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Seeking Advice: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

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First time poster here looking to get opinions/advice from any professionals in the field or individuals who were in a similar situation as I am now. Just a heads up—this is a long post.

I am a 25-year-old currently residing in the Washington, D.C./Maryland area who graduated from American University in 2014 with a Bachelors M.A. degree in Psychology. Since then, I have worked in several fields. I was an associate ABA therapist conducting one-on-one tutoring and trials with young autistic individuals. I also worked in content/marketing within the start-up environment. My most recent full-time job was an associate researcher within the commercial real estate analytics industry.

I have realized that the office environment is simply not for me. I am considering a Masters of Science in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling because I like the idea of helping people and interacting with others in a meaningful way. The prospect of having my own schedule and taking control of my own career/practice down the line also appeals to me. I have no problem narrowing down my career route, namely to marriage and child therapy. I do not want to jump into a Doctorate degree for this now, but that is something I could be open to down the line. The classes I enjoyed and excelled in during my undergraduate studies revolved around understanding human behavior, social psychology, forensic psychology (including a second advanced forensic course, which included Masters students), and principles of understanding human sexual behavior.

Now, if you think I’m making a solid decision so far, I also have two primary concerns:

1    The university I am thinking of applying to is UDC (University of the District of Columbia). It is the only accredited Public/State university in the Washington, D.C. I am considering it because it offers a reasonable time frame (two years) to acquire a degree, and because it is considerably more affordable than other institutions in the area. However, I hear that it does not have the most solid reputation/track record when it comes to academics, because it is overshadowed by more “respected” schools such as Georgetown and George Washington. How important is a school’s reputation in regards to a licensed therapist’s prospective career path? Will I not be regarded equally? Should I look at other public schools in nearby states that are better established? (Such as CUNY/CCNY in New York). I know this may be a silly question, but I’d just like an honest opinion.

Salary. Apparently the median annual income of a licensed therapist with a Masters of Science in Counseling is around $41,000. This is lower than some of the jobs I had with a Bachelors Degree. Do you find this to be common? Is this career path not in demand, or is it expected to rise/decline in demand? Have you had any personal experiences struggling with finances after acquiring a similar degree? I am by no means looking to get “super wealthy” with this career choice, but I would still like to live comfortably and remain financially stable throughout my life with this choice.

All in all, my over-arching question is this: Does my plan seem like a good idea? Do you think I would be a good fit for this career? Again, any advice would be truly appreciated.

Thank you for your time!

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My first masters was a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling from a small state school. Trust me, it doesn't matter. Nor does a master of science in clinical counseling versus a master of arts in clinical counseling. Only three things that really matter:

  1. Is it CACREP accredited
  2. Does it set you up for internships/practicum locations with a strong reputation
  3. Is it a 60 credit hour program.


You want to go to a school with CACREP accreditation. That accreditation will let you sit for your exam earlier. Furthermore,  The 60 credit hours is important for licensure. The license is state specific, but the most stringent state requirements are 60 credit hours. I suggest doing that. Otherwise, if your state requires less schooling, but you move, you might find your pay scale drop significantly. For more about your specific state requirements, look here: http://www.counselor-license.com/resources/state-counselor-license.html#context/api/listings/prefilter


As for your financial question, yes $40k is common with just the masters. You don't break into the 50+k until you have several years experience and the state licensure. Sorry, it's not lucrative, but it is stable. Other benefits you have, if you go one for additional evidence-based training certifications (such as ABA) that will increase your earning potential. If you are looking at being the only household income, expect sometime to get on your feet. If you are 1 of (minimum) 2 contributors, you'll be fine.


As for fit, well, if you mean "am I competent for this field," yes, you are. If you mean it as in "will this make me happy, or contribute to a good life" that highly depends on your personality. I was in counseling for years (working with clients with psychotic disorders), and when I went back to grad school it was a natural progression. But I realized in the program that I'm not a counselor. I don't have the patience for it. I want to fix problems, not sit there and listen as someone solves them themselves. I also wanted to shake people who just seemed whiney to me. But for others, it is highly fulfilling. I found my niche in policy analysis and implementation science because that is more "direct problem solving" while still using my clinical skills. In short, only you will know what is the best fit for you.

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Hello Mental Health Counselors! I am working on asking questions to professionals in this field for a school assignment. I was wondering how much communication each of you has with others in the field? How does group discussion and collaboration help you in your field of work?


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