In light of the recent pandemic, more and more Universities are offering fast-track training for nurses or online masters in counseling for those more interested in therapy as opposed to treatment. Either profession allows you to work on the front lines of the healthcare industry to help vulnerable people who need support.
When planning a career in counseling, it’s typical to assume your work environment will be a small room within a private practice. While being a counselor in this setting is one option, there are actually plenty of other work opportunities available for those who graduate with an online masters in counseling.
Not only this, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts we’ll see a 22% growth in jobs available to counselors by 2028. Many of these roles can be done straight after you qualify, while others will require specialist experience or additional training.
It’s therefore worth considering what interests you and which path you might be wanting to take before studying for an online masters in counseling. Depending on your interests, you may find you need a slightly different course to qualify.
Below, we’ve highlighted the different work opportunities available for counselors. Hopefully, this will help you find the perfect route to your dream job.
Working in hospitals
When studying an online masters in counseling, it’s not often people think about working in a hospital. But as mental health is a huge part of our overall wellbeing, mental health counselors can make a real difference in this clinical environment.
Counselors are on hand to work during emergencies and through life-threatening situations. They’ll also be available for those struggling with grief or mental health problems, as well as providing support to those who have received bad news about diagnoses.
To get a better idea of what working as a hospital counselor is like, those studying on an online masters in counseling course can choose an internship or placement within an environment they want to gain experience in.
The day-to-day work of a hospital counselor will incorporate supporting both inpatients and outpatients. Using the information provided by the patient within the intake form, counselors can create specialized care plans for each individual patient.
As well as creating the plans, you’ll also be required to help implement them. This might include working with nurses and other colleagues for patient interventions, maintaining legal and insurance records, and hosting group therapy sessions. If you’ve already studied psychology, an online masters in counseling will provide you with the additional techniques you need to create care plans and the types of reporting required for a role in a hospital.
The BLS suggests that there is an increasing demand for hospital counselors, as the US makes a shift from the incarceration of addicts to substance abuse counseling and help for drug offenders.
Hospital counselors have also been a helpful asset for clinics in more rural settings, where mental health issues are often overlooked due to the lack of resources, knowledge, and time.
If you’re interested in studying an online masters in counseling so you can work in a hospital, you might want to take a look at the requirements for cognitive-behavioral therapists, clinical psychologists, and crisis intervention officers in your area.
Pros and Cons
The work of a hospital counselor is hugely rewarding yet challenging. You’ll be working with a whole variety of patients with very specific needs. As such, you will gain valuable experience dealing with a number of issues from substance abuse to bereavement.
Hospital counselors can become overwhelmed at the prospect of having so many patients to care for, but it’s worth remembering that the hospital’s whole staff force is there to help.
Like nurses, hospital counselors can suffer from stress and compassion fatigue. The demanding role requires you to dedicate a huge amount of energy to make sure others are okay. It’s important to consider your own mental wellbeing and put self-care in place.
Working in Universities
University is an incredibly stressful time for students. Which is why counselors are a crucial part of the University staff board, which help smooth the transition process for students of all ages.
The significant change in almost every aspect of a student’s life when heading to University can quickly lead to depression and anxiety, with some suffering much more than others. Perhaps you’re already familiar with these stresses, and this is the reason you chose to study an online masters in counseling rather than at a physical University.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second-highest cause of death for Americans aged 15-24, with a significant part of that demographic being at University away from home and family support.
Day to day, those looking to become a University counselor after studying an online masters in counseling can expect to spend a large portion of their time working with student patients. But you’ll also work to train other staff on identifying signs of mental health issues and how to approach the topic with students.
Although money is not often a person’s primary concern for healthcare professions, salary.com quotes the average yearly wage can amount to anywhere between $53-87,000, which can provide a great quality of life.
Pros and Cons
The work of a University counselor can be incredibly rewarding. You will have the opportunity to help students from all walks of life and have a positive impact on their University experience. You’ll also be able to contribute to student retention rates and support students through what should be the best years of their life.
Once you’ve completed an online masters in counseling, you might want to pursue a career in the public sector.
This could involve working for federal agencies like the Department for Veteran Affairs, where you will be working with military veterans to provide the support and therapy they need.
The day-to-day work of a Public Mental Health counselor will include specializing in issues such as PTSD, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities – some of which may require additional qualifications from your online masters in counseling course.
You may be involved in group therapy sessions for the military or creating a combination of recreational activities and therapy for younger patients. State agencies will often hire public counselors to work in educational or hospital settings or work with the suicide prevention team within specific environments.
