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What is School Counseling?

Maryland is the middle child of the eastern seaboard, sitting between the southeast and the northeast. It includes a large part of the D.C. Metro area and is has a coast that welcomes ships from abroad and houses domestic commercial fishing. In fact, you can hardly mention Baltimore without someone bringing up their famous soft shelled crab sandwiches. This is just part of what gives Maryland such a strong and diverse economy.

A school counselor is a vital part of any school faculty. They work with a student body to help individuals overcome the challenges that are hindering them in their schoolwork or personal lives. They can provide counseling services to those with personal troubles and even conduct tests to evaluate students' ability to learn. These days, school counselors are also often prepared to help students manage the emotional fallout from the tragedies that are plaguing the nation's schools.

School counselors are licensed by the state and hold teaching credentials. Much like other teachers, school counselors can choose the age group they wish to work with. They must then pass an age-specific PRAXIS exam after completing a graduate degree program that focuses on the developmental issues facing their target age group.

Most of the time, a counselor will work in a single school and help its students. However, some school districts have counselors that circulate between two or more schools during the week. These days, school counselors may even conduct some counseling sessions via a remote link such as Zoom or Skype.

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Online School Counseling Education in Maryland

The Maryland economy is led by its real estate sector. This may be due to the tremendous value of property in the D.C. Metro area, as well as rising values in the Baltimore area. The Maryland real estate market brings in annual revenues of $69 billion and ranks 13th nationally. It's also strong in the economic super sector of professional and business services, a basket of goods and services that includes waste management, administrative services, technical and scientific services, and business consultation. Maryland's abundance of government contractors may, in part, account for the $59 billion in annual revenue this industrial category creates.

Coming in the third position is Maryland's educational services, healthcare, and social assistance. This industrial sector in Maryland generates $38 billion in annual revenues and ranks 17th nationally. This economic driver has many moving parts, but one of its key elements is counseling, including school counseling. Thus, school counselors have a very significant role in the life of Maryland's economy.

The Maryland state legislature recognizes the important role that schools and school counselors play in the lives of children and the economy. That’s why they make sure that the schools are budgeting to support school counseling. They also support the state’s public community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities in their efforts to educate new, highly qualified school counselors.

Maryland's institutions of higher learning use their funds to seek out the very best experts in psychology and counseling. They find it easy to attract top talent from the fantastic universities along the eastern seaboard. Even community colleges attract graduates from top-tier schools to teach in associate counseling degree programs. They also recruit experts in the field from the Maryland economy. Local professionals bring students their specific Maryland experience that can help them succeed in that particular regulatory and cultural environment.

Where many professions can be accessed from any degree level, school counselors must hold at least a master’s degree. They must also complete a period of supervised practice and pass examinations to verify their credentials. However, those who don't yet have credentials to work as a school counselor can build a strong foundation in counseling and education prior to earning a position as a school counselor.

Nevertheless, to achieve a career in school counseling, students will need a master’s school counseling degree. This might be a Master of Education degree with a concentration in school counseling or credentials from a dedicated school counseling program. School counselors may also proceed into a doctorate program, which brings a higher salary and the field's highest status.

Online Associate Degree in School Counseling (AS)

An associate school counseling program is not a common degree; you’re more likely to see an associate degree in psychology, counseling, or teaching. However, an associate degree is a good start for those who aren’t yet sure that they want to be a school counselor. It won’t earn you a credential to teach or counsel in schools, but it’s a good way to gain foundational knowledge and help you decide if you want to continue on this path.

Many take their associate school counseling degree and start work in Maryland schools as a paraprofessional or teacher's aide. These are entry-level positions that can pay dividends later in one's career. That is because many teacher's aides work one-on-one with students with special needs or students who simply need a little help with their work. Thus, this in-class experience is of great value to those who plan to work as a school counselor later in their career. Principals love to hire school counselors who have experience, and an associate school counseling program is a great place to start. Furthermore, an associate degree from a Maryland community college is far more affordable than taking credits in a four-year institution. Thus, those who progress into a bachelor’s degree program will end up with less debt in the long run.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling (BS)

Students who pursue a bachelor’s counseling degree need to understand that this is not yet the degree they need to earn a credential to become a school counselor. However, those who study counseling or a related field can take their degree and gain valuable experience. They may be able to work in drug and alcohol counseling, which isn’t the same as working with children in a school, but the experience working with individuals on their personal issues may provide the sort of well-rounded background a principal will gravitate towards.

Bachelor's degree students also have the opportunity to expand their learning with a minor concentration or a double major. Students who are interested in attending graduate school for school counseling might consider complementary degrees such as sociology, economics, public policy, or anthropology.

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Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling (MS or MC)

School counseling careers begin with a master’s school counseling degree. Aspiring school counselors may be able to choose between a Master of Education (M.Ed) that concentrates on school counseling or a dedicated school counseling degree. Regardless, the Maryland school board will need to see a completed master’s school counseling program on top of satisfactory examination scores, a period of supervised counseling, and a clean background check, as well as other requirements. Those who change their minds about their interests before graduate program completion could also choose to earn a degree in clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, substance abuse counseling, or in a school counseling specialization.

