Counseling can be a great way for professionals to reach out to others in their time of need. Some students find that a degree in counseling can set them on the path to a satisfying career that can last a lifetime. The compensation level can also be attractive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for a counseling psychologist was $79,820 as of May 2020. Additionally, the job outlook can be promising. BLS data notes that this field is growing at a rate of 3% annually, which is roughly the average for all professions.
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Pursuing a Master’s In Counseling Psychology Online
The acquisition of a master’s in counseling psychology online could begin by enrolling in the right undergraduate program. During this three-to-four-year period, you can choose a major that is related to your desired field, such as psychology, counseling, or sociology. You also have the potential to learn about the history and implications of psychology, which may create a sound educational foundation to build on.
Steps to Obtain an Online Master’s Program in Counseling Psychology
As you look to complete an online master’s degree program in counseling psychology, there are a few basic steps to be aware of.
1. Earn an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field. Generally speaking, an undergraduate degree will take about four years to complete. This degree provides the foundational concepts and skills you will build on when enrolled in an online master's degree in counseling psychology program.
2. Choose from the online master’s degree programs in counseling psychology. Next, select the online program that is best suited for your professional goals as well as your lifestyle and schedule.
3. Consider your future. As you prepare for a master’s in counseling psychology online, consider whether you might also want to pursue a doctoral-level degree. Some online master's programs in counseling psychology have built-in pathways to a doctorate.
3. Complete coursework and research for your online master’s degree in counseling psychology. For most students, completing a program takes around two years total, but this can vary by program.
Path to an Online Master’s in Counseling Psychology Program
To be accepted into a master’s level program in counseling psychology, you may need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above during your bachelor’s program. You can choose a master’s program through many different sources. These programs can be found in both traditional, in-person environments as well as online. The entirety of most master’s level programs can be completed in about two years and require anywhere from 45-80 credit hours for completion.
Consider the GRE Entrance Exam
Online programs are available in great numbers in recent years, making the decision process much more fluid for upcoming students. Some of these online programs may require that you complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission, but there are many different counseling programs that overlook this requirement and waive the GRE, or require no GRE for entry.
The Coursework and Educational Experience of the Program
Once you have been accepted into the master’s program, you may be expected to take part in coursework that includes classroom discussions, interactive class meetings, individual quizzes and homework, and online exams. Online master’s in counseling psychology programs typically allow students to engage in self-learning and self-driven assignments to encourage individuality.
Gaining Experience After Your Degree
In the field of counseling psychology, it is important that students gain the skills to independently navigate patient diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. At the conclusion of your master’s program, you may be expected to take part in a cumulative project or research proposal that exhibits your skills in the field.
Some colleges have different projects and evaluations to determine whether you have the necessary knowledge for future licensure. After you have completed all of these steps, you may be on track to fulfill a one-to-two-year work experience requirement as well as sit for the board exam for counselors.
Online Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology Admission Requirements
Depending on the university, the admissions requirements for an online master’s degree in counseling psychology can vary. It can sometimes be difficult to decipher what you need to achieve to be granted admission based on the school you’re applying to without leaving out any important steps.
To give you a better idea of what to expect when applying to programs, take a look below at some of the requirements for a master’s in counseling psychology online.
Some online master’s programs in counseling psychology require that students hold an accredited undergraduate degree in psychology, counseling, or a related discipline. Accreditation is required at every point of the educational process for those who plan to pursue licensure. This process can include the validation of coursework, experience, and relevance to the field of counseling psychology. Not only does the title of your degree count during this requirement, but your performance may also be weighed. Some schools require that students achieve a 3.0 or higher GPA to be accepted into their programs.
As mentioned, while it is not required by every school, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) could be a requirement for the university you choose for your graduate degree. The exam was designed to test the skills of undergraduate learners prior to entering graduate-level programs. Scores are provided after students have completed the test, which can then be forwarded to schools during the application process. Schools that require the GRE will have the requirement listed on their website and may have acceptable scores listed as well. If you must take this exam for the program you choose, you can take it during or after completing your undergraduate degree.
Transcripts, Letters of Recommendations, and Resume
If you decide to enroll in either an in-person or online master’s in counseling psychology program, you are likely to need to submit copies of official transcripts from any college or university you’ve attended. This is part of the initial degree verification process and is required for all degree programs. Letters of recommendation are required for some programs, which can be drafted by previous professors or even employers, if the field you work in is relevant to the degree program. Some colleges may require that students also submit an official resume. This is usually only requested if students are required to have some work experience as part of the college admissions process.
