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What can you do with a master’s degree in mental health counseling?

January 18, 2023

Despite what you might think, mental health counseling is a varied field. There's a critical need for mental health counselors experienced in substance abuse, inpatient care and working with children and adolescents. As you consider earning a master's degree in counseling, it's important to explore the array of counseling careers you can pursue. You should do your research to make sure your master's in counseling program has the electives, specializations, and experiences you need to become a licensed counselor in the field of your choice. The experience and insights you gain in a counseling graduate program can be valuable in many different roles and industries, including clinical settings, workplaces, schools and nonprofits.

Mental health counseling jobs

Clinical counselor

Many earning their master’s in clinical mental health counseling intend to pursue a career in clinical counseling. In this role, you work with individuals and groups assessing mental, behavioral and emotional disorders and issues, and work with them to find successful treatment. In many states and regions, finishing your master’s degree is a requirement for earning your licensure to provide mental health services.

Addiction counselor

An addiction or rehabilitation counselor performs similar duties to someone in clinical counseling, however, they provide counseling services and develop treatment plans for people working through substance abuse issues. A substance abuse counselor might work in a hospital with inpatient and outpatient units but can also be found in rehabilitation day clinics and private practices. Substance use therapists often guide group counseling sessions and work with patients to manage their mental health conditions without the use of illicit substances. Many counseling master's degree programs have electives or specialization options for students to hone in on this segment of clinical mental health counseling jobs.

Marriage and family therapist

Marriage and family therapists may work with one couple, the whole family unit or a few members at a time. While they're certainly likely to work with patients that have mental health issues, that's not necessarily the focus of these counselors' sessions. Family therapy counselors work on helping their patients to navigate recurring issues, build relationships and strengthen communication skills. These counselors often have their own private practice or work at a small office of mental health counselors.

Counseling administrator

With your master's in counseling, you could take on a leadership role as the administrator in a clinic or agency setting, government agency, nonprofit, foundation and university. Your understanding of the profession can be a valuable skill set when addressing what mental health counselors need to be successful. In agencies, administrators often serve as a mentor and sounding board, help prevent burnout among staff, lead training and organize professional development opportunities. This type of role can also require a focus on building and fostering partnerships with other community stakeholders. Earning a master's degree in counseling will help you get started in this role but it will likely take several years of experience to rise to this level of leadership. Further graduate education alongside your counseling degree might also be helpful to set yourself apart with leadership skills.

Community health educator

In this role, your goal is to promote wellness for individuals and communities. Your responsibilities can involve community outreach, connecting individuals with healthcare services (especially mental health), assessing the needs of your community and filling resource gaps, evaluating effectiveness of your agency’s programming and advocating for important causes. Community health educators are also regularly needed to act in a more traditional counseling role.

Wellness coach or counselor

A wellness coach is similar to a traditional counselor role, but often your focus is on achieving specific goals and helping clients make measurable steps forward in their life. These goals can include losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing stress or addressing other lifestyle changes. A wellness coach provides tools and strategies to clients and acts as a source of motivation. In this role, you can work one-on-one with clients or work within a larger institution, such as colleges, corporations and other organizations.


As an adjunct instructor or professor, you can continue working while you share your professional mental health counseling expertise. Community colleges also offer another opportunity for you to teach without a terminal degree. As an educator, you would lead class discussions, share your insights and teach the core tenets of counseling and other behavioral studies. Teaching in many colleges or universities requires a doctorate, and in many cases, you must be an active researcher as well. However, teaching within post-secondary institutions is possible with only a master’s degree.


As a researcher, you can test and assess programming and evidence-based practices to see what provides more positive outcomes. In this role, you can help independent, nonprofit and government agencies ask for additional funding, promote smarter counseling practices, better understand behavioral disorders and connect with practitioners, while working in a number of settings like corporate labs or in higher education. While different from many mental health counseling jobs, this rewarding career could make a big impact on professional counselors across the country.

Victim advocate

Your background as a counselor can be extremely critical as a victim advocate. In this role, you’ll work with a wide range of individuals, including children and teens who need help navigating the legal system and finding mental health and healthcare resources. This is an intense and emotionally challenging job, but it is also an important one as victims often face a frightening and confusing experience following traumatic incidents, which can include domestic abuse, hate crimes, and assault or other violent crimes.

Human resources

As a counselor, you already have the skills to thoughtfully interview candidates, understand what motivates people and their behavioral responses, mediate disputes, and conduct investigations on harassment and other workplace violations. In the HR department of an organization, you can help implement better policies, find smarter ways to address employees’ needs and even help people land jobs.

Making a difference when you pursue careers with an MS in Counseling

When you earn the online master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Marquette University, you are preparing to meet the educational requirements for licensure necessary to embark on a counseling career marked by purpose and service. You’ll find a flexible online learning experience, so you can continue your full-time job while getting ready for your next move. At Marquette, our expert faculty strive to prepare students for fulfilling careers with a master’s in counseling that includes hands-on experiences through one practicum as well as two internship courses totaling more than 600 hours. Our counseling program also offers a specialization on child and adolescent therapy to help you develop the intricate skills needed to treat this vulnerable population as a licensed mental health counselor. No matter what path you choose to pursue, know that you’ll have the skills, knowledge and compassion to take on fulfilling careers with an MS in Counseling.