Getting Confident In My Career Choice

Grad School

I could use a second opinion. I’m a senior expecting to graduate in a couple months with a degree in psychology and a minor in childhood development. I was originally planning to go into social services, but having investigated much more about it while searching for jobs, I’ve decided that it probably isn’t right for me. I’ve been spending the past few weeks researching different careers that would still let me work closely with kids and help them become better adults. There are a lot of options out there. Counseling was something really interesting that I hadn’t considered, even though there were school counselors available throughout most of my childhood education. I’m wondering if I should get an advanced degree in counseling before applying for those jobs. Would that make me a more appealing candidate, or are there other tactics I should consider?

Career decisions are never easy to make and despite what you might assume, the process doesn’t necessarily get any easier as life unfolds. In some cases, career decisions can get more difficult as you get older. Seeking outside opinions from people is definitely a reliable approach to figuring things out. Never underestimate the value of different perspectives.

As for your question, there’s no simple answer. The first thing to know is that each state has a different set of requirements for becoming a certified counselor. Editors at the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) published a comprehensive list of each state’s certification requirements, which you should visit and review. Nearly all of them require an advanced degree in a related field like counseling, childhood development, psychology, etc. You’ll also notice that states go so far as to specify the coursework required. There are other universal requirements such as a drug examination and criminal background check.

Your situation is rather unique. Forbes contributor Robert Farrington openly questioned whether or not college graduates should head straight to grad school and concluded it doesn’t make sense for a great many. While that’s true for some, it clearly doesn’t apply to a career path in counseling, which clearly defines an advanced degree as a necessity to entry. That being said, the challenge then becomes decided how and where to obtain your advanced degree.

As you might expect, you have two main options when it comes to getting another degree. One is exploring an online master’s in school counseling, which typically offers added flexibility and can be much more cost-effective (although not always). The only possible downsides are the inability to interact regularly with students and qualified instructors, although some schools do have this functionality. The often more costly alternative is applying to more traditional graduate programs hosted on a college or university campus.

Remember that regardless of the academic experience, pursuing an advanced degree is no simple business. You’ll want to prepare yourself adequately by fully investigating what being a school counselor truly entails. One final suggestion is visiting your college career center. The advisors there should have some relevant tips, too.

“If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” -- Eddie Colla

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