Career counselors strive to assist individuals who struggle with career choice, current work problems, termination, and stress. The discipline falls under the umbrella of psychology and counseling, both in academic and occupational terms; graduates who earn a degree in this discipline are able to support others and help them resolve work-related issues. Clients come from all walks of life: corporations, schools, universities, government, and so forth.
Also referred to as vocational or employment counselors, career counseling professionals follow protocol similar to that of other counselors. They must earn a career counseling degree (or a degree with a career counseling concentration) and obtain a state issued license in order to provide counseling services. Some counselors have a private practice, while others work in a clinical setting.
Why a Master’s Degree?
Employment is slim for career counselors with only a bachelor’s degree, and they tend to earn less than their colleagues who have completed a master’s program. In fact, statistics from One*NET OnLine show that 97% of career counselors who reported through the Bureau of Labor Statistics have earned a master’s degree.
Some offline and online master’s career counseling programs are designed to prepare students to not only obtain their degree, but also pass the Master Career Counselor Certification (MCCC) through the National Career Development Association (NCDA). This certificate is the highest certification in the profession, so career counseling students may seek enrollment in a master’s program that will set them on course to pass the certification exam. The certification program is administered through the NCDA, and students complete it independently from the degree.
Inside a Career Counseling Master's Degree Program
Most departments in psychology and counseling that offer career counseling specialization require students to complete a number of core program studies. Example courses include research principles, counseling in cross-cultural settings, law, and ethics. Courses particular to the career counseling concentration may entail career counseling theory, career development and/or career counseling for the handicapped. Most students complete the master’s program in two years.
Online career counseling programs are beneficial for students who work or have other obligations that make it difficult to attend a full-time ‘brick and mortar’ program. In addition to core classes, Walden University’s online master’s in career counseling program requires that students complete an internship in which they are under clinical supervision. Degree completion involves, among other achievements, two six-day residencies to ensure proper student orientation and student-faculty interaction.
What's Next for Career Counseling Master's Degree Holders?
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that jobs for school and career counselors are projected to grow 8% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for career counselors in 2014 was $53,370. Graduates with a master’s degree in counseling may also find work as senior-level career counselors at schools or universities, career advisors, or career services specialists.
Further educational opportunities include certificates such as the MCCC, board-certification with the American Psychotherapy Association, or certification as a life coach or professional coach, among others. Certificates allow counselors to broaden their education to include a particular specialization or develop a well-rounded background. Career counselors with certificates such as the MCCC or a board-certification also engender themselves to prospective clients by taking steps to improve their level of expertise.
Other students may decide to continue their studies to earn a doctorate in clinical or child psychology, or doctorate of education or educational psychology. Such graduates will typically be able to find higher paying work within the industry and have an educational edge over master’s degree holders. Also, postdoctoral counselors tend to remain involved in research and publication throughout their career.