What You Should Know About This Degree
Although some jobs are available to counselors with a bachelor’s degree, counseling is generally considered a master’s-level entry field, meaning you must have a graduate degree and a license in order to practice. If you are planning to enter an undergraduate program in counseling, please note that you will likely need to continue on to a master’s degree for the best professional opportunities.
The master’s degree is typically a required step for the state-issued counselor license, which you must have to practice as a professional counselor. Each state has its own licensure requirements and procedures, and licenses may not transfer to other states. Different specialties like rehabilitation counseling, addictions counseling, and school counseling have their own licensing regulations. It’s very important to research licensure requirements in your state, and make sure that you attend a master’s program that meets their requirements.
Hands-on field experience is also a typical licensure requirement. Even if the coursework for a program is offered fully online, you will have to participate in some type of clinical internship experience. The program dictates the number of hours and type of setting for this experience, usually based on state licensing standards. Find out what type of commitment this is, and make sure it fits into your schedule and lifestyle.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Counseling programs:
- Do I have the right qualities for a counselor? Counseling relies heavily on compassion, empathy, patience, and interpersonal skills. It can be emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding, depending on the patient populations with which you work. It’s important to self-evaluate and make sure you have the stamina and personality for the job.
- Am I eligible for this program? Counselors can come from various backgrounds, but some programs may require an undergraduate degree or prior coursework in counseling, psychology or a related field to be eligible for admission.
- Can I pass a background check? Because of the vulnerable populations counselors work with, most employers do background checks as part of the hiring process. If there is anything in your history that may present an issue, talk to your advisor about your options as soon as possible.
Also be sure to learn more about the program’s application requirements and process, as well as scholarship and financial aid options. You can usually find this information on the program’s website, or by contacting an admissions representative. If you are currently employed, check to see if your employer offers any kind of tuition assistance benefits.