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What is School Counseling?
Arkansas is a small state that makes a big impact on the national economy. The state's economy is led by its manufacturing sector, which generates over $19 billion, placing it at #32 in the nation. This sector may soon rise in the national rankings since employment in this area grew by more than 8% in the four years between 2014 and 2018.
The Arkansas economy has more to offer than a strong manufacturing sector, though. The state's second strongest industry is professional and business services, which generates over $13 billion for the state, and real estate is #4 with very similar revenue numbers. Arkansas also relies on its educational services, healthcare, and social services sector to generate over $12 billion each year.Read More
Since the educational sector is so strong, Arkansas sees that it needs all its teachers, school administrators, and school counselors to be highly qualified professionals. To achieve that goal, the state not only needs to fully fund all its primary, middle, and secondary schools, but it must also strengthen its collegiate education departments. After all, there will be no highly qualified educational professionals if they can't receive the academic training they need. The state legislature sees to it that Arkansas' colleges and universities have the budgets they need to fund their teacher preparation programs and their master’s school counseling degree programs.
Aspiring school counseling professionals appreciate Arkansas' efforts to continually build and maintain the strength of its colleges' educator training programs. The faculty leaders in these departments continually perform self-evaluations on top of their accreditations to ensure that students receive the very best instruction possible. This means hiring faculty that have PhDs and who continue to break new ground in school counseling research.
Arkansas' education departments also seek out instructors from within the state. These instructors are very important because they can inspire students with examples from the state itself. They may have special insights into the licensing criteria and how the state regulates teachers and other educational professionals. School counseling instructors can also inspire students with real-world examples and anecdotes from Arkansas very own population. After all, the state is home to its own particular culture of which counselors must be aware.
A school counselor is a mental health professional who works in public schools. Their mission is to help students overcome the challenges that hinder their academic progress. School counselors may help underperforming students with intelligence and other psychological tests. In a typical day, counselors have students visit their office and discuss personal or academic problems in much the same way as a mental health counselor in the wider community.
However, school counselors work in a school setting in their local community. They usually work five days a week and keep regular school hours, while their mental health counseling peers may have more freedom. However, school counselors also have generous time off in the summer and around the winter holidays. Further, since all school counselors need to have at least a master’s school counseling degree, they receive higher pay than those with only a bachelor’s degree.
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Online School Counseling Education in Arkansas
To become a fully credentialed school counselor in Arkansas, education professionals need to have at least a master’s degree. This standard is universal and enforced by the Arkansas board of education. Even private schools are likely to follow this standard since their school counselors must meet with students on a one-on-one basis and conduct counseling or therapy, as well as testing for learning disabilities and other issues.
However, since school counselors are educational professionals, they can earn lower degrees on their way to a master’s school counseling degree. There are education positions available for every degree level, including classroom positions.
Online Associate Degree in School Counseling (AS)
Students who pursue an associate education degree have a number of great options. In many school districts they can take this degree and land a position as a parapro – also known as a teacher's assistant. This degree level is also great for those who are interested in teaching preschool students. For those positions, students should seek an associate early childhood education degree.
This degree is a great idea for a number of reasons. First off, an associate degree takes only two years to complete, which can land graduates positions in school settings as many as two years before their friends who attend four-year institutions. Though they are restricted from full teaching or counseling credentials, any experience in the classroom is considered highly valuable. Secondly, an associate degree requires students to complete the core college curriculum. Finally, an associate education degree from an Arkansas community college can cost far less on a per-credit basis than any four-year institution.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling (BS)
A bachelor’s education degree from an accredited, state-recognized teacher preparation program is the best, most direct way to launch a career in education or in school counseling. Bachelor’s degree students in teacher preparation programs are steeped in their subject matter, must complete a student teaching period, and are expected to pass their PRAXIS examinations. Undergraduate education students also focus on a specific age group during their four years. This academic background can be a foundation for later work at the master’s level.
During undergraduate studies, students who are eager to become school counselors at the high school level should discuss their plans with their academic advisor. This is because most teacher prep programs for secondary education insist that students take a number of courses in their subject area, such as mathematics or science. Meanwhile, students who wish to counsel elementary or middle-grade students can take the standard teacher preparation curriculum and aim towards expanding their knowledge in graduate school.
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Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling (MS or MC)
A master’s school counseling degree is where a counseling career can take off. Arkansas state rules require that all school counselors hold at least a master’s counseling degree. This means that students may have a few options. They can study for an MEd with a focus on counseling or they might find a school counseling program that is exclusively focused on their future profession. There are also Master of Science degree programs in counseling that provide the option to focus on school counseling as a concentration area.
Upon completion of this degree, students will still have to qualify for Arkansas state credentials. This will entail a number of supervised hours working as a counselor, passing an examination, and qualifying for an Arkansas state teacher credential. Once all the state requirements are met, students can seek a position with a school which will then refer them for licensure.
