How to Earn a Counseling Psychology Degree

Counseling psychology looks at personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. This degree helps in combining theory, research as well as practice to gain the sensitivity to be able to help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives. It focuses on physical, emotional, and mental disorders.

A counseling psychology degree is looked at during the master’s which takes place after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology which is normally three to four years. There are various types of degrees that one may want to look at if interested in counseling in accordance to one’s own career plans*:

  1. Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling: Master's degrees in counseling are typically offered through a university's school of education. These programs generally focus on therapies and behavioral modification techniques. Individuals with an M.A. or M.S. in counseling generally work as school counselors or career counselors, but they may also be employed in private practices, mental health clinics or hospitals. A master's in counseling typically requires around 50 to 60 credits of graduate coursework.
  2. Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counseling: The Master of Education in Counseling is offered through an institution's school of education. This program takes two years of graduate study to complete. Individuals with a M.Ed. may go on to work in academic settings as counselors, or they may choose to gain licensure to work in mental health counseling.
  3. Master of Social Work (MSW): While not specifically a degree in counseling, the Master of Social Work allows graduates to provide counseling services. The MSW degree is perhaps the most popular option because it is recognized in all 50 states and insurance companies are willing to reimburse MSWs for services.
  4. Master in Counseling Psychology: Another option is a master's degree in counseling psychology. In some states, this degree allows graduates to gain a limited licensure to practice psychology. Like the master's in clinical psychology, however, most states require those with a master's in counseling psychology to practice under the direct supervision of a licensed doctorate-level psychologist.

However, you must understand the difference between an MA and a PhD program. This is so that you know what you are taking up. With an MA in counseling you may work in various settings where you are usually supervised by a PhD level psychologist. An MA in counseling generally takes 2-3 years to complete depending on the program and whether you attend full or part time. So it takes less time to complete than a PhD and you are minimally involved in research. A negative though, is that each state has its own requirements for licensing, so if you get licensed in one state, you may have to return to school to be eligible for licensure in another. Most programs also do not offer funding for masters students as they do for doctoral students. A PhD in Counseling Psychology takes about 5 years to complete. Generally you take 4 years for classes, research, and clinical practice, and then complete an internship in the 5th year. You also complete a dissertation in the 4th year before going on to do an internship. PhD programs generally require more clinical experience and involvement in research than masters’ level programs**.

A counseling psychology degree may open various professional jobs such as those working in school as school or academic counselors. Counselors may also work as family or marriage counselors or the common career counselors. Counselors may work in hospitals as substance abuse or mental health counselors. They may look at child development, health psychology, mental illness, aggression/anger control, community psychology or even eating disorders.



Are you ready to pursue a career in counseling? Get information on programs in your area and online using our counseling degree finder at the top of this page.



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