Guide to Online Masters in Counseling Programs

Masters in counseling programs often explore a specialized field like marriage counseling, school counseling, or even credit counseling. Counseling has its roots in psychology as workers strive to understand, identify, and finally provide resolution to problems one can have. Earning your masters degree doesn"t have to be hard nor a major inconvenience. The first step is already taken for you with some highly-regarded schools with online programs listed below.

Kaplan University MS in Psychology MS in General Psychology MS in Addictions Psychology MS in Behavioral Psychology Kaplan University – Kaplan University is a nation-wide leader in accredited online education. Students gain knowledge and skills they need to fill high in demand positions. This places them in the center of lucrative careers and a field that is always seeking skilled individuals. Students can choose from a masters in Psychology, General Psychology, Addictions Psychology, and Behavioral Psychology.
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Liberty University MA in Professional Counseling MA in School Counseling MA in Marriage/Family Therapy Liberty University – One of the nations leading Christian evangelical colleges, Liberty offers a number of online masters in counseling degrees, such as programs for those that want to become a professional counselors, become school counselors, or become certified to be marriage and family counselors. These courses are designed to be completed with in two years and most require a bachelor degree.
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Walden University MS in Crisis Counseling MS in Forensic Counseling MS in Mental Health Counseling PhD in Counseling PhD in Counseling Psychology Walden University – Walden has long been a leader in online masters in counseling programs. They offer a degree for those that want to pursue crisis counseling as well as a forensic counseling degree and finally a degree designed for those who want to become mental health counselors. Finally, for those that already have a master of counseling degree, Walden offers two PHD level counseling degrees; one generally in counseling and another in counseling psychology
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University of the Rockies MA in Career Counseling University of the Rockies – In response to growing interest in online education, University of the Rockies has made an accredited online program available for its Masters in Career Counseling degree. This degree takes a look at the behavioral patterns and psychological aspects behind decision making and job seeking, using curriculum designed to be relevant in today"s work environment.
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For someone who wants to help people by offering empathy, support, and guidance, a Master of Counseling is the perfect degree. Combine your natural compassion with tested skills and knowledge to get a degree and eventually a job where you can get paid to help people through bad times and good.

What is Counseling?

Dictionary.com defines counseling as a professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems. This definition is suitably vague, as the field of professional counseling not only covers personal and emotional conflicts, but a whole range of other realms where individuals and even companies need guidance and advice to keep them on the right track.

Counselors may be called upon in times of crisis, but are also used whenever an outside influence with specialized knowledge is needed. People often associate counselors with psychologists and psychotherapists, but the sweep of a counselor’s duties is broader and less tethered to emotional crises than most psychologists. Counselors and psychologists often work together to design treatment plans for clients in applicable situations.

Requirements for Earning a Master of Counseling Degree

The necessary credits and certifications for a Master of Counseling degree will differ based on your specialty, but the core program requirements will probably be similar. Everyone pursuing this degree will need to:

  1. Attain a bachelor’s degree: This is a requirement for most graduate degree programs, although some universities will accept relevant experience in lieu of an actual degree.
  2. Take the Graduate Record Examination: This standardized test is a prerequisite for many graduate programs, and requires significant studying. The test has vocabulary, writing, and math/reasoning sections. There is a $160 fee for taking this test, and score reports are sent directly from the test administrating organization to the colleges you are applying to. Some programs may not require this test, so double check your school’s needs before spending the money for the GRE.
  3. Complete 48-60 credit hours at the accredited college or university of your choice. These credit hours will typically cover basic counseling and mediation skills for one-on-one and group clients, along with classes unique to your specialty. Most counseling schools will also require you to do an internship or some kind of clinical, hands-on experience before you can graduate.
  4. Licensure and Certification: Regulations vary by state, but almost anywhere you will need a certificate to practice counseling. Many states require proof of continuing education, so you might have to take a few more credit hours of class every couple of years to maintain your credentials.

Counselors can offer services on a freelance basis, or work for an established practice. Many counselors choose to open their own practice after gaining some experience working for someone else. A private practice can allow you to choose a niche demographic to serve.

Salary Projections for Counselors from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers data on employment rates and salaries for different genres of counselors. Here are the most recent data they have collected for several counseling careers:

  • Marriage and Family Therapists Median Salary: $44,590. Most marriage and family counselors are employed by the state government, local government, or outpatient care centers.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors Median Salary: $30,930. Most rehab counselors are employed by local government, offices of other health practitioners, or outpatient care centers.
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Median Salary: $37,030. Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are employed in general medical and surgical hospitals, local government, and outpatient care centers.
  • Educational, vocational, and school counselors median salary: $51,050. Most educational counselors are employed by elementary and secondary schools, junior colleges, and colleges, universities, or professional schools.

Other Options for Those Interested in Counseling

Being a counselor means working closely with people, getting to know them well, and being a friend and advisor to people who are paying for your services. People with these skills and interests should also look into the following short list of careers with generally higher pay and slightly different responsibilities:

  • Occupational Therapy: As an occupational therapist you’ll help people learn to function better and perform tasks more efficiently at work and in daily life. Usually, your clients will have a developmental or physical disability that makes it difficult to live independently, and your job is to develop strategies for them to build or rebuild life skills and gain more autonomy. With a median salary of $66,780 (data from May 2008), occupational therapists earn more than most counselors, but the amount of training and experience required is also greater.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Work: This career uses the same empathy, trust-building, and mutual respect that is necessary for counseling, but tends to focus more on ameliorating social issues such as poverty, domestic conflict, discrimination, and other broad social problems. Social workers address society’s ills by helping one person or family at a time. The median salary for a social workers was $46,220 in 2008, and most were employed in general medical and surgical hospitals, local government, or providing individual and family services.

Altruism, empathy, and the desire to lift up those in need are the foundations of a good counselor. Earning a Master of Counseling degree will teach you the methodology to put your goodwill to use. Look at the list of schools below to find an accredited Master of Counseling program that can be completed mostly or entirely online.

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