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7 reasons you should get a counseling degree

You dream of making a difference in a career field that ignites your passion to help other people. This aspiration is well within reach when you become a counselor. In this vital role, you could make your mark in schools, universities, social service agencies or even private practice. 

No matter where you work or in what capacity, counseling will give you the unique chance to pursue a purpose-driven career. First, however, you'll need to get your master’s degree in counseling. Below, we explain why this is so important — and what it takes to prepare for a successful career as a counselor. 

Gain the knowledge and hands on experience you need to become a counselor. Central Michigan University's counseling program is accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). 

How long does it take to get a counseling degree? 

Counseling may be a rewarding field, but it's also highly demanding — so you'll need to commit several years to building a strong foundation. Program lengths can vary but it's possible to develop your counseling skill set and earn your master's degree within three years once you've completed an undergraduate degree. 

Our 60-credit counseling program includes classroom-oriented coursework as well as a supervised counseling practicum and an internship, all of which prepare you for the unique challenges and opportunities involved in managing a client caseload. 

What is the role of a counselor? 

Professional counselors play a vital role in helping clients determine which concerns contribute to feelings of emotional distress or prevent them from achieving a desired level of well-being. From there, counselors can help clients learn and apply strategies to improve their mental health and achieve their short and long-term goals.

The specific role of a counselor can vary somewhat from one client to the next — depending in large part on whether they struggle with mental health disorders, substance abuse or other difficult circumstances. Highly specialized, research-backed support is essential, as is a strong rapport between counselors and their clients. 

Counselors also help by providing a much-needed source of empathy. Often, clients find that simply having someone available to listen is highly impactful. Simply sharing their thoughts and feelings can be a powerful first step on the path to healing. Ultimately, however, it is the counselor's responsibility to apply research-backed interventions to facilitate marked improvements in emotional health. 

Why you should earn a degree in counseling 

If you're passionate about helping others and ready to make a difference, it's worth your while to seek high-level training from the field's most knowledgeable professionals. A degree in counseling provides a foundational understanding of the profession and the numerous biopsychosocial concepts it draws on. It's also a crucial credential when you eventually embark on your counseling job hunt. 

Still not sure if this degree is right for you? The following are a few of the many considerations to keep in mind as you decide whether to seek your MA in Counseling. 

1. Career opportunities 

Counseling is a quickly growing field. As long-held stigmas fade away, more people are acknowledging when they're dealing with mental health struggles — and more are willing to seek treatment.  

Similarly, leaders in education, social work and even the business world now recognize the scope of the struggles that students, employees and other community members face — and they finally recognize the value in encouraging these individuals to seek help. Hence, the proliferation of counseling services offered within schools, community programs and, increasingly, corporate settings. 

Another compelling career opportunity available to counseling graduates? Entering private practice. This can be a great way to pursue a personal area of passion or provide services in a niche that has yet to be fully addressed. The right degree will inspire greater trust from prospective clients, who want to know that their counselors hold a wealth of insight and experience. 

2. Personal growth 

Every degree program offers unique opportunities to learn and grow. With hard work and dedication, any student can emerge with a powerful new skill set, not to mention improved confidence. Counseling programs take this to a whole new level, however, providing a deep dive into the inner psyche that aspiring professionals find extra compelling. 

Through in-depth study and practical experiences, you can expect to gain a variety of soft skills that are both personally and professionally impactful, including empathy, creativity and verbal communication, to name but a few. Furthermore, your counseling education will encompass cultural literacy, ethics and other vital topics that help you grow as a person. 

3. Specializations available 

If you're passionate about a specific niche or hope to help a particular type of client, you're in luck: there are many areas of specialization in the field of counseling. Perhaps you prefer to work with a specific client demographic: children, teens, seniors or women, for example. You may also find yourself drawn to help clients dealing with specific mental health issues or life circumstances. Common examples include addiction and clinical mental health. 

No matter your preferred niche, you'll quickly find that specialization not only appeals to your personal passion but also that, by gaining targeted skills, you're better able to serve your clients. As you pursue your master's, you'll have the chance to select a concentration that corresponds to your personal interests and your long-term career goals. 

4. Flexibility and work-life balance 

Counselors know first-hand the value of work-life balance; many see what happens when it's lacking, as overwork is strongly associated with stress, burnout, and even mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. While it's possible, as in any industry, for counselors to take on too much, many are able to successfully set boundaries in their professional lives. 

Further flexibility is possible by going into private practice, as this makes it possible to dictate working hours as you see fit. If you're ultimately employed by schools or other institutions, however, you can still maintain a reasonable workload that allows you to dedicate time to your family, hobbies, and mental health. 

5. Earning potential 

While pay can vary significantly from one counseling position to the next, this field generally provides strong earning potential. This is made possible, in part, by the aforementioned rise in demand, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting an impressive career outlook for professionals in niches such as substance abuse, career counseling and more. This demand may significantly drive up annual wages and benefits among a variety of prospective employers, although your earning potential could be even higher if you go into private practice. 

6. Online counseling degree options available 

There's no need to uproot your life while seeking your counseling degree. Online options can be an excellent fit if you need to accommodate a busy work schedule or family needs. Whether you favor live or asynchronous courses, you can build your schedule as you see fit. Hybrid options are also available, giving you the best possible blend of flexibility and in-person instruction. 

7. Make a difference in the lives of others 

Counseling is, at its core, a purpose-driven profession. Yes, perks such as flexible hours and online education can be compelling, but nothing compares to the satisfaction of helping those in need. This is a common reason why counselors enter the profession in the first place — the overarching desire to make a difference. If this is your goal, you'll quickly find that a strong counseling skill set equips you to provide the effective guidance our clients need. Upon entering the profession, you can use your high-level skills and knowledge to accomplish something meaningful. 

Pursue your passion with a counseling degree 

If you're ready to make your mark as a counselor, you can get a strong start with a master's degree from CMU. Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), our MA in Counseling program has an excellent reputation. Get in touch today to learn more.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Categories: General Education
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