Salary Outlook for Master’s in Counseling Psychology

More than 27,000 people completed their master’s degrees in psychology in the 2017-18 school year. This makes psychology one of the hottest subjects for graduate studies in the United States, federal education officials reported, with psychology ranking seventh out of all subjects for graduate degree programs that year. (NCES.Ed.Gov)

Psychology master’s degrees have grown in popularity by about 30% over the past decade, and given the range of possible focus areas, it’s not hard to understand why. Whether it’s their final educational stop or a stepping stone to even higher levels of academic achievement, a Master’s in Counseling Psychology can be a crucial career building block.

Let’s take a look at what professionals with a Master’s in Counseling Psychology can expect to earn and how salary figures vary across the country.

Master’s in Counseling Psychology Career Paths

Among psychology specialty areas, counseling is one of the broadest, but ideal job titles for professionals with this degree will lean toward work that involves helping others cope with day-to-day stresses.

Counseling psychology is similar to clinical psychology, but counseling psychologists are less likely to deal with individuals who are suffering from major mental and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, are usually highly trained in abnormal psychology. Other focus areas within psychology include child and adolescent, family, forensic, health and community, and those with counseling psychology degrees may find a great deal of overlap in possible job titles with one or more psychology specialty areas.

A Master’s in Counseling Psychology could be the highest degree a professional earns, or it could serve as a stepping stone to higher academic achievement, such as a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.). Many people with a counseling psychology background may also consider pursuing a Doctor of Social Work degree, or DSW.

There’s no single job title and no one educational path for those considering a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. The route will probably depend on the individual’s passions and budget, but here’s a look at some potential educational paths for a selection of jobs in counseling psychology.

Counseling psychology degree options by desired occupation

PsychologistLife CoachSocial WorkerMarriage and Family Counselor
Bachelor’s in PsychologyBachelor’s in SociologyBachelor’s in Social WorkBachelor’s in Psychology
Master’s in Counseling PsychologyMaster’s in Counseling PsychologyMaster’s in Counseling PsychologyMaster’s in Counseling Psychology
PhD or PsyD in Counseling PsychologyDoctor of Social Work

Some jobs in psychology will require candidates to earn state licensure, which generally requires a doctoral degree. This could come in the form of a Psy.D., Ph.D. or, sometimes, a DSW. Be sure to check out what’s required in your state before making an investment in a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

Master’s in Counseling Psychology Salary Overview

Completing higher levels of education beyond a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree is often a wise investment, and this is definitely true for those who want to work in jobs involving counseling psychology.

Few bachelor’s degree programs offer the robust training in this area, particularly the direct, hands-on counseling work that sets this area of psychology apart from others, such as forensic psychology or industrial-organizational psychology, which are more often administrative in nature.

But in addition to opening up new avenues of occupational opportunities, getting a Master’s in Counseling Psychology can provide a salary boost. The average American with a graduate degree, including a master’s degree, makes about double what a typical high school graduate earns. And graduate degrees provide a pay boost of about one-third when compared to bachelor’s degrees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To figure out what salaries can be expected by professionals with a Master’s in Counseling Psychology under their belt, we examined data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for four potential counseling-related job titles:

  • Career and School Counselors
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Child and Family Social Workers
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors

The highest average annual pay figure was in New Jersey, where the four jobs’ annual salaries averaged out to nearly $70,000. Far behind were California, D.C. and Connecticut, where average salaries were just a touch over $61,000. Counseling psychology master’s graduates can expect the least robust salary opportunities in South Dakota and Mississippi, where average salaries were just under $42,000.

Average annual counseling psychology master’s degree salary by state

New Jersey$69,510.00
California$61,192.50
District of Columbia$61,187.50
Connecticut$61,142.50
Hawaii$60,550.00
Alaska$59,947.50
Maine$59,500.00
Oregon$59,370.00
New York$58,242.50
Nevada$58,202.50
Vermont$57,730.00
Colorado$57,597.50
Maryland$57,530.00
Illinois$57,315.00
Minnesota$57,125.00
Utah$56,272.50
Virginia$55,952.50
Washington$55,472.50
North Dakota$54,960.00
Massachusetts$54,885.00
Pennsylvania$54,542.50
Wyoming$52,955.00
Iowa$52,667.50
Georgia$52,092.50
Rhode Island$51,496.67
Delaware$51,266.67
Michigan$50,517.50
New Mexico$50,390.00
New Hampshire$50,330.00
Ohio$50,242.50
Texas$49,970.00
Wisconsin$49,402.50
South Carolina$49,176.67
Arkansas$48,910.00
Oklahoma$48,910.00
Idaho$48,710.00
North Carolina$48,422.50
Nebraska$47,652.50
Indiana$46,927.50
Arizona$46,690.00
Louisiana$46,557.50
Kentucky$46,210.00
Florida$45,902.50
Kansas$45,900.00
West Virginia$45,807.50
Alabama$44,937.50
Missouri$44,790.00
Tennessee$44,522.50
Montana$44,515.00
South Dakota$41,822.50
Mississippi$41,672.50

The highest-paid counseling professionals among the four jobs we studied were Career and School Counselors, who earn an average of nearly $58,000 per year. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors had the lowest average salary, with Child and Family Social Workers just ahead of them.

Average annual salary, selected counseling psychology master’s degree jobs

Career and School Counselors$57,865.49
Marriage and Family Therapists$52,926.60
All$52,305.78
Child and Family Social Workers$49,448.04
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors$49,022.94

In every state, the four select counseling jobs for which we analyzed data are expected to see positive job growth over the next several years, according to Department of Labor data. Counseling job growth will be strongest in Utah, where openings will expand by nearly 35% through 2028. Several other states will also see increases of at least 25%, including Arizona, Colorado and New York, though data for a few states was unavailable. Maine’s projected growth rate of 2% was the lowest, though still on the plus side.

Average projected growth in counseling psychology master’s degree job openings by state, 2018-2028

Utah33.7%
Arizona27.7%
Colorado27.4%
New York26.0%
Georgia24.6%
Nevada22.9%
Maryland21.1%
Oregon20.9%
New Hampshire19.9%
Florida19.8%
Tennessee19.7%
Iowa19.6%
South Carolina17.8%
Connecticut17.4%
Indiana16.5%
Idaho15.8%
Wyoming15.6%
Minnesota15.0%
California14.9%
Missouri14.9%
Arkansas14.0%
West Virginia13.8%
District of Columbia13.6%
North Carolina13.2%
Virginia13.0%
Montana12.6%
Oklahoma12.5%
North Dakota12.4%
New Mexico12.3%
Nebraska11.6%
Pennsylvania11.1%
Delaware10.7%
Hawaii10.5%
Louisiana10.3%
Ohio9.9%
Kansas9.9%
Michigan9.7%
South Dakota9.75%
New Jersey9.0%
Wisconsin9.0%
Vermont8.4%
Mississippi6.8%
Illinois6.2%
Rhode Island4.6%
Alaska3.9%
Maine2.0%

Employment is projected to rise for all four of the counseling jobs we examined, with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselor jobs having a slightly higher growth rate than Marriage and Family Therapists. Both jobs are expected to grow by more than 22% through 2028. Openings for Child and Family Social workers and Career and School Counselors should grow at the same rate, 8.4%.

Average projected growth in counseling psychology master’s degree job openings, 2018-2028

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors22.5%
Marriage and Family Therapists22.4%
All15.4%
Career and School Counselors8.4%
Child and Family Social Workers8.4%

Conclusion

We could all use someone to help give us advice from time to time, and for those who are trained in counseling psychology, both the present and future look bright indeed.