College 101: Contemplating Counseling Careers

I need a hand comparing my options. I’m a senior graduating this May with a degree in childhood development. I was originally planning to teach elementary school, but, during one of my more recent internships, I changed my mind, as a result of working closely with school counselors.

I’m now considering a career in counseling instead, which would still let me work with kids directly, but in a different way. My next big question is what to do next. My advisor told me to look at relevant graduate programs, but I’m wondering if it would be better to get a master’s or doctorate degree. I’ve found programs for both.

Would one give me more career opportunities than the other in counseling?

Choosing the right graduate program is no simple decision. There are always multiple factors to take into consideration. A career in school counseling is no different. You might find it best to evaluate the value of an advanced degree based on your specific career aspirations. In other words, which degree is truly required to begin practicing in the setting you want?

Writers at Teacher Certification Degrees explain the path to becoming a school counselor in six relatively straightforward steps. First on the list is earning a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related subject, which you’ll have accomplished this May. Second is obtaining a master’s degree in school counseling, or a closely related subject, like behavioral psychology. The remaining items on the list include getting a certain amount of supervised work experience, passing all appropriate state licensure exams, and applying for your counselor’s license.

You’ll find that most school counseling positions will likely only require a master’s degree. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) published a comprehensive list of state practicing requirements, which has the minimum education specified at the master’s degree level in almost all cases. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to finding a master’s program in school counseling. Such programs are much shorter than their doctoral counterparts, and also frequently less expensive.

The value of a doctorate degree is that it prepares its students for careers as clinical counselors. However, you should be aware that the most reputable programs often require its students to currently possess a master’s degree in a closely related field, in addition to existing state licensure. This only strengthens the argument to further investigate master’s degree programs in school counseling. You can always figure out whether the doctorate makes sense after you obtain the master’s degree and accumulate some professional work experience.

You might discover, for instance, that, after a couple years interacting with children in an educational setting, you’d prefer to have different kinds of interactions with a new population. That’s perfectly normal for someone pursuing a counseling career. There are all sorts of other options that you could fall back on. Authors at Affordable Colleges highlight other related degree pathways and careers that allow someone to work with children. Those could be viable choices, too.

“Become the CEO of your career destiny.” - Sarah Hathorn

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