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What is Counseling?

Are you interested in counseling degree programs in Mississippi? The state is home to many colleges and universities that offer this and related majors, making it easy to find an option that works well for you.

Counseling is an ideal major for individuals who want to help others overcome various challenges in life. Most academic programs focused on counseling are designed to teach students about a wide variety of techniques and how to use them to provide social, emotional, and mental support to future patients. While there are many different types of counselors, all are dedicated to assisting patients and helping them create positive and lasting changes. Those enrolled in counseling degrees can also expect to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work with many different demographics, from small children to the elderly.

According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for many counseling occupations is expected to increase in the United States from 2020 to 2030. Some professions will see greater growth than others, however. Genetic counselors, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists are likely to see the largest increases, while the projected growth for rehabilitation counselors, school counselors, and social worker positions is expected to be somewhat less. Top employment opportunities in the field can expect increases of up to 26%, which is significantly more than the average of tracked occupations. Overall, growth in this sector is expected to add approximately 84,800 new counseling jobs nationwide per year.

Most of the growth mentioned above is likely to result from peoples’ increasing willingness to seek addiction and mental health counseling services in the United States. It’s also becoming more common for mental health and physical health professionals to coordinate patient care. When possible, professionals try to treat multiple ailments simultaneously, which is likely to increase demand for services counselors offer. Additionally, many court systems now prefer to sentence drug offenders to treatment rather than jail time, resulting in even more need for qualified professionals in the field.

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Counseling Education in Mississippi

The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the third largest in Mississippi. And it accounts for approximately $10 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2020, the state employed 14,990 community and social service professionals. This included 1,770 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, as well as 2,140 educational, guidance, and career counselors. The annual mean wage for community and social service occupations in Mississippi, which includes most types of counselors, was $40,960.

School location should be a consideration for prospective students interested in counseling degrees. Those who intend to work in Mississippi should give strong preference to colleges and universities located within the state. While online learning options can be convenient and make it easy to enroll anywhere in the United States, local institutions offer many benefits. Most importantly, they ensure graduates are familiar with and prepared to apply for state counseling credentials. Additionally, many schools work hard to establish relationships with companies and organizations to make facilitate internship and employment opportunities in the region.

There are many different types of counseling professionals who work in the field. While it’s possible to major in general counseling, many colleges and universities offer students opportunities to designate concentrations. These designations, or specialties, function to differentiate studies from general counseling curriculum toward more specific areas. Students typically choose concentrations that align with the kind of work they plan to perform after graduation.

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Some of the most common specialties include:

  • Addiction
  • Bereavement
  • Eating Disorders
  • Family
  • Mental Health
  • Military
  • Trauma

Some academic tracks allow students to specialize in working with specific populations such as children, teens, adults, or the elderly. Again, this can have a significant impact on the type of opportunities available after graduation.

Obviously, a student’s specialty and preferred population will directly impact the daily tasks performed. In general, however, counselors work to help their patients live healthier, happier lives. They use their knowledge and skills to assist others with a wide variety of social, emotional, and mental health problems. Counselors may also help patients manage physical and psychological difficulties that are related to other health conditions. It’s important to realize, however, that counselors cannot prescribe medications of any kind. As a result, these professionals regularly coordinate with other medical and mental health experts when developing and managing treatment plans.

Responsibilities can vary quite drastically between positions, but some of the most common tasks performed by counselors include evaluating clients and assessing readiness for treatment, assisting in skills and behaviors development, assisting patients in developing coping strategies, and developing and reviewing treatment plans and goals. It’s also common for these professionals to provide education opportunities for community members. In some situations, they will also serve as advocates for the populations they work with.

Work settings also vary, with some counselors managing their own private practices and others working in family services offices, care centers, hospitals, schools, community/vocational rehabilitation facilities, outpatient mental health, substance abuse centers, service centers, hospitals, or residential substance abuse facilities.

Those interested in this field should consider the potentially stressful nature of the work. While counselors are in positions to help people lead happier and healthier lives, the job can be demanding. Professionals often must manage large workloads, long hours, and on-call status during evenings, nights, and/or weekends.

Most counseling professionals have some sort of higher education. While there are some related jobs that require only high school diplomas or GEDs, the vast majority of employment opportunities necessitate candidates have degrees. Prospective students can choose from associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. For licensure and certification purposes, most enroll in graduate-level programs. Ultimately, however, students should base their academics on the base requirements for their ideal career in the field.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Associate degrees in counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students two years to complete graduation requirements. These degrees are often offered by community colleges. While degree specifics vary, students typically take a mixture of general education and counseling-specific classes. Professors provide a general overview and base introduction to the field, focusing instruction on topics necessary to be successful in entry-level professions. Most curriculums do begin delving into various psychological theories and models.

This type of degree is generally sufficient for individuals seeking to gain entry-level employment in related jobs quickly. Some common careers available to graduates include counseling assistant, human service assistant, and caseworker. Prospective students should realize, however, that the most successful candidates will possess more advanced degrees. Those with associate degrees only will not qualify for licensure in Mississippi.

As associate degrees in counseling often serve as a good introduction to the field, most graduates use them to jumpstart their educations. Community colleges tend to charge lower tuition rates and the credits earned from accredited institutions can be transferred to traditional schools with relative ease. In general, an associate degree equals approximately two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time counseling students approximately 4 to 6 years to complete. Curriculums differ, but students can expect to take a mixture of general education and counseling-specific classes. Instruction typically centers on important counseling theories and concepts that will help prepare students for further study at the graduate level. Instructors also strive to help students develop critical thinking and communication skills.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals striving to become professional counselors in Mississippi. It is not, however, enough to satisfy licensure qualification. Rather, those pursuing licensure in the state will need bachelor’s degrees prior to enrolling in master’s degree programs. Prospective students should also plan to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) and achieve a minimum score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Major alternatives include psychology, sociology, and clinical social work.

Alternatively, graduates can choose to apply for employment in entry-level positions related to the field. Those who choose to enter the workforce will be slightly more competitive than individuals who possess associate degrees in counseling.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

Master’s degrees in counseling typically consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time counseling students approximately two years to complete. Programs vary from institution to institution, but most are designed to provide in-depth instruct on advanced counseling practices and theories. Students can anticipate direct classroom instruction, as well as research project assignments and opportunities to practice the application of various concepts prior to graduation. Additionally, most colleges and universities require some sort of supervised practicum or clinical internship.

This type of degree is necessary for individuals seeking counseling licensure in Mississippi. Graduates can begin the process of applying for licenses and/or choose to pursue further education at the doctoral level.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

Doctoral degrees in counseling can consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours that often take full-time students five to seven years to complete. Every institution is different, but programs are typically meant to provide a much more comprehensive assessment of the field. Students can also expect a greater emphasis on leadership and research.

This type of degree is rarely required for employment in counseling, but it can be beneficial. This is especially true for individuals striving to achieve higher education instructor positions or who want to conduct research related to specialty areas. Doctorates can also provide professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue leadership positions and other jobs in academia.

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Become a Counselor in Mississippi

The first step to becoming a counselor in Mississippi is deciding what kind of professional you intend to be. A degree in counseling can lead to a number of different careers in the field. Knowing you specific aspirations will make it easier to select an appropriate academic program and, if applicable, a concentration. This will also help you determine which type if license is necessary, if any.

In Mississippi, there are three primary types of licensure: Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (P-LPC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S). Each has its own education, examination, and experience requirements that must be fulfilled. Notably, the state does recognize licenses obtained in other states. These individuals are called Licensed Professional Counselors by Universal.

Provisional Licensed Professional Counselors (P-LPCs) have met all pre-application requirements. They are approved to offer professional counseling or psychotherapy services under the supervision of a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S). P-LPCs must have completed a qualifying master’s degree and passed the National Counselor Examination (NCE).

Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) must also meet all pre-application requirements to become a certified counselor. They are approved to practice independent counseling without supervision. LPCs must have completed a qualifying master’s degree in counseling with 60 semester hours. They also need a passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the Mississippi Jurisprudence Examination. Additionally, these professionals must have completed all necessary Supervised Experience Hours.

Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisors (LPC-Ss) must have been practicing mental health counseling for a minimum of five years. They must have held a Mississippi LPC license and been in good standing for at least two of the five years. Additionally, these professionals are required to complete all supervisory education requirement prior to being certified by the Board to serve as a supervisor.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors assist other in identifying, pursuing, and achieving their academic and career goals. These professionals use various assessment tools to help their clients identify the best potential jobs based on personality, interest, and aptitude. They also offer advice regarding how to meet associated education requirements and may conduct mock interviews. According to PayScale, career counselors make an average base salary of $46,450 per year.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social provide mental and emotional support to clients after conducting psychosocial evaluations. These professionals meet with patients, coordinate their care, and negotiate with third party groups for additional services when necessary. They often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, and substance abuse treatment centers. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors help people process through the various stages of grief after loved ones have passed away or when they experience other upsetting life events, like a divorce. Sometimes referred to as bereavement counselors, these professionals possess exceptional listening skills. A large part of their jobs revolve around graining a better understanding of the underlying feelings and emotions involved in each individual loss. They work to ensure patients deal with loss in healthy ways. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
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  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat mental health conditions. These professionals then work to help patients work through and/or resolve identified concerns. They often conduct one-on-one counseling sessions but may also coordinate group counseling. Mental health counselors commonly specialize in particular type of counseling, such as young adult therapy or addiction treatment. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors oversee treatment plans for individuals at live-in patient facilities. These professionals often offer individual and group counseling to address a wide variety of conditions including addiction, disabilities, and/or mental health diagnoses. They also work to resolve conflicts within the residence and may be responsible for handling any crises events. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
  • School Counselor
    School counselors help students identify and reach goals in their personal, academic, and social lives. These professionals provide various forms of support, but their primary focus is often preparation for higher education. They may also provide counseling for new students and consultations with parents when necessary. School counselors also provide assistance during challenging situations, refer kids to other support services, and aid students in overcoming common obstacles. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Substance Abuse / Addiction Counselor
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors work with patients diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. These professionals often develop and oversee treatment plans for patients and provide counseling in individual and group settings. They also implement therapeutic treatments and track patient progress by maintaining updated health histories. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.

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