Choosing a career path is a big decision. You might be just about to graduate from high school or college and deciding what field to go into; alternatively, you might be seriously considering refreshing your life with a career change to a completely different field to your current role. For example, if you are currently working in a corporate field that is highly competitive and focused solely on making a profit, you might understandably be feeling burnt out and disillusioned; you might be considering a career change to a more fulfilling field in which you feel as though what you are doing truly makes a difference to the world. If this is the case, then a career in counseling would perfectly align with your ideals. To help you make an informed decision about your future career plan, here are nine reasons why you should pursue a career in counseling if you want to make a difference.
- Mentally stimulating
From pursuing an online masters in counseling to keeping up with new research in the field throughout your career, becoming a counselor involves a high level of rigorous and continuous education that is sure to keep you mentally stimulated. You will have to pass a state license exam to become certified to practice as a counselor, and an accredited online masters in counseling provides the ideal route for gaining the necessary knowledge to pass the exam with flying colors. As well as providing you with the necessary theory and counseling techniques, many counseling degree programs also provide you with essential internships and work experience placements to help you learn on the job in a clinical setting. However, it might be that you are seeking to change to a counseling career but are unable to give up working full time to pursue a master’s degree due to financial constraints and family responsibilities. An online masters in counseling provides you with the flexibility to learn at your own pace, meaning that you can upskill yourself and work towards your dream counseling career, all while keeping on top of work and familial commitments.
- Growing field
For many decades, mental health issues were seen through a highly unsympathetic lens: people suffering from mental illnesses were ostracized by society and seen as weak and unable to cope with the pressures of life. Fortunately, the past few years has seen huge advances in the understanding of mental health, and though there is still a long way to go in eradicating every stigma surrounding mental health, people are beginning to recognize that looking after your mental health is as important for your general wellbeing as looking after your physical health. Considering this, an increasing number of people are seeking counseling services, whether that is for resolving relationship difficulties, seeking help for addictive behavior, learning effective techniques for coping with anxiety, and more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the counseling field will grow a remarkable 25% between the years 2019-29, meaning that you will have excellent job prospects and never be out of work as a counselor. This implies a high degree of job stability, something which is increasingly important in a job market that has been shattered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and that puruing an online masters in counseling is a great decision.
- Choice of counseling specialization
The mental health sector is as varied and has as many specializations as that dealing with physical health. After some years gaining experience in the field, and earning your online masters in counseling, you may decide that you want to specialize in a particular area of counseling to provide clients with specific assistance to help them overcome a particular problem. For instance, you might be passionate about helping people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction to get back on their feet and overcome their addiction issues. Or, you might have benefitted from relationship counseling yourself and now dream of providing other couples with that same level of top-quality assistance. Furthermore, there are different approaches to counseling with which you might feel a certain affinity and seek to specialize in. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that aims to identify and change negative thought patterns to improve the way you feel about yourself and certain situations. As it deals with current problems rather than the past, it is more useful for clients dealing with immediate issues, like anxiety, instead of unraveling and resolving the root cause of mental health problems. In these cases, a psychodynamic counseling approach, which focuses on the actions of the unconscious mind, would be more beneficial.
You can learn more about the different areas on an online masters in counseling course.
- Choice of where you work
As with the vast choice of counseling specializations, there are also a huge number of locations in which you can practice your vocation – you are not merely limited to working in a psychiatric hospital or private counseling practice, though you can, of course, do those things if you so desire. Mental health difficulties can affect people in many different settings, and as such, you can find employment as a counselor in any number of organizations that you might not have previously considered. For example, you could work as a counselor for a not-for-profit agency that works with refugees and asylum seekers to help vulnerable people deal with extremely traumatic events that may have resulted in PTSD and to prepare them for a happy and healthy life in a new country. Or, as a guidance counselor in a school or college, you will work with children, teens, and young people to help them navigate the often difficult school environment and the pressures of study, demonstrating coping techniques that will be useful to them throughout their lives.
- Opportunity to learn more about yourself
A career as a counselor gives you the opportunity to help yourself as well as other people – you will gain in-depth knowledge about human behaviors and psychology that will provide you with the understanding of how you behave in certain ways, as well as being able to recognize certain behaviors in society that might otherwise be distressing. For example, if you are a relationship counselor, attachment theory and conflict resolution will be a big part of your practice; armed with this knowledge, you will understand more about your own attachment style, which will revolutionize your understanding and handling of your own relationships, leading to greater satisfaction in your life. As another example, being an anger management counselor will provide you with a greater understanding of distressing images of mob mentality and gang violence as depicted in the media. Furthermore, you can apply the coping techniques that you learned from your online masters in counseling and provide to your clients to your own life – strategies for managing stress and anxiety are hugely beneficial in today’s world, especially when working in an often emotional career like counseling in which you regularly come into contact with highly emotionally charged scenarios.
- Career progression
A online masters in counseling and career in counseling can provide you with fulfillment however ambitious you are, and there are plenty of opportunities for career progression if you so desire once you are licensed. For example, you might want to work towards your national certified counselor (NCC) certification. This is a voluntary certification that demonstrates to clients and other counseling professionals that you have voluntarily met high standards for the practice of counseling, acting as an endorsement that your counseling services are high quality. Certification as an NCC has strict education and training requirements to demonstrate your ongoing professional commitment to the field of counseling. You must have at least 48 semester hours in an accredited graduate counseling program, including at least six semester hours of supervised field experience in counseling; an online masters in counseling program, as discussed earlier, would be a flexible further education option. Other requirements include: completing coursework covering specified content areas on the current issues faced in counseling; obtaining endorsement from a professional colleague who holds a graduate degree in the mental health field; completing 100 hours of postgraduate counseling supervision and 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work experience; and adherence to the National Board for Certified Counselor’s code of ethics.
- Good salary
Being a counselor is not all about pay – you will derive a majority of your job satisfaction from helping others to live their best lives. However, it is a professional career requiring a high level of education and professional development, and this is reflected in the salary you can expect to earn as a counselor. Your wage will, of course, depend on your specific role and field of counseling, as well as the state and city in which you practice. For example, the median salary for mental health counselors is approximately $46,650, making this counseling career path number seven of the highest-paid social services jobs, according to usnews.com. Interestingly, four out of the five highest paying cities for mental health counselors are situated in California, perhaps because California has historically been ahead of the game in terms of recognizing the importance of mental health. So, if you want to earn big bucks as a counselor, you may have to consider practicing in California. Otherwise, you can enjoy the rewards of a comfortably paid and fulfilling career in your home state.
- You can truly make a difference to society
Despite the huge advances in understanding the importance of mental health care and seeking counseling when faced with emotional struggles, many myths surrounding mental health still remain, with certain conditions remaining little understood and stigmatized. As a counselor, you can contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health by providing excellent support that clients will truly benefit from in a professional, confidential environment. Furthermore, after you complete your online masters in counseling, you may be working with clients on whom society has given up and who are seldom afforded sympathy, such as people struggling with substance abuse addictions and inmates in correctional facilities. By providing them with the professional support to overcome their difficulties, not only will you play an active role in tackling problems such as substance abuse and crime at the source, you will also have the satisfaction of helping an individual reclaim their life and learn the tools to go on to lead a healthy and happy life in which they play an active and positive role in society.
- You can truly make a difference to people
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a career as a counselor means that you have the opportunity to truly make a difference to people’s lives. As understanding about the importance of mental health grows, an increasing number of people are open to the counseling process as a way of resolving emotional issues; some people may have been struggling for many years before finding the courage to seek professional counseling help. As a counselor, you have the expert knowledge to guide clients towards a resolution of past trauma while learning new and improved coping mechanisms. For example, a person in their fifties who still experiences the debilitating legacy of childhood bullying in the form of low self-esteem and relationship issues would greatly benefit from professional help as a way of dealing with past trauma and altering their behaviors and self-perception. There is nothing more rewarding than providing clients with the tools and closure they need to get on with their lives and watching them leave your office after their last appointment with new-found confidence and positivity; you might have lost a client, but you have helped a person to regain control of their life.
As you can see, taking an online masters in counseling and starting a career in counseling holds many benefits if you are both ambitious and empathetic. It constantly keeps you mentally stimulated through graduate-level education, such as pursuing an online masters in counseling or working towards your NCC. You can look forward to a well-paid job in a growing field in which there are many opportunities to specialize in particular areas and work in particular settings. Most importantly, however, as a counselor, you will have the satisfaction that you are truly helping individuals and society as a whole to heal from past trauma and go on to lead healthy and happy lives.