If you enjoy listening to others and helping to solve their problems, a job as a professional counselor may be the perfect fit for you. You have an opportunity to impact someone’s life by providing the tools so that they can improve their lives. But like any advanced degree program, going back to school to become a professional counselor is no small undertaking and you need to educate yourself on the degree and potential career paths. Here is some important information to know about getting your master’s degree in counseling.
Types of Degrees
Several different master’s degrees exist that allow you to perform counseling services. The type you get will depend on what you hope to do exactly with your degree. You have the standard M.A or M.S and there are several concentrations to choose from, such as the master of science in clinical mental health counseling, which may be a good fit for someone who wants to work in a substance abuse center or other clinical setting. A master’s of education may be a good fit if you want to work in a school. A master’s of social work may also be an option—while not an official counseling degree, it allows you to provide counseling services. A master’s in counseling psychology may give you a limited scope to practice psychology in some states.
What Type of Accreditation to Look For
When choosing a program, it is important that the school has the proper accreditation; generally, you want to choose a degree, whether online or offline, that has accreditation by a regional organization. You also need to see if the program has an accreditation specific to counseling programs. If you are looking to complete your program online, one of the most important ones to look for is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)—any online institution carrying this accreditation has been deemed to have met similar standards as programs offered at traditional schools. No matter what type of accreditation a school claims to have, it is important to verify this information.
Healthcare is one area where the demand for jobs generally continues to rise as time goes on; the demand for counselors is no exception. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists should increase by 37 percent over the next several years; a 27 percent increase is expected for counselors specializing in substance abuse and behavioral disorders; occupational counselors are expected to see a 28 percent jump. When it comes to determining your best prospects and salary, it is important to do your research as the field of counseling is broad with many different areas, each paying different salaries. If you are researching prospects and are still in your undergraduate years, getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then your master’s in counseling may be your best bet for long-term employment opportunities.
About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things education.