Online Counseling Masters Programs offer the flexibility needed for today’s busy students to balance their career, while still pursuing the education they need. In fact, earning a masters in counseling is often a prerequisite to work as a licensed counselor or counseling psychologist.i As such, many masters programs are designed to help students prepare for licensure in the state where the school is based.
written by Rana Waxman
Aspiring licensed professional counselors (LPCs) may study the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of individuals, couples or groups with different areas of need. Experienced counselors who already hold a license might prefer a more specialized program that focuses on a unique skill set or patient population to build up their practice.
Whatever your level of experience, earning your masters of counseling online may offer the flexibility and portability you need to work your graduate education into your life.
Online counseling masters programs are often designed to be completed in approximately two years of full time study. However, this may vary by school and personal preference. Often, they either offer students the opportunity to prepare for licensure in their counseling specialization, or to continue study in pursuit of a doctoral degree.
Depending on the university and your program, you might be required to have obtained either a relevant bachelors degree (often in counseling or psychology) or sufficient relevant coursework in another program. Other admissions requirements vary. However, a few common examples include personal essays, reference letters, transcripts, test scores and grade point average.
DID YOU KNOW? 49% of Rehabilitation Counselors have a Master’s degree. This group includes Job Coaches and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VCR)ii
An Online Masters Degree in Counseling may appeal to students in an array of unique life situations. The inherent flexibility might appeal to students with family duties, career obligations, or who may have difficulty commuting or relocating. Since a masters degree in counseling is often the minimum education entry-level counselors and therapistsiii, online counseling degrees may also offer a convenient option for busy students to work toward a career in a new and exciting field.
Online masters in counseling programs use technology to deliver courses online, typically through a web browser. Students can access online libraries, communicate via email, have discussions in online chat forums or through video conferencing. Depending on how your program is set up, you may be able to log in around the clock to complete course requirements on your schedule, In other words, study when you can, respect assignment deadlines, and log in wherever it works for you. However, be aware that some programs may still have in-person requirements, such as internship or practicums to be completed in the field in your community.
Two of the most common types of Masters Degree in Counseling Online are Master of Arts in Counseling (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) programs. While the two programs may have a lot in common, they may also lead to a somewhat different career path, require different undergraduate backgrounds, and offer varying course options.
Online Master of Arts in Counseling Programs may be preferred by students with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology or another field. This degree usually focuses on academic skills and counseling research. As such, it may entail writing a thesis, and help students prepare for future study at the doctoral level and/or a career in academia.
On the other hand, an Online Master of Science in Counseling might be chosen by students who have obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology. These programs may emphasize math and science skills, clinical training, and even internship and practicum experience. Students typically take this path if they are looking for more of a practice-based career.
Because there are so many unique types of counseling and therapy, many online masters programs in counseling offer a range of options for concentration. The ones emphasized are those that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP).iv Accreditation ensures that the program has met standards of quality established in your profession. This may be important for future employers.v Which one is right for you may depend on your interests, experience, and primary career ambitions. Below, we’ve listed several options you might consider.
Many of the above concentrations might also be found at the Ph.D. level. Pursuing your online counseling doctorate may be in the cards for you if you want to teach, research or get involved with both.[vi] If your goal is to practice as a licensed counseling psychologist, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. is typically required[vii].
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[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm |[ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1015.00[iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm |[iv] cacrep.org/for-students/ |[v]bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm |[vii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm