Counselors aren’t in it for the money, but they still need to be able to support themselves financially. Just as important as considering different specialties and degree paths within the field of counseling is looking at the industry in which you hope to land a high-paying position. Some of the best-paying counseling positions can be found in government, educational, and healthcare facilities.
Work as a Counselor for the Government
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health treatment counselors can expect to earn more money in government jobs than in any other industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), government-employed counselors in these fields earn a median annual salary of $51,690, more than a grand above the $44,630 overall median salary for these positions. Only a small percentage of government-employed mental health counselors work in these fields, however. Counselors in the fields of mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders earn an average yearly salary of $56,160, according to the BLS.
Counselors who work for the government receive a higher salary in marriage and family therapy. State governments, rather than the federal government, offer the most job opportunities in this field. The median salary for marriage and family therapists employed by state governments, excluding schools and hospitals, is $69,900, which is nearly 40% higher than the median salary of $50,090 for all practitioners in the industry. According to the BLS, about 13% of marriage and family therapists work for the state.
Even in low-paying counseling positions, government jobs are often more lucrative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), rehabilitation counselors earn an average annual salary of just $39,930, but $53,390 when employed by the state government.
Education Counseling Positions
Because school and career counselors are among the highest-paid counselors in the community and social service industries, it follows that many of the highest-paying counseling positions can be found in educational institutions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school and career counselors earn an average annual salary of $63,280.
Education is also the highest-paying industry for counselors who specialize in areas other than mental health, substance abuse, marriage and family therapy, school and rehabilitation counseling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school counselors make an average of $61,510 per year in elementary and secondary schools and $59,220 per year in colleges.
Rehabilitation counselors have a particularly lucrative career path in education. Junior colleges pay an average salary of $51,220, while colleges pay an average of $53,160 for this position, according to the BLS data.
College-level school and career counselors make less money than those who work in elementary and secondary schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for college graduates is $50,050.
The Roles of Counselors in Healthcare Facilities
A large number of counselors work in healthcare because they deal with patients who have a wide range of mental health issues as well as other difficulties in their lives. Sadly, not all healthcare facilities pay the same amount of money to their employees. With a median annual wage of $48,310, hospitals are among the highest-paying industries for mental health and substance abuse counselors, but residential facilities pay $10,000 less. Outpatient care centers employ 15% of all marriage and family therapists, earning a median annual salary of $51,270.
According to the BLS, jobs in healthcare and social assistance pay the least for school and career counselors, with a median salary of only $38,790.
Possibilities for a Private Practice
If you’ve ever considered working for yourself, you’re in luck. Counselors like the idea of working for themselves for a variety of reasons, chief among them being the potential for greater financial reward. Counselors can build a six-figure practice with a manageable workload and smart business planning, according to the American Counseling Association (ACA).
While self-employment may be a viable option for some counselors, it’s important to consider all of the variables before making a decision. They must secure their own insurance and other benefits, or go without, because there is no established company that can provide them. Self-employed counselors must also take into account the additional responsibilities of running a practice, as well as tax and insurance billing issues.
The BLS estimates that 8% of marriage and family therapists are self-employed, making them one of the most self-employed counseling professions.