This article talks about the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree program in Mental Health Counseling and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and licensure options.
Master of Arts Program in Mental Health Counseling
Students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling program gain the skills, knowledge, and ethics necessary to work as a counselor for individuals, groups, and/or families. Students explore mental testing methods, counseling theories, drug and alcohol abuse, human development, signs of mental health issues, and group counseling dynamics. Graduates can qualify to apply for licensure and work in various health organizations or institutions.
Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree preferably in related fields though some schools may consider students who hold degrees in unrelated subjects; however, many schools may require foundational courses before granting entry. Some programs also prefer candidates with work experience in the mental health field.
Program coursework involves training in research methodologies to impart a stronger grasp of mental health topics of interest; schools commonly expect research projects. A specific amount of practical training may also be necessary for students supervised by a licensed mental health counselor. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:
•Legal applications in counseling
•Group counseling techniques
•Career counseling methods
•Drug and alcohol counseling
•Family counseling methods
•Patient assessment and evaluation
Job and Wage Outlook
Mental health counselors are expected to see a higher-than-average job growth of 20% over the 2016 – 2026 decade. These professionals brought in an average annual wage of $42,150, in May 2016 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The growth is due to the insurance companies’ willingness to reimburse patients who seek assistance from these lower-cost professionals instead of psychiatrists or psychologists.
Continuing Education and Licensure Options
Some certification or licensing is a requirement for counselors in most states, but each state may have different licensure requirements. Individuals may consult their state licensing board for specifics. Various credentialing agencies, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors, offer voluntary certifications, such as the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential. Sufficient clinical experience, an approved graduate degree, and passage of an exam will enable individuals to earn the credential.
Many schools offer doctoral programs in mental health counseling and related fields, and may confer a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Original research, clinical training and advanced coursework, are often required by applicants. The focus of their courses may be allowed to be chosen by students.