Welcome to MastersInCounseling.org: we provide an interactive guide to educational opportunities in the counseling profession. Our blog is authored by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco, a licensed mental health counselor and marriage & family therapist based in Tampa, FL. As an introduction, we’ve listed answers below to some of our most frequently asked questions (you can click on a question to skip ahead to its section):
- What should I look for in a master’s program in counseling?
- What counseling career paths can I pursue with a master’s degree?
- What are the certification and licensure requirements for counselors?
What should I look for in a master's program in counseling?
Whether you're considering enrollment at traditional brick-and-mortar institution or at an online university, you should look at every degree program with a critical eye. Answering “no” to any of the following questions means that program isn't right for you and you should look elsewhere.
- Is the program accredited by a National Accreditation Agency?
- Does the program prepare students for licensure and certification exams?
- Does the program/school offer areas of specialization that fit my career goals?
The following accredited programs fulfill all of these criteria:
- Walden University (accredited by HLC, NCA) offers an MS: Mental Health Counseling, MS: Forensic Counseling, MS: Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling, and more.
- Capella University (accredited by HLC, NCA) offers an MS: Counseling Psychology, MS: Addiction Counseling, MS: Marriage & Family Counseling, MS: Clinical Psychology, and more.
- University of the Rockies (accredited by HLC, NCA) offers an MA: Psych - Career Counseling, MA: Human Services, and more.
- Liberty University (accredited by SACS) offers an MEd: School Counseling, MA: Professional Counseling, MA: Marriage & Family Therapy, MA: Human Services — Addictions & Recovery, and more.
You can also click here to search a database of 100+ accredited degree programs (both campus and online).
There are many different educational and professional paths you can take to have a fulfilling career in the counseling field. Below is a table which lists the most common careers, as well as degree programs that are relevant to those careers. If you’re unsure of what kind of degree you should get, we have a guide on MS versus MA degrees.
|Type of Counselor||Job Description||Relevant Degree Programs|
|Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor||Substance abuse and addiction counselors provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.||
|Career Counselor||Career counselors help clients determine and plan for possible career paths by assessing their education, skills, interests, and personality.||
|Clinical Mental Health Counselor||Clinical mental health counselors help clients deal with a spectrum of mental and emotional disorders, as well as to promote mental health and wellness.||
|Geriatric Counselor||Geriatric counselors help individual and families deal with the aging process, such as issues related to retirement and loss.||
|Marriage, Couple, and Family Counselor||Marriage, couple, and family counselors assist clients across of variety of mental and emotional disorders and relationship issues.||
|Rehabilitation Counselor||Rehabilitation counselors help client with disabilities live independent, productive lives through unique treatment plans and therapy options.||
|School Counselor||School counselors are trained to promote the academic, career, and personal/social development of all K-12 students within the school setting.||
|Spirituality and Religious Counselor||Spirituality and religious counselors are devoted to helping clients draw on their spiritual values to deal with mental and emotional disorders.||
|Trauma and Crisis Counselor||Trauma and crisis counselors help clients deal with the emotional impact of tragic events through a variety of processes including group and individual counseling.||
Licensure requirements for counselors depend largely on your career focus, as well as the location in which you’d like to practice. The following table offers information on national certification and state licensure. If you’re curious about state by state requirements, you can view this fantastic pdf reference.
|National Certification||State Licensure|
|What is it?||National certification is a voluntary process entirely separate from state licensure. It is not a license to practice; however, holding a national certification can assist counselors in obtaining a state license.||State licensure is mandatory to practice counseling independently. These standards are set by regulatory boards in each state.|
|Name of Credential:||National Board for Certified Counselors issues the National Certified Counselor (NCC) in addition to three specialty certifications in addictions, clinical mental health and school counseling.||Licensure differs from state to state; however the most common titles are: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).|
|Examinations:||Students must pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).||State counselor licensure boards contract with NBCC to use one or both of the following exams: NCE and/or NCMHCE.|
||Licensure varies by state; however, all states do require that students have a combination of the following: