Post # 1
- Wedding: June 2012 - Glades Pike Winery, Somerset, PA
So I’ve realized lately that web development, which is what I went to school for and am currently working in, is absolutely not for me. I despise coming to work every day and I feel like a little bit of my soul leaches away into this god-awful cubicle every minute I spend here. I need a career change.
I’ve considered a ton of things: yoga instructor, wedding photographer, phsychologist, stay-at-home wife, making crafts and selling them on Etsy, and everything in between. After many months I’ve finally landed on something that feels right: being a middle school counselor.
The thing is, I only have my associate’s degree in web dev right now. Becoming a counselor would require me to go back to school, YET again (it’ll be my 3rd time and 3rd major…1st time was for photography, I dropped out after a year), this time for a 4-year bachelor’s degree AND a master’s degree as well. And I’ve barely made a dent in my student loans from my first two times in college. To say that I’m terrified is an understatement.
So basically I want to know from you school counselor bees: what degrees do I need? What should I get my bachelor’s in, and what should I get my master’s in? Does it vary by state? I’m in PA, if that makes a difference.
And here’s the thing: would an online bachelor’s degree “look bad”? At this point in time Mr. Wiz and I do not have the means for me to quit my job and become a full, or even half-time student on a brick and mortar campus. I have to keep up my 40 hrs/week job while I go back to school. I would get my master’s from a brick-and-mortar school, but for my bachelor’s right now it’s not an option. Plus, online programs are usually cheaper because there’s no overhead to pay besides technology fees. If it makes a difference I would only look at online courses from “real” colleges that also offer the program on campus as well.
I know that’s a lot of questions, but I wanted to get it all out there in case anyone can answer any of them, or just give general advice…it’s all very appreciated! Thanks guys!
Post # 3
It depends where you live. One of my good friends from my Psych PhD program decided to change paths and become a school counselor…she needs to get a masters in it to be allowed to get certified in our state (it doesn’t matter what your BA is in if you get the masters, but getting into a masters program may be harder entering from an outside field if you have no experience in education).
Look up PA here: http://www.schoolcounselor.org/content.asp?contentid=242
Post # 4
I’m going to also add in this (and I hope not to offend anyone)…but you will have better career opportunities getting a masters from a brick-and-mortar school than from an online place. Elitist or not, most people still do see online-universities as being of lower value (it’s changing somewhat with time, but it will certainly be hard to compete against people who went to a brick-and-mortar program because of the program name prestige and the idea that you get more hands-on work and attention, whereas for-profit schools are viewed as pushing people through for money rather than emphasizing education over the rest–this is how many people see the programs). For example, my friend who just became a school counselor in our old middle school was told that essentially they never consider applicants who got degrees from online-only programs (as opposed to people who just took online classes from brick-and-mortar schools).
Post # 5
I would honestly not go for it right now. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but right now with things the way they are in education, it’s going to be very, very hard to find jobs. Especially in PA… 🙁
My DH’s aunt got her school counselor cert a few months ago, and has found NOTHING. Unless you can move, usually out of state, you might not ever find a job. Most districts are cutting staff or not replacing any retirees. PA has dramatically cut budgets for schools and will continue to. Again, I know it’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s just how it is right now in education.
You could try to volunteer in a district, though, to see if it’s worth all that and to see what it’s like. School counselors are very valuable assets to a district, but are usually very, very overworked. You handle everything from suicide, to IEPS, to scheduling, to dealing with crazy parents, to teaching social skills, to grief… it’s a very stressful, emotionally tolling job. I work very closely with my school’s counselor as part of my job, and she always seems stressed out, but loves what she does.
Post # 6
@subbywife11: I’m going to second this suggestion for volunteering first. You’ll see if you really love it (it ain’t easy!) and the experience will be a huge help in getting into a (good) masters program later since you’re changing fields
Post # 7
I would start by finding a Master’s program that you like– is there anything near you or a place you’d like to go? Talk to their admissions counselors or look through their website to see what competitive applicants need. (You may need the GRE, volunteer experience, etc.) To my knowledge, school counselors take MA courses and then go through an internship/placement to help them gain experience while in their program. You should see if there’s any licensing procedure.
The importance of finding graduate program options now is that some programs won’t require a specific degree– meaning you could use some of your previous classes to transfer into a 4 year program and cut your BA time down. (A lot of schools will use AA degrees to knock at least a year or two off of your enrollment time.)
I also second the suggestion of working with a brick-and-mortar school. I hate to potentially offend anyone, but online programs aren’t favorable in the job selection process.
Post # 8
BearLove is right, it depends on where you live. Also there are two types: school guidance counseling and school adjustment counseling. Don’t know which one you are interested in but adjustment deals more with behavior, family issues, social issues, etc. Guidance does that stuff but also there’s a lot of paperwork, scheduling, etc. In Mass, you have to have your Master’s in school counseling or guidance counseling to be a school counselor (BA is a must but doesn’t matter unless you have a Master’s) I am a teacher now, which honestly, if you want to get your foot in the door, is a GREAT way to start (even subbing). You could also try doing special education as an aid or a paraprofessional etc. just to BE in a school is a really good start. It is definitely not the easiest job to find, but again, if you get in with a particular school system you will be more likely to get a job if something does open up. 🙂
Post # 9
@subbywife11: I completely agree with everything you said.
