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7 Alternative Careers For Counselors: A Guide To Career Change for Mental Health Professionals

August 30, 2023


If you are a licensed counselor considering a career change, there can be a lot of variables to consider. Between choosing an alternate career path, tackling the training and educational requirements for a new role, and assessing the job market while still working as a counselor, switching paths can present various challenges. Still, a new career can be an exciting opportunity to use your counseling skills and knowledge in a different context and start a new chapter in your professional life.

However, it can be difficult to decide how to proceed with such a major transition. Here, we will dig into your skill set as a counselor and explore how it can be used in other industries. We will also help you identify a path from your current counseling job to a role in a new field. With this guide, you’ll be equipped to begin the research process and find new opportunities for professional growth and fulfillment.

Understanding The Skill Set Of A Counselor

With a deep understanding of people, superb communication skills, and experience managing the admin side of counseling work, you are likely well-poised for any number of positions across different fields and industries. Look for roles in which your skill set can be applied in new ways, considering your strengths in:

  • Cultivating and demonstrating empathy
  • Verbal and/or written communication
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution
  • Emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity
  • Time management and administrative skills
  • Adaptability to complex situations and changing circumstances
A man in a black shirt talking to a female therapist as they sit on the couch during an in-person consultation

Factors To Consider Before Making A Career Change

If you are a counselor considering a career change, it may be worth taking some time to weigh the pros and cons of entering a new field versus continuing your career as a counselor. As a counselor, you still have the option of finding a new job within your profession, which may help you achieve greater career satisfaction without exiting the field. 

However, if you do decide that pursuing a new career is right for you, there are some factors to take into consideration:

  • Financial stability and benefits: Research your prospects in terms of salary, benefits, and job security to help you find a career path suited to your needs and desired lifestyle. 
  • Skill transferability: Assess how your skills as a counselor will transfer to the new role, as well as areas that may take some practice and adjustment.
  • Career advancement: Look at long-term prospects in your new career, considering how you might maneuver after transitioning into your new field.
  • Work-life balance: Research different jobs and careers to find one suitable in terms of work hours, flexibility, and PTO, with the aim of achieving a healthier work-life balance.
  • Job market: Research the job market for prospective careers to see what kinds of opportunities exist and learn how in-demand you might be now and in the future.
  • Training and credentialing: Take note of the training, certification, or qualifications required for the career you are considering, ensuring you have the time and financial resources to complete these requirements.

Alternative Career Options For Counselors

Your skill set as a counselor may translate well into several other fields. The following roles are examples of careers that leverage many of the same skills you have acquired throughout your counseling career. As you consider these options, look at current job postings to get a sense of salary, job duties, and working environments. 

  1. Human Resources Specialist

Individuals in human resources (HR) must possess a deep understanding of people, communication, and problem-solving. As an HR specialist, you’ll draw upon your people skills to help companies recruit, onboard, and manage their employees. There are times when you may be tasked with resolving problems between employees or handling sensitive issues, which is where your background in counseling can be especially helpful. You can also use your empathic understanding of human motivation to advocate for employees, helping companies build healthier, more productive workplaces. 

  1. Academic or Career Advisor

As an academic or career advisor, you might use your interpersonal skills to guide individuals as they make critical decisions about their educational or career paths. You may work in an educational setting, such as a secondary school or university, or for an organization that helps individuals find jobs, such as a non-profit or rehabilitation center. As a counselor, you are likely already equipped to quickly understand individuals and help steer them toward goals that align with their strengths, interests, and values.

  1. Wellness Coordinator

Wellness coordinators work with individuals and institutions to improve health and well-being. They may work for corporations, healthcare facilities, or educational institutions, and are typically tasked with organizing and implementing wellness programs tailored to the needs of the specific population they serve. Your experience as a licensed counselor equips you with a deep understanding of human behavior and mental health, making you well-suited for this role.

  1. Mediator

As a mediator, you would act as a neutral third party for facilitating dialogue between conflicting parties, helping them work toward a mutually agreeable solution. For example, you may be retained by a corporation to resolve workplace disputes, or by a family court to assist in divorce negotiations. Your skills in active listening, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution would be critical for guiding parties through the emotionally charged process of negotiation. 

  1. Applied Behavioral Analyst

Applied behavioral analysts help individuals with autism and other developmental disorders improve their social, communication, and behavioral skills. They use evidence-based psychological interventions to lead these individuals toward greater self-reliance and equip them with the skills to adapt to their environments with more ease. Your educational background and experience as a counselor may provide a strong foundation for transitioning into this specialized field, though you may need to undergo additional certification to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

  1. Educator

Your counseling skills may serve you well in a role as an educator, regardless of the level you teach or what topics you cover. Communication, empathy, and analytical abilities can transfer well to a learning environment, and you may find that your understanding of human behavior enhances your effectiveness in teaching and mentoring. Whether in a school or university environment, you could draw upon your empathy to design and deliver learner-centered lessons and provide targeted, meaningful feedback to help students succeed.

  1. Life Coach

As a licensed counselor with clinical experience, you are likely to stand out among the competition when joining the ranks as a life coach. Life coaches work closely with individuals to help them identify goals, overcome obstacles, and make significant life changes. If the emotional fatigue and problem-centered nature of counseling are taking a toll, you may find the solution-focused nature of life coaching preferable. Life coaches might also take a more relaxed, flexible approach to their work, allowing for a work-life balance that may be more sustainable long term.

A man talking to a group of people in a group therapy session as they are sitting in a circle, listening and looking at him.

How To Seek New Opportunities Within The Counseling Profession

While finding a new career may be an option for many, it might also be worth considering ways to continue in the counseling profession while addressing any issues that are compelling you to switch careers. For example, if you are a school counselor, you might consider going into private practice. This may allow you to work with a different population, earn more money, and set your own hours.

Many counselors find that they can earn a steady income and enjoy a healthier work-life balance by offering their services online. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp make it easier for licensed counselors to find clients, manage schedules, and conduct sessions with relative ease. Online counseling may also be an option for counselors looking for a way to earn money while pursuing alternate career paths, as it offers the flexibility to work part-time or around other commitments.

If you are thinking about changing careers due to chronic stress, burnout, or emotional fatigue, you might consider taking some time to address your mental health and well-being before making a major decision. Your current situation might only be temporary, and with sufficient rest, self-care, and therapy, it may be possible to attain a healthier work-life balance while continuing in the mental health field. Counselors interested in seeking therapy for themselves may be eligible for a free trial of BetterHelp on behalf of


As a counselor, you have developed a unique skill set that may make you a prime candidate for several different careers that involve working closely with people. Empathy, communication, problem-solving, and a deep understanding of human behavior are all highly transferable to other types of roles in corporate, educational, or institutional settings. Before making a decision, it can be important to assess your needs and long-term goals as well as the current job market and specific qualifications required for your desired career path. 

It may also be worth considering whether a new counseling role could be more suited to your needs, as self-care and mental health support can go a long way in helping counselors develop a healthier relationship with the profession. By prioritizing your well-being and assessing whether your situation is temporary or permanent, you may be able to adopt a healthier mindset, reignite your passion for your counseling career, and continue to provide valuable support to clients.