Counselling is a growing field, with demand for qualified counsellors continuing to rise. Many colleges and universities now offer master’s degrees in counselling, allowing students to gain advanced skills and knowledge to work as professional counsellors. A master’s in counselling opens up diverse career opportunities and can lead to licensure and clinical practice.
What is a master’s degree in counselling?
A master’s degree in counselling is a postgraduate academic program that provides training in counselling theories, approaches, and techniques. These programs aim to prepare students to work professionally as counsellors in various settings.
Master’s in counselling programs cover topics such as:
- Counselling theories and techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, person-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, and more
- Psychopathology and diagnosis
- Human growth and development across the lifespan
- Group counselling
- Career counselling
- Multicultural counselling
- Research methods
- Ethics and professional issues
- Practicum/internship experiences
Programs lead to a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Education (MEd) degree in Counselling. Program lengths vary, but often take 2-3 years of full-time study to complete.
Why get a master’s in counselling?
There are many reasons to consider pursuing a master’s degree in counselling:
- Advance your counselling career – A master’s degree allows you to gain specialized knowledge and skills to advance in counselling roles and specializations.
- Eligibility for licensure – A master’s degree meets educational requirements for licensure as a counsellor in all states. Licensure allows you to practice independently.
- Higher earning potential – On average, counsellors with master’s degrees earn 20-30% more than those with bachelor’s degrees only.
- Expanded job opportunities – A master’s degree qualifies you for more advanced clinical and counsellor education roles.
- Deeper theoretical knowledge – Master’s programs allow you to extensively study leading counselling theories and approaches.
- Research skills – Master’s training focuses on building research skills to inform counselling practice and contribute to the field.
Overall, a master’s in counselling provides comprehensive preparation to work as a licensed, professional counsellor in diverse settings.
What are the requirements to get into a master’s in counselling program?
Master’s programs have a competitive admissions process and look for the following prerequisites:
- Bachelor’s degree – Have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or a related field from an accredited university.
- GPA – Most programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate study.
- GRE scores – Submit GRE test scores, with minimum scores often around 300 (combined verbal and quantitative).
- Relevant experience – Have experience in a counselling or human services role through internships, volunteering, etc.
- Recommendations – Provide 2-3 letters of recommendation from academic or professional references.
- Personal statement – Write a strong personal statement outlining your interests, motivations and goals in pursuing a master’s in counselling.
- Interview – Take part in an admissions interview to demonstrate interpersonal skills.
Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission, as programs evaluate candidates holistically. Standing out with strong experience, test scores, recommendations and interview performance can improve your chances.
What are common core courses in a master’s in counselling program?
While specific curriculum varies, most master’s in counselling programs include core courses such as:
- Counselling Theories – Overview of leading counselling approaches like person-centered, cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, and more.
- Counselling Techniques and Practice – Develop counselling skills through techniques like active listening, reflection, motivational interviewing.
- Multicultural Counselling – Strategies for competent, ethical counselling across cultures, backgrounds, identities.
- Human Growth and Development – Examine developmental changes across the lifespan to inform counselling approaches.
- Career Counselling – Processes and techniques to help clients with career choices, changes and challenges.
- Group Counselling – Lead and facilitate therapeutic group counselling sessions.
- Assessment – Use of assessments and testing in counselling, like cognitive, personality, behavioral assessments.
- Research and Evaluation – Develop skills in research methods and program evaluation to advance the counselling field.
- Ethics and Professional Issues – Examine ethical codes, laws, regulation and challenges relevant to counselling practice.
Students also complete supervised practicum and internship experiences to apply counselling skills. Electives allow students to customize their program based on interests and specialization.
What are some common specializations in a master’s in counselling program?
Within a master’s in counselling, students can often specialize in areas like:
- Clinical Mental Health Counselling – Counsel clients coping with mental health and psychiatric disorders in various settings.
- School Counselling – Work with students in K-12 school settings on academic, career and social/emotional issues.
- Rehabilitation Counselling – Help clients with disabilities or injuries gain skills and employment to live independently.
- Marriage, Couple and Family Counselling – Work with couples and families dealing with relationship issues and family dynamics.
- College Counselling – Support college students developmentally with issues impacting academic success and mental health.
- Substance Abuse Counselling – Counsel clients with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling and other behaviors.
- Career Counselling – Help clients explore career options and employment goals and process job and role changes.
Electives, internships and certifications can help tailor a program to build expertise within an area of interest.
What kinds of jobs and salaries can you get with a master’s in counselling?
A master’s in counselling equips graduates for diverse roles including:
|Counselling Role||Average Salary|
|Clinical Mental Health Counsellor||$50,000|
|Marriage and Family Therapist||$55,000|
|Substance Abuse Counsellor||$45,000|
With a master’s degree and experience, licensed counsellors can earn $70,000 or more annually. Setting, specialty, licensure and location impact average salary ranges.
What other requirements are there to become a licensed counsellor?
In addition to a master’s degree, full licensure requirements include:
- Completion of required supervised clinical practicum and internship hours (often at least 1,000 hours).
- Passing scores on the National Counselor Examination or other state exams.
- Completion of required supervised clinical work hours (2,000 – 4,000 hours).
- Ongoing continuing education to maintain licensure.
Full licensure allows counsellors to open private practices and work independently. Partial licensure can be obtained pre-graduation to gain supervised clinical experience.
Should you get a Ph.D. in counselling psychology?
A doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) allows counsellors to work in advanced clinical, research and academic roles. Those interested in counseling psychology careers should consider:
- Ph.D. programs focus heavily on research, training counselling psychologists for academic/research positions.
- Psy.D. programs are practice-oriented with less emphasis on original research for those seeking higher-level clinical work.
- Doctoral programs take 5-7 years and have intensive internship, dissertation requirements.
- Graduates can become licensed psychologists, specializing in therapy, assessments, testing, and more.
- Higher earning potential, with counseling psychologists averaging around $90,000 annually.
For many clinical and counselling roles, however, a master’s degree is sufficient and more feasible for gaining licensure to practice.
What are some alternatives to a master’s in counselling?
Other options to gain counselling skills and work in the field include:
- Bachelor’s in Psychology – Entry-level psychology bachelors prepares for paraprofessional support roles or master’s study.
- Master’s in Social Work – Clinical social work master’s programs cover counselling concepts and techniques.
- Master’s in Psychology – Clinical or counseling psychology master’s can also lead to licensure in some states.
- Counselling Certificate – Post-bachelor’s certificates develop counselling competencies without a full master’s.
- Peer Counselling – Volunteer peer counselling or crisis line work provides related experience.
However, those with less than a master’s in counselling will face limitations in credentialing and career advancement opportunities.
Pursuing a master’s degree in counselling is an excellent path to becoming a licensed counsellor. It provides the specialized clinical skills and theoretical knowledge needed for diverse counseling roles. With a master’s, supervised experience, and licensure, you can qualify for rewarding counseling careers in schools, mental health clinics, private practice, and beyond. Master’s programs allow you to choose a focus on a population or setting of interest, such as addiction, family therapy, career counseling, and more. If considering doctoral study in counseling psychology, weigh the time investment against your career goals. Compare counseling master’s programs and make sure to choose an accredited program that provides the level of training you need to achieve your professional objectives. With passion for helping others and commitment to completing the necessary steps, a master’s in counseling can be a great educational choice to build your career improving lives through therapeutic support and guidance.