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Degree Programs in Counseling

A counseling degree allows students to work in the field of helping people with psychological development and personal issues. Counseling school helps to train students in applying health principles and strategies for various clients. A career as a counselor often involves applying principles that encourage positive mental health, development, and controlling both cognitive and affective behaviors. Counselors may work in public or private mental health practices, and specialization in the field helps to further advance their career.

Job Description and Responsibilities with a Career in Counseling

A career in counseling offers candidates a chance to work one on one with people to help them cope with a variety of life struggles. General responsibilities includes:

  • Providing guidance and advice for specific life circumstance
  • Role playing and encouraging dialogue from each client
  • Advising people who are struggling with self-esteem issues
  • Offering career planning and life management advice
  • Performing tests and evaluations
  • Using non-medical psychotherapy techniques
  • Helping to resolve conflict within interpersonal relationships
  • Encouraging positive mental health disciplines

Counselors are commonly involved with a wide range of clients and helping people cope with many life stages, transitions, and circumstances. Common specializations include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sexual abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Relationship issues
  • Emotional disorders
  • Mental disorders
  • Domestic violence
  • Eating disorders
  • Career changes
  • Job stress
  • Aging issues
  • Death and grievance
  • Athletic pressures
  • Self-esteem problems
  • Adolescent issues
  • Career planning or life management

Skills Needed for a Successful Career in Counseling

Counselors learn how to work with a variety of people and personalities, and must be flexible to accommodate the needs of each client. Skills needed for a successful career include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • High levels of enthusiasm
  • A high level of patience
  • Self-reliance
  • Self motivation
  • High amount of physical energy
  • Effective stress management
  • Ability to travel

Career Options with a Counseling Degree

A counseling degree offers candidates a variety of options for their career. After completing training, a candidate choose to pursue a master program in counseling to further their education. Careers in counseling may lead to positions as:

  • Educational, vocational, and school counselors

  • Employment counselors

  • Rehabilitation counselors

  • Mental health counselors

  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

  • Marriage and family therapists

Counselors are trained to help people at all stages of life. Educational counselors work in a school setting to offer career information, job search skills, and helping to place student sin the workforce. They may also be available to discuss family problems or drug abuse problems that are affecting a student's work at school and overall health. Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with social and personal effects of disabilities. They help people learn how to live independently. Mental health counselors work with both individuals and families to help achieve optimum mental health. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors address the needs of those addicted to drugs, and can help with recovery from addiction. Marriage and family therapists help to resolve emotional conflicts and increase positive communication amongst family members.

Counseling Degree Requirements

A counseling degree requires students to obtain at least an undergraduate education, along with certification. A master's degree is typically required for licensing and certification, and earning a counseling degree online is an efficient way to complete an educational program in the field. A master program 'can increase career options and is often more specialized than a standard 4-year degree. Undergraduate programs are grouped into eight key areas of study such as:

  • Social and cultural diversity
  • Human growth and development
  • Relationships
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Professional identity
  • Group work
  • Career development
  • Assessment

There are many opportunities for completing graduate studies, and pursuing a counseling degree online is an attractive option for many students. A variety of universities and colleges offer a master degree in counseling or undergraduate studies through an online program. These are especially valuable for students who may be working full time and require a flexible schedule. Classes for a master degree often include:

  • Intervention, Consultation, and Program Development
  • Career Counseling
  • Introduction to Group Counseling
  • Laboratory in Counseling
  • Counseling Techniques
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Life Span Development

The highest level of achievement is found at the doctoral level. This requires a doctoral dissertation and is often extremely specialized. It requires extensive research in the field, and can be a part of an ongoing counseling school program. Doctoral programs generally are not completed as part of an online counseling degree program, but they may be available in a correspondence format.

Certification and licensure programs are available for those interested in a counseling career. Forty-six states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have established a program, but certification is voluntary. A prospective counselor may chose to obtain certification for a specialized course of study, and this is often combined with a counseling and teaching certificate.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) grants a general certificate to counselors who complete a master program. The National Certified Counselor (NCC) status is granted to those who complete the graduate degree program and finish at least two years of field work. For counselors who are pursuing mental health counseling, three national organizations offer certification. These include the Certified Mental Health Counselor (CMHC), Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (NACCMHC), and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). State requirements vary by state, but to maintain NCC status, a counselor must complete at least 100 hours of continuing education every five years. A portion of the requirements to apply for certification may be completed as part of an online counseling degree program.

Employment Prospects with a Counseling Degree

After extensive training and certification, candidates can choose to advance their career by specializing in a particular field. Counselors can also become supervisors or administrators in their agency, or start a private or group practice. Employment of counselors is expected to grow faster than average through 2014. School counselors in particular are in high demand, along with vocational and career counselors as more people become aware of services available. The need for rehabilitation counselors is expected to increase with the advances in medical technology in the oncoming years.

Median annual earnings of educational, vocational and school counselors were $45,570 in 2004. Earnings vary depending on specialization and amount of certification achieved. Counselors who choose to open their own practice have the highest earnings, as well as those employed in group practices. Related occupations include:

  • Physical therapists

  • Registered nurses

  • Social workers

  • Teachers

  • Clergy-members

  • Sports psychologists

Back to Degree Programs in Counseling



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