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Graduate Degree Programs in Community Counseling Overview

Majors Overview March 21, 2016

This article talks about graduate degree programs in community counseling and their coursework, career options, and job and wage outlook.

Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Community Counseling

Among graduate program options in community counseling offered by schools are master’s degree programs aimed at preparing students for careers as counselors, and doctoral degrees, devised to train graduates to seek careers in teaching or research. Enrollees in master’s degree programs gain the basic tools necessary for helping clients address substance abuse, emotional, and mental health issues. Doctoral candidates learn about counseling methodology within a community or individual setting.

Admission criteria relating to a community counseling master’s degree program typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in a related area. Coursework is usually devised on the basis of state licensing norms. After they graduate and obtain licensure, individuals can work as counselors.

Enrollees in a doctorate program in community counseling can opt for a specialization in an area of counseling that interests them, such as rehabilitation or substance abuse. Coursework is available through a combination of hands-on training and in-depth clinical research.

Master’s Programs in Community Counseling

Program graduates can expect to gain expertise in helping clients resolve substance abuse, mental health, and emotional problems in an individual or community-based setting. The focus of community counseling graduate programs is mainly on group therapy specific to outpatient rehabilitation and treatment. Students can also become adept at helping clients develop therapeutic and healthy relationships.

Admission criteria in most programs require incoming students to hold a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Psychology, Social Work, or a related field. Master’s degree program candidates can enhance their skills and knowledge of the field while promoting wellness and helping clients address the underlying causes of mental health conditions such as stress, among others. The focus of some programs is more on career or human services development.

After they complete foundational requirements, enrollees can employ the learned community counseling skills on the supervisory watch of a licensed mental health professional. State licensing requirements form the basis of the structure of many programs.


The program curriculum in a community counseling program involves the exploration of research techniques, verbal and written communications, and societal issues. Core coursework covers topic areas such as:

•Marriage and family therapy
•Personality evaluations
•Counseling assessments
•Multicultural issues in substance abuse
•Human development
•Community rehabilitation sessions
•Common mental health issues

Job and Wage Outlook

While employers in this field have different requirements, a master’s degree is a common requirement for community counselors who must be licensed to practice in the state. Mental health counselors are expected to see a faster-than-average 19% job growth over the 2012 – 2022 decade. Community counselors in job rehabilitation are expected to witness a 9% job growth during the same decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

In May 2012, mental health counselors brought in an average annual wage of $42,250 while substance abuse counselors and rehabilitation counselors earned respective median earnings of $39,270 and $34,380.

Doctorate Programs in Community Counseling

Master’s degree program in community counseling graduates can pursue doctoral programs with concentrations in substance abuse, clinical psychology, or rehabilitation. Programs that carry the American Psychological Association’s accreditation serve state licensure and teaching requirements, among other industry requirements. The focus of doctoral programs lean towards a scientific approach to community counseling, and students gain expertise in assessing the relative appropriateness of counseling techniques to specific behavioral conditions and group dynamics.

However, students in some programs are allowed to choose between concentrations emphasizing clinical practice or research. Community counseling majors enrolled in research-oriented programs may be allowed to focus on experimental or new techniques in clinical practices. The stress in programs with a primary focus on community practice is on best practices and professional ethics in the counseling industry.

Students enrolled in many programs are partnered with faculty members for clinical research, and videotaped counseling sessions can be reviewed and analyzed at a later time. The first year of doctoral study usually features clinical work. Research based on this experience involves exploration of the societal, biological, and human development factors of mental health.


Program coursework includes math requirements such as those in statistics and quantitative data analysis. The focus of science-based courses stresses physiological causes of behavioral change. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Community-based testing
•Psychotherapy methods
•Cognitive processes
•Clinical treatment evaluation
•Behavioral technology
•Evidence-based practice in community counseling
•Psychological examinations

Career Options

While doctoral degree candidates usually have experience as community and other counselors, some opt to pursue a doctorate before embarking on their careers. They can combine research and scientific experience gained in a community counseling program with a clinical knowledge base by pursuing a career as a:

•Community Counselor
•Psychology researcher
•College instructor
•Rehabilitation specialist

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