Counseling is one of the most regulated industries today. A PhD in counseling will land you a job in research, advanced clinical practice or academia. But before you get there, lets see why you want to become a counselor, of all the professions in this world.
• To help people? You probably want to assist people solve their psychological issues like yours was solved at some point? There are other ways to help including volunteering at refugee camps across the world, in homeless shelters, etc. If you feel compelled, choose well between education, social work, clinical, human development and counseling psychology areas to avoid disappointment.
• IS it difficult to find a job- the first degree or masters is not getting you a job? There is no guarantee that you will secure one with a PhD. A job is more about your aggressiveness and creating the right networks.
• You are on a roll- you have finished your degree or masters and think it is time to go ahead. Think about the things you want to achieve in life. Talk to a person you consider an idol in counseling and inquire about the value of a PhD. Make a decision based on the information you get.
• Your path to riches? There is prestige, fame and money that come with the title ‘Doc’. This could be the worst reason. You can get the same by being an entrepreneur, getting into fashion, sports, etc. With the wrong reason, the success will be unsustainable.
• To understand self- a lot of personal goals drive people to grad school. Unfortunately, the demands of PhD studies take a heavier toll on you that you are unable to figure out your struggles. Differentiate between career and personal life. Take the right step when you are ready and motivated by the right reasons.
Success in a counseling career depends on motivation. You need to pick the right area that will keep you motivated every day you wake up. This will keep the fire burning in you.
How to Earn the PhD in Counseling
The field of counseling is expanding rapidly. There is professional reward and a lot of money especially for licensed counselors. By completing your PhD, you join the league of a few opinion leaders and shapers of this delicate discipline. But how do you get there?
• Find the best counseling program for you- all PhD counseling programs are not similar. In fact, the American Psychological Association or APA released a list of 69 accredited programs by different institutions and universities. There are options for Psy. D and PhD. PhD is more research oriented while Psy.D or Doctorate of Psychology will direct you to applied psychology especially in clinical practice. Consult a career professional to ensure that your pursuit is aligned to your ultimate career goals. Verify whether your target institution is accredited to offer the course. There are institutions known to produce the best psychologists. Endeavor to enroll in one of these to raise your profile in your profession.
• Financial assistance- PhD studies are time consuming and resource intensive. There are programs that support students to complete their studies. Consult career and academic experts on the financing options available, eligibility, the conditions to be fulfilled, etc. This will give you an easy time completing your studies and also provide necessary exposure in academic research.
• Will it be online or on-campus? Traditional on-campus programs offer the advantage of face-to-face interactions. However, the option of an online course comes with flexibility. The credibility of an institution to offer either online or on-campus psychology graduate studies is very important. Some are known for their online packages that make you a very competitive person. For others, it is their specialization that makes them distinct. Talk to a career expert or an experienced psychologist to ensure that your skills will be competitive once you complete your program.
Requirements for Counseling PhD Enrollment
Having identified the school and specialization, it will be impossible to register unless you have met all the requirements. The intense nature of PhD means you have to be totally prepared by the time you begin. The standard requirements are
• A fully filled application form
• Transcripts from previous institutions
• Letters of recommendation
• A statement indicating your intentions
• Interview with the institution
Degree and Course Work Requirements
After enrollment, there are a series of staggered examinations, course work and a dissertation. The areas covered by the course work include
• Professional and ethical issues in counseling psychology
• Statistics and Research
• Counseling and career development
• A series of research seminars and workshops
Depending on your area of specialization and the institution or school, there are a number of electives you have to take. You will also be required to write your dissertation and defend it in front of a panel. This is a challenge for most PhD students but you will have been prepared by your department and supervisor.
Career Options for PhD Counselors
APA has made a Masters degree a requirement for counseling licensees. The PhD will even open more opportunities for you.
• Clinical Psychologist- the diagnose and treat individuals with a range of mental issues. They work in diverse areas including hospitals, correctional facilities and with children.
• Counselors- this is for the psychologist who desires to have direct contact with patients. Your main duty will be to help others improve their lives. This is done by addressing the emotional issues affecting the quality of life of your client. The basic requirement for counselors is a Masters degree.
• Social Work- your work will be with government institutions and non-profit organizations. You will mainly be dealing with individuals experiencing mental and emotional issues. Even a bachelor degree will get you such a job. PhD places you at the top of this sector.
• Academia and Research- this is at the level of policy making especially for governments, consulting firms and institutions. The employer seeks to utilize you extensive knowledge and skills to control and influence decision making. Private consultancy for businesses, institutions, individuals and government is also an option.
There are numerous options when you need to pursue a PhD in counseling. A wrong turn could lead to frustration, resource wastage and even abandonment midway through the course. Seek guidance from a career specialist to evaluate your options and enable you make the right decisions.