Counseling Degrees: What You Should Know

If you are a good listener, understanding and observant, a career as a counselor could be a good choice in a career option. In order to be a counselor, you will need a college degree, typically a masters degree is the minimum requirement. You can earn a degree either online or by attending a traditional university and you can study full time or part time.

Earning a degree in counseling will teach you a variety of mental health principles as well as how to apply the principles throughout your career. The skills and training you learn through an education will prepare you for a counseling career in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and/or at mental health practices as well as many other opportunities.

While earning a degree in counseling you will have the opportunity to choose a specialization. Depending on the specialization you choose, you could work with domestic violence clients, athletes, the elderly, clients who are experiencing grief and clients with severe mental disorders. There are numerous options to choose from with a career in counseling. Specialty areas in counseling include school counseling, community counseling, guidance counselor, substance abuse, mental health and vocation.

While you are earning your degree, there are three basic specializations you will have to choose from, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling or school counseling. A mental health counselor works with clients who have addictions/substance abuse and/or mental health problems. With a specialization in mental health you will also be qualified to work in positions such as a case manger. Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who have disabilities pertaining to vocation and/or social. School counselors work through a school system to facilitate the personal, social, career and academic development of the students.

The majority of states require either a certification or a license to work as a practicing counselor. There are various options available for certification and licensing such as a Certified Mental Health Counselor (CMHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Each specialization has its own specifications for certification and/or licensure so it is important that you have a general idea of the type of career you are interested in, in order to take the appropriate class work. To become a licensed counselor, the counselor degree you choose will prepare you for the knowledge necessary to take the exam. Once you have earned a counseling degree and begin working the field of your choice, the expected salary will range between $38,000 to $107,000 depending on the field of counseling chosen.

When choosing an online university for earning a degree in counseling, it is important that you verify the accreditations of the university prior to enrolling. When a school is not an accredited university, there are several states that will not honor you education, nor will they allow you to sit for the exam. There are several excellent universities that offer master degree programs in counseling and with a variety of specializations. The University of Phoenix has an online program for a MS degree in Counseling, community counseling and/or mental health counseling. Walden University offers programs for MS in marriage, couple and family counseling as well as a MS in forensic counseling. Grand Canyon University offers a program for a bachelor of science degree in counseling with an emphasis in addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse and Liberty University offers programs for a MA in human services specializing in marriage and family or marriage and family therapy.