Top Careers in Mental Health Counseling

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Counselor talking with a couple.

Employment in the professional counseling field is growing quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for counselors are expected to increase 12% between 2018 and 2028. Mental health counseling careers in particular are projected to grow at an even faster rate: Jobs for substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors and mental health counselors are expected to increase 27% in the same time.

Professional counselors are in demand, and earning a Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) can help you compete for top careers in mental health counseling. Here’s more information about what a master’s degree program looks like and how one can prepare you for a career as a marriage and family counselor or social worker, among other options.

Why earn a MAC?

While a bachelor’s degree is usually the base requirement for many jobs in counseling, a master’s degree can help you gain the skills and experience needed for more high-level jobs in clinical mental health counseling, like substance abuse counselor. For instance, the curriculum of the online Bradley MAC program with a clinical mental health focus includes courses that cover subjects like counseling diverse populations, principles of group counseling and brain-based interventions.

Licensure is needed for clinical mental health professionals. MAC degree programs are largely designed to help students sit for the National Counselor Examination (NCE), administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Internships or a practicum might be required for some jobs, as noted by the BLS, and can be completed as part of your master’s studies at Bradley.

What are some top careers in mental health counseling?

The skills, knowledge and experience you earn with a master’s degree can open the door to several top careers in mental health counseling. In that field, you may find employment in government, private practices, hospitals, community health clinics, nonprofit organizations, human services agencies, mental health clinics, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Some common positions a master’s degree in counseling will prepare you for include:

Behavioral disorder counselor

This type of mental health professional often sees clients who are suffering from mental illness, or struggling to cope with it on a daily basis. Such counselors can assess, diagnose and treat clients, as well as give them ways to manage their mental health, for example, using breathing exercises. Counselors might specialize in seeing children with behavioral problems or older adults, or giving care throughout the client’s life.

Substance abuse/Addictions counselor

Counseling is a key part of the rehabilitation process for those dealing with addiction to drugs, alcohol or other substances or behaviors.  Substance abuse counselors can help clients process emotions and examine damaging behaviors, helping them find ways to recover. Counselors can offer coping mechanisms, prevention strategies and an outlet for client expression. Typically, substance counselors provide both individual and group counseling, which a master’s degree can help with, as the dynamics in either setting are fundamentally different.

Crisis/grief counselor

While sometimes separate jobs, the roles of crisis counselor and grief counselor require similar skills and experience. One shared competency is practicing empathy. Counselors who treat clients in the midst of grief or crisis will need to be adept at providing an empathetic, yet dispassionate, ear. A master’s degree can help you refine these skills, as well as gain other crucial insight into cultural and gender influences on grief, or techniques for helping victims of natural disasters, tragic accidents or terrorist attacks.

Marriage, couples and family counselor

Counselors who help families or couples deal with internal struggles or divides are always in demand. Common issues they may need to help resolve include communication problems (like between an adolescent and their parents), infidelity, anger, death, dysfunction, and cultural expectations. Counselors who provide family and couples therapy will need advanced skills and interventions, given the age range of their clients and group settings.

Veterans counselor

Members of the armed forces often experience unique traumas that require dedicated counseling, but they can face the stigma of speaking about or seeking help for mental illness. Veterans counselors can help service members overcome these pressures and find help with complications like post-traumatic stress disorder or reintegration into society. Counselors might also be asked to help veterans adjust to life after losing a limb or sense.

Earn your degree at Bradley

No matter what career in clinical mental health counseling you want to pursue, a master’s education can be invaluable. When looking for a degree, consider Bradley’s online MAC program. The rich curriculum will prepare you with advanced competency and knowledge needed for clinical mental health counseling, as well as prepare you with a direct path to licensure. Want to learn more? Contact an enrollment advisor today.


Recommended Reading

Substance Abuse Counseling: What You Can Learn in a MAC Program

What are The Clinical Mental Health Specialty Courses?

Bradley University Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program



U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Mental Health Counselors