Written By - Derick de Souza

Reviewed By OMC Staff

Counseling psychology is arguably one of the fast-growing career paths. There is a projected growth of 3% between 2019 and 2029, resulting in a projected increment of 6.53% in the annual salary. As the need for psychology practitioners or counseling psychologists is rising in different places, like services in schools, hospitals, social services centers, rehabilitation centers, and individual practices, the demand for the job is also growing. The average annual salary of a counseling psychologist as of August 2023 is $89,728.

This guide will give a good insight into various aspects of counseling psychology, the education required to become a psychologist, different variations of counseling psychology, salary details, and additional resource links that help grow your network.

Becoming a Counseling Psychologist:
Salaries & Career Outlook

Table Of Contents

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How to Become a Counseling Psychologist

If you are aspiring to become a counseling psychologist, it is a must for you to understand the process involved in how to become one.  

Counseling psychology is considered one of the most popular and prominent specialties in the varied professional psychology field. Master’s or doctoral degree psychology programs are prevalent in many universities, along with a broad range of practices from which students can choose. Once you are through your bachelor’s degree in psychology, you can continue to enroll in a master’s degree in either counseling or psychology. During this course of learning, you can opt for the counseling specialty. You must obtain a Doctor of Philosophy or psychology degree if you are looking forward to pursuing a career as a counseling psychologist.  

Apart from acquiring a doctorate from an accredited school, an individual should have a license to practice from the state, undergo an internship, and have two years of supervised practice before being qualified to function independently as a practicing psychologist. 

Certification through accredited colleges or the American Board of Professional Psychology, or the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology, is another step in furthering one’s counseling psychology career. 

A General Education Path for a Counseling Psychologist

Becoming a counseling psychologist requires several years of education and at least some years of supervised work experience. Here are the steps you need to take to practice as an independent, professional counseling psychologist in the U.S.: 

  1. Minimum Education: To begin with, an individual must earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology or a specialization within psychology 
  2. Field Experience: After one’s undergraduate degree, it is essential to work under the supervision of a qualified psychologist to gain hands-on experience and training. 
  3. Additional Education: In most instances, one is required to have at least a master’s degree or a Ph.D. to qualify for licensure and practice as an independent counseling psychologist. 
  4. Licensure: Graduates must meet licensing requirements that vary by state. Most states require a doctorate, while some expect a master’s degree with two years of supervised practice. 
  5. Board Certification: Although not a state requirement, employers often prefer or require counseling psychologists who have earned board certification. Even if one intends to practice independently, board certification demonstrates that one has the necessary knowledge and expertise in the field. 

Variations of Counseling Psychology

A counseling psychologist can be instrumental in resolving and helping an individual’s mental illness. The type of psychologist one wants to become depends on one’s preference. Here is a list of varying titles/areas that the counselor can focus on as one of their methods of learning and practicing: 

  1. Psychodynamic or Psychoanalytic
    This part of counseling psychology aims at educating the individual about the different aspects of their mind and helping them reach a mental balance. This will help individuals disassociate themselves from the negative factors influencing their current situations/problems. 
  2. Behavioral Counseling
    Many individuals have eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, or unwanted behaviors. A behavioral counseling psychologist examines and determines the cause of such behavior, counsels the patient in unlearning this undesirable behavior, and guides them in coming out of challenging situations. 
  3. Humanistic Counseling
    As the name suggests, humanistic counseling focuses on the individual’s response to life events and how these experiences make them feel. As part of this counseling, the psychologist’s goal is to assist the patient in being mindful of their responses to these life events that can influence/affect them. The humanistic counseling psychologist helps patients create a workaround for their problems and develop solutions individually.
  4. Client-centered Counseling
    Client-centered counseling is a derivative of humanistic counseling wherein the client is an expert on their emotions, not the psychologist. The role of the counselor is to help the client to process and consider what the patient is saying. This process does not consist of questioning or interpreting what the patient is saying. 
  5. Cognitive Counseling
    Cognitive counseling is aimed at patients or individuals whose alignment of thinking with reality is disrupted or out of sync. This therapy is like reality and acceptance therapy, wherein the individual is guided to resolve their psychological and emotional difficulties by bringing the patient’s thinking patterns in line with reality and resolving their concerns. 
  6. Constructionist Counseling
    As the name defines, constructionist counseling is practiced based on solution-focused therapy. It involves understanding the events than the actual events. The counselor helps patients to logically or constructively process their thoughts, feelings, and emotions based on the circumstances and resolve their concerns.  
  7. Systemic Counseling
    During systemic counseling, the counselor investigates the individual’s difficulties in building relations or maintaining their role in the family or social network. This psychology practice believes that individual behavior is formed by social influence. 

What Does a Counseling Psychologist Do?