Online PhD Degree in School Counseling (PhD)
Though not a requirement of the job, school counselors who earn a PhD may have a number of advantages. The chief advantage of earning a doctorate is the ability to earn more. Arkansas' educators are paid according to their experience and degree level, so there is a significant advantage to earning a doctorate. Furthermore, those who earn an EdD may have more job opportunities than those with only a master’s degree. They might even be able to transition into school administration with a doctorate.
A PhD in counseling is also a great idea for those who are considering a transition into private work. In fact, many school counselors work until they reach retirement age, which qualifies them for a pension. They can then enter private practice as a counselor. This way they can make their own hours, earn a higher hourly rate, and enjoy more overall autonomy. Many who make this shift continue to work with the same age group they focused on in their school counseling career.
Become a School Counselor in Arkansas
Many students who have been helped by a school counselor are then interested in becoming a school counselor themselves. That is, once a student has been helped by a school counselor, they may recognize that other students could likewise be helped. This increases any interest they might have in pursuing a career as a school counselor themselves. Others may be education degree students who discover that they can best help students from the counseling chair. Regardless of the initial motivation, there are specific steps to take in order to become a school counselor in Arkansas.
The first step on the way to becoming an Arkansas school counselor is an undergraduate degree. There is no requirement to earn a teaching credential prior to becoming an Arkansas school counselor, so students have more latitude in terms of their bachelor’s degree choice. However, aspiring counselors should consider starting out with a degree in psychology. An undergraduate degree in education is also a valid option.
After completing an undergraduate degree, students who are not headed directly into a graduate degree program have a few options. One good choice for aspiring school counselors is a job as a substitute teacher. This experience will prove invaluable in the long run, as it provides an inside view of schools in your area. Substitute teachers may also be able to discuss their plans with the school's counselor.
The vital next step towards becoming an Arkansas school counselor is a master’s school counseling degree. Students should ensure that their counseling degree program is fully accredited. They should also decide whether to pursue their school counseling degree online or in a traditional setting. Those who need to keep working should consider the online option.
After completing the graduate school counseling degree program, there are still steps to complete before becoming an Arkansas school counselor. The graduate degree program should prepare students to take and pass the PRAXIS II School Guidance and Counseling Test. The test covers four vital areas: foundation, delivering services, management, and accountability.
From that point, aspiring school counseling professionals need to complete 100 clock-hours of supervised experience in counseling. This supervised period must be completed within 10 weeks during an academic term. Not only this but Arkansas requires an internship period that spans 600 clock hours. These hours must all be supervised with 240 hours spent in direct service.
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Careers for School Counseling Graduates
- School Counselor:
This position requires a master’s counseling degree, satisfactory PRAXIS II scores, and a period of supervised work. School counselors work in a school where they help students face and overcome the obstacles that may be causing them trouble in school. School counseling professionals help students with both behavioral and cognitive problems that interfere with their academic success.
- Career Counselor:
These counseling professionals don't conduct therapy sessions, but they generally have a master’s degree in career counseling. Career counselors work on the campuses of Arkansas' colleges and universities. They help students find the resources they need to forge a successful path to a career. They may also spend a lot of time planning and coordinating career fair days.
- Marriage and Family Therapist:
These mental health professionals work with couples and their families in the pursuit of better communication and happier homes. The position requires at least a master’s counseling degree, often with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. Mental health counselors who wish to branch into this area may choose to earn certifications in this specialty area.
- Social Worker:
This job title can cover a wide range of career options. Some social workers are at the entry level where they work with a specific population such as the homeless, foster children, or the elderly, for instance. Those who earn a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) can become licensed to work as clinical social workers. Licensed clinical social workers need a special license to work in private practice as counseling professionals.
- Substance Abuse Counselor:
Arkansas, like much of the United States, is in the midst of a substance abuse epidemic. The opioid crisis has only become more dire, and the new versions of methamphetamine are more addictive than ever. Thus, Arkansas certifies substance abuse counseling professionals at various levels. Those with a master’s substance abuse counseling degree can conduct individual therapy with addicts.
- Mental Health Counselor:
These healthcare professionals require a master’s counseling degree to earn a license in the state of Arkansas. Mental health counselors often find a specialty such as clients such as adolescents, substance abuse victims, and people with depressive disorder. Arkansas licenses these professionals to conduct counseling sessions but only a psychiatrist can prescribe medications.
These professionals work in social services to help their clients access the resources they need the most. Caseworkers tend to have a specialty such as adolescents, troubled families, teenage mothers, or the mentally disabled. Caseworkers meet with their clients on a regular basis to ensure that their needs are met and to see if adjustments are needed.
- Special Education Teacher:
These educational professionals are tasked with helping their school's students achieve to the best of their abilities. Their students may be blind, deaf, mentally delayed, or working through a learning disorder. SPED teachers thus must meet their students at their individual level and create individual education plans (IEPs) for each of them. SPED teachers also work closely with parents and social workers to best meet their students' needs.