The average yearly counselor salary ranges from $21,170 to $86,870, but what the actual salary would be depends on your educational level, the years of experience, and where you work. The average hourly rate for a counselor is between $12.42 and $35. In 2017, the average yearly salary for a general counselor is $44,000.
How much does a Counselor make?
The salary of a counselor varies according to the career field you major in. For example:
- Mental health – in 2016, the median yearly salary was $42,590 and has a predicted occupational growth rate of 36%
- Marriage and family – in 2016, the average yearly salary was $48,410 with a predicted growth rate of 41%
- School – in 2010, the mean yearly wage was $53,380 with a predicted growth rate of 8% in elementary and high school and 34% increase in college counseling
- Rehabilitation – in 2016, the mean average yearly salary was $37,070
It has been recorded that if you are an addictions counselor with only an associate’s degree they will generally earn a lower salary than a school counselor with a master’s degree. The counseling field is growing but at what percentage depends on the field of counseling and ranges from 12% to 31% growth rate.
In 2016, Texas had the highest counselor employment with 6,190 jobs with an average hourly rate of $27.42 followed by California with 4,150 jobs and an average hourly wage of $21.98. The third highest state with the highest employment was Florida with 2,810 jobs, but they also had the lowest average hourly wage of $19.45. The top metropolitan area was Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas with 1,970 jobs with an average hourly wage of $29.33 followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California with 1.070 jobs but also had the lowest average hourly wage at $19.50.
To the salary, you need to add in all the benefits that can come with being a counselor. If you have your own private practice, your benefits will be somewhat different. Many of the benefits that come with working for a group practice, in a school, for the government, etc. are paid for by the organization you work for but with a private practice you will be paying for the majority of the benefits such as insurance. Whether you work in a private practice you will have to pay for your own malpractice insurance but when you work for an organization they may or may not pay for it and if they pay for the premium it may only be for a part of it. Some of the benefits you might get include paid vacation and sick days, paid holidays, life and health insurance for you and maybe the entire family. Then you might also get profit sharing, overtime pay, bonuses that could be yearly or quarterly, pay for a cell phone if you have to be on-call, shift differential pay, travel expenses, and more.
Some of the top places to work as a counselor include hospitals, mental health facilities, outpatient or inpatient detoxification centers, halfway houses, residential care facilities, and geriatric-related facilities.
Salary of a Counselor in 2017
In 2017, the average yearly salary for a general counselor is $44,000 but would probably be much higher if you trained in a particular field. One example is a mental health counselor, which had an average yearly salary of $61,000. This is almost a $20,000 increase in the mental health counselor salary in 2017.
Counselor Salary in Canada, Australia, and the UK
Counselors will earn between £19,500 and £26,800 in the UK. These amounts can grow considerably if the professional already has experience and was assigned additional duties. The latter case results in wages from £29,550 up to £41,000 and, at times, even more.
In Canada, depending on the type of counseling, these experts will earn between C$50,000 and C$60,000 yearly. However, with experience and proper training figures can grow to C$70,000 per year.
In Australia, the same field range comes with wages between AU$45,128 and AU$59,970 per year. As in the other countries, salaries vary a lot depending on the type of counseling. For example, School Counselors would possibly earn a whopping AU$83,000 per year, from which AU$10,000 comes as a bonus. However, the nationwide median pay in Australia comes down to around AU$55,000.
This is a professional person that you would go to talk to about your problems and learn how to cope with them, learn how to start thinking positively, etc. As there are many fields of counseling you may talk to this person as a couple if you are having marital troubles, as a family, as an individual, or even in a group. The counselor is the person that can help a person make the most of their lives in the faces of adversity and unique challenges.
Job Description of a Counselor
As a counselor, it is your job to focus on helping individuals grow and this can be accomplished by helping them to utilize and discover certain resources that will address and eventually solve their problems. When you become a counselor, this means that you must be able to communicate effectively with your patient along with being a good listener so you can accurately understand what your patient is telling you and being able to figure out their problem and arrive at a solution to help them. The broad definition of a counselor is one that is trained and licensed and will provide behavioral, emotional assistance, and mental health to their patients in need.
The title of a counselor is a broad title as there are many different fields of counseling that you can specialize in. Some of these various fields include:
- Mental health
- Marriage and family counseling
- School counselor from elementary to college
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Addictions counseling
- Faith-based counseling
Some of the things that might be required of you as a counselor can include:
- Developing a trusting relationship with their patient
- Provide emotional support
- Recommend problem-solving approaches
- Recommend relationship-building techniques
- Helping to rebuild a marriage
- Helping families become united as one again
When you are a counselor, you must at all times adhere to the rule of patient confidentiality, which is a part of the medical law and ethics. The only time you are allowed to break this rule is if you receive a warrant from a court of law. You must also be careful not to become too involved with your patients and maintain that patient-counselor relationship. If you have your own separate practice, you will be responsible for paying all expenses, hiring and firing of employees, and setting your own hours.
How to Become a Counselor?
Regardless of what field of counseling you decide to pursue you will be required to obtain a master’s degree in order to gain the licensing or certification that is required to practice according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your master’s degree courses can range from counseling techniques and human behavior to psychology and relationships, but it all depends on which counseling career you have chosen. When it comes to obtaining a license or certification each state has their own specific requirements so you will need to check the requirements for your state. In addition to the master’s degree, there are many states that require you to pass an exam, complete continuing education and undergo clinical practice that is supervised.
