7 Facts About Counseling Schools and Careers

Can I go to school online?

counseling-common-questionsIf you’re looking for the convenience of an accredited online school, you’re in luck. Many online programs offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling, social work and human services, as well as almost every sub-specialty of counseling, such as clinical mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy.

You can even earn a PhD in psychology online.

Course outlines differ for each school, so check for information on the differences and how they pertain to your goals in earning your degree.

What careers can I pursue with a degree in counseling?

A counseling degree can open many doors. For instance, you can choose to become a school or career counselor, rehabilitation counselor, substance abuse counselor, mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist. If you’re interested in helping the elderly, careers in gerontological counseling will be in demand as baby boomers retire and age. Human services and social work are perfect for those who prefer a community environment and many counselors also work in private practice.

How do I apply for financial aid?

For most students, the first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal aid is the most common type of assistance, but it’s a good idea to research scholarships, grants, private loans and PLUS loans. In order to qualify for federal aid, the school you attend must be accredited.

What type of accreditation should I look for in a psychology school?

Accreditation shows that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency, and that it is committed not only to meet those standards but to continuously seek ways in which to improve the quality of education and training provided. Many masters and doctoral programs in mental health counseling, for instance, are fully accredited by the American Psychological Association.

The Higher Learning Commission is the other accreditation organization to look for. There are six regional associations defined by the location they operate in.

What steps do I need to take to become licensed?

Every state and the District of Columbia requires counselors to be licensed. In order to gain licensure, most states require counselors to hold a master’s degree, complete between 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and pass an exam. The National Board for Certified Counselors provides up-to-date information about each state’s licensing requirement.

What continuing education requirements should I expect throughout my career?

Counselors in all sub-specialties are required to complete continuing education courses in order to renew their license. For example, school counselors in most states must renew their license every five years. In that time, they must complete a certain amount of continuing education courses. CE requirements can be found with your state’s board of psychology.

Is it better to work for myself in private practice or an institution within the counseling field?

A number of factors influence whether a counselor should work in private practice or for an institution. If you’re new to the field and lack a large patient base, you’ll have to work hard at marketing yourself and getting referrals–a process that will happen throughout your career. Working at an institution may help you gain valuable knowledge from colleagues and receive employer-paid benefits. However, this path doesn’t offer the same schedule flexibility as private practice.

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