I am currently in my 2nd year of graduate school for school counseling and it SUCKS!!! I made the MISTAKE of trying to switch careers to become a school counselor and let me tell you, the requirements just to become certified are not worth all the hassle. First off, if you are going to school part-time with the plan of keeping your current job until you finish you can probably nix that. I’m sure not all states follow the same rules/laws but where I am you need 600 hours of counseling work in a school before you can be certified and my program actually requires 750. What’s worse, is that these hours need to be completed in a school setting, during school hours. I cannot tell you how many vacation days I have had to use to go WORK for free in a school. Plus, in order for me to complete this degree, I would HAVE to quit my current job by my 4th year (which I have no intention of doing) as that’s when you do your 600 hour internship. AND, as PPs mentioned, it’s practically IMPOSSIBLE to get a job in education right now. So, you may be quitting a perfectly good job just to be on the unemployment line with a new masters degree that you have to pay for. Can you tell I’m bitter about my choice? Lol.
I’m doing all this to, IF I’M LUCKY ENOUGH TO EVEN FIND A JOB, take a $15,000 pay cut and be just as overworked and miserable as I am now (at least they pay me well where I am now). I’m actually planning on taking a leave of absence after I get my provisional certification next year and I will be sending my resume around to see if it’s even possible to get interviews before I quit my job to finish this program.
You can PM me if you want more info, but I would honestly tell you not to go this route. Try volunteering in a school first. Perhaps try for a parent coordinator position which is basically counseling without the degree.
Post # 10
@mswizard: A. you wouldnt need to go back for 4 years for the bachelors as a lot of your credits from your associates would transfer
B. Depending on the state, you may not need to get a Ph.d to become a counselor, in fact you could get your B.A. in social work, and work in the counseling field while you get your masters in social work, mental health counseling, or marriage and family therapy. In my state, someone with either of those can diagnose mental illness, have a private practice, and bill insurance
But it depends on your state
C. If you care about taking out too much student loan debt don’t go to an online school, even though some of them offer a good education experience they can be very pricey and grants are hard to come by–youre better off applying to a state school–you’d be surprised what kind of finacial aid package or scholarship you could be awarded
D. Before you do all this, it couldn’t hurt to volunteer somewhere to see if this is what you really want. Maybe a suicide hotline or something along those lines–most places are underfunded and if they can get a free intern they’re thrilled.
Post # 11
@subbywife11: This is less true if the degree is less limiting, while the school counselor degree is great–you are limited to what is available in your district. A degree that allows you to have a private practice doesn’t have as many constraints
Post # 12
@sylvia.riggle: That is a good point about counseling in general, although the OP specifically mentioned she was interested in school counseling (middle school in particular) so for her she will very likely have to get a degree specific to counseling (for example, in my state a PhD in experimental psych won’t let you get a school counseling job…it’d have to be in school/counseling psych (a clinical PhD would also be sort of an oddball I guess), or an MA in school couseling/guidance counseling.
Post # 13
I have a few friends who have masters ( brick and mortars) , who went for school counseling.. they live in the north east and its a horrible job market! They want experience usually up front and a very long waiting list.
Its not to deter you, rather just a little inside scoop. If its what you absolutely want to do and you can do studies part time while you work , then its okay- Don’t let anything stop ya!
Post # 14
Where I live most school counselors are teachers (worked in a classroom first) who got Masters degress in Counseling Psychology. That’s 7 years of school…. :S
Post # 15
@mswizard: i dont support going to online schools. with the economy youll be competing with a lot of people that went the traditional route. plus i dont think they are cheaper—theyre usually “private” schools because there’s no public money.
also if you get an online b.a. youll REALLY limit yourself with what masters programs you are eligible for. my masters program was extremely competitive and i know no one with an online bachelors would even be eligible.
i suggest taking one class at a time for your bachelors.
for masters: there are actual school counseling programs. schools my friends went to:
whatever program you choose make sure they are accredited.
other routes you can take:
masters in professional counseling
masters in social work
doctorate in clinical psychology (terminal degree)
now let me say this: this is an investment so dont even go forward if you’re not 100%. time and money. my masters was two internships, seminars, classes and a thesis. i couldnt work because of my internships.
if you really want to be in a school what about becoming a paraprofessional? you couldnt be a counselor but youd definitely be a mentor and you could do this tomorrow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraprofessional_educator
Post # 16
Before taking a step like this, I would highly recommend that you do more research. I think volunteering is a good idea, and network HEAVILY with people who are already in the field. Ask them about their workloads for starters. Also ask them how the job they are doing compares to what they expected and hoped for when they were in school.
I am not a school counselor but I am a public school teacher and I see what our counselor(s) go through and have gone through. I see how they are treated, held accountable and even fired for things beyond their control. I would run far, far, far away from almost any job in public education these days. It is not pretty out there. The warm fuzzies that many of us expected that would come from working with kids has been overshadowed by all of these new rules, procedures, expectations, evaluation systems, budget constraints, etc. etc. I could go on and on. It’s an almost military, regimented, bureaucracratic MESS. I don’t mean to be a downer. But if I were young and just starting out and picking any field in the world, I would think twice about being a school counselor.