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Counseling Degree Programs in California

Written by: Rachel Schneider
Last Updated: May 2020

The following rankings highlight some of the best opportunities for earning a counseling degree in California. These rankings present detailed information about counseling programs in the state, including information like course topics, curriculum requirements, and tuition rates. 

Read on to learn more about the counseling profession, including the different specializations counselors can pursue during their education. Many counselors choose to work with specific populations, and some colleges and universities feature concentration opportunities to better prepare learners for work within certain counseling specialty areas. 

Candidates must obtain licensure before they can legally practice as counselors. In California, licensure applicants must hold a graduate degree in counseling, register as a professional clinical counselor intern, and complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience within 2-6 years. During the first year of their internship, individuals must complete and pass the LPCC Law & Ethics Exam. 

Career Outlook for Counselors in California

Counselors in California can anticipate varying employment levels, salary opportunities, and concentrations of employment depending on the counseling subfield in which they work, their educational or professional backgrounds, and their geographic location. 

Some of the most popular career paths include rehabilitation counselors, mental health counselors, and school and career counselors. Depending on their specialty, counselors focus on helping different client populations and a variety of disorders, struggles, and challenges. 

California boasts a median projected job growth rate of 16.7% for counselors in the coming decade. The individual and family services industry provides counselors with the highest employment levels, followed by state and local government. Counselors can find the highest paying opportunities in elementary and secondary schools. Other high-paying industries for the occupation include nursing care facilities, colleges and universities, and local government. 

Other residential care facilities feature the field's highest concentration of employment, followed by civic and social organizations, individual and family services, and state government.

Counseling Degree Programs in California

California State University Northridge

Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling

Located in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California State University Northridge (CSUN) boasts being one of the nation's largest solitary campus universities. This highly accredited university offers several options for master's degrees and certification programs. After completing a master's degree, graduates will be equipped for employment in marriage and family therapy, private clinical practice, public schools, colleges and universities, career development, public mental health, community agencies, or business and industry organizations.

The programs at the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling provide studies based on the major concepts and skills from counseling, early childhood education, educational psychology, and psychological foundations of education. Graduates will be able to establish themselves as compassionate and respectful professionals with the capabilities to work intricately with a variety of people in community, educational and mental health environments. Acting as leaders to companies and agencies providing services for families, schools, organizations, and communities, graduates will uphold social justice, educational equality and access based on a multicultural and global perspective.

Master of Science in Counseling, Specialization in Career Counseling

The specialization of the Career Counseling program offers graduate-level training in career counseling theory, resources and program development, organizational behavior and administration, individual and group vocational assessment, and the career development of special populations. Career Counselors have options for employment in diverse settings, including, but not limited to, educational institutions, business, industry and government institutions, or community-based agencies and organizations.

Certificate in Career Education and Counseling

Students who have completed a master's degree or Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential or who are enrolled in a master's degree or credential program are able to receive certification from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. This certification program develops the professional skills needed for career counseling applications, program development, organizational theory, career and educational information, individual and group vocational assessment, and career counseling for particular populations. After completing the program, students will be qualified for employment as career counselors in educational settings, including primary, secondary and high schools, community colleges and universities, business, industry and government institutions, and community-based agencies and organizations.

Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy

The Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) specialization within the Master of Science Degree in Counseling is an approved program by the State Board of Behavioral Science (BBS), which allows graduates the ability to receive a license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Students are able to take the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and the National Board of Certified Counselors exams (NBCC) upon completion of their master's degree. The faculty pursues a supportive and engaging learning environment that enables the students to build a strong foundation in developing successful working relationships with varied clients and proficiency in contemporary therapy theories. As a learning outcome, students will have a sharp and unbiased perspective in supporting well being and healthy relationships among individuals and groups. They will be capable of applying ethical and legal practice during their education while sustaining the awareness throughout their professional lives.

School Counseling

The specialization in School Counseling is implemented to equip students with effective skills to lead a professional life as a school counselor for primary, secondary, and high schools. Included in this program is the California Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential in School Counseling. While the master's degree program permits students to conduct research in selected professional fields, attaining the Master of Science Degree in Counseling is not a prerequisite for the PPS Credential.

Specialization in College Counseling and Student Services

The Master's of Science in Counseling with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Services qualifies graduates for career opportunities in higher education institutions with a focus on university and community college students. Significant consideration is given to the ability to engage contrasting student groups including returning students, minorities and disabled students. This program is arranged for individuals preparing for entry-level positions in student affairs or for experienced professionals intending to further their theoretical background and range of experience. Field work is a significant component in the College Counseling and Student Services program.

