What You Should Know About This Degree
Counseling is a mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically demanding job. Counselors work with vulnerable populations, including individuals from backgrounds and lifestyles that may differ from yours. Being an effective counselor means being open-minded, compassionate, empathetic, and patient. Before pursuing a career in this field, you should consider your aptitudes and beliefs to determine if you have the right qualities for the job.
Because of the sensitive nature of counseling, the field is regulated at both the state and national levels. In order to practice professionally, counselors must have a state-issued license, which means complying with state-mandated regulations for education and experience. Be sure to review your state’s licensure requirements before selecting a program, as this can affect the type of program you select. Also be aware that not all Christian counseling programs will prepare you for licensure.
Since counseling is a field that focuses on working with people, hands-on experience is a requirement in most programs, even if all of the coursework is delivered online. When researching programs, find out how many clinical internship hours you must complete and in what type of settings you will complete them. You should also clarify whether the program assists you in finding your clinical sites or if you are responsible for finding clinical sites on your own.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Christian counseling programs:
- Will I be eligible for licensure? Not all Christian counseling programs prepare students for professional counseling licensure. Without a professional license, you will be limited in your job opportunities, so this is an important consideration when selecting a program. Licensure requirements vary by state, so it’s important to understand your state’s licensing requirements prior to choosing a program.
- Can I pass a background check? Since most Christian counseling programs require internships or practicums in a clinical setting, you will have to pass a background check at some point. If you have any incidents in your history that may present an issue, speak to an advisor as soon as possible to find out what your next steps should be.
Other steps you can take at this time include gathering your application materials, taking note of application deadlines and procedures, and researching options for funding your master’s degree. Admissions and financial aid counselors should be available to guide you through these processes and answer your questions. Funding options include student loans, scholarships, assistantships, and employer tuition assistance, if you are currently working.