Do I Need A Masters Degree To Be A Counselor?
Whether you intend to become a mental health counselor, a marriage counselor or a family therapist, the minimum requirement is a master’s degree. Postgraduate studies in psychology, social work or related fields are the programs that aspiring counselors usually take. A master’s degree is an absolute necessity because a license is needed in most states to practice the counseling profession. To become eligible for licensure, a master’s degree, supervised clinical experience, passing of a state-prescribed test and completing continuing education requirements are all mandatory.
However, master’s degree programs do more than just fulfill the technical requirements for licensure. These advanced degrees equip you with the training and skills you need to become an effective counselor. Through the courses in these postgraduate programs, you are taught how to identify the signs and symptoms of various psychological disorders and other emotional problems of clients. You are also taught how to utilize counseling techniques and strategies that will help them cope or even solve their problems. If you are planning to focus your counseling career on marriage and family therapy, a master’s degree coursework will give you a background about the dynamics between marriages and families. They will also equip you with the knowledge you need to determine how mental and emotional disorders will affect family relationships. Topics in mental health counseling programs cover personality theories, ethical and legal issues in professional counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, clinical mental health counseling, among others. These programs also include clinical practicum and internship programs.
Before you can qualify to a master’s degree program, most schools make a bachelor’s degree a requirement for entry. Many counselors opt to take undergraduate degrees in psychology, social work or related fields. These usually take four years to complete while master’s degree programs often take a couple of years to finish for students who are enrolled fulltime.
Master’s degree programs that prepare you to be a counselor can be taken on-campus and online. While on-campus programs are the traditional methods of getting a degree, you will have to be ready to follow the schedules set by the school. You also need to be ready to transfer to a dormitory within the school campus or an apartment close to it so that you can attend classes regularly.
Online master’s degree programs, on the other hand, provide students that much-needed flexibility for those who want to have control of their own schedules. When you enroll online, you can actually hold a fulltime job and if your work has to do with counseling, you can relate what you have learned to your experience in the real world. You also have the opportunity to choose where you want to stay and won’t have to be confined to living near or on-campus although you will have to be ready to fulfill the residency requirements of the program. These residency requirements, however, aren’t lengthy but usually only last for a few days or weeks. Despite the positive aspects of taking your master’s degree online, not everyone can succeed this way. You need to be very disciplined and organized to be able to fulfill the requirements of the course.