Fully online master's degree programs in counseling psychology are rare to nonexistent; hybrid programs that can be completed partially online are available. Both research skills and counseling techniques are critical components of these programs; clinical practica are usually required.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counseling psychologists typically need a doctoral degree to practice; they earn either the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). Some doctoral programs require a master's degree for admission, but others do not. The BLS also reports that professional licensing or certification is required for psychologists in all states; check with the requirements in your state before choosing an educational program.
Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology
Online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling Psychology programs cover topics like research, psychology and psychotherapy. Through their coursework, students can learn counseling techniques for family and marriage therapy, as well as how to counsel individuals dealing with addiction.
Students may also benefit from classes in law and ethics, including how they apply to therapists and counselors. Related studies can be found through online master's degree programs in psychology.
Program Information and Requirements
Most degree programs are taught in a hybrid format combining online learning with traditional classroom lectures and internships. Admission prerequisites include the successful completion of a bachelor's degree with some schools setting a minimum GPA requirement for applicants. Some programs require students to complete prerequisite classes in psychology.
Coursework in counseling psychology programs usually focus on the theories and fundamentals of psychology and psychotherapy. Students can also develop interpersonal and communication skills, which are essential components of the counseling profession. Additionally, students will look at specific areas of counseling and may participate in community service outreach programs to help them understand the facets of social project efforts.
Students may take several classes in psychotherapy, including group psychotherapy and psychotherapy theories. Students learn to manage group sessions and participate in role-playing scenarios. Guiding techniques and principles are also examined.
Students learn research methodologies and the use of statistics in reporting. Professional reporting standards, such as the American Psychological Association, are discussed. Students also explore the ethical concerns that surround the research and reporting process.
Students learn the legal and logistical aspects of launching a professional counseling practice. Networking and establishing professional affiliations is explored. Students also consider how to conduct an effective job search, set-up a private practice and prepare for licensing requirements.
Graduates of master's degree programs in counseling can find job opportunities as counselors in schools and mental health facilities or set up a private practice to work with families, couples and those suffering from addiction. The BLS predicted that employment for school and career counselors would increase by 8%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected job growth of 20% for mental health counselors, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024.
Salary for counselors will vary based on specialty area. For example, as of May 2015 the BLS reported that educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors earned an average salary of $56,490, while mental health counselors averaged $45,080.
Continuing Education Information
Requirements vary by state and counseling specialization, but most states require counselors to become licensed. Some counselors also seek additional certification to advance their career, including the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor credential. Some counselors also pursue doctoral degrees to become psychologists or educators, such as the online Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology.
Although there are few counseling master's degree programs that are fully online, there are some programs that are partially available online. Students learn counseling and psychotherapy techniques, preparing them to work as counselors in fields like education and mental health.