Pros & Cons of a Master of Education in Counseling

This article provides career options and general positives and negatives of earning a Master of Education in Counseling. You can also find information about typical admission requirements, along with coursework generally found in these programs.

Master of Education in Counseling degree programs typically offer options in areas such as school counseling, mental health counseling, and marriage & family counseling, or might have specializations in sports psychology or counseling of children and adolescents.

Positives and Negatives for a Master of Education in Counseling

Students earning a Master of Education in Counseling degree can experience some great advantages. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook in the field of school counseling is strong, with growth projections at 11% from 2016-2026. The median salary was solid at over $54,000 per year in 2016, says the BLS. During those same years, the BLS notes that jobs for marriage and family therapists should grow by 20%, and they earned a median yearly salary of over $49,000 in 2016.

Counseling can be a very rewarding career because these professionals spend their time helping clients deal with various types of personal issues or develop in a variety of areas, including academically, socially, and vocationally. They truly work to support entire individuals, so they have an opportunity to substantially impact others.

There are additional perks to becoming a counselor in schools upon earning a Master of Education in Counseling degree. Since they are typically working in the K-12 setting, holiday breaks and summers off can be expected. Those who opt for another type of counseling often have the option to open their own practice and set their own hours.

There are some challenges associated with the Master of Education in Counseling degree, however. Graduates may need to obtain additional training and licensure to pursue jobs other than school counselor in a K-12 setting, which often requires an internship. For example, someone wishing to become a marriage and family therapist is generally required to complete many supervised clinical counseling hours and a licensure exam, although these requirements often vary by state.

Those choosing the school counselor role may find the job stressful due to the depth and breadth of the work that must be done. For example, the number of students assigned to each counselor is often higher than ideal. According to the American School Counselor Association, the suggested counselor-to-student ratio is 250 to 1, but the national average for the most recent year reported, in 2014-2015, was 482 to 1. These counselors are also assisting students with a variety of issues, including family stressors, academic difficulties, and postsecondary planning.

General Information about Admittance to Master of Education in Counseling Degree Programs

Specific Master of Education in Counseling degree programs each have their own set of admission requirements. However, across schools, there are general requirements that may be expected. Programs typically require an application and fee, as well as evidence of academic achievement and aptitude for graduate-level learning. An earned bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA may be required, along with official transcripts from all previous college coursework.

Some schools require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores that are less than five years old and for non-native speakers of English, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) results. Other requirements may include an on-campus interview, letters of recommendation, or a writing sample.

Common Courses in Master of Education in Counseling Degree Programs

Master of Education in Counseling degree programs vary in terms of specific course and credit hour requirements, but there are some commonalities. Programs typically require at least two years of full time study during which students usually earn anywhere from 48 to 72 credit hours. Here are some of the most common course topics, along with a brief description of each.

Counseling Theories and Skills

This course provides learners with theory-based, practical, counseling skills. The techniques covered are specific to working with children and adolescents. Learners develop skills needed to assess and provide interventions in the clinical setting.

Career Development

Students prepare to provide career and vocational guidance and planning to school-age children and adolescents. The topic is approached through a review of theoretical perspectives and counseling techniques. Practical techniques are covered, including how to conduct effective job searches.

Research Methods

This course is typically designed to provide students with introductory information about research methods in education, including how to understand research reports and findings. Students are also expected to practice basic research skills, such as conducting and writing literature reviews. Learning objectives include knowledge of using research data to inform decisions, as well as how to conduct research as a practitioner.

Ethical and Legal Issues

Students will be introduced to legal and ethical issues that may occur in the school counseling field. They are provided with information needed to make legally and ethically appropriate decisions during practice. Current issues and trends in the field are used as the framework for understanding legal and ethical decision-making.

Human Development

This class covers the human development process across the lifespan. Students typically learn concepts related to human development in the social, cognitive, and biological domains. Emphasis is placed on healthy human development in terms of psychology and personality.

Graduates earning a Master of Education in Counseling degree often have the opportunity to choose a specialization to enter their chosen area of counseling. These jobs are high stakes, but can be very rewarding.

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