The first step in becoming a counselor is to earn your undergraduate degree such as a bachelor’s degree. In any major you will generally need to have a grade point average of at least 3.0 or higher. When going for your master’s degree many of the programs will look for applicants that have some educational background in psychology, completing a psychology minor, or choosing an undergraduate program in the field of counseling.
When working on your master’s degree you will take core courses in counseling psychology or master-level counseling programs, which typically explore cultural diversity and counseling, counseling ethics and family counseling, and group and individual counseling theories. Many of these programs will enable you to choose a specialty if you are going to specialize in a particular form of counseling like marriage and family therapy or school counseling. In the final semester of the program, you should complete a counseling internship, which could be a part-time or full-time internship. By doing the internship, it will qualify as the clinical experience you need to do to become licensed.
Once you have graduated with a master’s degree, most states will require that you meet experience requirements and pass an exam. You must also have supervised clinical experience of 2,000 to 4,000 hours. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is what many states use to administer the exams. The NBCC also offers a National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential but it is voluntary and not required to practice as a counselor. If you decide to get this credential, it can give you accountability and provide visibility to your peers and within the community. To get this certification, you will need to pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE), which is a multiple-choice test that consists of 200 questions. If you do not pass it, you may be able to retake the test. You will also need to have, in addition to the master’s degree, 3,000 hours of post-graduate counseling experience. One hundred of those hours has to be supervised. To earn the continuing education credits that are required for you to keep your certification, you will need 100 hours of continuing education credit for each certification cycle. The certification cycle is five years. This must be done to keep their certification.
Work Environment and Schedule
Depending on which field of counseling you have chosen you can gain employment in the private industry or at all levels of the government. You can also work in medical centers, outpatient facilities, and schools. A counselor can work as one of a group of counselors or have their own private practice. They may work with their patients on an individual basis or in a group. There are so many diverse work environments that a counselor can choose to specialize in a field and work environment that suits their unique talents. The hours that you work can be long and tedious, especially if you have a private practice.
If you prefer to work as a counselor in a more calm work environment and have a set number of hours with no weekends, no evenings, holidays, and summers off, you could work as a school counselor.
Depending on your work setting you may have a set schedule of working 9 to 5 or even set your own schedule. In some work environments, you may have to work late one or two evenings a week but will generally have weekends and holidays off. If you decide to work at a crisis center, you may have a flexible schedule that can include mornings, evenings, late nights, weekends, and holidays.
Pros and Cons of Being a Counselor
As with any career alternative, there are both pros and cons, and sometimes the cons outweigh the pros. If you feel passionate about your career choice, then you will take the cons into consideration but will go ahead with getting the necessary education and licenses to work in your career choice. In this instance, the career choice is becoming a counselor.
- Over the next 10 years, the job outlook for being a counselor looks great as the number of addiction, personal problems, and mental health problems continue to grow. This means a lot of stability, especially if you already have a family or plan on establishing your family. In other words, it’s a promising, stable career.
- This is a rewarding and dynamic profession that offers you the rare opportunity to do work of a great significance every day. It’s not only the financial compensation, but you will feel useful as you have made a difference in your entire community.
- A career as a counselor offers you a diverse field to work in that offers you many different branches of counseling to choose from. Counseling is flexible, and you can counsel people or businesses, in various areas. The field you enjoy the most – will be up to you to decide.
- You have the opportunity to have your own practice or to work in a group practice. In either case, the outcome is profitable for you.
- It can be a dangerous field if you are counseling a person that has severe mental problems, who can become unhinged at any time, and do harm to you. You need to be precautious and have a good physical condition, in case something unexpected happens. While you might think ‘why would someone attack if they paid me to counsel them’, it’s not the way things work in practice. Some people, facing their severe problems will consider your words (your counseling) a great offense.
- It can be emotionally taxing and very difficult when you work in a medical or clinical setting working with patients who are suffering from recent trauma or acute mental illnesses or abused children. These people won’t respond as you expect, and some of them won’t even understand the counseling.
- You need a master’s degree, which can take as long as 6 years, including the 4 years to get your bachelor’s degree. It will take longer if you only go part time. It can also be very expensive to get that degree. You need to revise the financial side of this career option.
- The hours can be long, and you may not have a set schedule. That means you need to be open-minded and ready to work whenever needed, even if it’s not convenient at all.
Conclusion on Counselor Salary
When looking at all the salary figures it is advisable that if you want to earn a large yearly salary you need to specialize in a counseling field as being a general counselor can sometimes mean a lower salary even if you have a master’s degree. When looking at the salary for a counselor you also need to add in all the benefits but if you are going into private practice, you need to take into account the expenses. These expenses can include office space rental, employee’s salaries, and benefits for the employees, office supplies, medical equipment, and more. There is a lot to analyze when deciding if choosing a counseling career is the right career choice for you. You also need to look at the best locations for the most jobs and a good hourly wage, which may mean that you will have to move out of state.
If you are a person who is compassionate and want to help people, then the lower starting salary will not deter you from your career choice. As you gain experience and have more years in the field, the salary will increase but will probably never reach six figures. On average the top salary can range from $80,000 to $90,000 but it can take years to reach this point.