UNITED STATES—Becoming a mental health counselor is a challenging yet rewarding career, and you will have to undergo plenty of training and education to make sure you are competent and capable. You may be at the start of your counseling career and making a plan for your future, or you may already have undertaken some training and be looking to progress to the next level. An online masters in counseling could help provide you with the skills and experiences you may need and prepare you for work in your desired field. Here are just a couple of things to consider when you are thinking about studying for a masters in mental health counseling online.
What is it?
An online masters in counseling is an online masters of science in education clinical mental health counseling degree that is designed to help prepare you to undertake the professional licensing exams and grow your career as a counselor. There is a combination of online learning and in-field practice, which allows you to put your new skills and knowledge into practice in a working environment. There are many modules, including an internship, advanced human growth and development, and theories and techniques of counseling.
The majority of roles and jobs within the counseling profession require a masters degree as a minimum requirement, so an online masters in counseling can help you to achieve your career goals and work towards getting your professional license. Different states have different requirements for counselors, so it is important to do your research in advance to make sure that you are making the right educational choices.
Who is it for?
An online masters in counseling is for those who already have a bachelors and want to take the next steps in their training and education. You will already have plenty of skills, knowledge, and experience from previous courses and training, but most roles and jobs in counseling will require you to at least have a masters degree. The online course is aimed at those who have existing commitments but still want to develop their knowledge and career. Distance learning means that you don’t have to put the rest of your life on hold in order to study. If you are keen to progress in your education in order to become a counselor, but cannot commit to in-person education for whatever reason, an online masters in counseling could help you achieve this.
Is it right for you?
If you have the correct requirements for the course, an online masters in counseling can be the right choice for you. As well as technical skills and knowledge, there are many different skills and characteristics that help to make a great counselor. These can include:
When people think of a counselor, they think of someone to talk to. Communication and listening are a huge part of counseling, and you will have to have excellent skills. Being able to listen and absorb information, adapt your approaches to different people, and create a safe environment for your clients will help you become a successful and competent counselor. You may find yourself working with patients who are reluctant to receive your help, and therefore communication will not be easy. Understanding and reading body language and other non-verbal forms of communication can help you to treat these patients.
Counselors are often part of a larger, multi-disciplinary team, and you will find yourself working with plenty of other people. This can include other medical professionals, social workers, or probation officers. You will need to work as part of a team to ensure that the client receives the highest level of care possible. As you will be working with a huge range of people, you will also need to combine your teamwork and communication skills to make sure that you alter your approaches to different people and situations. Not everyone will have the same level of medical or counseling knowledge, so in order to make sure you deliver your services and information efficiently and accurately, you will need to know how to communicate with many different people.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another in order to understand their emotions. You won’t have first-hand experience of every situation that your clients may come to you with, so you will need to use empathy in order to help them. It is also important to remain objective, as you cannot let your personal beliefs and judgments get in the way of delivering your services. You will be working with a range of patients from different backgrounds, and you will need to treat each one as an individual without letting their histories or past actions affect the way you treat them.
What are the career outcomes?
When you work towards becoming a mental health counselor, there are plenty of different fields and areas that you may choose to work in. Some will require further specialized training and education, so it can help to have a plan and know what your next moves are. Here are just a few of the areas in which you could decide to work.
When working as a counselor for veterans, you will often be part of a larger team, which are also treating the physical ailments that are often present alongside mental health problems. Your tasks may include performing a variety of assessments and providing counseling services in individual or group therapy settings.
As with counseling veterans, working with substance abusers also usually involves being part of a larger team. This can include other healthcare professionals, social workers, or probation officers. You will need to alter your methods and services as your client changes to make sure that you are matching your counseling services to their level of abuse and functionality. Your tasks can range from case management, psychotherapy, and behavioral health interventions.
Working as a mental health counselor for children and young people can involve a variety of tasks. These can include assessing and diagnosing, making treatment plans, and delivering therapy in individual settings or in a residential facility where the young person lives full time. When working with young people in residential facilities, you can also help them develop the life skills they will need in order to leave the facility.
There are a variety of settings in which mental health counselors work. These include hospitals, clinics, residential facilities, schools, and correctional facilities. Being a mental health counselor is a varied career, and an online masters in counseling can help you explore your potential career options by developing your skills and knowledge, and allowing you access to skills and opportunities that you may not have access to outside of an educational setting.
Why study online?
There are numerous benefits to studying online, and it can really help to make education more accessible for a wider range of people. You may be unable to study in person for many different reasons, and an online masters in counseling can provide you with the opportunity to pursue your dream career and expand your education, mostly from home.
The ability to study online gives you more flexibility and puts you in control of your working environment. These courses are designed for those who already have existing commitments such as a job or family life, and want to pursue further education without putting the rest of their life on hold. It also allows you to work more at your own pace, which can improve your overall learning experience. You will also learn a lot about how you work, which will help you develop good skills and habits that can be applied in the future any time you need to learn something new.
You can help to save money on your education when you study online. Many courses’ tuition fees are cheaper for distance learning, and you don’t have to worry as much about accommodation and commuting. There are plenty of costs associated with being a student, and the financial element is one of the main reasons why people decide against pursuing further education. When you study online, most of the learning is done from home, which means you don’t have to spend money on travel and transport, student living costs, and finding accommodation on or near campus. Furthermore, the ability to study alongside your existing job means that you can continue to earn money whilst you learn.
With an online masters in counseling, there is a combination of online study and in-field practice, which allows you to put your new skills and knowledge into practice and gain physical experience. This combination means that you only have to travel when you need to, and the rest of the learning can be done from home. Having more control over your learning environment means that you can create an atmosphere that works for you, allowing you to better absorb information and enjoy your course more.
Often, you may not be able to study the course you want to because your local institutions do not offer it. This means that you may have to choose something else or not study it at all. When you learn online, your physical location becomes less of a barrier, as the majority of work is done from your computer. This makes the education much more accessible to those who may not be able to study in person due to their location.
An online masters in counseling will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to be prepared to work in the counseling field but will also give you plenty of transferable skills. Soft skills are non-technical skills that help you excel in the workplace and are looked upon favorably by employers. You may already have many of these skills, but an online degree can help provide you with practical experiences and examples to provide in an interview setting.
Soft skills include communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, adaptability, creative thinking, and problem-solving. These are incredibly useful skills to have in any career, and there are some that are particularly useful for a counselor to have. When you study online, certain soft skills are used that can really benefit your career and working style. Time management, organization, and self-motivation are just a few of the skills that an online degree can help develop.
- Time management
With online study, you will need to manage your time and balance your course around your existing commitments. This will develop your time management skills and enable you to complete multiple tasks efficiently and with the same level of care and dedication. When you are a counselor, you will have multiple clients and patients at the same time and will need to make sure you treat each one with the same level of care and professionalism.
Similarly to time management, you will have to stay organized so that your work can be completed to a high standard and to ensure that you don’t forget anything. Again, you will have multiple clients and cases at one time, so being organized can help you to prepare and offer the best services to your patients that you can.
When you work online, you may find it more challenging to motivate yourself, as there are plenty of distractions at home. Being able to be motivated and disciplined will help you complete your work efficiently and meet your deadlines. It can also help you learn how to motivate others, which is very useful when working as part of a team, especially in leadership or educational positions.
Studying for an online masters in counseling can help propel your career forwards and bring you closer to achieving your dream career in mental health counseling. It is a rigorous and demanding course that will give you plenty of new skills and experiences whilst preparing you for your licensing exams. Being a counselor is challenging yet rewarding and could be the perfect career for you if you want to help and work with people.