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Types of Counseling Degrees

Preparing for a Career in Counseling

You’ve taken the time to think things through. You know you want to go into one of the “caring professions.” You have a passion for communication, and the strength to maintain the necessary boundaries a counseling career would involve. You’ve taken the first steps toward getting a counseling degree. Now you have to look at the options open to you, and begin to plan for your education.

Types of Counseling Degrees

  • Basic counseling and coaching training – AA, certificate programs.
  • Professional counseling – B.A., M.A, M.S, Ph.D.
  • Specialized counseling: M.A, M.S., Ph.D., post-doctoral.

Basic counseling

“Counseling” is a loose term, used in a variety of ways. At the lowest level of education are A.A. programs and certificate programs. These forms of training prepare a counselor to serve as an advisor and coach, and may serve as training for certain limited forms of crisis counseling and pastoral care work. This level of work is superb for those who would like to work as career or life coaches, or who would like to combine training in crisis counseling with another career on an A.A. level, such as various paramedic programs or nursing programs. In preparing yourself for two allied caring functions, you can establish yourself as a specialized care provider, opening up opportunities otherwise closed to most entry-level caregivers.

Professional Counseling Degrees

After the A.A./certificate level, you face the serious challenge of a B.A/B.S, or more probably an M.A./M.S. or Ph.D. program. Among the most common degrees in this range are in social work, counseling – including family and personal counseling – and lower levels of substance abuse counseling. On another track, ministerial programs often expect and demand a similar level of counseling training before ordination.

This layer of degree can qualify a graduate for school guidance counseling, entry and medium levels of social work – and occasionally high levels of social work – administration of some care-giving institutions, some forms of police work, and more. Some practicing counselors with specialized focus are licensed with an M.A./M.S. in their specialization: behavior modification would be one example of a specialized counseling degree, as would addiction counseling.

Specialized Counseling Degrees

The highest educational level of degree program is aimed at specialization. Degrees in specialized forms of social work, or high levels of casework in social work, may involve doctoral degrees. Clinical and research psychologists, psychologists working in a specialized school of psychiatry, medical psychologists and psychiatrists, neurological psychiatrists, and more are educated on this level, and receive advanced degrees in their specialization.

This level can be broken down into three primary areas: academic scholars in psychology and psychiatry, research, specialized, or clinical psychiatrists, and practicing specialists, often associated with particular schools of psychiatric theory and practice.

Costs and Rewards

The majority of openings for career counselors exist in the first two layers of degree program. On the level of A.A. and certificate programs are many popular, but often low-paying positions and possibilities for freelance counseling. Prestige is limited for all but a small number of highly successful licensed counselors, but demand is often quite high and job security is fairly good.

The middle level is a reliable source of work. Income, however, is often modest, and in many cases a counselor will find him or herself restricted to government positions, non-profit work, and standard psychiatric practice.

The highest level can be very prestigious, and for those more interested in theory or research can be immensely rewarding. Jobs are fewer and hotly contested. Private practice, however, can combine academic work with direct therapeutic work in a way that satisfies many whose great admiration is for the modern tradition of talk therapy.

For further information, offers detailed information. Contact with a university or online psychiatric or counseling school can also provide specifics of degrees, and the costs and investment involved in pursing various careers in counseling.

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