Establishing a career in counseling begins with education. Both for the relevant knowledge base and requisite credentials, education is the foundation for any practicing counselor. While licensing or certification requirements for counseling vary by state, one requirement that is consistent across the board is the completion of a master's degree. Even if you don’t immediately plan on pursuing licensure/certification, most clinics, hospitals and mental health practices will only hire candidates to practice counseling with a master’s degree.
As a counselor, the degree you earn provides you with the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience needed to demonstrate your level of expertise in the field. This degree will also help to qualify you for state licensure or certification and clinical positions within the counseling field.
Types of Online Counseling Degrees
While all of these degrees will prepare you for licensure and practice as a diverse, holistic counselor, the approaches to the field and education may vary. While, by definition, approaches may be different, ultimately it is up to the discretion of the university to decide how they award degrees.
Master of Arts
Earning your master of arts, or M.A. in counseling focuses on social sciences and humanities. M.A. programs in counseling take a theoretical and cultural perspective to understanding human nature and behavior. M.A. degrees are among the most popular graduate degrees awarded.
Master of Science
Pursuing a master of science, or M.S. in counseling focuses on a quantitative and analytical approach to human behavior and development. An M.S. in counseling may also be more focused on research, analysis, and evaluation.
Master of Education
Seeking a master of education, or M.Ed. in counseling prepares you for licensure in the educational field, such as school counseling. With a focus on learning theories and topics such as educational research and policy, an M.Ed. best prepares individuals entering the education field.
What should you look for in an online master's in counseling program?
Discover the important factors to your online counseling degree with these guides.
Online learning that occurs at a specific set time and day is referred to synchronous learning where students within a course are synced with one another in attendance and participation. Synchronous learning elicits an engaging virtual classroom, enlightened with stimulating discussions, live lectures, and real-time faculty to student interaction.
A common reference when speaking about online degree programs is the ability to log in whenever from wherever and complete coursework. Asynchronous learning permits students to log in and view lectures and coursework at their convenience―of course considering deadlines.
Online Counseling Degrees vs. Hybrid Counseling Degrees
When you enroll in an online degree program, lectures, coursework and interactions with cohort members and university staff is all virtual. You will be held to the same standards that are placed for on-campus students such as timely submission of coursework, exam completion and participation. When it comes time to enroll in your field experience courses, a requirement of any counseling degree program, you will need to ensure that you meet requirements for both the university and state licensure by pursuing required supervision hours by a licensed, approved supervisor at your clinical site.
As partially online, hybrid counseling degree programs offer some on-campus courses and experiences that are either mandatory or voluntary as a part of your completing your degree. Some hybrid and online counseling programs may require that students attend a residency where they will meet other online and on-campus students in an effort to develop counseling skills, network with program peers, and meet university staff. Some programs offer access to academic advisors who can help you find fieldwork opportunities and others have mandatory short-length, intensive sessions on campus to fulfill your fieldwork requirement.