Overview of Online Certificates in Grief Counseling
Students looking to learn about thanatology (the science of death and the mental aspects surrounding the loss of a loved one) can pursue a certificate program. Many such programs are available fully online and allow students to learn without needing to satisfy on-campus requirements. Programs may focus on thanatology in general or delve into more specialized topics, such as grief support or ambiguous loss.
These certificates can be immediately useful on a personal level but are primarily designed for individuals with prior education and work experience in counseling, social work, and other similar professions that can include nursing, pastoral care, and humanitarian aid.
Description of Online Grief Counseling Certificate Programs
Students who need the convenience of an online program can earn a certificate through distance education and still learn the exact same topics that are covered in an on-campus program. Candidates in these programs might learn about suicide prevention, spirituality and religion, physical grief responses, and self-help strategies to cope with death and loss. Other common topics in these programs include end-of-life healthcare, bereavement issues, and dealing with terminal illness.
Programs can last as few as two months and award continuing education credits to students who complete coursework in addition to a final paper or project. Credit-granting programs can last longer than a year and require the completion of between 12 and 18 credits, depending on the school and the subjects covered.
Many schools also offer master's degree programs in thanatology, and some programs allow students to transfer credits earned in a certificate towards these or other types of degree programs, such as a Master of Science in Health and Social Innovation or a Master of Science in Health Science. These degrees provide an advanced understanding of the field and can potentially improve a candidate's job prospects (and may even be required, depending on a candidate's career goals).
Prospective students interested in these programs should have prior educational experience, as most programs require a bachelor's degree in order to apply. Some schools mandate that this degree be in a relevant field (such as health care or counseling), but other programs merely require that students meet GPA requirements. Other programs may accept relevant work experience in lieu of formal education. In addition to college transcripts and/or a resume, some programs ask applicants to submit an essay outlining their professional goals for the future.
Career Paths for Graduates with a Grief Counseling Certificate
Many people who earn grief counseling certificates are already working in the mental health counseling field. Social workers, counselors, and psychologists can all benefit from the specialized training offered in these programs and incorporate it into their current jobs. The majority of counseling professions require a bachelor's degree and mental health counselors (who often encounter loss and bereavement) also need a master's degree to begin working. Mental health counselors must also pursue licensure after earning their master's degree.
The mental health counseling field is growing rapidly, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors should increase by 22% between 2018 and 2028, resulting in 68,500 new job openings. The BLS notes that rural areas and other underserved communities, along with military veterans, will continue to be in need of mental health support, which should contribute to greater employment of grief counselors and other mental health experts.
Grief counseling certificate programs teach students how to help others accept loss and provide comfort to those enduring mental stress. They can be found in fully online formats at a number of schools, and graduates can receive training designed to enhance their practice in such areas as mental health counseling, social work, and nursing.