Graduates should have a Master's Degree in Counseling before applying to the Specialist Certificate in College Counseling and Student Services.


  • Commission for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • National Association of School Psychology (NASP)
  • National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Counsel on Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA)


California State University Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge CA, 91330-8265

California State University Sacramento

Graduate and Professional Studies in Education: Counselor Education

California State University Sacramento (CSUS), located in the capital city of the Golden State, offers graduate students three specializations (Career Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, and School Counseling with Embedded Pupil Personnel Services Credential) within a Master of Science Degree in Counseling. Faculty involvement combined with community service and a strong curriculum create the foundation for the Counselor Education program. The faculty's diversified training and professional experience is instrumental in creating a unique learning environment involving research and practice of various approaches to counseling.

The Counselor Education program seeks to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the needs and concerns of a diverse society. Graduates will possess strength in counseling theories and techniques applicable to a global population. Personal and professional development is of high significance throughout the student's educational endeavors. Several courses involve participation in community agencies and schools prior to the required supervised field study placements. Prior to the mandatory field study placements, student cooperation with community agencies and schools is required.

These are the specializations within the Master of Science Degree in Counseling program:

Career Counseling

The Career Counseling specialization prepares students to enter careers as counselors or career development specialists, or in community-based agencies, primary, secondary, or high schools, colleges and universities, private practice, business, industry, and government organizations. Students are equipped with skills to facilitate career development, career planning and decision making processes with groups and individuals. Graduates establish critical thinking and effective application regarding matters of career self-reliance, work, family, and life balance, cultural diversity and deep-rooted knowledge.

Counseling–Marriage and Family Therapy

The Marriage, Family and Child Counseling specialization allows students with the proper qualifications required by the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Through this program, graduates are trained to work in a multitude of environments, including community agencies, county and state agencies, hospitals and private practices. Students will develop the skills needed to administer consultation to businesses and agencies. Special attention is focused on child developmental and preventative concerns.

School Counseling with Embedded Pupil Personnel Services Credential

Professional counselors will establish the skills necessary to work in primary, secondary, and high schools with The Pupil Personnel Services and School Counseling Credential.


  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)


College of Education
Graduate and Professional Studies: Counselor Education
Sacramento State
Eureka Hall 401
6000 J Street
Sacramento, California 95819-6079
(916) 278-6639

San Francisco State University

College of Health and Social Sciences
Department of Counseling

The College of Health and Social Sciences at San Francisco State University (SFSU) provides numerous options for those pursuing a Master's Degree in Counseling. Students will develop competence in order to determine the lasting concerns regarding the prosperity of persons, families, and communities. Through high quality educational programs supported by experienced department faculty and staff, students will establish a drive for equity and social justice in their chosen professions.

The department's six graduate programs, integrated with cooperation from community agencies, supports students in their educational and professional endeavors. Multicultural Competence, Community Partnerships, and Action Research are the three components on which the curriculum is based. When students have finished their studies they will have fortified connections with the local community, instilled global perspectives and will continue to strive to be honest and ethical professionals. Graduates will have gained the knowledge required to sit for the National Board of Certified Counselors examination and the National Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam. All graduates will be qualified to be Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, as regulated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).

The Career Counseling specialization is one of only eight in the country to receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Evaluation (NCATE).

The Masters of Science provides programs in the following specialties:

College Counseling

The objective of the specialization in College Counseling and Student Personnel Work is to prepare master's students for careers in both counseling and student services roles in community college and four-year colleges. Students in this program will develop the capabilities to assist college students at the intellectual and personal levels. Subjects with important focus are preventative, remediation, and developmental counseling skills. Students will also strengthen their understanding and expertise in the following areas: group counseling, educational counseling, problem-solving and decision making, assessment, evaluation and research, teaching, consulting and management, supervision, and organizational development. Graduates will be proficient in promoting skill development and remediation among college students.

Career Counseling

The Career Counseling specialization develops students to be successful professionals in high school and college career centers and advising offices. The foundation of Career counseling focuses on the prosperity of an individual and how to facilitate cohesion between work, family, fulfillment, and lifestyle. Cultural diversity and social integrity are consistent platforms for the duration of the program. During the course of study, conflicts regarding worker dysfunction, workplace violence and sexual harassment are emphasized. Graduates will be qualified to facilitate individual and group counseling and to formulate and educate on programs regarding career exploration and employment for high schools, colleges and universities, private career counseling and consultation, and private industry and public agencies.

