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Counseling Psychologist Degree

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What is a Counseling Psychologist?

Counseling Psychology is a field of study focused on applied work and research in a variety of domains that include: supervision and training, career development and counseling, prevention and health, along with counseling process and outcomes.  These broad domains coalesce into meta-themes that include a counseling psychologist working to best understand patients’ intact personalities, assets and strengths, career and education development, and personal interactions.

The emphasis of a counseling psychologist is focused on answering several questions around the counseling process and patient outcome.  The process is the how and why of counseling while the outcome is about the efficacy of counseling.  The topics a counseling psychologist engages in can vary from patient to patient, but common topics include: patient variables, counseling relationship, cultural variables, therapeutic approach, outcome measurement, process methods, outcome predilection, and mechanisms of change.

How to Become a Counseling Psychologist?

To begin your career as a counseling psychologist, you will need to pass through a discrete number of steps along the way.  These steps are outlined below to give you working knowledge into the process to begin a career as a counseling psychologist.

1.Perform Research on Accredited Schools

Your journey to become a counseling psychologist begins with researching accredited colleges and universities.  To maximize your time, we recommend you first invest energy to write down your priorities and educational objectives.  This list will, in turn, help you find the perfect college match for you.

It may be beneficial to take the time to read our guides The Complete Guide to the College Admission Process and Crush the Odds by Getting into Your Top College.    After reading our resource guides, simply request information from accredited colleges and universities found on this resource page or leverage our proprietary matching portal to learn more about a school’s pedagogy, tuition, admissions, student services, and financial aid options.

2. Apply to Accredited Colleges & Universities

After collecting information from your top schools, you will need to invest time to complete their college application.  Students applying to a graduate school in counseling psychology must be organized, detail oriented, and diligent about reading instructions and completing the application as requested.

Take the extra time to detail your work experience, clubs, memberships, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities that uniquely describe you as the pool of candidates for these programs can be quite competitive.

3. Attend College & Complete Program

After accepting admissions to your top college, schedule a time to attend the school’s orientation and meet with your counselor prior to registering for class. Most states require a graduate degree to begin work as a counseling psychologist and we have listed the master’s degree and doctoral degree overview below to help you better understand your options.

4. Examinations, Certification, and Licensure

With your graduate degree in counseling psychology in hand, you will need to meet your state-specific requirements prior to applying for licensure.  Your state will require a counseling psychologists to site for a board-certified, state approved exam or have a minimum number of work experience to meet their guidelines.  Meeting these guidelines will allow a psychologist to apply for a license before practicing psychology.

5. Find Work and Continuing Education

After meeting all state requirements and earning your license to practice, you will be able to seek work as a counseling psychologist as a practitioner, research specialist, clinician, or administrator.   It is important to note, employers may require you to become board-certified prior to starting work or during your employment so ask the hiring manager in advance to help you plan accordingly.   Finally, you will be required to take continuing education credits mandated by your state of residence to keep you license active.

Top Counseling Psychologist Degrees

Students considering a career as a counseling psychologist need to understand a graduate degree is required in most states to practice.  In fact, the United States Department of Labor reveals that 27% of counseling psychologists have a master’s degree, 25% have a doctoral degree, and the balance have earned post-doctoral training.  The graduate degree programs are listed below to help you understand the degree options that may be listed in a course catalog by an accredited college or university.

Counseling Psychologist Master's Degree

An online or on-site master’s degree for a counseling psychologist is most often conferred as a Masters of Science (MS) but can also be found as a Master’s of Arts (MA) in select schools.  It is a unique discipline found in the psychology department of colleges and universities across the country.

Divisions within psychology at the graduate-degree level can include a variety of specialties to consider.  Consider psychology tracks such as: applied psychology, educational psychology, crisis management, leadership development, social psychology, health psychology, psychology of culture, and public administration.

Matriculation in a counseling psychologist program can be earned in two to three calendar years.  Online master's degrees in counseling may be completed in an accelerated manner by taking multiple classes or enrolling in a fast track degree.  Alternatively, students may elect a dual degree coupling a counseling degree with an MBA or Public Administration degree concurrently.

Courses in a master’s degree in counseling psychology may include: clinical psychopathology, social psychology, grief counseling, quantitative reasoning, lifespan development, professional coaching, psychology of personality, and cognitive behavior.

Counseling Psychologist PhD

Doctoral degrees available for counseling psychologists can be found as a PhD or Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling.  A PhD in counseling psychology is known as a terminal degree as no degrees are offered beyond the doctorate.

