Several colleges offer online master's degree programs in community counseling. Most classes are offered online, allowing students to access lectures and course materials as their schedules permit. Clinical internships are also required, and some programs call for on-campus residency periods during the summer.
To enroll in one of these programs, students need to have a bachelor's degree. Students also need office suite software for these programs.
Courses in a master's degree in community counseling program give students an understanding of the role of the counselor. There are courses in human development, counseling theories and the function of community counseling agencies. Students learn about counseling methods, ethical and legal issues in counseling and types of counseling and therapies.
Most states require that counselors hold licenses. A master's degree and several thousand hours of supervised clinical experience are usually required in addition to passing a competency exam. Continuing education courses are required for licensure renewal.
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Master's Degree in Community Counseling
The typical online master's degree program in community counseling takes two years to complete. This includes a period of supervised clinical practice. Most programs will assist students in finding local clinics or agencies where they can complete their internships. Candidates acquire the knowledge and tools necessary to help clients achieve growth.
Information and Technical Requirements
Some community counseling graduate programs require students to spend two weeks on campus during the summer. Certain schools may not accept students into the distance learning program if they live within commuting distance of the campus. Those students must apply to the on-campus program.
Access to an Internet-connected computer and a basic office software suite is required. Special resources for online students, such as virtual librarians, may be available to assist students in finding research materials quickly. Help with general academic performance may be offered by some schools via online tutorials that cover fundamental topics in subjects like math and writing.
Common Community Counseling Courses
Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling
Many ethical and legal issues arise in the counseling field, and a counselor must be familiar with the laws and ethical standards that pertain to a client's rights. For instance, confidentiality is a bedrock principle of counseling. A counselor's duty to protect and to warn is also examined. Students will learn how to avoid inappropriate interactions and unethical conflicts of interest with the clients.
This course examines group processes and dynamics, using the class itself as a subject. Types of group therapies studied may include art therapy, dance therapy and psychodrama.
A supervised counseling internship gives the student the opportunity to offer counseling directly to clients in environments like counseling clinics, mental health facilities and others. Theories learned in class may be applied and confirmed. Regular feedback is received from an approved supervisor.
Community counseling program graduates may expect to find positions as group counselors, case managers, grief counselors or advocates for the elderly. These positions may be located in local or state government agencies, hospitals, mental health clinics or long-term care facilities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for community counselors were predicted to grow 19% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This faster-than-average growth can be attributed to federal laws that make individual health care mandatory, as well as others that require mental health issues to be covered by insurance just like any other health problem. In 2015, the median annual wage for community counselors was reported by the BLS to be $43,190.
Some states require mental health counselors to be licensed. Additional courses or additional hours of clinical experience may be needed to attain licensure. Seminars and workshops are available through professional associations, such as the Association for Community Counseling.
Master's degree programs in community counseling are offered online with many programs requiring a supervised internship and/or on-campus residency periods. These programs typically take two years to complete and can prepare students to take a state competency exam, which is required for licensure as a counselor in some states.