Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Counseling? 4 Factors to Consider

Pursuing a Master's Degree in Counseling
Written by Guest Author

According to the World Health Organization, mental health issues have become a challenge to global health. Mental health disorders are among the most common health conditions, affecting an estimated 970 million people globally. A tremendous amount of work is being done to raise awareness, yet there is still a lot of ground to cover. This is one of the reasons people are opting for careers that focus on mental health and are striving to help people struggling with mental health issues and illnesses.

Those interested in counseling might be looking for a path with many perceived benefits when it comes to potential careers. When people think of careers that offer both personal and professional rewards, there’s no doubt that counseling stands out among others.

Career in Counseling

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of mental health counselors will increase by 23% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than average for all occupations. This growth will be driven by an aging population and increased emphasis on preventative care, particularly in private practice settings. The majority of these positions will be in outpatient mental health centers or private practices; however, some positions will also be available at hospitals, educational institutions, social service agencies, and correctional facilities.

Counseling is an applied field, meaning that counselors use the scientific method to find solutions for their clients. They work with individuals, families, and groups on issues such as substance abuse, depression, and relationship problems. Counselors also provide psychotherapy and health education services.

To begin your career in counseling, you’d need a graduate-level degree to work as a professional counselor from an accredited college. There are many on-campus programs as well as an online masters degree in counseling from well-reputed schools to choose from based on your convenience.

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Master’s in Counseling

Master’s degree programs in counseling are designed to provide students with advanced knowledge and training in the field. Depending on the program, student, and program requirements, these programs can be completed in as little as two years or as long as four years.

Master’s degree programs in counseling typically consist of coursework that includes:

  • Psychological theory and research
  • Lifespan development
  • Clinical practice and counseling techniques
  • Human growth and development
  • Professional ethics and legal issues

Students may also complete a thesis or internship project. The exact classes taken by each student will vary depending on the school they attend, but there are several common courses that most students take during their studies. It also depends on the specialization you decide for yourself.

As you consider your options for pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, there are many factors to consider. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you weigh your options:

  • Why do I want to pursue a master’s degree in counseling?

There are many different reasons why people choose to pursue counseling. Some do it because they love working with people and want to help them overcome their problems. Others are passionate about making a difference and having a positive impact on others’ lives. Some do it because they have always been interested in psychology and want to learn more about how the human mind works. Whatever your reason for wanting to get your master’s degree, you must have one before beginning your journey into higher education. It is also one of the most important factors that will determine your success as a counselor.

  • Do I have the right personality traits needed for this job?

Some interpersonal skills come in very handy in a career in counseling since it involves dealing with difficult emotions daily. Some of these are:

  • An open mind – You must be prepared to help people from various backgrounds. Be open to different needs and lifestyles and do not try to impose your values on others.
  • Courage – Dealing with clients with mental illness is tough work but equally rewarding. So you must be fearless and be determined to face every challenge head-on.  
  • Authenticity – Clients can connect better with empathetic counselors who show compassion.  
  • Curiosity – It takes time for clients to get comfortable and to fully open up. Till then, it would be your job to dig deeper and help them assess their feelings.  
  • Self-awareness – Counseling is difficult. It is very important that you are in complete control of your emotions and do not let the misfortune of others derail you.  
  • Creative, intelligent thinking – People will come to you for help. You’d need to intelligently analyze the challenges they’re facing and present newer perspectives to them so they can tackle the problems well.
  • Responsibility – You will be required to protect their privacy, show up on time, and keep your commitments, even when you have other things to do.  
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So, do you have what it takes?

  • What kind of program do I want to attend?

There are a lot of options available to choose from. Do thorough research on programs that are being offered near you. Based on your liabilities, you can decide if you can make time for on-campus education or wish for a more flexible schedule with online education. 

Both online and on-campus programs include theoretical instruction and clinical training to help students gain hands-on experience working with clients from day one. Look for programs that offer a clinical practicum experience where students provide services under the supervision of experienced professionals at local facilities such as schools, hospitals, or mental health agencies. The practicum experience provides valuable hands-on experience before graduation when students begin working with clients on their own.

  • What kind of specialization should I choose?

Determine what type of counselor you want to be. This will help you decide which type of master’s degree will best prepare you for your career. Some of the top careers for professionals with this degree are:

  • substance abuse, behavioral disorder, mental health counselor,
  • marriage and family therapist,
  • mental health and substance abuse clinical social worker,
  • high school counselor, and
  • rehabilitation counselor.

It all bottles down to what you wish to do! If you decide you want to work with children and families, then completing a clinical or school counseling program would be the right choice. If you want to work with adolescents and adults as an individual therapist or in groups, then an MEd or MSW program may be more appropriate. A counselor can also specialize in working with couples and families or in college student counseling.

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Counseling has become a popular career choice due to the rising number of people coping with mental illness. The best part is that many opportunities have cropped up for interested individuals who want to enter this profession requiring an advanced degree. The fact that more psychiatry courses are being taught in universities worldwide fetches a growing number of students wanting to enroll for what can be their life’s calling. Due to this reason, it is important for professionals planning to pursue a masters in counseling to do their due diligence so as not to go wrong at the early stages of their career.

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