Being in the behavioral health field and working as a counseling psychologist requires an innate nature to help people with their distress. Given the field of psychology is more aligned with humanity, the job comes in various titles, roles, and responsibilities. Following is a list of some of them: 

Title/Role Description
School Counselor As a school counselor, the psychologist plays a vital role in a student’s life. The individual’s role will be to counsel or help students achieve personal development like collaborative and cooperative skills, perseverance practice, time management, and others, based on different settings. This counseling will aid in the overall academic achievement of the student. 
Career Counselor As part of their roles, the counselor will inspect their clients’ career choices and aspirations, guide patients through aptitude, personality, and adjacent tests, and accordingly check if their career choices and the skills they imbibe can lead to a successful career path. 
Staff Psychologist A staff psychologist performs psychological assessment tests, investigates the patient’s needs, recommends treatment plans, and collaborates with counselors and physicians to evaluate and monitor the staff. 
Counselor/Therapist As a counselor or therapist, one must actively and directly interact with the patient, diagnose their mental health concerns, prepare a treatment plan, and monitor their well-being. 
Research Analyst As a researcher or research analyst, the individual conducts studies and analyses for different aspects of psychology for universities and private research institutions. 
Substance Abuse Counselor Individuals struggling with substance abuse and chemical dependency are counseled and given treatment by substance abuse counselors. 
Learning Disabilities Specialist Learning disabilities specialists work as special ed teachers, social workers, or rehab counselors. As part of their roles, they evaluate and assist in teaching disabled students of all ages to develop educational and life skills. 
Child Psychologist The primary role of a child psychologist is to treat the emotional and developmental concerns of children and adolescents. 
Geropsychologist Like child psychologists, geropsychologists help older clients and geriatrics with their mental health issues. 

How Much Does a Counseling Psychologist Make?

Now that how to become a counseling psychologist, the different paths or job titles one can pursue based on individual interests, and variations of a counseling psychologist have been covered, the frequently asked question of how much a counseling psychologist makes or earns while performing different roles or job titles remains to be answered. Counseling psychology is arguably one of the most progressing careers one can choose, and the rewards/salaries from it are also projected to be good. Here is a list of roles or job titles and the average median annual salary one can expect: 

Title/Role Average Median Annual Salary 
School Counselor $58,120 
Career Counselor $60,510 
Staff Psychologist$96,916 
Counselor/Therapist $81,040 
Research Analyst $95,570 
Substance Abuse Counselor $48,520 
Learning Disabilities Specialist $48,090 
Child Psychologist$97,829 
Geropsychologist $53,825 

What is the Job Outlook for Counseling Psychologists?

Counseling psychologists understand and deal with an individual’s mental wellness spanning various aspects like home, workplace, society, etc. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for counseling psychologists is rising, with a projected increase of 6% between 2021 and 2031. And as of May 2021, the median annual wage of psychologists is $81,040. 

With the increase in awareness of the services provided by counseling psychologists and the need to address mental and emotional health, the requirement of this health care provider is also more. 

Title/Role Job Outlook 
School Counselor School counselors’ employment opportunities are projected to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031
Career Counselor Like School counselors, the job outlook for career counselors is also projected to grow at a 10% rate from 2021 to 2031
Staff Psychologist The need for staff psychologists is also considered in high demand as organizations are increasingly seeking the help of counselors for the betterment of their staff’s mental health. 
Counselor/Therapist The counseling profession covering substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health issues has an expected growth rate of 22% between 2021 and 2031
Substance Abuse Counselor As the chemical dependency of many individuals is on the rise, so is the requirement of counseling through a certified substance abuse counselor is also on the rise. 
Learning Disabilities Specialist With several children experiencing learning difficulties and finding it hard to cope with standard education, the need for learning disabilities specialists and special education teachers is set to rise by 4% between 2021 & 2031
Child Psychologist Children go through various situations based on their cultural and social backgrounds, which might inflict mental illness. With parents seeking help for their children, there is a marked increase in the demand for child counselors. 
Geropsychologist Senior citizens are also seeking the help of geropsychologists to overcome their mental health issues, which has increased occupational opportunities for geropsychologists.

FAQs on Counseling Psychology

Frequently Asked Questions

Is one required to have a previous or bachelor’s psychology degree to be eligible to work as a counseling psychologist? 

To pursue a counseling psychologist career, one must do their bachelor’s and master’s in psychology from an accredited college and attain a certificate from the American Board of Professional Psychology or the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology. 

What is the career growth rate for counseling psychologists currently? 

As more people become aware of the different jobs or roles that can be practiced with a counseling psychology degree, along with people being liberal in reaching out for counseling on a broad range of issues, the growth rate for counseling psychologist jobs is reasonably good at a healthy 6% between 2021 and 2031

What roles can I take up with a counseling psychology degree? 

Is it mandatory to be licensed to practice counseling psychology? 

Additional Resources for Counseling Psychology

In the fast-paced contemporary world, individuals, however well-guided, tend to struggle through specific procedures/activities in their field. This is where an external resource or a ready reference helps guide them through their queries, increases networking opportunities, and provides awareness of current scenarios in the field. Here are a few good resources to explore: 

  1. American Counseling Association (ACA) – The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to professional and educational purposes and for the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. ACA’s website helps all professional counselors during their assignments and helps with an array of free resources. 
  2. American Psychological Association (APA) – American Psychological Association (APA) is a leading scientific and professional psychology organization. APA represents psychology in the U.S., housing more than 133,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, students, and consultants. Their work is toward enriching public understanding of psychology and its usage. 
  3. Association for Psychological Science (APS) – APS is the scientific home of thousands of world-class psychological science researchers, practitioners, teachers, and students dedicated to advancing scientific psychology across disciplinary and geographic boundaries. 
  4. Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) – The Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) is Division 17 of the American Psychological Association (APA). SCP connects students, psychologists, and international and professional affiliates dedicated to promoting education, training, practice, scientific investigation, and diversity in professional psychology. 
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