Sigmund Freud. Lying prone on a couch. “How Does That Make You Feel?”

Counseling Psychology BadgeWe’re all familiar with these stereotypes of psychological counseling. But despite what we’ve seen on TV or read about in books, these professions are far more important and complicated than these random tidbits would suggest.

Counseling and psychology are our best responses to trauma and mental illness. They help prevent or respond to major crises, and work to get people the help they need so that they can pursue more normal lives.

And College Choice is eager to get you started and join this great field! We’ve compiled rankings like the Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, to help you get your career started off right!

What Do Counselors & Psychologists Do?

Counselors and psychologists work with clients who need or want mental health treatment. A trained, skilled counselor or psychologist listens well, focuses intently as the client speaks, and steers the discussion toward solutions.

People who seek counseling often struggle with issues such as depression, chemical dependency, romantic relationships, childhood abuse, anger, sexual dysfunction, grief, and family strife.

Other times, people go to counseling just for life direction and an opportunity to reflect more deeply about their lives and relationships.

Counselors may meet with individuals, couples, families, or groups. These mental health professionals form action plans and periodically review patient progress.

A psychologist often sees clients, but many prefer teaching, research, and consulting. Research psychologists usually work as faculty at colleges and universities. They research, conduct experiments, and publish their results in industry journals.

Counseling psychologists see clientele with milder mental health challenges. Clinical psychologists treat the seriously mentally ill. A person coping with bipolar disorder, major depression, or psychosis sees a clinical psychologist first before referral to a psychiatrist for medication.

The ideal counselor or psychologist feels empathy, compassion, and understanding toward their clientele. They are ethical, maintain strict boundaries, and communicate very well. Psychologists and counselors find ways for clients to achieve their goals.

Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, we’re not including them in this write-up.  

How Much Can You Make If You Study Counseling & Psychology?

Firstly, there are slated to be a number of job openings in psychological fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes projections for job growth between 2014 and 2024.

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists will see 32,500 new openings for an increase of 20 percent. Industrial-organizational psychology jumps by 19 percent with an additional 30,500 jobs.

An additional 26,400 mental health counseling jobs will lead to a 20 percent hike by 2024. Marriage and family therapy will grow by 15 percent with 5,000 new jobs added.

These jobs will cover a wide range of working environments, as, according to the APA, postsecondary schools employ 26 percent of psychologists. Medical facilities hire 25 percent. Another 16.3 percent work for the government and veteran hospitals. Fewer than 6 percent have private practices.  

And in terms of pay, psychologists earn a national average of around $75,000 per year. However, in states like California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey this number rises to more than $100,000. Or one can look to the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Maryland, which have the most jobs per 1,000 people.

Consider these counseling careers:

  •        Marriage and Family
  •        Grief
  •        School
  •        Veterans
  •        Pastoral
  •        Community Mental Health
  •        Vocational Rehabilitation

Salary data for these fields tend to get bunched together, with the BLS reporting that non-school counselors have a salary range of anywhere between $32,850 and $59,900.

What Kinds of Counseling and Psychology Degrees Are Available?

The typical educational path begins with a four-year Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. Students study human development, biology, statistical reasoning, and abnormal psychology. By junior year, psychology majors should research graduate schools.

Some schools have dual Bachelor’s-Master’s programs. These degrees take five years.

Graduate school is the big difference between psychology and counseling. A counselor holds a Master’s degree while psychologists have a PhD or a PsyD.

Graduate schools may vary, but most want an undergraduate GPA of 3.5, a minimum 1200 on the GRE, and evidence of work experience. While pursuing a Master’s degree, graduate students learn more about ethics, personality, and individual assessments. Master’s programs last anywhere from one to four years.

A sample of Master’s degrees in psychology:

  • Master of Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Counseling Psychology
  • Master of Clinical Psychology
  • Master of Community Psychology
  • Master of Developmental and Child Psychology
  • Master of Educational Psychology
  • Master of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy
  • Master of Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling

Internships of at least one year are mandatory in General Psychology. The American Psychological Association (APA) must approve all internships. The APA warns that good internship opportunities are scarce, so secure yours as quickly as possible.

After the Master’s level, students planning for careers in psychology enter a doctoral program. Admissions may or may not require a Master’s degree. Some combine the Master and Doctorate into a longer program of study. Anticipate spending four to seven years studying at the doctoral level.

PhD candidates conduct research and learn to apply results in the real world. Students write and then defend their dissertation before earning the degree. A PsyD candidate works with patients much like a medical student would.

They next sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Once a person graduates with a PhD or PsyD, he or she works under supervision for two years. Only then will states grant licensure for working as counseling or clinical psychologists.

