What You Should Know About This Degree
Many people use the terms “counselor” and “therapist” interchangeably, but the two professions are not the same, and neither are the degrees that each pursue. Though both work in the field of psychology and require a master’s degree and supervised experience before gaining a professional license, the coursework for each is very different.
Where those pursuing a counseling degree will take courses in counseling theory and techniques, human development, cultural and social issues and assessment methods, family therapists dedicate their studies to topics including family therapy, marriage counseling, and child psychotherapy. Both degrees address the topic of professional ethics.
Though every program that we have reviewed carries an accreditation by a respected accrediting agency, it is worth noting that graduates of programs that have been accredited by the CACREP have been shown to score very competitively on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), and much higher than those who graduate from non-accredited programs.
Hospitals, mental health centers, schools, and social service agencies are increasingly offering counseling, and demand for these services is growing faster than the supply of counselors is. Additionally, consumers’ increased reliance on and acceptance of telehealth is expected to directly affect the need for licensed counseling services.
In order to become a licensed counselor, those who have successfully earned their counseling degrees at the master’s level must also log a minimum number of hours of counseling patients under supervision. They must also pass a standardized exam. These examinations and credentialing generally occur at the state level, so it is a good idea to research the requirements and appropriate governing body for your state.
Here are some questions to ask when researching counseling degree programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? Admission to an undergraduate counseling degree program is open to students who have successfully completed high school and whose qualifications meet or exceed the individual school’s standards. Most programs will require a strong score on the ACT or SAT, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 throughout high school, transcripts sent directly from your high school and letters of recommendation, as well as a personal statement. Admission to a Master’s degree program in counseling generally requires submission of a recent GRE score, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose that describes your goals and reasons for applying to the program, and transcripts from both your high school and your college. If you are currently working you may be asked to provide a copy of your resume.
- Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Though the majority of the counseling degree programs that we’ve reviewed are offered in person, there are some that are offered online or as combinations of in-person and online. Though some of the classes offered online can be taken asynchronously, the majority of them require that students sign on synchronously and participate with other students and the professor in real time.
Pursuit of a counseling degree represents a significant investment of your time, as well as a financial investment. Fortunately, those who attend accredited programs can take advantage of federal, state, and local financial aid programs. To learn what your eligibility is, start by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).