Are you interested in working a job that helps people? If you answered yes, then earning an online counseling degree may be the right path for you. Counseling jobs are around for the sole purpose of helping others and even though the job title remains similar, there are many different types of counseling jobs available.
Seeing a counselor is becoming less taboo and more of a norm in modern society, which has led to an increase in the demand for professional counselors. For anyone thinking about going into this field, this is a good sign as there will be plenty of job opportunities for you once you complete your degree. Of course, there are plenty of factors that come into play when looking into this career path.
Counseling is best described as the professional relationship between a counselor and a client that helps empower the latter to accomplish all of their goals in life. These goals often revolve around mental health and wellness, education, careers, marriage and family, and even substance abuse.
Anyone can see a counselor. There are counselors available to people of any age and background, as well as counselors who specialize in group, couples, or family counseling. The most common specialities for counselors that are studied in school are mental health, marriage and family, school, career, substance abuse, and genetics.
Mental health counselors focus on mental health issues, marriage and family counselors help resolve relationship problems, school and career counselors offer school and career advice, substance abuse counselors work with people who suffer from addiction disorders, and genetics counselors advise people about decisions regarding their genetic health.
On average, working any of these jobs will bring in an annual salary of around $60,000. This number is affected by factors including the actual job title, experience, and education level.
You can easily earn more than this if you have the right combination of education and skills to qualify for higher pay. Earning a graduate-level degree is a surefire way to guarantee a higher salary.
Skills Needed to be a Counselor
As with every career, counseling requires a specific set of skills. Beyond the basic skills needed for all professional careers such as time management and detail orientation, counselors need to be versed in some skills that are a bit more out of the ordinary to succeed in their careers.
As a counselor, your job revolves around helping people. If you are not able to empathize with others and their particular problems, you will not make a great counselor. However, empathy is a skill that most people already have, as it is innate in humans. In counseling degree programs, you will be taught how to focus on this skill and develop it further.
Self-disclosure is not necessarily required to become a counselor, but it is one of the absolute best ways to help your clients feel comfortable working with you. Now, this does not mean you unload all of your personal issues onto your client, but rather try and begin sessions by talking about yourself a bit. Maybe tell them what you did over the weekend, or a funny anecdote about you or a family member.
Being a good listener is crucial to being a good counselor. If you are unable to listen to what your clients are telling you, there is simply no way you can help them resolve their problems. This is another skill that you will pick up in school if you do not already possess it.
Oftentimes, when helping people work through major life events and decisions, you will have to tell them things they don’t want to hear. Doing this will potentially save your clients from making poor decisions, but you have to have good communication skills for them to actually listen to you.
A lot of your time as a counselor will be spent taking notes and writing down your thoughts as a client speaks to you. You will therefore need to be able to write things in a way that allows you to continue listening and communicating while keeping comprehensive notes. Most college students pick up on this skill while attending lectures.
Critical thinking is imperative in helping others make huge decisions in their lives. The point of most people visiting a counselor is to ensure that they do not make irrational, emotionally charged decisions. You will be required to think about the situation and help them make the best possible decision.
In most programs, these skills will all be emphasized and taught to students, but it is good to know what to really focus on ahead of time. There are many other skills you will likely need for a counseling career, but these six are by far the most important.
Best Online Counseling Degree Programs
Earning an online degree is a great option for anyone who is currently working or planning on working full-time while going to school. Online degrees offer freedom and flexibility when it comes to scheduling, something that is not often found in traditional on-campus degrees. Most online classes provide students with the option to complete assignments completely on their own time, as long as they are turned in by the due date.
Many online programs also offer the option to fast track your degree. This allows students to earn their degree faster by picking up extra classes each semester, which is something not possible in an on-campus setting. For anyone who is extra motivated to finish early, online is a great path.
While earning an online counseling degree from any institution is a great achievement, earning one from one of the best universities is the best way to ensure a well-rounded education. Employers will be more impressed if they see your degree comes from a well-known university, which works in your favor when it comes to finding employment. And, especially in terms of online degrees, you will want to be sure you attend a good college that has experience in distance learning.
