Counseling Degree Programs (MS, MA, MEd)

Counselors work in diverse settings and provide various counseling, rehabilitation, and support services to the communities they serve. Their duties vary greatly, depending on their specialty, which is determined by the setting they work in and the population they counsel. Career and salary prospects also vary depending on the area of specialization. Counselors frequently work with children, adolescents, adults, or families that have issues, such as mental health disorders, addiction, school problems or vocational counseling needs, and trauma. Counselors are trained to recognize these issues and to provide appropriate counseling and support.

What should I look for in a master’s program in counseling?

Whether you’re considering enrolling at traditional brick-and-mortar institution or at an online university, you should look at every degree program with a critical eye. It is crucial to know if the program is accredited by a National Accreditation Agency, if it properly prepares students for licensure and certification exams, and if it offers a specialization/focus aligns with your career goals.

The following featured programs fulfill these criteria and might make excellent options:

SchoolPrograms

Liberty University

Accreditation
  • SACS

Walden University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA

Grand Canyon University

Accreditation
  • HLC

University of the Rockies

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA

You can also click here to search a database of 100+ accredited degree programs (both campus and online).

Steps Toward a Graduate Degree in Counseling (MS, MA, MEd)

To become a counselor, requirements vary significantly by state. Successful students typically complete the following steps:

  1. Earn proper undergraduate degree (requirements vary by state). Common undergraduate degrees include Bachelor of Science programs in education, psychology or human services.
  2. Earn proper graduate degrees (requirements vary by state) from an accredited institution like Capella, Kaplan, Liberty, or Walden University. Typically includes completing a graduate degree with a concentration in clinical psychology.
  3. Obtain proper licensure. Licensure requirements differ greatly by state, occupational specialty, and work setting.
  4. Consider certification options. Some counselors elect to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, which grants a general practice credential of National Certified Counselor. While voluntary and distinct from state licensing, in some states, those who pass the national exam are exempt from taking a state certification exam. The board also offers specialty certifications in school, clinical mental health, and addiction counseling.

Specializations in Counseling

Many schools offer students an opportunity to specialize in a number of different areas in the counseling field. You can earn an MS, MA, or MEd with a specialization in one of the following areas:

Career and Leadership

  • Career Counseling – Career counselors serve as coaches, confidants, and advisors to their clients who are interested in exploring career opportunities and help people examine their interests, styles, and abilities to find and enter the profession that best suits them.
  • Career Counseling Psychology – Career counselors with a background in psychology help people deal with the stresses of job loss and unemployment as well as offer career advice and counseling.
  • Leadership Coaching Psychology – Leadership and coaching psychology studies the philosophy and theories of leadership development and gives students a better understanding of their own leadership aptitude.

Child and Family

  • Child Psychology – Child psychologists administer psychological tests and conduct scientific research on childhood development and work to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent developmental, cognitive, social and emotional issues in children.
  • Marriage/Family Therapy – Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, families, couples, and groups to address and treat mental and emotional disorders, improve communication and understanding among family members, and help to prevent family and individual crises.

Clinical Work

  • Clinical Counseling – Clinical counselors are concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and predominantly help people deal with personal issues, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.
  • Clinical Psychology – Clinical counselors are concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and predominantly help people deal with personal issues, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.

Education and Guidance

  • Educational Psychology – Educational psychologists study how people learn, often focusing on gifted or disabled children, though educational psychology applies to all children and also adults.
  • Guidance & Counseling – Guidance counselors provide counseling services to students, collaborating with parents, teachers, administrators, psychologists, medical professionals, and social workers to develop strategies to help students succeed.
  • School Counseling – School counselors provide counseling services to students, collaborating with parents, teachers, administrators, psychologists, medical professionals, and social workers to develop strategies to help students succeed.
  • School Psychology – School counselors provide counseling services to students, collaborating with parents, teachers, administrators, psychologists, medical professionals, and social workers to develop strategies to help students succeed.

General Study

  • Counseling Studies – Counseling studies professionals typically work under the direction of workers from a variety of fields, such as nursing, psychiatry, psychology, or social work in a non-clinical capacity.
  • Counseling Psychology – Counselors work with children, adolescents, adults, or families in diverse settings to provide various counseling, rehabilitation, and support services to the communities they serve.
  • General Psychology – Psychology students can get involved in counseling and therapy, research, teaching, and clinical work and also help in forensic investigations, theological departments, schools, sports teams, and more.
  • Professional Counseling – Counselors work with children, adolescents, adults, or families in diverse settings to provide various counseling, rehabilitation, and support services to the communities they serve.

Health and Addiction

  • Addiction/Substance Abuse Counseling – Addiction and substance abuse counselors help people overcome personal, social, and vocational effects of disabilities and work to recognize and reduce environmental and attitudinal limitations. They also counsel people with physical and emotional disabilities stemming from illness, birth defects, accidents, or other causes.
  • Geriatric Counseling – Geriatric counselors work with the elderly and their families with issues related to aging, caregiving, and loss.
  • Mental Health Counseling – Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, and groups to address and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal impulses, and grief, and to promote good mental health.
  • Health & Wellness Psychology – Health and wellness psychology students work with substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, and rehabilitation counselors and in environments like outpatient care facilities, nursing or adult care centers, and child care centers.
  • Mental Health Psychology – Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, and groups to address and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal impulses, and grief, and to promote good mental health.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling – Rehabilitation counselors are trained to work with individuals who have a disability which may include a developmental disability, psychiatric disability, physical disability, substance abuse and/or dependence issues.

Other Specializations

  • Community Psychology – Community psychology students often find work in various areas of applied mental health services, working as or with mental health counselors, school counselors, or social workers.
  • Forensic Counseling – Forensic counselors work with a variety of individuals including inmates, defendants, detectives, and others in the criminal justice industry.
  • Pastoral Counseling – Pastoral counselors are trained in both psychology and theology to provide psychological as well as spiritual guidance to patients and families in health care settings.
  • Sports Psychology – Sports psychologists study the mental and emotional aspects of participating in team sports, exercise, and other forms of physical exercise such as motivation, inspiration, and goal-setting
  • Trauma & Crisis Counseling – Trauma and crisis counselors help couples and families overcome health-related, school, and mental health crises, including interventions with suicidal clients and victims of abuse.

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