Master's Degrees in Professional Counseling

There are various counseling fields that you could study at the master's degree level. Find out the prerequisites for enrolling in one of these programs, and explore the typical coursework. Check whether professional counseling programs are available online, learn about licensure and certification for professional counselors. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Professional Counseling Master's Degrees Can I Earn?

If you are interested in earning a master's degree in professional counseling, there are numerous types of programs in which you can enroll. Mental health counseling is among the most commonly offered; some schools offer a master's degree under the title of professional counseling that is primarily focused on mental health. Additionally, there are programs in alcohol and substance abuse counseling, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling and school counseling. All of these programs fall under the umbrella of professional counseling.

Program Specializations Mental health counseling, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, school counseling, rehabilitation counseling, marriage and family counseling
Common Courses Research techniques, counseling methods, ethical issues in counseling, human sexuality, age-based counseling
Online Availability Fully and partially available online
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree with social science coursework; counseling work/volunteer experience
Certification Information Voluntary NBCC and CRCC certification is available; most states require counselors to hold licensure

What Courses Will I Take?

Your courses will include counseling theories, research techniques and ethical issues relevant to the field. You'll also learn about different methods of counseling, including individual, family and group counseling. Most programs include a clinical or practical component, during which you'll gain experience in a live counseling setting while working under close supervision. Additional courses will vary depending on your specialization. For example, if you study marriage and family counseling, you'll learn about human sexuality, counseling of children and counseling of teenagers.

Are These Degrees Available Online?

You can find many types of professional counseling master's degree programs available for partial or complete online study. These programs allow you to complete your theory- and research-based coursework without sacrificing full-time work or family obligations. You'll be required to have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. Typically, you can complete any required clinical training locally, with a clinic, hospital or school that has been approved through your program.

Are There Any Prerequisites?

You'll need to possess a bachelor's degree prior to enrolling in a master's degree program in professional counseling. Most programs don't stipulate a specific undergraduate field of study. However, a strong background in the social sciences is helpful and often preferred. Often, you'll be asked to provide evidence of relevant volunteer or paid experience in a counseling environment; this requirement helps demonstrate your commitment to graduate study in the field.

What Certification Will I Need?

In most states and for most fields, you'll need a license to work as a professional counselor. Though each state sets its own standards, there are several common requirements. Almost universally, you'll need to have completed your master's degree first. Other common requirements include passing an examination, completing regular continuing education and abiding by the state's code of ethics for professional counselors.

You can also earn voluntary certification from a professional organization in your field. Though rarely required for employment, these certifications demonstrate your professional commitment and experience. Among the leading organizations that offer certifications is the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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