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What is Counseling?

Are you interested in enrolling in a counseling degree program in North Dakota? Many colleges and universities offer this and related degrees that can lead to highly rewarding careers in the field. This major is most ideal for individuals who want to help others overcome various challenges in life. Students generally learn how to utilize a wide variety of techniques to offer social, emotional, and mental support to diverse populations. They also gain the knowledge and skills necessary to address numerous psychological conditions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers many counseling professions to be part of the more generalized heading of community and social service occupations. Employment for these jobs is expected to increase by 12% from 2020 to 2030 in the United States. This is faster than the average for all occupations and will result in approximately 346,900 related positions being added to the job market during this timeframe. It’s important to note, however, that some professions will see greater growth than others. The occupations expected to experience the highest increases are genetic counselors, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Some of these professions will grow as much as 26%. The projected growth for rehabilitation counselors, school counselors, and social workers, on the other hand, is significantly less.

While several factors are likely to impact job availability increases for these occupations, the majority of change is likely to result from increasing willingness among general society to seek addiction and mental health counseling services. Another contributor is the rising inclination towards dual treatment care services. More and more physical health professionals are coordinating patient treatments with mental health professionals so that multiple, often related, ailments may be addressed simultaneously. Additionally, many court systems are now inclined to sentence drug offenders to treatment rather than jail time. All of these changes call for an increase in qualified professionals within the field.

Some of the most common responsibilities include evaluating clients, assessing readiness for treatment, supporting skills and behaviors development, encouraging appropriate coping strategies, and managing treatment plans. Counselors may also provide education opportunities for community members and/or serve as advocates for the demographics they work with. These professionals are often employed by 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, but may also establish their own private practices if properly certified.

It's important to realize that, while working in this field can be rewarding, it is also often stressful. The job can be extremely demanding, with large workloads, long hours, and regular on-call requirements. Some specializations also require helping patients work through difficult and/or traumatic experiences, which can be emotionally draining.

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Online Counseling Education in North Dakota

The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the fourth largest in North Dakota. It accounts for approximately $4.6 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2021, the state employed 5,410 community and social service professionals with an annual mean wage of $54,870. Notably, this is slightly above the annual mean wage of $53,380 for all occupations in the state. It is also much higher than the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations in the nation.

Prospective online counseling students will need to choose between traditional, in-person instruction and remote learning. While online options offer greater scheduling flexibility and make it easy to complete coursework from nearly anywhere in the world with internet access, those who intend to work in North Dakota should give preference to colleges and universities located in the state. Not only are these academic institutions better able to prepare students for professional success in the region, but they are also more familiar with North Dakota licensing requirements. Additionally, many of these schools have established relationships with nearby behavioral health facilities, which can lead to more internship and professional employment opportunities.

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There are many different types of counseling professionals who are specially trained to provide a variety of behavioral health services. As a result, most colleges and universities encourage students to designate concentrations that will differentiate their studies and prepare them for a specific kind of work.

Some of the most common counseling specializations include:

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

Professionals in this field may also identify specific populations that they want to work with. Examples include trauma victims, veterans, and addicts. Counselors may also specialize in the treatment of certain age groups such as children, teens, adults, and the elderly. This is important as chosen specialties can significantly impact working environments and the type of tasks performed.

Regardless of specialization, however, most counselors are dedicated to helping their patients create positive and lasting changes that will lead to healthier and happier lives. Responsibilities generally involve utilizing relevant knowledge and skills to assist with social, emotional, and/or mental health problems. Their goal is often to assist people in managing physical and psychological difficulties, which may or may not be associated with other health conditions. As a result, it’s relatively common for these professionals to coordinate care with other medical and mental health experts, especially because they are not permitted to prescribe medications of any kind.

Those seeking counseling and other behavioral health jobs in North Dakota will require some amount of higher education. Prospective students will be able to choose from programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. While professional opportunities exist for graduates of every degree type, the state necessitates that all licensed counselors possess master’s degrees. It’s important to select a program that aligns best with your ultimate career goals.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Online associate degrees in counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students two years to complete. While most are offered at community colleges, some four-year institutions may also be accredited to award associate degrees. Academic programs at this level are usually comprised of both general education and subject-specific classes. Those enrolled can anticipate receiving an introduction to the field, as well as developing basic knowledge and skills related to behavioral health. Students are also likely to learn about various psychological theories and models.

Graduates can choose to pursue entry-level employment or apply for further education. The most common professional opportunities include counseling assistants, human service assistants, and caseworkers. Associate online degrees are not, however, sufficient to obtain counseling licensure in North Dakota. Those who wish to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs can often transfer the academic credits they have earned. Most colleges and universities accept between 60 and 90 hours of coursework from other accredited institutions. This means most incoming students with associate degrees in counseling can start as juniors instead of freshmen.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

Online bachelor’s degrees in counseling generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately four to six years to complete. Most are offered at traditional, four-year colleges and universities. Academic programs at this level are still comprised of general education and subject-specific classes. Those enrolled can anticipate receiving a more thorough introduction to the field, with more extensive opportunities available to develop the knowledge and skills needed to be successful as behavioral health professionals. Students are also likely to learn about important counseling theories and concepts.

Again, graduates can choose to pursue entry-level employment or apply for further education. While they will qualify for many of the same professions mentioned above, those with bachelor’s degrees will be more competitive and tend to have better job prospects than those with associate degrees. Notably, bachelor’s degrees are still not sufficient to obtain counseling licensure in North Dakota.

Alternatively, graduates can enroll in master’s degree programs. Undergraduate credits earned do not transfer to graduate schools, but some colleges and universities do require certain prerequisites be completed before admittance. Additionally, prospective students should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test score standards.

