Pursuing a career in mental health counselling allows you to help people become not just ‘un-sick’, as one mental health professional put it, but in fact help them become ‘well’. Mental health counsellors work in a wide variety of settings and roles. These can range from government to education institutions to nonprofit organisations. Counsellors serve populations that range from the elderly to young children, and can specialise in specific issues or act as a generalist that can address a host of different needs and maladies. The opportunities that a counseling career allows you to pursue are diverse and rich.
In order to advance down that track, it is important to know what will be required of you and what steps will be necessary to pursue a career in counseling so that you can fast track your way to being job-eligible.
Popular careers for mental health counsellors
Mental health counselors can choose between a number of different career tracks as they work towards licensure. Though this is not an exhaustive list, counselors can pursue positions that include the following:
- School/academic counselling
- Family and marriage counselling
- Adoption counseling
- Social services and social work counselling
- Juvenile detention centre counselling
- Counselling in hospital settings
- Mental institution counseling and psychology
- Addiction counseling
- And many more
Oftentimes, knowing what it was about counseling that drew you to the career path in the first place can help you narrow down the best opportunities and job directions to pursue. Counseling positions can vary widely in practice and work experience. Therefore, it’s helpful to consider your specific skills, needs, interests, and tendencies and use them to identify the counseling opportunity types that would fit you best.
Whether you were drawn to counseling because you want to work with vulnerable populations or demographics, love taking on a challenge, are naturally empathetic and relationship-oriented, or enjoy relating to people one-on-one, your specific giftings will help you decide what types of counseling opportunities you’re best suited to pursue.
How a master’s degree contributes to your counselling career opportunities
Requirements for obtaining clinical counseling licensure can vary slightly by state throughout the US, and should be researched for the state in which you’d like to practice as a counselor. Working as a counsellor or therapist will ultimately require earning a master’s degree in the field and then being licensed in your practicing state. Counselling positions and master’s programmes do not usually require a specific undergraduate degree, though it can be advantageous to choose psychology, interpersonal communication, or something similar for your bachelor’s degree.
Earning a master’s degree in counseling will equip you with the specialiled knowledge you need to successfully perform in your role as a counsellor. It will also advance you towards fulfilling all the requirements necessary to become a licensed practitioner. Earning your master’s degree in counseling will make a much larger number of counseling positions available to you and significantly enhance your candidacy as you enter the field.
How to get a counseling master’s degree: your options
But how do you choose an appropriate master’s degree in counselling? Thankfully, there are many options available that can make it possible to find a degree program that can fit your schedule, interests, and needs. You can even complete a number of quality mental health counseling masters programs online. This makes a counselling master’s programme accessible even if you are already working another job or are interested in a specific programme or specialty that might not be available to you in your area.
To determine what programme is best for you, it’s helpful to explore the various sub-areas of counselling and have an idea of what type(s) of counseling positions are of most interest to you before you begin a master’s degree. This will allow you to look for a programme that emphasises or specialises in the type of counseling you’re interested in pursuing. Additionally, each counselling master’s programme will offer different types of connections and opportunities for internships, practicums, and supervision hours. If you know what type of counselling settings or roles you’re most interested in before choosing a counseling degree programme, you can make sure you choose one that will afford you the most strategic options for entering the field upon completion of the programme.
Master’s degrees in counseling range widely and can cater to a range of personal goals, needs, lifestyles, professional situations, and interests. They are a pivotal and meaningful step to entering a highly fulfilling counselling career.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.