Essay Questions and Personal Statements
Another requirement may include the completion of essay questions and personal statements. Essay questions are usually formatted to reveal your reasoning for choosing the field, what you can contribute to the field, and experiences that have helped you grow into a more knowledgeable professional. In lieu of essay questions, some schools may require that you write a personal statement, which can include more about your own personal experiences and how they are related to your interest and investment in counseling psychology.
Online Master’s Degree Program in Counseling Psychology and Coursework Overview
Once you have been admitted into an online master’s degree program in counseling psychology, you may find that you are entering into an educational experience that is different from your undergraduate education. At the master’s level, students may be given the opportunity to take a more self-directed approach to learning through the use of convenient online formats.
During the course of your degree program, you may be expected to take part in interactive class lectures on a weekly basis, complete assignments and submit them via an online portal, and post discussions and respond to classmates on a regular basis. Some of the other features of this degree program, including length and courses, are noted below.
The length of a master’s program can be different depending on what you prefer as a learner. Many master’s degree programs provide students with the option of pursuing a degree at an expedited rate — between one to two years — while others can be expanded depending on the needs of the student. Since this degree program can require anywhere from 45-80 credit hours for completion, the standard completion time is between two to three years for students at full-time enrollment.
In addition to the time spent in the classroom, most programs require students take part in one or two practicum experiences, many of which are conducted in designated locations during the program. The practicum requirement may include the need to be present on-campus, or may be set through local organizations. The requirements for each university’s practicum should be listed clearly on their website.
As you move forward in your online master’s in counseling psychology, you can take courses that are both specific to counseling and relevant to the field of psychology as a whole. The theories and principles associated with the diagnostic assessment and treatment of patients should be taught in detail throughout your experience. If you plan on choosing a separate specialization in counseling psychology, you may see a slight change in your curriculum. Some of the more common generalized courses for counseling psychology are below.
- Psychopathology in Counseling: In this course, students can learn to implement diagnostic skills from the user of the DSM-5. Students may also take part in coursework and projects that involve the practice of diagnostics through case studies and research.
- Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Students in this course can take a look at the theories of counseling from a psychoanalytic perspective. This course investigates the theoretical frameworks that surround counseling and the implementation of psychotherapy.
- Cultural Diversity in Counseling: This course can provide students with a better understanding of our diverse society from a counseling provider’s standpoint. This course seeks to help students set aside bias and opinion to be more well-rounded professionals regardless of their workplace.
Potential Emphasis Selection of Counseling Psychology
Counseling psychology is a broad field that includes the treatment of all people. If you have an interest in working with a particular group within society or want to work in a specific field, you may find that choosing an emphasis for your degree can be beneficial. One major benefit to choosing a degree emphasis is the extra expertise and education that can be provided. This can set you apart from others when applying for careers in your specialized area of practice.
The implementation of specializations with a traditional or online master’s in counseling psychology program allows for students to become more accustomed to their area of interest, without sacrificing time and effort while learning a more generalized practice. If you are undecided about a particular emphasis, our experts have provided a few specializations for you to read about. These areas are some of the most commonly chosen for counseling psychology students.
Marriage and Family Therapy
Counseling professionals who specialize in marriage and family therapy play a large role in managing attachments and connections within the family unit. If you have an interest in providing hands-on counseling to families in need, this is a great place to specialize.
The field of behavior therapy is likely to become more prominent in the coming years. Specializing in behavior studies and therapy can help provide you with helpful methods for observing, assessing, and changing unwanted or harmful behaviors in patients.
Providing a detailed focus on issues that are typically experienced by women, women’s counseling is a great option if you want to counsel women through difficult periods in life. Support through marriage, childbirth, menopause, and even hormonal changes is a large portion of what is addressed in this line of work.
Child and Adolescent Counseling
If you have the desire to work with children and adolescents throughout your career, you may find this emphasis to be of interest. Counselors in this domain focus on the emotional and developmental needs of children and adolescents, in school and at home.
Who Should Consider an Online Master’s Degree Program in Counseling Psychology?
If you have the desire to move forward into an online master’s in counseling psychology program, and have a passion for assisting people through difficult times, counseling psychology could be a great option for you. This field can be a primary choice for those who have a profound interest in the practice of counseling and the theoretical components of psychology.
This guide outlined some of the requirements, educational programs, time frames, specializations, and salaries that can frame a career in counseling psychology. There are many educational programs that may help set a foundation for you to progress on your path and fit your personal needs as well.
Keep researching online master’s degree programs in counseling psychology to learn which one could be right for you.
American Psychological Association, “A Career in Counseling Psychology”
American Psychological Association, “Counseling Psychology”
American Psychological Association, “Pursuing a Career in Counseling Psychology”
PayScale, Counseling Psychologist Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists