How Do You Specialize a Master’s in Counseling?

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Updated August 4, 2020

How can you specialize a Master's in Counseling? This is an important question for any student who is interested in the field, especially as the general MA in counseling is thought to be one of the worst-paying jobs in the country. But a specialization can fix that, allowing you to make more money and be fulfilled in your career; here's how to specialize your graduate degree.

Resource: 25 Most Affordable Online Master's in Counseling Degrees

Choose the Right Degree Designation

There are three general pathways to earning a graduate degree in counseling. They include the Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education. Both the MEd and the MS offer specializations at this level; the MA in counseling does not and is therefore considered a general degree by most schools. If you want to specialize in a certain field, you will want to find a program that offers the MEd if you want to specialize in school counseling or the MS degree with specialization options. It's also important to recognize that a MEd or MS will require a practicum or internship experience, which should be expected as it is a specialist degree.

Pick a Field of Interest

Your field of interest in a graduate degree in counseling will determine your specialization. There are concentrations for just about every type of counseling, including addiction, mental health, school counseling, family or individual counseling, gerontology, and more. It is up to you to research what job opportunities are available in your field of interest and apply to the programs that offer that specialization. You should also choose a degree program that is accredited by the proper associations; this will ensure that should you need to sit for licensure, you will already have completed the majority of requirements before you graduate.

Determine if Graduate Education is Enough

Some specializations only require a graduate education in order to be successful; others, such as child psychology, may require a doctorate, in addition to a master's degree, in order to qualify for that position. The best way to determine if your path will require a terminal degree is to ask a professional already working in the field or a career counselor. By determining your final level of education prior to moving into the workforce, you're ensuring that you understand the timeline of your training and, if you need to, make alternate plans if you are unable to complete a terminal degree for your specialization.

Check if Licensure is Necessary

Licensure is a general expectation before or after a graduate degree is earned; the field of counseling requires upstanding and moral professionals to adhere to a set of standards. But some specializations, such as addiction and recovery, may not require licensure in some states. You will have to do the required research in order to find out if you will need a license to practice in the state you have chosen to pursue employment opportunities. If you have already received licensure as a general counselor, you may not need further designations; however, if you are able to sit for specialized licensure, it will be in your best interest to pursue that license.

A graduate degree in counseling can open up new opportunities for you, but it can only be of help if you understand which specialization you would like to be your career path. With a variety of concentrations, it will be up to you to decide which path is right for you. Now that we've answered the question of how can you specialize a Master's in Counseling, the only thing left to do is to choose a concentration and begin your education.

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