diagnose and assess mental disorders, whereas licensed therapists might not have this privilege in all states.

What is the difference between psychologist vs. counselor?

Compared to comparing counselor vs. therapist, the difference between counselor and psychologist is easier to distinguish. The major difference between counselor and psychologist is education: A counselor only requires a master’s degree, whereas a psychologist must have a doctoral degree such as a PhD. In this respect, psychologists have undergone additional education compared to their counseling peers. Another difference between counselor and psychologist is the scope of practice. Psychologists can diagnose and assess a greater range of mental disorders and, in some states, may have prescribing privileges. The area of practice is another place where the difference between psychologist vs. counselor can be seen. As doctorally-trained practitioners, psychologists are often involved in research. Counselors typically work in applied counseling – that is, working directly with patients.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes211018.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
7. O*NET OnLine: https://www.onetonline.org/
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm
12. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Recreational Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm
13. Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Becoming a Pastoral Counselor/Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapist: https://www.acpe.edu/ACPE/Psychotherapy/Becoming_A_Pastoral_Counselor/ACPE/Psychotherapy/BecomingAPastoralCounselor.aspx
14. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social and Community Services Managers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm
15. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
16. Zillow, US Home Prices & Values (all home type composites), November 2017: https://www.zillow.com/home-values/