A Masters in Counseling is a prerequisite for pursuing a career in counseling. With this advanced degree, the graduate can then be qualified to work in a specialized area of his choice.
A bachelor’s degree specifically in psychology, sociology or social work, education, biology, statistics or human development is strongly recommended if you intend to work as a counselor in the future. This will be your educational foundation to the path you wish to pursue. The psychology degree, however, is most suitable as this provides you with an early understanding of how people behave and the reasons behind such behavior.
A Masters in Counseling degree program offers specializations in the fields of school, career, alcohol abuse, family and marriage counseling, mental health counseling and even credit counseling. It is important, however, to make sure the programs you choose are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Those who want to become a counseling psychologist are required to obtain a Doctoral Degree in Psychology (PsyD or PhD). This advanced degree is required in most states.
Below are the common master’s degrees in counseling:
Master of Arts (MA) degree in counseling or psychology which involves the submission of a thesis as a major requirement for completion
Master of Education (MEd) degree with focus on counseling ideal for those who want to be involved in educational counseling
Master of Science (MS) degree in psychology, human services, counseling or mental health which does not require a thesis
Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a popular option as it is recognized in all U.S. states.
With an MA or MS in counseling or masters in social work, graduates can become a licensed professional counselor (LPC). They must, however, comply with the state and national licensing requirements first before they can start working.
The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) is the agency that grants the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification. This certification is issued to graduates with a master’s degree who have completed two years of field work and have passed the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
Counselors are required to complete at least 100 hours of continuing education credit every five years in order to maintain their certification. Otherwise, they will have to retake and pass the licensure exam for counselors. The required hours may vary from state to state.
There are other counseling certifications for general mental health issued by national organizations.
These are the Certified Mental Health Counselor (CMHC), Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
Graduates of a master’s degree in counseling can work in varied settings depending on their specialization. School and career counselors can hold positions in educational institutions as guidance counselors while mental health counselors can work in hospitals or start their own private practice. Substance abuse counselors can contribute their services at rehabilitation centers and hospitals while rehabilitation counselors are also needed in hospitals and may work in private and government agencies.