Are you interested in psychology? Does your dream career involve helping others improve their mental health? If your answer to both of these questions was “Yes!” then you should consider exploring counseling psychology. Counseling psychology is a required field, especially in current times, as the COVID-19 pandemic and related global occurrences have increased the need for mental health support. 

Counseling is also a popular career choice for many graduates with master’s degrees in psychology, as evidenced by the American Psychological Association (APA) data.

In this article, we’ll explore different types of counseling psychology careers to help you find roles that suit your interests and skills.

Here’s a simple definition of counseling or counseling psychology (as spelled in the UK):

Counseling psychology is a field that draws upon the principles of psychology and psychotherapy to help individuals overcome a wide range of mental health and behavioral difficulties. Counseling psychology aims to provide clients with the tools to better understand themselves and their behaviors and develop effective coping mechanisms to deal with their problems.

A counseling psychologist is a mental health professional specializing in counseling or therapeutic services to individuals or groups. Counseling psychologists help clients overcome emotional, social, behavioral, or other challenges and develop coping skills to help them achieve their goals. 

Counseling psychologists may work in various settings, including private practice, mental health clinics, hospitals, universities, community health centers, businesses, and more. They may specialize in working with specific populations, such as children, adolescents, or older adults, or with particular issues like addiction, trauma, or even relationship problems.

Most counseling psychologists tend to have the following skills and traits:

  • A strong understanding of psychological principles
  • Knowledge of counseling techniques
  • A good understanding of ethics
  • Active listening skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy

Simply put, counseling psychologists are trained professionals who are important in promoting mental health and helping individuals and communities thrive.

  • Mental Health Technicians
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors 
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Genetic Counselors
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • School and Career Counselors
  • Sports Psychologists

Mental Health Technicians

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

High school diploma or equivalent

What they do: 

Mental health technicians, formally called psychiatric technicians or aides, work with counselors, therapists, psychologists, and physicians to care for patients with mental health or developmental issues. Many mental health technicians provide therapeutic care and can significantly impact their patients’ treatment. Mental health technicians work in different settings: hospitals, outpatient centers, and even residential facilities. Some may work as residential youth counselors, helping youth cope with common problems. Most psychiatric technicians receive on-the-job training in nursing, patient care, counseling, etc. Besides California, most states do not require mental health technicians to have a license. 

This may be a great place to build your patient skills and explore counseling careers in healthcare. 

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

Bachelor’s degree

What they do: 

Substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors, also known as addiction counselors, guide their clients through the murky waters of addiction and teach them essential coping mechanisms to overcome obstacles. In addition to helping individuals rebuild their professional and personal relationships, addiction counselors often work with diverse populations, from veterans to teenagers, to help them find the path to recovery. They may be asked to intervene in crises, such as if an individual is endangering their own life or the lives of others. While most entry-level substance abuse counselor jobs require a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related major, earning a master’s degree is recommended.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in health psychology or cognitive psychology to help people fight their addictions, you may find this a rewarding career path. 

Mental Health Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree or higher

What they do: Like substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors advise individuals, families, and groups and may specialize in working with specific populations, such as children (pediatric mental health counseling) or older adults (geriatric mental health counseling). They may assist clients in managing a range of mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, stress, and grief, while also addressing social, emotional, and relationship difficulties. Mental health counselors may need a master’s degree in some settings.

If mental health is important to you, and you want to make a career by helping people with their mental health concerns, consider pursuing mental health counseling.

Social Workers

Median Annual Salary (2021): $50,390 

Typical Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree

What they do: Social workers assist individuals or communities in tackling daily challenges they may face. They may help raise awareness about specific issues affecting certain communities.

They assist in a wide range of situations, from adoption to terminal illnesses. Some social workers are licensed to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. These social workers are called clinical social workers (CSWs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), or may have different titles based on where they work. Today, there are many different types of social workers – healthcare social workers, criminal justice social workers, etc. 

Social work can be a fulfilling career if you are passionate about using your counseling skills to make a difference in society.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Median Annual Salary (2021): $49,880

Typical Entry-Level Education: Master’s degree

What they do: Marriage and family therapists or counselors help clients solve marital and family relationship issues. They use their understanding of developmental, cognitive, and behavioral psychology to help individuals, couples, and families cope with the struggles they face. They advise their clients and help them adjust to new situations, communicate better, and make better decisions for their future. All states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. 

Though counseling and therapy typically differ, marriage and family therapists and marriage counselors are often interchangeable titles given to professionals trained in this area. 

A career as a licensed marriage and family therapist can be enriching, especially if you yearn to help mend broken homes in these trying times.