A PhD or a PsyD?

A PsyD candidate focuses on clinical training with clients rather than the scientific models needed for PhD research. Coursework may include personality assessment, psychotherapy, and ethics. The Clinical PsyD degree takes 4 to 6.5 years to complete.

PhD programs, on the other hand, train “scientist-practitioners,” which includes both research and clinical practice. Students write a thesis and dissertation, and they see clients while supervised. Classes might teach neurobiology, psychodiagnostic testing, and research methods.

Programs last four to eight years.

Most PhD in Psychology programs provide stipends and assistantships to defray the cost of graduate school. PsyD options lack the tuition reductions of PhD programs. Students interested in this degree must carefully research programs and their success rates.

Admissions standards vary based on the school program, but the American Psychological Association provides collective information. The median GPA of incoming PhD candidates is 3.70 while PsyD students present a median of 3.47. Both programs report 100% placement in year-long internships.

These are competitive programs. Of PhD applicants, a median of just 5.75 percent were chosen. In PsyD programs, however, a median of 36.46 percent received offers.

The differences in curriculum translate to differences in career. A Psychology PhD will lead to careers in research but also as college faculty, consultants, and administrators. A PsyD usually works in private practice, or specializes in industrial psychology, neuropsychology, or even forensic psychology.

Despite these differences, both PhDs and PsyDs fall within the occupational title “Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists.” These careers will continue to expand by 20 percent with over 30,000 new jobs through 2024.

What are the other branches of psychology?

There are a number of specializations within psychology, such as a career in Forensic Psychology. Forensic psychology asks psychologists to apply their expertise to legal cases, both criminal and civil.

These professionals might assist in mental health assessments of criminal defendants, or assist in custody law matters. Median salaries for this sub-field are within the range of $70,000.

Another example is Group Psychology, which specializes in social, industrial-organization, military, and sport psychology.

These psychologists attempt to help groups operate more effectively as a team, through analysis and coaching. Group psychology can be a very lucrative field, with Glassdoor reporting average salaries of around $110,000.

And finally, Geropsychology is the field of psychology concerned with applying the knowledge and methods of psychology to understanding and helping older persons and their families maintain well-being and overcome problems to live their best life. Professionals in this field work in a host of different settings, including private care facilities or veterans hospitals. Median pay in this field is around $90,000.

Here is a list of subfields within psychology. The list originates from the American Board of Professional Psychology:

  • Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Clinical Health Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Couple and Family Psychology
  • Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology
  • Police and Public Safety Psychology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Rehabilitative Psychology
  • School Psychology

What are the best counseling and psychology degrees?

Take a look below at our descriptions of the different fields in psychology and counseling, and be sure to check out our rankings as well!

Counseling

From Michael Phelps to the Foo Fighters, the subject of mental health has made its way into the mainstream of American culture. By-products of mental illness like PTSD and suicide are starting to be addressed in ways that previous generations have never seen. Counselors are on the front lines of this new battle, as they are the people who actually see and attempt to support individual patients.

On top of seeing their cultural importance increased, counselors have also seen a surge in the demand for employment.

Recent expansions in healthcare access will allow people to more easily afford access to mental health services, which is part of why the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts much faster than average (19%) job growth for mental health counselors over the next decade.

Other counseling industries are also expected to see fast job growth, including social work (9%) and health educators/community health workers (13%).

College Choice has created rankings for counseling bachelor’s programs available online, first starting with the Best Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling.

We also created a list of the Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling, for students whose main concern with a program is its affordability.

Family Counseling

If you have a love for helping people navigate through tough times or if you’re looking to assist couples and families in strengthening their relationships, a degree in Family Counseling will allow you to do all that, and more.

Strong listening skills and a desire to develop strategies to improve people’s lives is a must if you want to move forward in this field. One must also be non-judgemental and should be comfortable hearing about a person’s most intimate problems and concerns.

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. According to the BLS, it’s projected that the demand for them will continue to rise 19 percent over the next few years.

On average, MFTs earn over $44,000 annually, though it’s possible to earn upwards of $75,000 a year.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice. College Choice has published a ranking of the Best Online Master’s Degrees in Family Counseling.

School Counseling

From elementary school all the way through college, school counselors are responsible for supporting the academic, personal, and developmental health of thousands of students across America.

It’s an important job that requires patience and excellent listening skills, as counselors are important resources for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders.

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for school and career counselors was nearly $55,000 in May 2016. Salaries can vary based on location and whether a counselor works in a public or private school.

The job outlook isn’t bad either– employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024.

While licensing for school counselors is determined on a state-by-state basis, all states require at least a master’s degree before someone can be hired as a school counselor.

