Many options for online counseling degree programs are available to prepare graduates for a variety of counseling and rehabilitation positions.
Counselors are trained to deal with multiple issues, such as mental health, addiction, school, career or disability. They work in many settings, including schools, hospitals, churches and private practices.
The clients vary with the type of counseling and employer, and may involve working with children, teenagers, adults or even couples and families.
Because of the many possibilities for becoming a counselor, individuals interested in this career should pay special attention to licensing and education requirement.
Online counseling degree programs enable you to work toward a counseling degree without disrupting your professional and personal life. Studying while continuing to work enables you to apply the skills learned throughout your program to your current job. Other benefits of pursuing an online degree program in counseling may include:
Specializations are available within the counseling field, including college, elementary or secondary school, marriage and family therapy, addictions and career counseling. Counseling programs can be found in education, psychology and human services departments. While each will have similar components, they will differ depending upon the focus of the department. In addition to the above specializations, pastoral and Christian counseling programs train graduates to provide counseling services that are rooted in their religious beliefs.
Walden University - is one of the largest accredited online universities in the US offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, by use of a rich learning environment that complements your learning style. Walden's mental health master's degree is specialized and accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Liberty University - is the world's largest Evangelical university. This accredited online Christian college offers degrees in psychology, Religion and human services. Their M.Ed. in School Counseling is NCATE accredited and state-approved for advanced licensure (reciprocity with other states) or endorsements.
Depending upon the specialty and whether you wish to become a licensed counselor, the required education will vary. A master's degree is usually required to become a counselor, although some bachelor's degree and certificate programs exist that teach counseling skills without leading to licensure as a counselor. These non-licensure programs may be shorter, but your options for jobs will be more limited. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is one of the main recognized agencies that approves programs that enable graduates to become licensed counselors.
Licensure and certification requirements depend upon the specialty and the state where you wish to work. For certification, most states require a master's degree in addition to fulfilling the state licensure requirements. Some states allow you to become certified with only graduate or continuing education credits. In addition, public school counselors may need both teaching and counseling certification, as well as prior teaching experience. Graduates from the online programs may not be eligible for licensure in all states, so it is advisable to check with your state licensure requirements, and also speak with enrollment advisors about the online program before enrolling.
Because counseling is such a diverse occupation, career opportunities will depend upon the specialty, education, certification and licensure. Overall, the number of counseling positions is expected to increase faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, largely due to the fact that more positions will be available than graduates of accredited programs. This is especially true in rural areas.
Working as a licensed counselor is not the only option, however. Skills and education earned from undertaking a counseling degree can be applied to other work environments, including businesses and other organizations where mediation and group cooperation is useful. Pastoral or Christian counselors can also apply their skills to their congregation, often without needing licensure. You could also become self-employed or work in group or private practice.
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