Career Guidance

How Long Does It Take to Get a Counseling Degree?

How long does it take to get a counseling degree? The time it takes to get a counseling degree can vary depending on the level of degree and specialization.

If you are interested in counseling, you may be wondering how long it takes to get a counseling degree.

Well, to get a counseling degree, you can expect to spend several months to several years.

Within this period, you will be well equipped with the necessary knowledge and certifications you need to function as a counselor.

After you’ve gotten your counseling degree, then you can proceed to seek employment opportunities.

Although the counseling industry is not that broad, it has a lot of exciting opportunities you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

In this guide, we will dive deep into how long it takes to get a counseling degree as well as other vital things you need to know.

Ready? Let’s go!

Also Read: How Long Does It Take to Get a Finance Degree?

Table of Contents

What Is a Counseling Degree?

What Is a Counseling Degree
What Is a Counseling Degree

A counseling degree is an educational and professional qualification for individuals who want to become counselors.

It comes in various forms:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Provides foundational knowledge in counseling but typically requires further education for professional practice.
  • Master’s Degree: The common path to becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or marriage and family therapist (LMFT), with specialized tracks like mental health counseling and school counseling.
  • Doctoral Degree: For counseling psychologists or educators/researchers, involving advanced coursework and research.
  • Specialized Certifications: Additional credentials in areas like rehabilitation or substance abuse counseling.


Counselors must meet licensing requirements, which include completing specific degrees, exams, and supervised experience.

Adherence to ethical standards and legal regulations, like client confidentiality and relevant laws, is essential.

Counseling degrees equip individuals with the skills and knowledge to help clients address mental health, emotional, and behavioral issues.

Recommended: Is a Business Degree Hard? (Find Out)

How Long Does It Take to Get a Counseling Degree?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Counseling Degree
How Long Does It Take to Get a Counseling Degree

The time it takes to earn a counseling degree varies depending on the level of degree and specialization.

Getting a counseling degree is a journey that involves different levels of education and specializations.

Let me break it down:

1. Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling (4 years)

This is your starting point. It’s like the first chapter in your counseling career.

You’ll spend about four years in undergraduate studies to earn a Bachelor’s degree in counseling.

2. Master’s Degree in Counseling (2-3 years)

This is where things get more specialized.

To become a licensed professional counselor or a marriage and family therapist, you’ll typically need to pursue a Master’s degree.

This usually takes two to three years of full-time study, but it can vary depending on your chosen specialization, like school counseling or mental health counseling.

3. Doctoral Degree in Counseling (4-6 years)

If you’re aiming for the highest levels of counseling, like becoming a counseling psychologist or an educator/researcher, be prepared for a longer journey.

Doctoral programs, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D., often take four to six years beyond your bachelor’s degree.

These programs are research-intensive and include clinical training.

Also See: Is a Biology Degree Worth It? (Find Out)

4. Specialized Certifications (several months to a year)

Along the way, you may decide to specialize further.

Certifications in areas like substance abuse counseling or rehabilitation counseling can take several months to a year, depending on the program.

5. Licensing Requirements

Don’t forget, that after your degree or certification, you’ll likely need to meet licensing requirements.

This can include completing supervised clinical hours and passing licensing exams.

The time for this step can vary.


Remember, these timelines are approximate and can change based on factors like part-time or online study, your specialization, and your personal circumstances.

Counseling is a rewarding field, but it requires dedication and time to reach your goals.

Also Read: Is a Political Science Degree Worth It?

Factors That Influence the Time It Takes to Get a Counseling Degree

Factors That Influence the Time It Takes to Get a Counseling Degree
Factors That Influence the Time It Takes to Get a Counseling Degree

Getting a counseling degree isn’t just about hitting the books; various factors can shape the timeline.

Let’s dive into them:

1. Level of Degree and Specialization

The type of counseling degree you aim for matters.

If you’re going for a bachelor’s, it’s generally a solid four-year commitment.

A master’s usually takes 2-3 years, while a doctoral degree can stretch to 4-6 years.

Specializations like school counseling might add or subtract a bit of time.

2. Full-Time vs. Part-Time Study

This one’s all about flexibility.

Going full-time means you’re in the fast lane, but if you opt for part-time, you can balance your studies with work or other commitments, although it’ll take longer.

3. Online vs. On-Campus Programs

Online courses offer convenience but may have a different pace or structure compared to traditional in-person classes.

That can affect how quickly you progress.

Recommended: What Can You Do with a Music Production Degree?

4. Prior Education and Credits

If you’ve got college credits under your belt or a related degree, you might be able to skip some courses.

It’s like a shortcut to graduation.

5. Program Requirements

Different counseling programs have various prerequisites and courses.

