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OCCUPATIONAL ISSUES

Throughout the last decade, there have been many "world of work” related challenges faced by the members of our communities. Unemployment has been a challenge for many, and reentering the workforce after having left it has provided both opportunities and roadblocks for people seeking opportunities to start or restart their careers. Counselors have been there all along the way to help many of those individuals as they transition back to careers and seek gainful employment. Professional counselors help members of society move forward toward wellness through exploring the challenges and opportunities for growth and change that are present in their individual life circumstances, both personally and professionally. While many counselors often find themselves working with clients’ occupation- related issues, counselors themselves need to be aware of ever-changing career and work opportunities within their own profession and career journey.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (OOH) and Counselor Salaries

The future for counselors is bright, and there are better financial rewards than there have been in the recent past. Table 4.1 provides data on salaries for counselors across settings, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook ([OOH]; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). This data is current as ofthe 2012 printing of the handbook. We recommend searching online and in your intended geographic area for more current data.

In a recent first of its kind study conducted by the American Counseling Association (ACA, 2014), average salaries for professional counselors were examined across the nation with promising results. The salary study focused on four primary counseling areas: mental health, rehabilitation, school, and counselor education (faculty members who teach in graduate counseling programs). They wanted to know how differences in counseling specialty areas, geography, experience and work setting, employment type (e.g., full/part time, private practice), and salaries in related fields affected

Table 4.1. AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARIES FOR COUNSELORS

Position

Annual

Salary

Projected Growth in Employment 2012-2022

Mental Health Counselor

$41,500

29%

Marriage and Family Therapist

$46,670

29%

*School Counselor

$53,610

12%

Rehabilitation Counselor

$33,880

20%

*Note: While not required in all states, some school counselors have higher incomes if they have first been classroom teachers; their subsequent move to becoming school counselors is viewed as an advancement up their career ladders.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational outlook handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ ooh/ the overall compensation packages of professional counselors. The data from more than 9,000 counselors across the United States showed that counselor salaries ranged from an average of $40,421 for clinical mental health/mental health/community counselors to $66,405 for counselor educators (note: counselor educators salary based on nine-month contracts). Rehabilitation counselors are paid on average $53,561/year and school counselors receive an average salary of $53,299, with all other counselor specialties reporting an average salary of $51,074. This is a good indication of the average salaries that counselors are currently being paid across the country. Compare this to the median annual earnings of mental health counselors in 2004 of $29,940 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). Knowing where we have been and where we are going leads us to the future of professional counseling and the issues we will face to ensure practitioners earn a living wage.

 
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