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Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

Online master’s degrees in counseling generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Most are offered at traditional, four-year colleges and universities. Academic programs at this level are comprised subject-specific classes only, with no emphasis placed on general liberal arts. Those enrolled can anticipate receiving instruction in advanced counseling practices and theories, with professors utilizing a mixture of classroom learning, research, and practical application. Students may also need to complete supervised practicums or clinical internships prior to graduation.

Graduates can choose to pursue further education, but most opt to obtain professional licensure to become counselors in North Dakota. Not only will those with master’s degrees qualify for this credentialing process, but they also tend to have improved employment prospects. This often leads to more job security and higher salary potential.

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Online PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

Online doctoral degrees in counseling can consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours and often take full-time students five to seven years to complete. Most are offered at traditional, four-year colleges and universities. Academic programs of this type are comprised of high-level, subject-specific classes relevant to special topics in the field. Those enrolled should anticipate conducting extensive independent research that culminates in the defense of a written dissertation before a graduating board.

As a terminal degree, graduates cannot choose to pursue further education. This type of degree is only necessary for a few select professions in the field. It is most appropriate for professionals interested in careers related to behavioral health research, leadership, and/or academia.

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Become a Counselor in North Dakota

The first step to becoming a counselor in North Dakota is identifying your preferred specialization. Knowing your ultimate career goals will make it much easier to select appropriate academic programs.

Counselors in the state must be licensed through the North Dakota Board of Counselor Examiners (NDBCE). All licensed counselors must meet the minimum established education requirement of obtaining master’s degrees. According to the NDBCE, acceptable academic programs will be identified specifically as master’s degree counseling programs in the graduate bulletin of accredited academic colleges and universities. Possible majors include counseling, counselor education, counseling and guidance, and counseling and development. Applicants must also complete statewide and nationwide criminal history checks.

There are three counseling licensure levels available in North Dakota: Licensed Associate Professional Counselor (LAPC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).

The LAPC is an initial, two-year credential during which the professional has all of the rights and privileges granted to LPCs but are continually supervised by a licensed professional.

Additional requirements include:

  • Specific core counseling coursework within the master’s degree
  • Three letters of reference from master’s degree professors, advisors, or supervisors
  • A two-year Plan of Supervision
  • An Intent to Practice statement
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE)
  • Minimum of a 700-hour counseling practicum and/or internship

The LPC credential is the full professional license that may be awarded after all LAPC criteria are met, as well as the following supervision requirements:

  • 100 hours of direct supervision during the two-year LAPC
  • 400 hours of client counseling contact for the two-year LAPC supervisory period
  • A signed recommendation for LPC licensure by the supervising professional

The LPCC credential is a specialty license in clinical mental health counseling that is awarded to LPCs who have completed the following advanced clinical requirements:

  • A total of 60 graduate semester credits that include abnormal psychology, psychopathology, and clinical counseling skills
  • 700 hours of training in a supervised practice and/or internships relevant to counseling
  • Two years of post-masters supervised clinical experience in a clinical setting
  • Three letters of reference from clinical professionals
  • A passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)

It’s also important to note that addiction counselors have different requirements and must obtain licensure through the North Dakota Board of Addiction Counseling Examiners (NDBACE). Professionals may apply to become Licensed Addiction Counselors (LACs) or Licensed Master Addiction Counselors (LMACs). Base requirements include submission of official transcripts, documentation verifying clinical training completing, two letters of reference, passing NCAC-II or MAC examination scores, and all necessary fees.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

You will qualify for a wide variety of employment opportunities after earning a degree in counseling in North Dakota. While the careers available will depend on the level of education attained, the state employs behavioral health professionals of all kinds. Salaries and daily duties will vary, but some of the most common jobs available to graduates include the following.

  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors are responsible for helping their clients identify and achieve career goals. These professionals use an assortment of assessment tools to gauge personality traits, interests, and aptitudes before determining possible professions. They also offer advice on how best to meet any associated education requirements, conduct mock interviews, and assist during career transitions. According to PayScale, career counselors make an average base salary of $46,450 per year.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers are responsible for providing mental and emotional support to assigned patients in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, or substance abuse treatment centers. These professionals often conduct psychosocial evaluations, coordinate patient care, and negotiate with third party groups. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
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  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors are responsible for assisting people in dealing with the losses of loved ones. These professionals often provide guidance, helping their patients work through the various stages of grief in healthier and more productive ways. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors are responsible for diagnosing and aiding people with mental health conditions. These professionals help patients work through and/or resolve existing issues using a variety of techniques and treatments. Depending on the situation, they may conduct one-on-one or group counseling sessions. Notably, some mental health counselors specialize in particular types of patient care, such as young adult therapy or addiction counseling. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
  • School Counselor
    School counselors are responsible for assisting students with a wide variety of behavioral health issues, as well as to helping them reach personal, academic, and social goals. These professionals often offer various types of assistance and support, much of which prepares students for higher education. They also provide counseling for new students who may have difficulty adjusting to the area and often intervene during challenging situations. School counselors can refer students to other support services when needed and/or consult with parents. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors are responsible for providing support and services to patients struggling with or recovering from substance use and abuse conditions. These professionals often develop and oversee treatment plans, implement various therapeutic treatments, and provide counseling in individual and group settings as necessary. They also track patient progress, document observations, and maintain accurate health histories. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors are responsible for providing counseling services to patients residing in live-in facilities. In many cases, these professionals utilize individual and group counseling to help their patients deal with addictions, disabilities, or mental health issues. They often oversee treatment plans, handle crises, and resolve conflicts among residents in the facilities. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
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