male college student meeting with campus counselor

Which Counseling Career Is Right For You?

Becoming a counselor is one of the most rewarding professions. The ability to help people through challenging times during their various life stages is one that is life-changing. There are various routes of education to master depending on the area that calls to you the most. Whether it’s the role of a marital and family therapist or you want to become school counselor, there is a need for individuals to fulfill counseling roles that span across all communities. 

Before you can get started, it’s important to know that there are many different types of counseling careers available. Each of the professional counseling career programs offered through Alliant International University will prepare you for one of these enriching professions. Among the programs available are: 

Each has its own specific curriculum of coursework that provides the education, training, and tools necessary to prepare you to make an impact in the lives of others. If you know that becoming a professional counselor is the road you want to take but are still trying to determine which particular path is right for you, explore these areas and see which program sounds like a positive step toward your future career.

Clinical Counselor

Earning a MA in Clinical Counseling involves coursework that allows students to develop skills to diagnose and treat individuals to overcome mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, grief, and loss, all of which are commonly experienced by millions of people every day. A sample of the courses offered are Crisis, Trauma, and Emergency Response Issues in Counseling, Lifespan Development, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling, among other electives. Though subject to change, these types of classes make up the foundation of the program.

The program at Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) is also designed to prepare students to receive California Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor credentials with a combination of classwork and hands-on experience achieved through a supervised practice internship. There is a wide range of career opportunities available through earning a degree in Clinical Counseling, including positions in hospitals, counseling centers, and private practice for wellness coaching or career counseling. If you are initially seeking a more generalized care in counseling, this route covers all of the concepts of what it takes to become a good therapist. 

Marital and Family Therapist

Alliant offers two COAMFTE-accredited graduate degrees in the Marriage and Family Program, which is offered through only a select few universities. The Master’s Degree program is offered as a hybrid of on-campus and online coursework and the PsyD Degree program is offered through various campuses throughout California. This specific area of counseling is focused on fostering all familial relationships across diverse backgrounds. 

Among the advantages of these programs are that they allow graduates to obtain licensure in other states more easily. Additionally, employment opportunities through the Department of Veteran Affairs requires this type of accredited degree. Plus, there is loan reimbursement available in exchange for two years of work in underserved areas only offered to those that hold a COAMFTE-accredited degree.

A unique aspect of pursuing a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy involves the four pillars of Practice, Diversity, Community, and Scholarship the university represents. Each area secures a foundation of coursework, study, and skills that allow graduate students to provide competent services in diverse communities while engaging various communities and contributing to the understanding of couple and family therapy scholarship. 

It’s predicted that the national demand for psychologists will rise approximately six percent over the next decade, particularly in underserved areas such as the Hispanic population, older adults, and Americans living in southern states, according to the American Psychological Association. By graduating diverse groups of students who are prepared to treat and guide all economic, geographic, gender, age, and ethnic backgrounds will benefit those who may be seeking counseling in greater numbers in the years to come.

Organizational Psychologist

A professional counseling career in organizational psychology allows people to lead global organizations in a number of ways to improve work environments and productivity. Business is a key area where counseling is effective since it requires multiple personalities, work styles, and interchanging roles and responsibilities to create a symbiotic relationship to achieve goals together. There are four degrees available in this field: MA in Organizational Behavior, MA in Organizational Psychology, PhD in Organizational Psychology, and PsyD in Organization Development

Each program is geared toward learning about the human side of business and learning how to help others drive success throughout their companies on an individual and group basis. Counseling careers available with this degree include management and leadership consulting, human resources management, diversity training, organizational change and development, among others. 

U.S. News and World Report has ranked Industrial Psychologist as the second-best job in science and in the top 100 list of best jobs overall. For students who have an interest in business, organizational relationships, and what makes a company effective, there is a lot to be uncovered when pursuing a career in this field. The route of study follows a scholar/practitioner style of learning and coursework to gain the skills and experience necessary for success. If the idea of using counseling techniques and treatment toward leading professional groups versus family or couple settings, this type of counseling career may be a good fit.

Clinical Psychologist

Alliant offers two accredited doctoral degrees through the Clinical Psychology program. There are several areas of emphasis candidates can choose from to pursue their chosen counseling pathway. These include Forensic Psychology, Multicultural Community-Clinical Psychology, Integrative Psychology, and Trauma, Stress, Resilience, Health Psychology, among others. Each is unique and follows a specific curriculum, hands-on experience, and training available through practica and internships.

Each doctoral candidate participates in field experiences to gain hands-on training among a wide range of age groups and populations via partnerships with practice sites including community mental health organizations, prison and correctional systems, and college counseling centers, to name a few. Internships and training sites are matched to student interests where possible and vary from year to year. There are also collaborative research opportunities available that allow students to publish and/or present work on various levels.

Each program is designed to prepare students seeking supervised internship experience and licensure in California, which takes at least 1,500 hours of each. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 14 percent job outlook growth for psychologists over the next 10 years, which is higher than the average job outlook of 5 percent.

School Counselor or School Psychologist

Becoming a counselor in a school setting is one of the most rewarding positions there is. Guiding students as they go through their formative years and helping them to shape their futures is important and essential work. There are several degrees available under both the School Counseling and School Psychology programs to fulfill this type of career path in education.

The school counseling curriculum focuses on coursework such as Behavior Management in the Classroom, Career Counseling, and School Safety, Violence Prevention, and Crisis Intervention, among others. The program follows a model of online courses with the addition of hands-on training experience. As a school counselor, the role prepares students for academic success, while at the same time honing in on current peer, family, and societal challenges that often arise.

The School Psychology program follows similar coursework and hands-on experience with the addition of built-in relationships and connections within the education community to allow students to jumpstart their careers. There is a projected growth for school counselors over the next several years due to the increase of new onsite campus centers to help guide students toward a career path in a way that feels valuable and enriching.

LGBT Human Services and Mental Health Counselor

There is an inherent need to provide counseling services for underrepresented communities and areas where mental health care may not have been perceived as possible or readily accessible. Receiving a certificate in LGBT Human Services and Mental Health empowers students to develop the skills and competencies necessary to work with the LGBTQIA community and their friends and families. 

The certification requirements allow students to tailor the coursework toward their specific interests and career goals. The Foundations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Mental Health is a required course for all who wish to complete the certification with chosen advanced study courses and LGBT electives to round out the units required. Following this niche area of education provides a pathway for those who want to provide services for marginalized groups in a time when there is a rapidly growing need for counselors and community leaders.

Choosing Your Career Path

Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed the full list of programs available, the choice of your counseling career is where your passion drives you and which community you’d like to serve the most. A few questions to ask yourself are: 

  • Where do you feel the most passionate and what level of degree do you aspire to achieve? 
  • Does working with students as they become adults and start out for the first time on their own career paths excite you? 
  • Does working with families and couples to work through relationship challenges and hardships bring you a sense of accomplishment? 
  • Does your background and experience lead you down an organizational pathway that involves counseling company leaders? 

Counseling careers are and continue to be important positions in society. There are unprecedented events and societal changes that call for those who can navigate individuals through them successfully and in a healthy way. Plus, with the addition of telehealth as an alternative way for people to receive counseling, it widens the audience of how many people can have access to the assistance they need.

If you’re not sure which professional counselor path is right for you, review the sample coursework and time commitments and think about what would best fit into where you are right now in your life and what program will take you to where you want to be. A counseling career on any level is a valuable asset to the world and learning the methods with which to provide therapy and counseling to people of all backgrounds is a profound experience that will feel well worth the educational journey. 

Sources: https://www.apa.org/; https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists…; https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/school-counselor;

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