During a master’s school counseling degree program, graduate students will complete internships and study a number of areas pertinent to their career. In fact, school counseling programs are dedicated to ensuring that their students all become licensed counselors in the Maryland school system. They thus provide every resource necessary to achieve that end.

Online PhD Degree in School Counseling (PhD)

A doctorate in school counseling will take any counselor over the top in their profession. Public schools base their pay scale on both experience and degrees, so a PhD will earn the top pay for their experience level. On top of this, a PhD will earn the top status in their field. This will help them if they want to publish articles or books on the subject of school counseling.

A doctorate in school counseling may also help students who want to exit the school system and start a private counseling practice. While those at the master’s level may do this as well, a PhD will enable the professional to charge more per hour. They will also have a higher status in the community and should be able to attract more clients.

Become a School Counselor in Maryland

To become professional school counselors in Maryland, candidates need to follow a prescribed course of action. While aspiring teachers have multiple routes to their desired vocation, counselors have one set of instructions. This all starts with the right education, of course.

School counseling professionals, unlike teachers, have a degree of latitude in what they study during their undergraduate years. However, they do need to keep a focus on their goal of working as a counselor so should strongly consider a major or minor in psychology, or perhaps education. After all, they may need to have certain courses on their transcript when they apply for a master’s school counseling degree program. Some popular required courses are developmental psychology and a theory of counseling course.

After completing their undergraduate degrees, students can elect to progress directly into graduate school, or they might consider taking a year or two in between. This time should be spent in jobs that are related to their long-term goal. For instance, some work as teacher's aides, substitute teachers, fully certified teachers, or even non-certified teachers in private schools. Virtually any time spent in a leadership or teaching role with their target age group will be a benefit when they eventually apply for a school counselor's job. Some even work for a while as addiction counselors with a non-master's-level license.

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When the time comes to apply for a master’s school counseling degree program, students should evaluate each of their choices to make sure they choose the program that suits them best. For instance, some programs offer the choice of an MEd or an MA. An MA may entail more research and a thesis rather than coursework. To graduate, students will also have to successfully pass an exam, the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE).

Once they've completed the academic requirements to become professional school counselors, candidates for the profession will need to complete a period of supervised training. In fact, degree programs will require a 100-hour internship. Then, they'll need to complete a 500+ hour in-school practicum  to graduate. The Maryland board will also accept two years of experience in the classroom as a teacher, which is why some earn a teaching degree in their undergraduate programs.

Careers for School Counseling Graduates

  • School Counselor
    A school counselor is an education professional who works with kids to help them overcome any barriers they may have to learning. They may evaluate students for their cognitive abilities and personality traits. School counselors need at least a master’s degree and state licensure to qualify for this profession.
  • Career Counselor
    This counseling profession does help people to lead their best lives, but there are no licensing requirements. Career counselors typically hold a master’s degree and work for colleges and universities. They spend most of their time arranging career fairs that focus on specific industries or career options.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
    These mental health counseling professionals focus on couples and their families. They hold master’s degrees in counseling and may even have specialized degrees in the field. Other credentialed counseling professionals may add the specialty to their skillset with certifications.
  • Social Worker
    Social workers are found working with a wide range of clients. Some work with children and families who need services to help with their various issues. Others might work with prisoners, and there are social workers who work in hospitals where they advocate for patients. A social worker with a master’s social work degree (MSW) can earn a state license to work as an independent counselor who conducts one-on-one psychotherapy.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
    Given the damage done by the opioid epidemic, states need more substance abuse counselors than ever. Most states offer licensure for professionals at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Only those with a master’s (or doctorate) can perform one-on-one counseling services. This is a great first step for someone with an undergraduate degree who wishes to work in mental health.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    This career choice requires a master’s counseling degree and state license. Many will opt for a master’s degree in clinical psychology while others will choose a Master of Social Work degree. Mental health counselors typically work in private practice, though some do team up with other professionals and form clinics with shared administration and other conveniences.
  • Special Education Teacher
    Special education teachers work with students who have various learning difficulties. Some are dyslexic, while others may have more profound developmental delays. Then there are special education teachers who work with deaf or blind students. These education professionals are paid better than others, but they must create detailed, lengthy Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each of their students.
  • Counselor in Private Practice
    Most master’s level counseling professionals work in private practice. This profession requires state licensure and continuing education to maintain one's credentials. Counselors tend to forge specializations such as substance abuse disorder, crisis intervention, and family therapy.
  • Psychology Teacher
    The requirements to teach psychology at the postsecondary level start with a master’s psychology degree. Those with a master’s degree may find that it's difficult to land a full-time, tenure-track position, however. To succeed in this field, it’s generally necessary to earn a PhD in psychology. However, a master’s level instructor who has significant professional experience may be able to defy these employment trends.

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