Those who have a strong desire to help others may consider a career in counseling. Someone who’s a good listener inspires trust in others and can provide research-backed advice to advocate for mental health makes the perfect counselor candidate. But what exactly does this career path look like, and what can prospective counselors expect in terms of job opportunities and potential salary?
Here, we’ll highlight some of the reasons to consider a career as a counselor, why it pays for graduate students to get a master’s degree and how Bradley’s online Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program is a great option for interested students.
Why Get a Master’s in Counseling?
A graduate degree in counseling allows students to understand the science behind advocating for others better and sets them apart from other job candidates. Earning a master’s degree in counseling means graduate students are prepared to communicate more effectively and understand the brain functions of those most vulnerable.
In a master’s in counseling program, students become equipped to serve as a leader in educational, community and mental care settings. According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), some of the different fields one may pursue with a master’s in counseling include addiction counseling, career counseling, clinical mental health, marriage and relationships, school counseling, college assistance and more.
The average salary of a counselor who obtains a master’s degree is $51,664, according to PayScale. This number fluctuates based on the career path chosen after graduation.
Various counseling positions include:
- Mental health counselor
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a mental health counselor generally provides assistance and treatment to those dealing with mental and behavioral issues. They also work with those who have drug or alcohol addiction issues. Mental health counselors make, on average, about $46,240 per year.
- School and career counselor
A school and career counselor helps students develop adequate social skills to use in the working world, while also helping young professionals down their path to finding a job that suits their credentials, wants and needs. One of the higher-paying opportunities for counselors, this specific career path reported a median salary of $57,040 in 2019.
- Marriage and family counselor
This type of counselor works in family and relationship settings to help partners and families work through deep-rooted issues. This career path is on the rise — the BLS noted job growth is projected to rise 22% between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than the average growth for all U.S. occupations. Marriage and family counselors can expect to earn around $49,610, the median annual pay for this career in 2019.
How Do You Get a Master’s in Counseling?
After earning a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, students are eligible to pursue a graduate degree in counseling.
Applying to schools requires ample planning and preparation. This step is critical for online students interested in attending graduate school. Submitting a successful application ultimately comes down to factors like your career ambitions and plans for a specialty. Perhaps you’re interested in pursuing a career in school counseling. Or perhaps becoming a professional mental health counselor is more appealing to you. Understanding the difference between the two career fields is your first step to applying for a school that fits your wants and needs.
This is especially true when applying to Bradley University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling program. Entry requires students to make a dedicated effort to familiarize themselves with the program’s general requirements and specifications, including prerequisites and expectations. Students must also assess their career goals honestly to ensure their aspirations and ideals align with our program.
As an initial step, students can review Bradley’s Master of Arts in Counseling web pages to learn the basics of the application process and what information is needed to move forward. These will serve as an integral reference throughout the application period. To further assist in the process, here’s everything you need to know about getting a counseling master’s degree from Bradley and how to be accepted into the program.
Everything You Need to Know About the Master of Arts in Counseling Program
At its core, the online program is designed to prepare professional counselors to work with diverse client populations in a variety of settings, ranging between educational, community, health care and mental health.
Understanding your target program’s mission is important to ensure it aligns with your own personal values, views and mindset so there is harmony between the existing expectations of what will be learned and how that learning journey will unfold. To begin, the program’s purpose is straightforward. Counselors work to facilitate growth and development in clients, which results from meaningful interaction, intervention and engagement. The program holds personal and professional growth is rooted in both cognitive and experiential learning, resulting in a focus on both classroom learning and hands-on experience through internships and a supervised practicum.
Interested students also should understand there are two academic concentrations within Bradley’s online counseling graduate program: professional school counseling and clinical mental health counseling. Students in both tracks must complete the same 51 semester core hours and then take nine semester hours geared toward their chosen specialty (or 10 hours for non-teacher, professional school counselors).
All applicants should study the general objectives of the Master of Arts in Counseling degree program as outlined in the official handbook. These ideals cover overarching qualities the program aims to instill in graduates, such as commitment to inquiry and fulfillment of human potential, competence in the application of practical skill and expertise, and holistic knowledge of the role and function of the professional counselor. Additional specific goals associated with the two different tracks are as follows:
- Professional school counseling objectives include providing graduates with the knowledge, skills and theories related to counseling in elementary and secondary school.
- Clinical mental health counseling objectives include encouraging awareness of a professional counselor’s responsibilities in various mental health settings.
Despite the tracks’ differences, common objectives are present throughout Bradley University’s varied academic programs, like preparing students in ethics and enhancing their sensitivity and acceptance of other people’s behaviors.
Admissions Requirements for the Master of Arts in Counseling Program
After getting a better idea of what the Master of Arts in Counseling program at Bradley entails, interested students will be ready to dive into the application process and understand what’s necessary for admission.
As with any application, there are a number of requirements that must be met to be considered for acceptance in the program, including:
- Grade point average as recorded by official academic transcripts. Certain GPA thresholds must be met:
- A cumulative major GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for the last 60 hours taken as an undergraduate is required for unconditional admission.
- A cumulative major GPA lower than 3.0 on a 4.0 scale will require the applicant to take either the GRE or MAT and request a re-review.
- Three professional and/or academic letters of reference.
- The submission of two 250- to 500-word personal essays. Instructions for these essays are as follows:
- Explain personal achievements and work experiences that demonstrate relevance to your interests and capacity for graduate study.
- Describe career objectives and how specifically Bradley University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling program can assist in realizing them.
- Completion of a virtual interview with university faculty.
- A non-refundable $40 application fee
The application process also requires different information depending on whether you’re an in-state, out-of-state or international student.
For instance, Illinois residents interested in professional school counseling are required to submit records showing they have passed the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP 400) or equivalent ACT Plus Writing/SAT scores. Applicants who are teachers must submit their teaching license to waive this particular requirement. Non-Illinois residents are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with reciprocity rules and current requirements for certification and licensure in their home state.
International students must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to demonstrate English language proficiency and provide equivalent bachelor’s degrees and other supplementary educational records.
Tips to Keep in Mind After Completing the Program
Before completing the program, students are encouraged to take more steps toward enhancing their future.
For example, all graduates of Bradley’s online Master of Arts in Counseling program are eligible to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) during the semester they’re scheduled to graduate. Looking forward and making these moves early also points to a student who has priorities and objectives, as graduate programs are keen to attract the best academic talent.
The requirements of the process do not always allow applicants to showcase what makes them different. The personal statement and letters of recommendation may be able to allude to these qualities, but these materials might not provide all the information applicants want to highlight about their personal and professional accomplishments. One way to address this discrepancy is including materials that show your willingness to engage outside class or participate in working groups and research labs or projects.
Additionally, applicants who can supplement their application with a track record of research experience demonstrate they are prepared for the scientist-practitioner model in the counseling field. Research expands the knowledge base of every profession, which is particularly important for counselors.
Learn More About Bradley’s Master of Arts in Counseling Program Today
Remember: The application for any graduate program, including Bradley’s Master of Arts in Counseling, can be time intensive. Researching the university’s program, expectations, requirements and objectives allows you to familiarize yourself with the most critical steps in the application process and help you decide whether it’s the best choice for you in your career journey.
Apart from reading guides on applications and examining every detail in the handbook, interested applicants can speak with a Bradley admission officer to learn firsthand what the university’s process looks like and what will be expected of prospective students. This is a great opportunity to understand the program from the perspective of an experienced professional.
For more information, contact Bradley University’s admissions office today to learn about next steps in the admissions process.