Counseling psychologist PhD programs will take four to six years programs that will include: supervised practicum, an academic year in residence (AYR), doctoral residency, and internship requirements dictated by the school.

The hands-on exercises, in-residence requirements, and evidence-based therapeutic techniques helps construct a well-rounded counselor.  PhD degrees in psychology are built to properly prepare graduate students for state-board exams and licensure as a psychologist.   Earning a license in counseling psychology can provide career opportunities in teaching, consulting, administration, management, clinical research, or practitioners working with patient.

Top Skills & Abilities Required of Counseling Psychologists

  1. Clear, fluent speaking in small groups and one-on-one
  2. Instructing others with authority and confidence
  3. Reading comprehension skills to understand complex human interaction
  4. Active listening skills to help engage others
  5. Writing clearly and effectively
  6. Speech clarity to be understood by others using proper inflection and tone
  7. Oral expression & oral comprehension
  8. Empathy and non-verbal recognition

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Employment Tracks for Counseling Psychologists

Undergraduate and graduates earning counseling psychologist degree will be ready to jump into careers in many fields.  The core skills will apply to any industry in a variety of large and small organizations.  Examples of counseling careers include a research specialist, school counselor, clinical psychologist, curriculum designer, mental health counselor, family counselor, rehabilitation counselor, career counselor, substance abuse counselor, and behavior disorder counselor.

Counseling Psychologist Careers

Jobs for counseling psychologist are poised to increase rapidly over the coming ten year span.  Reports published by the United States Department of Labor indicate a rapid 19% rise in jobs for psychologists is expected.  Growth at this capacity is three times the national average for all jobs.  Expect a number of career opportunities ahead given the meteoric rise in demand for trained, licensed counseling psychologists.

Popular Job Titles for Counseling Psychologists

If you are considering a career as a counseling psychologist, it is important to get accustomed to job-specific vernacular in the industry.  To help you better understand jobs in counseling psychology that you may see in the real-world, we have collected a short list of popular job titles to review.  The most common job titles for a counseling psychologist includes:

  • Counselor
  • Psychotherapist
  • Counseling Services Director
  • Staff Psychologist
  • Counseling Psychologist
  • Senior Staff Psychologist
  • Applied Behavior Science Specialist (ABSS)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Psychologist
  • Chemical Dependency Therapist

How Much Do Counseling Psychologists Make?

The amount of money each counseling psychologist will make depends on a number of factors including your degree, work experience, effort, aptitude, geographic location, organization type, and number of hours logged per year.  With that in mind, we have collected averages and state-based data to give you a working understanding of the industry and the amount of money a typical counseling psychologist makes annually.

The mean annual wage for a counseling psychologist is $78,690.  The growth forecast is 14% which is more than twice the national average and will add some 63,800 job openings in the coming decade.  States with the most jobs for a counseling psychologist per capita are ranked in the following order: Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New York.

Top Employers of Counseling Psychologists

  1. Elementary and Secondary Schools       44,280
  2. Health Practitioners                                   15,600
  3. Individual & Family Service Providers    6,930
  4. Outpatient Care Centers                             5,960
  5. Medical & Surgical Hospitals                    5,680

States with the Highest Employment of Counseling Psychologists

  • California           18,990
  • New York           11,230
  • Texas                    5,820
  • Pennsylvania      5,040
  • Massachusetts   4,900

Top Paying States for Counseling Psychologists

  1. New Jersey      $94,650
  2. South Dakota  $93,760
  3. California         $90,210
  4. New York         $89,430
  5. Oregon             $87,170

Top Job Duties for a Counseling Psychologist

The United States Department of Labor published a survey of counseling psychologists to better understand what they do day over day.  As such, we have rolled up a list of the most common job duties of a counseling psychologist into a short list below to help you better understand the scope of the job.

  • Supervising counselors, interns, and clinicians in training
  • Documenting patient information as session notes, progress notes, recommendations, and treatment plans
  • Counseling couples, families, individuals, or small groups to help them understand problems, deal with challenging situations, define goals, and develop realistic treatment plans
  • Developing therapeutic programs to best suit each individual client
  • Collecting information about individuals or clients, using interviews, case histories, and observational techniques

Additional Resources for Counseling Psychologists

Organizations and associations can be a boon for counselors across the country.  Non-profit organizations targeted for counselors can help advance this field of study by providing networking opportunities, tools, resources, and research of all types.  Examples of trade organizations include: American Counseling Association (ACA), Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP), and the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

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