Earning a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology

Everything you need to know about getting a masters degree in counseling psychology.

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Overview of Master's Degree Program in Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychologists work with a variety of patients using a combination of theory, practice and application to assess the individuals psychological needs and determine what they need for treatment. A master's degree in counseling psychology prepares students for an entry-level position in counseling and the licensure required to obtain it (if applicable).

This program usually takes between two and three years to complete, depending on whether you attend full-time or part-time. There are many different types of jobs available for counseling psychologists who have their master's degree and most involve working under clinical psychologists who have a PhD. As a counseling psychologist, you work with patients who have psychological problems such as substance abuse, child development, adult development, crisis intervention, anxiety disorders, or a variety of other issues.

Master's degree candidates usually have to complete a thesis paper before earning their degree.

Students who earned their bachelor's degree in counseling psychology or general psychology may apply to a master's degree program in order to advance in their careers. A bachelors degree in psychology limits the amount of jobs that a graduate can apply for after graduation, and you usually cannot advance beyond a psychologist assistant. A master's degree provides these individuals with the knowledge to advance to a higher position, working with their own patients. Other students pursue their masters degree in counseling psychology in order to change careers.

Applying to a Master's Degree Program in Counseling Psychology

Typical admissions requirements for a master's degree program in counseling psychology include taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), sending in at least three letters of recommendation, and writing a personal statement. Admissions to counseling psychology masters degree programs are highly competitive, so you will want to make sure your application package shows off your passion and talent in the field. The graduate admissions committee looks for students that earned a high GPA in college, usually a 3.0 minimum, and have experience in the field of psychology or completed academic research with a professor on psychology in college.

To be admitted to master's degree program you must first complete your bachelors degree. It is not required that you have a bachelor's degree in counseling psychology for most programs, but taking undergraduate courses in psychology and sociology is strongly recommended, especially if you do not have any work experience in the field.

How to Choose Counseling Psychology Master's Degree Program

Take a look at the roster of professors who you will be working with during the course of your studies. Make sure the program you choose has professors who are performing research similar to your interests. Along the same lines, you want to make sure the required courses will provide you with the knowledge needed to move into the career of your choice. If you want to work with substance abuse patients, but choose a program that focuses on child development, you will not be happy with your program.

Find out what types of internships are available to students attending the counseling psychology programs you are interested in. If you attend a graduate school that uses the generalist approach to teaching counseling psychology, then you will want to narrow your focus during your internship. You want to know your internship options before starting a program, as this is your opportunity to set the course of your career.

You may be one of the many graduate applicants who are concerned with the amount of time that grad school will take up. You don’t want to get rid of your job, or put an incredible strain on your family. If this describes your situation, consider taking courses part-time, at night or on weekends. Or, if distance is also an issue, you can choose to attend graduate school online. An online masters degree program in counseling psychology can allow you to earn a quality education in your own time.

What to Expect at a Master's Degree Program in Counseling Psychology

A master's degree in counseling psychology differs from that of clinical psychology because the courses are less focused on treating severe mental illness. Instead the program teaches students to treat psychologically healthy patients. A few examples of classes for a masters program include individual counseling, group counseling, couples and family therapy, law and ethics, alcohol and chemical dependency, lifespan development, human development, and testing and assessment techniques.

Many counseling psychology programs use the scientist-practitioner model, which provides students with an education in both the classroom and in a professional institution. Completing an internship is usually required for a masters degree program in counseling psychology so that students can apply what the skills they are learning in the classroom. Another way to get professional experience is to attend a program that places a heavy emphasis on performing case studies. In this case, the graduate school might have a clinic where actual patients attend at a reduced or free rate. This type of situation provides students with the time to hone in on their interpersonal skills and practice various therapeutic techniques.

Master's degree candidates usually have to complete a thesis paper before earning their degree. The thesis can be an in-depth research paper on a specific subject of the candidate’s interest, such as midlife development or emotional experience. The master's thesis usually culminates in an oral presentation given to the committee on your research findings.

Top 10 Grad Schools for a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology

  1. Webster University
  2. Prairie View A & M University
  3. Troy University, Troy
  4. National University
  5. Argosy University
  6. Liberty University
  7. Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale
  8. Lindsey Wilson College, Columbia
  9. Amberton University
  10. Spring Arbor University

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