What You Should Know About This Degree
Counselors work with vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and individuals with mental, behavioral and developmental disorders. It’s a job that relies heavily on compassion, empathy, patience, and interpersonal skills, and can be mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding. As such, those considering a counseling career should evaluate if they have the right qualities for the job
Despite being a master’s-level entry field, an advanced degree does not necessarily translate to higher pay for counselors. The median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors in 2018 was $44,630, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $28,240 a year. While determining financial return on investment is important when choosing a master’s degree, it’s also key to consider whether the career will fulfill your personal interests and goals.
Even in online programs, there is a hands-on learning component for all counseling degrees. The exact settings and number of hours you have to complete may vary, but it’s important to make sure this component of the program fits into your schedule.
Additionally, because practicums and internships take place in clinical settings, you usually have to pass a background check. Find out what the program’s background check requirements are, if any, to ensure you are eligible for the program.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s Degree in Counseling programs:
- Does this program offer the concentration I want? The counseling field includes many specializations, including mental health, substance abuse/addiction, school, rehabilitation, and couple and family counseling. If you want to specialize, select a program that offers your desired concentration.
- Will I be eligible for licensure? Most counselors must be licensed in order to practice professionally, although requirements vary by state. Where you earn your degree and the program’s accreditation can affect your ability to become licensed, so it’s essential to understand your state’s licensing requirements, and confirm whether your program of interest meets their education requirements.
During the research process, you should also review a program’s admission requirements and deadlines. This will help your application process go as smoothly as possible. You can typically find this information on the school’s website, or by contacting their admissions department.
You will also want to research options for funding your graduate degree, including loans, scholarships, assistantships, and employer tuition benefits, if you are currently employed.