Should I Apply to a Master’s or Doctoral Degree Program?

Counseling is a vast field that involves providing help and support services to a diversity of individuals, such as children, adults, and the elderly from all types of backgrounds. Counseling professionals strive to help clients obtain self-awareness and live happier and more productive lives. Those interested in working in the counseling area often inquire about whether to apply to a master’s or doctoral degree program. The answer depends on various factors, including career goals, time frame of education, and cost of programs.

Career Goals

The most important aspect in the decision of applying to a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling should be career goals. Students need to decide what type of position, and what type of activities they ultimately want to pursue following completion of graduate school. If an individual wants to work with people, but does not want to conduct research then a master’s degree in counseling psychology, marriage and family counseling, or substance abuse counseling may be a good fit. On the other hand, a doctoral degree is typically a better choice for those seeking to participate in rigorous research activities or work as a professor or administrator. Doctoral education provides instruction on therapeutic skills and research training, while master’s degree programs focus mainly on theory and application.

Time Commitment

Another important factor for prospective counseling students to think about is the time frame for master’s and doctoral degree programs. In general, a master’s degree programs takes about two years to complete following undergraduate education. Alternatively, doctorate degrees take about four to eight years after an undergraduate degree and involve a much more time commitment for completing a dissertation and research. Students may want to consider the age they will be upon completion of graduate school and reflect on how this affects their ultimate goals. They should think about how it relates to other life aspects and non-academic goals, such as relationships, family, and location.

Cost of Education

The cost of graduate education is a crucial aspect students should consider when deciding on a master’s or doctoral degree program in counseling. In general, both types of programs are expensive, but in different ways. Master’s and doctoral degrees typically involve paying high graduate tuition rates, usually $500 or more per credit hour. Since doctoral programs take a significantly more amount of time to complete, they often cost much more than master’s degree programs. Also, the tuition for some doctoral students is waived because they take on positions as graduate instructors and assistant researchers, but these doctoral programs are still expensive because of the length of time the student is attending school when they could be earning a full-time salary. When considering which type of program, students need to assess their finances.

Aspiring counseling professionals should take the time to thoroughly research which degree will best suit their academic, career, and personal needs. A graduate degree in counseling is an ideal choice for those wanting to make a difference in the lives of many different types of individuals. Either choice will help students on their way to their counseling careers.