Genetic Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

Master’s degree

What they do: 

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who specialize in assessing the risk of inherited genetic disorders, providing education and emotional support to patients and their families, explaining genetic test results, and developing management plans. They play a critical role in helping individuals and families make informed decisions about their health and promoting the best possible outcomes for patients with genetic conditions. To summarize the role of a genetic counselor, they provide comprehensive counseling services to individuals and families, helping them navigate the complexities of genetic testing and diagnosis and make informed decisions about their health and family planning options. 

In most states, you will require licensure and certification to become a genetic counselor. Most genetic counselors also hold a master’s degree in genetic counseling. You can gain experience in this field as a genetic counselor assistant. With the job outlook for genetic counselors projected to be 18% (much faster than average), it can prove to be a lucrative career path. 

Rehabilitation Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

Master’s degree

What they do: 

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities live independently. Whether these disabilities are physical, mental, developmental, or emotional, rehabilitation counselors help them build the right mindset to conquer their obstacles and rise above their disabilities. Some counselors in this field advocate for their client’s rights to work and live in society. 

There are a number of career options in rehabilitation counseling. Vocational rehabilitation counselors work specifically to help their clients with disabilities plan careers and find and keep satisfying jobs. Some focus on providing counseling services to veterans and military personnel. Licensing requirements for rehabilitation counselors differ based on where they work and the services they provide. 

School and Career Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2021): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

Master’s degree

What they do:

School counselors help students build academic skills and make informed decisions for their future. Career counselors help students and clients develop skills, explore career paths, or choose the right educational programs that will lead to their desired careers. Counselors working in schools and colleges often handle all important situations concerning students’ mental health, often offering one-to-one support and connecting students to licensed therapists if needed. They may also have private practices focusing on specific demographics such as adult learners, high school students, students from minority communities, etc. Today, academic and career counselors specialize in several areas–army career counseling, high school counseling, college counseling, career coaching, etc.

If you are keen on helping students achieve their academic goals, consider exploring school and career counseling jobs.

Sports Psychologists

Average Annual Base Salary (2022): 


Typical Entry-Level Education: 

Doctoral degree

What they do:

The role of a sports psychologist or counselor has evolved over time and now goes beyond just counseling. Traditionally, a sports psychologist would provide athletes with mental training and help them develop coping strategies to deal with the pressures of competition. However, in modern times, athletes often have access to a team of mental health professionals, which includes sports psychologists or sports counselors, who work to provide a comprehensive approach to mental health and wellbeing. 

A sports psychologist or counselor works with athletes to address a range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, stress, and self-doubt. They also often help athletes manage career transitions, cope with injuries, and navigate the pressures of competing at the highest levels. They may work one-on-one with athletes or provide group counseling and workshops. A sports psychologist or counselor aims to help athletes achieve their full potential, on and off the field. Sports psychologists usually need to be licensed and complete postdoctoral training. Only licensed practitioners can call themselves sports psychologists.

If you are enthusiastic about sports and want to go beyond traditional counseling roles, it’d be worthwhile to explore sports psychology and sports counseling career options.

*Based on 32 salary profiles on Payscale with the base salary ranging from $49k to $103k

Counseling psychology is a growing field with numerous career opportunities. Owing to its dynamic nature, there are many career paths for you to choose from. Students today can pursue varied counseling careers: mental health technicians, substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, genetic counselors, rehabilitation counselors, academic counselors, sports counselors, etc. 

With counseling, choosing a career that aligns with your interests and strengths is important. It is not always an easy path but it can lead to a satisfying career in your field of interest. 

As with all academic journeys, we recommend doing a fair amount of research before taking your first step toward a career in counseling psychology. Consider reading our other articles to help you make an informed decision and explore opportunities that match your interests.

Best of luck!

Q: Is counseling the same as therapy?

The short answer: Not exactly.
Though the terms’ counseling’ and ‘therapy’ are often used synonymously, there are a few differences between psychotherapy and psychological counseling. Counseling aims to help people with specific concerns, like addiction, job stress, etc. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving or learning coping techniques. It is also usually more short-term than therapy.

Q: What is the difference between clinical and counseling psychology?

A common question many students ask is, “How do clinical psychology and counseling psychology differ?” Interestingly, clinical psychology vs counseling psychology is a topic often debated even by psychology majors and professionals with psychology degrees.

Q: What subjects does a counseling psychology degree include?

The subjects you will learn through a counseling psychology degree may vary based on factors like your degree level, program type, specialization, and university. Some common subjects included in counseling psychology programs are:

– Counseling techniques for individuals and groups
– Ethics in psychology
– Applied psychological measurement
– Social dynamics
– Abnormal psychology
– Psychopathology
– Developmental psychology
– The history of psychology