Some might have additional coursework that extends your stay in school.

6. Clinical Experience and Supervision

Most counseling degrees require supervised clinical experience.

How quickly you rack up those hours can depend on the availability of clinical placements and your schedule.

Also See: Can You Be a Dental Assistant without a Degree?

7. Thesis or Dissertation

Doctoral programs often demand a hefty research project. That takes time.

Writing, research, revisions—it all adds up.

8. Personal Commitment

Your dedication and effort matter.

If you’re a speed demon when it comes to assignments and coursework, you might move through your program more quickly.

9. Licensing Requirements

After you earn your degree, there’s usually a licensing process, which can involve supervised hours and exams.

Licensing requirements can vary by location and field, and meeting them can take time.

10. Life Circumstances

Don’t forget about life! Family, work, and health issues can all impact how quickly you can focus on your studies.


Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to getting a counseling degree.

It’s a journey that’s influenced by your choices, your circumstances, and your goals.

Also Read: What Can I Do with a Project Management Degree?

Which Counseling Degree Program Is Best to Go For?

When it comes to selecting the perfect counseling degree program, it’s like picking the right tool for the job.

Let me break it down:

1. Master’s in Mental Health Counseling (LMHC)

  • Best For: Becoming a licensed mental health counselor.
  • Highlights: Versatile; you can work in various settings.

2. Master’s in School Counseling

  • Best For: Being a school counselor.
  • Highlights: Focus on student success and well-being.

3. Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT)

  • Best For: Working with couples and families.
  • Highlights: Specialized in relationship dynamics.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take to Get a Culinary Degree?

4. Master’s in Clinical Social Work (LCSW)

  • Best For: Combining counseling with social work.
  • Highlights: Addresses broad social issues; and diverse job opportunities.

5. Master’s in Addiction Counseling

  • Best For: Treating substance abuse.
  • Highlights: Critical need; work in rehab centers and addiction treatment.

6. Doctorate in Counseling Psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)

  • Best For: Research, academia, or licensed psychologist with counseling skills.
  • Highlights: In-depth research and assessments.

Also See: How Long Does It Take to Get a Cybersecurity Degree?

7. Doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D. or Ed.D.)

  • Best For: Training future counselors and leaders.
  • Highlights: Shape the next generation of counselors.

8. Online vs. On-Campus Programs

  • Best For: Tailored to your lifestyle.
  • Highlights: Online programs offer flexibility; on-campus provides networking opportunities.

9. Accreditation and Licensing

  • Best For: Meeting industry standards and licensure.
  • Highlights: Look for accredited programs; know state licensing requirements.

Also Read: How to Become an Art Teacher without a Degree

10. Financial Considerations

  • Best For: Managing the cost.
  • Highlights: Seek financial aid, scholarships, or assistantships.

11. Personal Circumstances

  • Best For: Balancing education with life.
  • Highlights: Part-time or online options accommodate work and family.

12. Program Reputation and Alumni Success

  • Best For: Ensuring quality education and job prospects.
  • Highlights: Research program reputation and alumni outcomes.


Remember, the “best” program depends on your unique goals and circumstances.

Research thoroughly and choose the program that sets you on the path to your desired counseling career.

It’s like picking the perfect piece of the puzzle to fit your future.

Recommended: Do Hospitals Hire Associate Degree Nurses?

What Are the Career Paths for Counselors?

As a counselor, there are various career paths you can explore.

Here are some of the most common career paths for counselors:

1. Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Clinical mental health counselors are like emotional detectives.

They work with individuals facing issues like anxiety, depression, or addiction.

Think of them as therapists who help people navigate the complexities of their minds.

They listen, assess, and develop strategies for clients to overcome emotional challenges.

They usually work in private practices, mental health clinics, or hospitals.

2. School Counselor

Imagine being the go-to person in a school for students who need guidance.

School counselors are just that.

They assist students with academic, career, and personal development.

They also address things like bullying or substance abuse.

Their job is to help students succeed, and they often collaborate with teachers, parents, and school administrators.

3. Marriage and Family Therapist

This is like being a relationship doctor.

Marriage and family therapists specialize in helping couples and families deal with relationship issues.

They use therapy techniques to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen bonds.

These therapists often have their own practices or work in clinics or community agencies.

Also See: What Can You Do with a Culinary Degree?

4. Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors are like lifelines for people battling addiction.

They provide counseling, create treatment plans, and offer support on the road to recovery.

They can be found in rehabilitation centers, outpatient programs, or community health organizations.

5. Rehabilitation Counselor

Think of rehabilitation counselors as life coaches for people with disabilities.

They help individuals achieve independence and improve their quality of life.

Whether it’s vocational training, job placement, or adapting to new technology, they’re there to guide and support.

