While the stigma of mental health issues has decreased in recent years, millions of Americans still struggle with some form of this largely unseen illness. In fact, Mental Health America reports that one in five American adults have a mental health condition. If you want to help people who have mental illnesses, then pursuing a master's in counseling psychology could be a good career move.
Before you can become a counseling psychologist, however, you need to accrue significant experience as well as a bachelor's degree. This guide outlines what it takes to earn this degree, the careers available to graduates, and professional organizations that can help you along the way.
Typical Admission Requirements:
To be admitted into a counseling psychology master's program, you need to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field. Every institution sets their own enrollment standards, but you can expect to submit your ACT or SAT scores, undergraduate transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
Time to Completion:
Why Get a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology?
Investing in your college education reaps numerous benefits. If you're still on the fence about furthering your education with a master's in counseling psychology, take a look at the five benefits we've outlined below.
Although you can obtain entry-level positions with a bachelor's degree in this field, you need at least a master's degree to practice as a counseling psychologist. A master's degree also qualifies you for more lucrative careers in the field.
Earning a master's degree in this field can open doors to emotionally rewarding work. As a counseling psychologist, you can enhance quality of life for others.
Pursuing a master's in counseling psychology can help you form lasting connections with peers and professors. These individuals can also help you advance your career.
By earning your master's degree, you open the door to earning your doctorate. Even if you are unsure about whether to earn another degree, your master's degree prepares you for advanced study in the field.
Knowledge of the Discipline
Earning your master's degree in counseling psychology allows you to better serve your clients. With your additional knowledge, you can help others overcome serious mental health issues.
Although one can gain significant experience outside the classroom, traditional college courses are the best way to prepare for a career as a counseling psychologist. To give you an idea of what to expect from a master's in counseling psychology, we've listed some of the common courses included in a counseling psychology graduate program.
Keep in mind that not all counseling psychology master's programs offer these specific classes, but most offer similar courses that teach the same skills. Spend some time browsing your prospective school's website, as most schools list course descriptions online for your convenience.
This class explores major theories that guide traditional counseling and psychotherapy practices, and students apply these theories to practice. Most counseling theories courses require students to select one theory and write an in-depth paper on its benefits and limitations.
Community Mental Health
This course examines how mental health plays a role in the health of the community and how counselors can assist people with mental health issues. Students gain basic knowledge on how to aid individuals outside of a hospital setting, with a specific focus on practical skills.
This class examines the science behind mental disorders. Rather than focusing on treatments for practitioners, this class explores the chemical, environmental, and social origins of mental health issues. Understanding these causes gives counselors helpful background knowledge to better empathize with patients and more carefully devise treatment plans.
Students learn how human development impacts the brain and thought processes, starting in childhood and continuing into adulthood. Childhood is a formative time, so trauma and tragedy during this time can cause significant mental health issues later in life. This course prepares graduates to help both adults and children with mental disorders.
What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the future for psychologists looks bright. The BLS projects this field to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028 -- faster than average. Keep in mind that you need a doctoral degree and other qualifications to become a psychologist.
Advancing your career takes hard work, significant time, and money. After you've earned your bachelor's and master's degrees, earning your doctorate and licensure are essential steps to becoming a psychologist. It is also important to join a professional organization to continue lifelong learning. Learn more about how to advance your career below.
Furthering your education with a doctoral degree can open career doors. While you can certainly earn entry- and mid-level jobs with a bachelor's or master's degree in this field, you can only practice as a psychologist once you earn your doctorate.
However, professionals with a doctorate in counseling psychology don't always end up working as counseling psychologists. With this versatile degree, you can work as a researcher or open your own counseling firm. Alternatively, you could inspire the next generation of psychologists by becoming a college professor. Most jobs that require a doctorate tend to pay more than jobs that only require a bachelor's or master's degree.
Once you earn your doctorate, you must earn the relevant licensure in order to practice as a counseling psychologist. License requirements vary by state, so it is a good idea to attend a school in the state where you wish to practice, as most schools tailor their counseling psychology graduate programs to meet the qualifications for their own state's licensure.
Although the exact requirements vary, most states require you to earn at least a master's degree in this field and complete several internship hours. The Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology is the most common test that states require. Most also require professionals to earn continuing education hours.
- Society of Counseling Psychology, American Psychological Association Division 17 This organization brings together psychologists and psychology students through training sessions and other professional events. Members benefit from webinars, informative publications, and continuing education opportunities.
- American Counseling Association ACA is the largest American organization representing and connecting professional counselors. This organization also offers continuing education opportunities.
- American Psychological Association APA members benefit from a robust resource library, discounts on services like insurance, exclusive publications, and a membership directory.