College Choice has ranked the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Educational Counseling Degrees, as well as the overall Best Online Master’s Degrees in School Counseling. If flexibility isn’t an issue and you’re looking for a more traditional on-campus experience, check out our ranking of the Best Master’s in School Counseling Degrees.

Psychology

People are fascinated by psychology; it plays a key part in many modern television dramas, while also engaging us in the form of popular books and uplifting newspaper articles.

But despite its popularity in the mainstream, psychology is also a complex, professional industry, which uses well-trained specialists to study cognitive, emotional, and social behaviors in humans.

Psychologists are some of the most well-positioned professionals in the modern economy, as they can expect not only to earn incredibly high wages (with average salaries of $75,230/year), but their industry is also rapidly expanding, with 19% growth in industry employment expected over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

College Choice has put together a number of rankings relating to the Psych field, including the Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, for students looking at the undergraduate level. There are also rankings for prospective graduate students, namely the Best Online Master’s Degrees in Psychology.

Flexibility and affordability can also be important things for psych students, both at the graduate and collegiate levels, so we have also listed the Most Affordable Online Psychology Degrees and the Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Psychology.

Clinical Psychology

If you’re fascinated with the human mind and have a desire to both understand and help people, clinical psychology may be a good career path for you.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness. Clinical psychologists focus on diagnosing and treating these various mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

A psychologist can specialize in chronic illness like obesity, mental problems like depression and anxiety, and psychological problems like schizophrenia.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical psychology jobs are estimated to grow 19 percent through the year 2024, so it’s a worthwhile degree to obtain.

Whether you decide to work for a school, police department, military branch, or open up a private practice, there are plenty of opportunities for clinical psychologists today. The average salary of a clinical psychologist is $75,000 and can even rise above $100,000 depending on your location and practice.

Since every state requires licensure to practice clinical psychology, you will need an advanced degree. If you’re looking for flexibility in obtaining an advanced degree, check out College Choice’s ranking of the Best Online Master’s in Clinical Psychology Degrees.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a growing field that helps individuals with a variety of emotional, behavioral, and social problems or disorders.

Whereas clinical psychologists tend to work with severe psychopathology, counseling psychologists work with individuals, groups, or couples with normal, developmental issues and transitions that occur in everyday living, such as anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses.

Counseling psychologists must not only have sharp listening skills, they also need to have a deep understanding of human behavior to provide helpful strategies for those in need. While the salary outlook varies depending on which area of counseling psychology you pursue, the median pay for graduates is over $72,000 per year.

The job outlook isn’t bad either; with a faster than average job growth rate of 20 percent, counseling psychologists are in demand.

Obtaining a master’s degree in counseling psychology is a essential for a career in psychology these days, and it opens the door to a job in which you can make a difference in hundreds of lives.

If you believe counseling psychology is the career for you, check out College Choice’s published ranking of the Best Master’s in Counseling Degrees.

Forensic Psychology

Interested in psychology but want to dig a little deeper? Forensic psychologists are most commonly licensed psychologists who specialize in applying psychological knowledge to legal matters, both in the criminal and civil arenas.

A good forensic psychologist combines a strong science background with solid investigatory skills. Critical thinking and strong writing skills are also a must, as they take many notes during evaluations and compile official reports for court trials.

Forensic psychologists often work for the government, a university, a police department, or they may choose to open a private practice.

PayScale.com lists the salary range of forensic psychologists as $35,333 to $103,576. As of Sep 2017, the average pay for a Forensic Psychologist is over $62,000 annually.

Career length and location are the biggest factors when it comes to salaries in this field. The demand for jobs in this field is projected to increase 10% by 2022.

Forensic psychologists often hold graduate degrees in psychology, most often a PhD or a PsyD. College Choice has published a ranking of the Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology.

Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology

Does the human mind fascinate you? If so, you may want to consider a career as an Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychologist. According to psychology.org, these professionals focus on individual and group performance, satisfaction, safety, health and well-being through a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods. If data analysis, research, and critical thinking are your strong suits, you’re in luck. However, you’re not going to get far with a bachelor’s in this field. In fact, a Master’s degree is considered the starting point for this field.

Looking for not only a fascinating career, but a lucrative one too? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industrial-Organizational professionals not only have job security but impressive salaries to match! Yearly wages can reach highs upwards of $180,000, while the average is just over $104,000. The field is still small, so new jobs total just 900. But, as it turns out, I-O psychologists have an estimated job growth of over 53 percent from now till 2022.

 Surprisingly, almost all I-O specialists live in two states: Virginia and Massachusetts. Luckily, it doesn’t matter what state you’re in to earn a degree. College Choice has ranked the Best Online Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

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