Counseling is the largest specialty area in psychology and encompasses a wide variety of treatments for clients with various symptoms and conditions. Counseling can benefit individuals throughout every stage of life. Counseling psychologists work with clients with a variety of situations, including emotional, social, psychological, educational, career, vocational, business, family and marriage relationships, addictions and other issues.
What Type of Work Do They Do?
There are basically two sub-fields of graduate level psychology. Clinical psychology usually deals with more severe cases of mental illness and takes a more medical approach to diagnose and treat patients. Counseling psychology treats less severe cases and uses psycho-therapeutic techniques. Both sub-fields branch into other areas of psychology and counseling, and approaches vary with specialty, education level and training.
If you want a career in counseling, there are several options to choose. The specialty or type of client you work with in some ways depends on your level of education and helps to answer the question, “What can I do with a psychology degree?”
In each case, the education level for a discipline is entry-level. Education and licensing will vary by state, type of organization or company.
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Opportunities are somewhat limited at this educational level. Some examples include:
* Social and Human Services Assistants (social worker)
* School Counselor
* Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
While you can break into counseling at this educational level, some states may require a number of college credits or completion of a two-year certification program. Some organizations may offer specialized on-the-job training and require certification or additional education while employed. As an assistant, you would most likely be assisting with administrative duties, scheduling appointments or setting up group meetings and completing reports.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary range at this education level is from $28,000 to $38,000.
A master’s degree is the minimum requirement for licensing in some states. Requirements will vary state-to-state, but some employers in the following disciplines will hire individuals who have completed a master’s degree in psychology.
* Rehabilitation Counselors
* Mental Health Counselors
* Marriage and Family Counselors
* School and Career Counselors
* School Psychologists
* Community Health Counselors
Higher-level counseling disciplines and clinical psychologists must be licensed in the state where they work. Completion of a number of hours or years of supervised practical experience is a requirement for licensure in some states. An individual with a Master’s degree may be able to gain the required experience to get a license working as a counselor at this level.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary range at this education level is from $33,000 to $54,000.
Combination Master’s/Law Degree
Depending on the organization and work environment, conflict resolution counselors, (arbitrators or mediators) may find work with a Master’s degree. However, most require a combination of a law degree and master’s degree in psychology. Arbitrators often deal with legal issues and many employers prefer to hire an individual with both degrees. The median annual salary at $57,000.
Ph.D. or Psy.D. Degree
The following disciplines require a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in order to practice and for state licensure. Requirements will vary by state, but additional training and experience may also be required to obtain a license.
* Clinical Psychologist
* Pastoral Counselor
* Sports Psychologist
* Health Psychologist
* Child and Developmental Psychologist
These disciplines deal with the psychological and medical needs of clients. These individuals often work in conjunction with a client’s medical doctor or as part of the client’s total healthcare team.
The median annual salary range at this education level is from $69,000 to $90,000.
Before starting any career in counseling, research the requirements for your chosen discipline, entrance and course requirements for the required level of education from your chosen educational institution, licensing requirements in your state, and any other experience or training required by a prospective employer. Research will help determine the time and financial investment needed for a career in your chosen counseling field.