Counselor Salary: What to Expect
If you’re considering a career as a counselor, you probably have several questions. What type of counseling do I want to offer? Should I consider relocation before I become a practicing counselor? What type of salary can I expect? These questions are not only important to ask yourself as you consider your options as a counselor, but they are also intertwined with the big question that everyone has when starting a new career–what will my salary look like?
How much you make as a counselor entirely depends on the level of education you've acquired, any specializations you've focused on, who you're employed by, and where you'll be practicing.
Many of these directly influence others, for example, you may consider investing more time and money into your education so that you can have more options to consider regarding a specialization.
Salary by Education Level
The first step to realizing an adequate salary in the counseling field is considering the level of education you plan on attaining. Keep in mind that salaries can vary based on many other factors, as we outline below. Here are the various levels of degrees, and their corresponding average salary ranges:
- Associate's Degree – Estimated base average salary is $36,000 – $56,000
- Bachelor's Degree – Estimated base average salary is $52,000- $76,000
- Master's Degree – Estimated base average salary is $55,000 – $82,000
- Doctorate Degree – Estimated base average salary is $75,231 – $100,000+
Salary by Specialty
Not every counselor is created equally. While every counseling specialty has its equal place in the mental health workforce, not all will be paid uniformly. For example, a guidance counselor can expect to make between $44,000 to $64,000 per year, but a marriage counselor can expect a yearly average of $130,799.
Salary by Employer Type
Simply put–different employers pay different wages. If you're employed as a school counselor, chances are you won't be making quite as much as you would be working as a substance abuse counselor. It will depend entirely on the skills required for the job, and what your employer is willing to pay.
The number of counselors working for any given employer also plays a role in how much you can potentially earn. More common places of work for counselors, such as outpatient mental health centers (19% of the counseling market) may have less demand for more counselors and typically pay less than residential mental health and substance abuse facilities (9% of the counseling market) where there is much more demand due to the stressful work environment.
Salary by Location
Another factor that may have an impact on your salary as a counselor is location. While some areas of the US can prove very lucrative for your career, others may be significantly hindering your ability to make a decent income. Examples of the differences between states include:
- Florida – Annual mean wage of $38,370
- Texas – Annual mean wage of $50,240
- Georgia – Annual mean wage of $57,720
- New Jersey – Annual mean wage of $82,020
From these statistics, we can see that the outlook for school and career counselors (10%) is growing much faster than the national average (5%), and the outlook for substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors (22%) is growing much faster than the national average (5%).
School and career counselors saw a notable increase of 34,200 jobs in the last two years with a total number of 336,000 jobs. Comparatively, substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors saw an increase of 77,500 jobs in the last two years with a total number of 351,000 jobs.
|Median Annual Wage||$45,160||$81,040|
|Highest Paying Industry||Marriage Counselor||Industrial-Organizational Psychologist|
|Top Paying State||New Jersey||California|
|Job Growth Outlook||10%||19%|