In Lynchburg, Virginia, you can attend Liberty University. This institution is well-known for being a leader in online and distance learning programs, and its online counseling degree program is no different. At Liberty University, you can earn an online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Christian counseling.
This program, while based upon Christian values, is not necessarily just for those of the Christian faith. For anyone interested in a Christian-based education and providing Christian counseling as an option to those who want it, this is a great degree to earn. The program consists of 120 required credit hours, but only 30 of those must be earned through Liberty. This means you can easily transfer credits to put toward your degree.
John Wesley University
John Wesley University in High Point, North Carolina, offers another Christian-based online Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling. This program is focused on preparing students for work as a counselor within churches or faith-based organizations.
At John Wesley University, you will be required to complete a mixture of core bible studies courses and core psychology courses. Many of the psychology courses emphasize abnormal personality disorders, giving you a more unique education.
In Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University offers an online master of counseling. This program focuses on child and adolescent counseling, making it a good choice for those hoping to work as a social worker, school, or family counselor. The program itself requires 24 credit hours to be completed.
While it is required for this specific program for applicants to have earned an undergraduate degree in counseling or psychology, Northwestern University offers another program to earn a Master’s Degree in Psychology for those without an undergraduate degree. This program focuses on more advanced topics in areas like substance abuse theories and research methods in counseling.
New York University (NYU)
New York City is home to the New York University, often called simply NYU. NYU offers an online Master’s Degree in Counseling with the option to have a concentration in school counseling or mental health counseling. For the school counseling path, students are required to complete 48 credit hours and can easily complete their degree in around 18 months. If you choose to take the mental health counseling path, you will be required to complete 60 credit hours and the degree will likely take around 21 months to complete.
While the programs and courses are offered entirely online, students are required to complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship.
Toccoa Falls College
Located in Toccoa, Georgia, Toccoa Falls College offers another Christian-based counseling degree. The program offered here is an online Bachelor’s Degree in counseling. This program focuses on combining Christian principles and values with common counseling methods. In earning this degree, you will focus on topics such as spiritual-based counseling and family counseling.
Whether you are Christian or not, this degree program is a fantastic option if you hope to gain real-world experience through your school. The program here requires students to complete an internship as well as a community outreach project. With both of these under your belt as job experience, you will have no issue starting your career after graduating with this degree.
University of Southern California-Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, you can enroll in an online Master of Education in School Counseling through the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. This program focuses on preparing students for work in kindergarten through high school environments. The program requires students to complete 49 credit hours and takes an average time of two years to complete.
During your studies in this program, you would learn a lot about the legal and ethical issues in counseling, as well as how to give career advice and provide trauma counseling to children and adolescents. This is a great program to attend if you wish to work with and help kids.
Wake Forest University
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you can earn an online master of arts in counseling from Wake Forest University. This degree program specializes in preparing students for work as child advocates, relationship counselors, and substance abuse counselors. The program offers concentrations in clinical mental health and school counseling, and requires a total of 60 credit hours to be completed.
All courses required for this degree are available online, but to graduate, students will have to complete a practicum and two internships. This helps to better prepare students for their future careers and ensures there are no issues in practicing learned skills.
To top off the list of perks for this school, Wake Forest University is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, ensuring you are getting a quality education.
Pursuing a career in counseling truly is a fantastic idea for anyone who wishes to work with and help people from all different backgrounds. With the option to specialize in a variety of different areas, there are plenty of ways you can focus on your own interests while also making other people’s lives better. Counseling can be a very satisfying job.
The most important step in starting or advancing your career in counseling is earning a counseling degree. Deciding to earn your counseling degree online is the best option for you if you plan to work during your studies because online classes allow you more flexibility and freedom, as well as the opportunity to fast track your degree.
All in all, earning an online counseling degree is a great move for your counseling career. You should definitely consider applying to a few of the best colleges for online counseling degrees so that you can begin working toward your perfect career.