Pros and Cons
The work done in the public sector will provide you with a huge sense of achievement. You’ll be a federal or state employee, and the work will vary.
While mental health counseling is always difficult emotionally, those working in the public sector may be dealing with patients that have experiences that the ordinary person cannot imagine. Adding an additional level of difficulty for the role. During your early career, salaries for public counselors can be lower than others, meaning the job can feel even harder with no financial reward.
As technology evolves, more people than ever can access counseling and support. Better internet connection and advanced video conferencing services now allow counselors to see patients at home.
Once you’ve qualified from an online masters in counseling, you may choose a career that’s also in the online world; virtual counseling. To do this, check out Talkspace or BetterHelp to understand more about their requirements and expectations, as well as the salaries you can achieve for each platform.
The modern lifestyle doesn’t always leave time for self-care and seeking support, making virtual and online counseling a great lifeline for those who cannot access help in person. As this is still quite a new career route for counselors, it’s worth getting as much information about it as possible before you decide to exclusively choose virtual patients.
Unlike in-person, virtual counselors are typically expected to offer their patients additional support between sessions. While sessions can run over video conference, with the same format as an in-person appointment would, virtual counselors are often required to maintain contact with their patients via text or quick phone calls.
Pros and Cons
The demand for virtual counselors has dramatically increased over the past few years, with the pandemic adding additional pressure to waiting lists and online services. Business Insider reports that online counselors saw a 200% increase in those looking to be added to the waitlist during the past year.
This demand could mean there’s more work available, making job opportunities better. However, the extra support you’re required to provide between sessions could quickly impact your work-life balance.
That said, the profession can be worked flexibly around other work or training. You also have the chance to specialize your services to work exclusively with patients with certain mental health issues or struggles.
As virtual counseling isn’t typically covered by insurance companies, there’s also much less admin and reporting to do.
Virtual counseling gives you the chance to reach patients who seriously need support but who may not be confident enough to seek help in person. And while finding clients at first can be difficult, you can quickly build yourself a large clientele.
Lastly, students who choose to study an online masters in counseling also have the opportunity to create their own private practice or work with other counselors to establish one together. As this is the stereotypical image of counseling most of us have, you’ve probably already considered private counseling as a career choice.
By launching your own practice, you can combine entrepreneurial skills with your qualification to be your own boss while making a difference in other people’s lives.
Those who have worked in a hospital or the public sector after completing an online masters in counseling may struggle to adapt to this type of practice, as there will be a more hands-on approach to the business and admin aspects of running your own space. There’s also an element of being independent, which wouldn’t be as prominent in a clinical environment where other health professionals are on side.
The everyday work of a private counselor will typically evolve around offering 45 minutes to an hour sessions for individuals, groups, or couples – depending on the services you want to offer. Although it can be tempting to boost income by scheduling back-to-back appointments, it’s very important to give yourself a break and a breather before diving in with a new patient.
A reasonable workload for a private counselor may hang around 35 sessions a week, with successful counselors achieving a yearly salary of $125,000.
Pros and Cons
Having a private practice allows you to create your own work schedule and build your business from the ground up. However, rather than spending all your time focusing on the counseling itself, you’ll need to be able to wear a variety of hats so that you can successfully run your practice as a business. This includes advertising to find clients, maintaining office supplies, implementing processes for billing and insurance documentation, and of course, scheduling. To help, you may want to consider studying for a business qualification while completing your online masters in counseling.
As you aren’t always focused on therapy, it can be easy to start worrying about numbers and profits. Thankfully, the average salary for private counselors is based on your session rates, and as such, there’s a lot of flexibility for those looking to increase profits without having to over-fill their schedule.
Private counselors often feel a sense of loneliness, too, as they don’t always have colleagues working in similar fields to depend on when things get too tense or stressful.
Hopefully, this list has provided you with plenty more information about where an online masters in counseling could take you. While some may love the idea of a private practice, not everyone is cut out for the level of dedication and leadership it requires. If you yourself struggled with traditional University (as this may be the reason you’ve chosen to study online), you might find University counseling particularly rewarding. Alternatively, counselors can make a huge difference to patients and families within a hospital setting.
The choice is entirely up to you, and there are additional specialist courses you can take if something not on this list interests you – for example, counseling in a school. Whatever you choose, the work of a counselor is challenging and incredibly rewarding, with the chance to help someone new and significantly impact their life every day.