6. Career Counselor

Career counselors are like career navigators.

They help individuals make smart decisions about their career paths.

They assess skills, interests, and goals and provide guidance on education, training, and job opportunities.

They can be found in schools, colleges, career centers, or even working independently.

Also Read: Can I Get an Associates Degree in High School?

7. Geriatric Counselor

Geriatric counselors specialize in supporting the elderly and their families.

They tackle issues related to aging, such as health concerns, end-of-life planning, and emotional well-being.

They are often found in nursing homes, hospices, or as part of healthcare teams.

8. Child and Adolescent Counselor

Child and adolescent counselors focus on helping kids and teenagers with their mental and emotional well-being.

They address things like anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and family dynamics.

You’ll find them working in schools, clinics, or private practices.

Recommended: What Jobs Can I Get with an Associate of Arts Degree?

9. Crisis Counselor

Crisis counselors are like emotional first responders.

They provide immediate support to people facing acute emotional crises, like trauma or grief.

They often work on crisis hotlines, as part of emergency response teams, or with disaster relief organizations.

10. Addictions Counselor

Addictions counselors specialize in helping individuals conquer various forms of addiction, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other compulsive behaviors.

They provide counseling, support, and education to promote recovery.


These are just a few of the exciting career paths within the counseling field.

Counselors can also specialize further, pursue advanced degrees or certifications, or transition into related roles such as counseling psychologists or clinical social workers.

Your choice will depend on your passion, skills, and the specific population or issues you want to help with.

Also See: Why Do High School Relationships Fail?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is a Counselor As Good As a Psychologist?

Think of counselors and psychologists as tools in a toolbox.

Counselors are like versatile wrenches, great for everyday issues, offering practical solutions and support.

Psychologists are like specialized instruments, crucial for complex problems.

A counselor is fantastic for those who have a general life challenge.

But for diagnosing and treating severe mental health issues, a psychologist’s deeper clinical training is essential.

So, it’s not about one being better than the other, but rather about choosing the right tool for the job – the specific needs of the individual.

What Is the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

Counselors and therapists are like cousins in the mental health field.

Counselors tend to focus on specific life challenges, offering guidance and practical solutions.

You might find them in schools or career centers helping with academic or job-related stuff.

Therapists, on the other hand, are like the deep-divers.

They’ve got more extensive clinical training, and they deal with a wider range of mental health issues.

They’re the go-to for things like severe depression or anxiety.

In short, counselors often provide general support and guidance, while therapists handle the heavier clinical stuff and go deeper into the causes of mental health problems.

How Much Do Counselors Make in the USA?

Counselors’ salaries in the USA vary a lot.

On average, mental health counselors earn about $47,660 per year, while school and career counselors make around $58,120 annually.

If you’re a licensed clinical psychologist with a Ph.D., you could earn over $80,000 or even more.

Those in private practice or high-demand areas often make significantly higher incomes.

Keep in mind, that these figures can change over time, and your specific earnings depend on factors like location and experience.

So, while counseling can be rewarding, it’s also good to plan accordingly for your financial goals.

What Does a Counselor Do?

Counselors are like compassionate guides.

They help individuals or groups dealing with life’s ups and downs.

Whether it’s tackling mental health issues, navigating relationships, or overcoming addiction, counselors provide a listening ear and personalized strategies.

They create a safe space for open conversations, empowering clients to make informed decisions and improve their well-being.

You’ll find them in schools, clinics, and even private practices, offering support and guidance as people navigate life’s challenges.

What Type of Counselors Earns the Most?

In the counseling world, earnings can vary widely. Those with specialized expertise usually earn more.

Clinical psychologists with a Ph.D. tend to have some of the highest salaries, thanks to their extensive training.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can also earn well, especially if they can prescribe medication alongside counseling.

Substance abuse counselors can do quite well, especially in areas with high demand.

But remember, in counseling, job satisfaction and the chance to make a real difference in people’s lives often matter more than the paycheck.

Also Read: What to Wear to a High School Reunion


The time it takes to get a counseling degree can vary depending on the level of degree and specialization.

Becoming a full-fledged counselor is a journey that can take several months to several years.

So if you are really passionate about becoming a counselor and helping people improve their lives, you must be ready to commit both time and resources to your education.

If you have any questions or inquiries, ensure to let me know in the comment section and I will respond as soon as possible.

Best of luck!

Related Posts:









  • Grace Williams

    Grace Williams is a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience when it comes to teaching and education in general. She has decided to share her wealth of knowledge on Schoolcrib.

Grace Williams

Grace Williams is a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience when it comes to teaching and education in general. She has decided to share her wealth of knowledge on Schoolcrib.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button