People don’t go into the profession of counseling for the money, but it’s still important for workers in this helping profession to earn a living. If you want to prepare for the best-paying roles in counseling, it’s just as important to look at industry of employment as it is to consider different specialties and degree paths within the field. Some of the counseling jobs with the best wages are found in government entities, educational institutions and inpatient and outpatient healthcare facilities.

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs in Counseling?

Government Jobs in Counseling

For counselors who work in substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health treatment, government jobs pay more than any other top employing industry. Counselors in these fields who work for the government earn a median wage of $51,690, several thousand dollars above the $44,630 overall median wage for these roles, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Nearly one in 10 counselors in these specialties work for the government. Wages are particularly good for mental health, behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors who work for their local government, for whom the average annual salary is $56,160, according to the BLS.

Marriage and family therapists also earn more working for the government. In the case of this occupation, state government entities, rather than federal government entities, offer the best opportunities. Marriage and family therapists who work for state governments – not including schools and hospitals – earn a median wage of $69,900, or almost 40 percent more than the $50,090 median salary for all practitioners in the field. About 13 percent of marriage and family therapists work for state governments, the BLS reported.

Even for low-paying counseling roles, government jobs often pay more. Rehabilitation counselors have an overall mean wage of just $39,930, but a $53,390 average wage when working for a state government, according to the BLS.

Counseling Jobs in Education

Given that school and career counselors are the best-paid counselors – and the highest-earning of the community and social service occupations – it makes sense that many of the highest-paying counseling roles are in educational institutions. The median wage for school and career counselors working in elementary and secondary schools is $63,280, the BLS reported.

For counselors in specialties beyond mental health, substance abuse, marriage and family therapy, school and rehabilitation counseling, education is also the highest-paying industry. This group of counselors earns an average wage of $61,510 when working in elementary and secondary schools and $59,220 when employed by colleges, according to the BLS.

Education is also an unusually lucrative employment field for rehabilitation counselors. Colleges and universities pay an average salary of $53,160 and junior colleges pay an average wage of $51,220 for this role, the BLS reported.

School and career counselors working at the college level earn less than those working in the elementary school through high school levels. The BLS reported a median wage of $50,050 for workers in the junior college, four-year college and university settings.

Counseling Roles in Healthcare Centers

Counselors work with patients who need help coping with a variety of mental health concerns as well as other challenges in their lives, so it’s no wonder that many of them find work in healthcare settings. Unfortunately, not all healthcare facilities pay equally high wages. For counselors in mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorder treatment, hospitals are among the highest-paying industries, with a median wage of $48,310, but residential mental health and substance abuse facilities pay $10,000 less per year. For the 15 percent of marriage and family therapists who work in outpatient care centers, the median salary is $51,270.

For school and career counselors, jobs in healthcare and social assistance are some of the least lucrative, paying median wages of just $38,790, the BLS reported.

Private Practice Potential

If you have ever thought about self-employment, you may be in luck. Self-employment is popular among counselors for many reasons, with higher earning potential among them. The American Counseling Association reported on how counselors can create a six-figure private practice with a manageable workload and smart business planning.

However, it’s important for aspiring counselors planning for private practice management to take into account all of the different factors in deciding whether self-employment is right for them. Counselors who run their own practices will also have to secure their own insurance and other benefits or go without, since there isn’t an established company to provide them. There are also additional responsibilities of running a practice as well as taxation and insurance billing matters that self-employed counselors need to consider.

Marriage and family therapists have some of the highest rates of self-employment among counseling professions, with the BLS reporting that eight percent of the occupation is self-employed.

Additional Resources

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With a Counseling Degree?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With a School Counseling Degree?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With a Marriage and Family Therapy Degree?