How to Get a Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling, like many health care services, is becoming more in demand as our population is growing older. Mental health counselors are important for helping people to deal with difficult parts of their lives, such as physical illness, financial difficulties, job loss and the death of loved ones.

An increase in demand for mental health counseling services is due to people wanting to deal with their mental health issues as they age. Also, more people have access to health insurance today, and new laws require insurance plans to cover mental health care. Also, mental health counselors tend to be compensated less than psychologists, so mental health counselors are being requested more by consumers and health care organizations.

Earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling is a solid path to an exciting and rewarding career in helping others. You will qualify for these types of positions:

  • Mental health counselor: These mental health professionals help people to deal with their emotional and mental issues, as well as their problems in their families. They carefully listen to clients, ask them questions, and help them to understand the source of the issue. Then, they help them to come up with effective strategies to cope with the problems. Most often, these professionals will work with clients who deal with anxiety and depression.
  • Marriage and family therapist: They help married couples to work through their relationship problems, and also help them to communicate more effectively, and to develop strategies to improve the relationship in the future.
  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors: They advise people who are dealing with addictions. These include drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and other serious behavioral problems. They offer treatment and support to help them to recover from their addiction. These professionals also may be referred to as addiction counselors. This profession is seeing more demand as governments are understanding that treating drug offenders can be more effective than sending them to prison for years.

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling?

People who work in mental health counseling gain satisfaction from helping other people to deal with life challenges. You will have many opportunities in this field to make a difference in the lives of your patients and clients. For many workers in this field, that is the most important reason they enter the profession.

Also, the job outlook for mental health professionals in America today is excellent. The employment picture for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is excellent, with a 19% increase in job demand expected by 2024.

As our population is getting older and living more healthy lives physically, it is only natural for them to want to deal with their mental health issues as well. This will increase the demand for mental health counselors.

Further, a greater number of people now have access to mental health services in their health care plan. This will cause more patients to look for mental health counselors to deal with their life problems.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for this master’s program will vary.  But you should expect these types of admission standards for a mental health counseling master’s program:

  • Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related social science profession
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75; 3.0 or higher may be required for highly ranked programs
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official college transcripts
  • An essay of one to three pages that shows your writing ability
  • Updated resume
  • GRE or GMAT scores may be required

Curriculum and Courses

Nova Southeastern University offers a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. This program is based upon a progressive model that stresses interdisciplinary collaboration, preventing dysfunction, and direct service. The coursework offers you broad based training that will equip you with the mental health counseling competencies that you need to deal with common challenges of daily life, including:

  • Divorce
  • Aging
  • Substance abuse
  • Family violence
  • General emotional issues such as anxiety and depression

This program requires you to complete 60 semester hours of classes; this includes nine semester hours of a counseling practicum or internship.

Your required courses will include these:

  • Counseling Theories and Practice
  • Research and Evaluation for Counselors
  • Introduction to Mental Health Counseling Techniques
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Human Sexuality
  • Ethical, Legal and Professional Issues for Counselors
  • Diagnosis and Treatment of Adult Psychopathology
  • Substance Abuse
  • Career and Lifestyle Assessment
  • Diagnosis and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Career Outcomes and Job Titles

You can work in jobs with these titles with a mental health counseling master’s degree:

  • Mental health counselor
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Vocational counselor
  • Mental health director
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Educational counselor

Job and Salary Outlook

  • Mental Health Counselor — Job demand in this field will be strong, as 19% more jobs will be available by 2024. Median pay in the field is $48,600, with the top 10% earning more than $81,000 per year. Generally professionals who work for the state and local government tend to command the highest salaries – $69,700.
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors — There will be a strong surge in demand for these workers – 22% increase by 2024. Growth is expected to be strong as addiction and mental health services are covered under more health insurance policies. This demand also is being affected by the fact that states are seeking treatment for drug offenders instead of sending them to prison. Research indicates that drug offenders are often less likely to offend again if the receive treatment for their addiction. Median pay in this field is $39,000 per year.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors — Rehabilitation counselors assist people with various disabilities to live as independently as possible. They work closely with their clients to help them to overcome the various disabilities and how they affect independent living, employment and interaction with family. Job demand will increase by 9% by 2024, and the median salary is $34,900.

Scholarships and Grants

With the strong demand for mental health services, and the affordability of mental health counselors, there are many good scholarships and grants for students focusing on this field:

  • National Board for Certified Counselors: This organization offers several scholarships and grants for student counselors completing their master’s degree. It also offers financial support to doctoral students. Some of the programs include the Rural Scholarship, the Military Scholarship, the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program and the ACS Training Award.


Does a career in mental health counseling sound like it’s for you? Remember to review these additional resources to get more information:

  • Mental Health America: This resource provides mental health employers with the best mental health professionals. You can use this organization to help you find a good paying opportunity when you graduate with your mental health counseling degree.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association: This organization is the top group for licensed clinical mental health counselors in the US. It is an excellent resource for education, advocacy, leadership, networking and collaboration on critical issues to the mental health counselors community.

Additional Resources