Gerontological Counseling Program

The intention of the Gerontological Counseling Program is to prepare students for careers in counseling the elder population. The program meets the requisites for accreditation by CACREP and the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Basic communication skills, theoretical and developmental foundations, mental health assessment and the aging process are specific topics emphasized in the program.

Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy

The primary goal of the Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy specialization is to develop students' knowledge and skills in relation to marriage and family therapy. The program fulfills the State of California requisites for licensing and accreditation for certification. The course work is based on these requisites along with the growing field of mental health counseling in the local community. Graduates who receive the Master's of Science in Counseling with the Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling specialization will be eligible to apply for the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) License through the Board of Behavioral Science Examiners (BBSE). Obtaining the master's degree is one component of the process in becoming licensed.

School Counseling

The School Counseling program enables students to learn with both expository and observational capacities. Preventative and intervention strategies are practiced while focusing on the practical learning process for children and adolescents. The program may be taken part-time or full-time. Field experience in school counseling is combined with the curriculum for the duration of the program.


  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE)
  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Evaluation (NCATE)


San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Burk Hall, Room 524
(415) 338-2005

Sonoma State University

Counseling Program

The campus of Sonoma State University (SSU) is located one hour north of San Francisco in the heart of California wine country. The faculty of the Counseling Department represents distinct areas of expertise in order to create an environment best suited for students' personal growth, clinical, and theoretical requirements.

The counseling program emphasizes interpersonal competence education and professional experience at the start of the program and ultimately with a comprehensive internship. This training allows the students to apply their research and learned theory regarding some element of counseling. The three basic strengths of theory, practical experience, and personal development are the significant focus of the program. This educational foundation provides graduates with the competency to produce a successful and prolonged professional career and to enter into the field of counseling.

Here are the Master of Arts programs offered:

Community Counseling

The Community Counseling program provides students with the qualifications to become certified in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) and licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) and/or a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). In order to be eligible for the MFT examination, students must complete the Community Counseling/Marriage and Family Therapy (CC/MFT) program, along with the major course requirements. A comprehensive project exhibiting a student's extensive and consolidated understanding of the field of Counseling, including a case analysis and standardized exit exam, are required for all master's candidates. CMHC students will be assisted by The Department in acquiring field placements relating to their professional intentions. These placements include, but are not limited to: marriage and family counseling agencies, mental health clinics, counseling centers, public schools, college-level counseling services, and the on-campus Practicum and Internship Facility.

School Counseling

The School Counseling curriculum prepares students for the School Counseling and the Pupil Personnel Services Credential (SC/PPSC). Internship requisites include placement in two of the three K-12 levels: elementary school, middle school, and high school. A comprehensive project exhibiting a student's extensive and consolidated understanding of the field of Counseling, including a case analysis and standardized exit exam, are required for all master's candidates. Other PPS certification specializations necessitate six hundred hours of supervised field experience.

The PPS Credential courses may be concluded within a two-year period, however this requires considerable planning.


  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)
  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC)


Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Nichols Hall
Administrative Coordinator:
Stephanie Wilkinson

University of San Diego

Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions

The University of San Diego (USD) is a distinguished Catholic university located in Southern California overlooking the city of San Diego, Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The objective of USD is to promote intellectual advancement, develop democratic and multicultural citizenship; fortify recognition for values, morals and social justice, and produce a solid foundation for the physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and cultural development of students. Programs integrate advanced curricula with conscientiously selected sites for field training and internships.

The Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions prepares graduates for integral careers with an expertise in counseling through compassionate, ethical, and diverse programs. Through honorable and principled professionalism, the faculty of USD utilize their experience in the local community, nationwide, and internationally.

Master of Arts in School Counseling with Pupil Personnel Services Credential

This program prepares students to become professional counselors. Students in this area plan to be school counselors in elementary, middle school, and high school settings or to work in cooperation with companies involved with providing services to K-12 school children and their families. Students will gain the ability and awareness in dealing with student advocacy. In addition, graduates will possess the expertise and experience in the construction, application, and evaluation of extensive, results-based guidance and counseling programs. Students fulfill the requirements to earn a Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPS) from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing through this program.


  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • California Teaching Commission (CTC)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Western Association and Schools and Colleges (WASC)


University of San Diego
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
(619) 260-4538