You can earn a counseling degree online at all levels, and more and more universities are offering online or hybrid programs. Counseling programs at more advanced levels generally include on-campus components such as mentoring, residencies, or practicums as a requirement before graduation, though these may only take place once or twice per year. While online students are at a disadvantage when it comes to practicing counseling with their peers, online programs are increasingly using software such as Skype to allow students or entire classes to connect in real time and practice counseling skills. You can supplement online study with internships, mentorships, or work experience in the field.
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Most professional counselors need to be certified or licensed before they are able to practice, and requirements vary from state to state. Some states have a list of licensure-qualifying counseling programs. If you are considering an online counseling degree program, contact your state’s professional licensure department to find out if the program satisfies licensure requirements.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits master’s and doctoral programs in different types of counseling specializations, including addiction counseling, career counseling, clinical mental health counseling, family counseling and school counseling as well as counselor education and supervision. Many counseling jobs require applicants to either graduate from a CACREP-accredited online counseling program or earn a similarly accredited traditional degree. Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Students working toward a counseling degree can expect to take classes that will expand their knowledge in the following areas:
One of the key things to remember about counseling certification is that professional certifications are not the same as a certificate in counseling. Although you can take counseling certification courses, you will not be certified until you have applied with the state certification board and taken either the National Board of Certified Counselor’s National Counselor Examination (NBCC/NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NBCC/NCMHCE).
Use this directory to find Counseling programs
Certification is required for many counseling positions as well as better pay. For example, a mental health counselor makes $30,325-$53,872/year, but a licensed professional counselor makes up to $62,848, and a marriage/family therapist (certified) can make up to $140,000/year. Most graduate programs offer a certification track where students graduate ready to take their certification exams or with the qualifications and in-field hours required to be certified on the spot.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in counseling are on the rise. Counselors, like teachers, have found employment in an array of fields. As counseling fields become much more specialized, a greater number of career opportunities continue to develop. Changes in cultural trends have created a high demand for counselors that specialize in different areas, such as family counseling and alcohol abuse counselors.
Professionals looking to make a career out of helping people in need can find a spot for themselves in the field of counseling. Counselors with a master’s degree will have a much easier time getting hired and working in positions that offer higher salaries. Because counseling is a career which deals with mental state and health, six years of education is necessary to be hired by many organizations, schools, corporations or to go into private business. Salaries for counseling professionals range from $44,000 to $140,000 for different positions. While salary is mainly dependent on job title and location, going to the right school can also be helpful.
Counseling professionals will benefit their career by specializing in a niche track. Many programs will offer in-field experience for students in their specialty of interest to further skills and help students get a leg up when it comes time to apply for jobs. Some job possibilities students can consider:
Some additional fields for people with counseling degrees: