Counseling Degree Programs – So Many to Choose From!

Counseling degrees are growing in popularity. In fact, there are over a dozen areas of specialization to choose from, not to mention degree programs offered at all levels, from associate to doctorate. With so many options, it’s no wonder why prospective students are often overwhelmed when beginning their research.

If you know you want to work as a counselor, but don’t know where to start, that’s okay. The first step is deciding what level of education you wish to pursue. We’ve outlined the different degree options that can lead to careers in therapy, counseling, and mental health.

Associate’s Degree Programs

If you’re high school graduate or have the equivalency (GED) but are not ready to enter a four-year program, an associate’s degree is an option. An associate’s degree is typically a two-year program that provides a solid base for entry into the field. You’ll take courses in psychology and human behavior in addition to classes that cover mental health and substance abuse care.

In order to graduate, you typically need to complete at least 60 credit hours. These credits include both general education courses and subject-specific courses. Exams and other assessments are also required, depending on the program. Once you’ve completed all coursework and tests, you’ll likely qualify for entry-level positions in the field, working as an assistant to a licensed psychologist or in a research environment.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

The next step up is a bachelor’s degree—a three or four year program that provides students with a solid foundation in counseling practices and research. You can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in psychology or a Bachelor of Science in counseling.

Bachelor degree programs require students to complete general education requirements, subject-specific courses, as well as a practicum or field experience. A practicum is a unique opportunity for students to apply skills and knowledge in a community-based setting. You’ll work alongside licensed therapists and counselors to learn about the field and what it takes to become a professional.

Some bachelor degree programs allow you to choose an area of concentration, some of which may include:

  • Career Counseling
  • Clinical Counseling
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Drug and Alcohol Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Human Services
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • School Counseling

Master’s Degree Programs

A master’s degree is two or three year program that provides advanced training and research experience through subject-specific courses. Graduate-level programs are designed for experience professionals to further their training and knowledge in the field.

Graduate-level programs often focus on one area of counseling, such as addiction, career, school, or clinical counseling. This allows for students to concentrate area of counseling, rather than multiple subfields.

In order to apply to master’s degree program, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field in addition to professional experience. You might also need letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and other materials that reflect your academic and intellectual aptitude.

Doctoral Degree Programs

A Ph.D. in counseling is the highest academic award a student can earn. A Ph.D. can take anywhere from four to eight years to complete, depending on the program and your schedule. These programs are incredibly rigorous, and prepare graduates to assume leadership roles, open a private practice, or teach at the college level. You’ll focus on one area of counseling, complete a dissertation, and any certification exams that designates a top echelon of academic and professional attainment.

Next Steps

Our list of schools below will help you find the right educational path, whether that be an associate’s degree or a doctoral-level program. Each link takes you to more information about each school, their program offerings, and the admissions process. You might be overwhelmed at first, but remember to practice deep-breathing techniques as you navigate the sea of forms and procedures. You’ll likely teach this skill to your future clients once you’ve earned your degree in counseling!

Top Counseling Degree Programs

Walden University . Walden University offers many counseling programs, including: an MS in Mental Health Counseling - prepares students to address and treat clients' mental health needs; an MS in Mental Health - Forensic Counseling focuses on mental health law; an MS MC&FC - Trauma & Crisis Counseling concentrates on issues such as family conflicts; an MS in Career Counseling emphasizes career satisfaction through strength assessment; an MS in Mental Health Counseling - Trauma & Crisis pertains to prevention of personal problems, conflicts, and emotional crises.
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Grand Canyon University . Grand Canyon University provides both bachelor and master's program in counseling and addiction. The BS in Counseling - Addiction/Dependency program teaches the skills required for addiction counseling, chemical dependency, and substance abuse treatment. The M.S. in Professional Counseling program prepares graduates for a career in various counseling fields. An M.S. in Addiction Counseling is for those pursuing a career as addiction counseling professionals.
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Purdue University . Purdue University offers several psychology and human services degrees, including an MS in Addiction Psychology, BS in Addictions, and a BS in Applied Behavior Analysis. Each program is designed to prepare its students work as professional counselors in a variety of community settings and institutions in respect to their chosen field of study or emphasis.
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