degree-of-interest: Master of Science in Counseling

Navigating Specializations in a Master’s in Counseling Program  

Navigating Specializations in a Master's in Counseling Program

Individuals who feel called to pursue a counseling career will find several opportunities to specialize, and choosing the right counseling specialization within your degree program allows you to personalize your career path. Before you enroll in a counseling master’s degree program, it’s important to confirm that the university you are considering offers the specialization you want. For example, at Carson-Newman University, our online Master of Science in Counseling allows students to choose between three specializations:

  • Clinical Mental Health Online Master of Science in Counseling
  • Professional School Counselor Online Master of Science in Counseling Online Master of Science in Counseling 
  • Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Professional School Counseling

Our guide will help you better understand your specialization options within the field of counseling and determine which counseling specialization is right for you.

Counseling Specializations: Navigating the Landscape

According to the American Counseling Association, all counselors – regardless of specialization — are mental health service providers trained to provide treatment services for mental health disorders, behavioral concerns, and emotional issues. As a result, the counseling field is quite broad, and the number of specializations can seem daunting. Knowing what type of counseling services you are most interested in providing and the types of clients you hope to work with will help you select a counseling specialization that is right for you.

What Factors Should Be Considered When Choosing a Specialization?

You should consider several factors before you finalize your counseling specialization:

  • Prospective Work Environment — Knowing where you want to work and the types of clients you want to work with will help you choose a specialty. For example, if you are interested in working in a school setting, then you should focus on school counseling programs.
  • People You Want to Help — Identifying your area of interest within the counseling field will help you determine the types of clients that you want to work with. For instance, if you are passionate about helping people overcome mental health disorders, then you may be well-suited to a clinical counseling specialization.
  • Personal Strengths and Professional Skill Set — Understanding your strengths and how your personal experiences can help shape your counseling career allows you to identify areas where you might thrive. In some cases, counselors who have endured grief or relationship issues may feel compelled to help their clients work through those types of challenging moments.

Many Different Fields:

  • Personal Growth — This counseling field focuses primarily on working with clients and helping them better understand themselves. It emphasizes improved thought processes and skill building to help individuals live more fulfilling lives.
  • Vocational — Vocational counseling is a form of counseling in which you work directly with clients to help them improve their professional skills and find employment.
  • Educational — In the educational counseling field, counselors work with students to help them overcome challenges in their personal and academic lives as well as prepare for major transitions in their education. At the high school level, for instance, counselors often work with graduating students to assist them with college applications and selections.

Exploring Resources for Decision-Making

As you begin to consider counseling specializations, it’s important to remember that you do not have to make this choice on your own. You have many resources available to help as you navigate this process.

School Resources: Academic Advisors

Academic advisors at your chosen university can provide more information about the specializations available within your master’s degree program and what the coursework looks like within those specializations. They also can provide additional insight about career prospects within that specialization and pathways you can consider.

At Carson-Newman University, we are proud of our dynamic Student Success Team, which consists of a variety of academic professionals who make themselves available to all of our students. Our academic advisors will meet with you to discuss your concerns or answer any questions you may have. In addition, they can help you create a plan for success moving forward.

Internship and Practicum Opportunities

Another way to learn more about your options for specialization is to pursue different internship programs and practicum opportunities. These short-term, temporary positions allow you to see what daily life is like within a particular counseling niche. In many cases, this is the best way to determine whether a specialization is right for you.

In addition to immersing you in real-world scenarios, your internship and practicum opportunities will give you a chance to develop the critical competencies you will need to be successful as a counselor. From dealing with confidential issues to learning how to handle crises, these professional experiences will help you become more confident and capable before you graduate with your master’s degree.

H2: Challenges and Considerations to Know

Counseling is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s not without its challenges. By being aware of some of the most difficult aspects of this field, you can be better prepared to navigate them.

Explore All Specializations

There are many specializations within the counseling field. According to Indeed, some of the most popular specializations in counseling include:

  • Clinical Counseling
  • School Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Vocational Counseling
  • Grief Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Military and Veteran Counseling

It is vitally important that you take the time to consider all specializations available and figure out which one is the best fit for you personally and professionally. By being thorough in your research and pursuing various internship opportunities, you will be able to make a specialization decision that allows you to enjoy a long, rewarding career.

Within each specialization, you will find both benefits and drawbacks. It is best to choose a specialization that aligns with your interests and professional strengths.

Prepare to Be Flexible and Adaptable

Within the counseling profession, you must expect the unexpected. Even after you have done your research and completed multiple internships before choosing your specialization, you may find yourself in a position where your job is nothing like you thought it would be. Depending on where you are employed, you may be working with a different population or demographic than you anticipated, or you may find that your patients are struggling with issues you are ill-equipped to handle. By allowing yourself to be flexible and adaptable, you will become more resilient, which will only make you a better counselor.

The good news is that if you find yourself in a job that doesn’t feel right, there is significant demand for mental health counselors, and you will likely be able to find another position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the counseling field has an anticipated job growth rate of 18 percent between 2022 and 2032, which is much faster when compared to other occupations.

What Is the Earning Potential?

The earning potential for counseling positions tends to increase after a student earns a master’s degree in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for mental health and behavioral counselors with a bachelor’s degree is about $49,700, yet the median annual salary for clinical counselors and school counselors with a master’s degree is $78,000. The BLS notes that the highest earners in the clinical counseling and school counseling field earn as much as $132,000 per year.

Best Advice for Making an Informed Decision

At Carson-Newman University, our team of expert professors and experienced academic advisors find that these are the best steps to take to make an informed decision about your counseling specialization.

Final Research and Interviews

After you finalize your research about the various specializations available in the counseling field, you should conduct interviews with professionals working in those areas. This allows you to ask personal and relatable questions about what life is like in that area of counseling, and it could give you the insight you need to make a final decision about your specialization.

Reflect on Strengths and Aspirations

Taking a moment to reflect on your strengths and accomplishments will give you additional clarity as you select a degree program. For example, if you are a patient and empathetic individual who wants to help young people have the best possible start in life, you may find that pursuing an online master’s in school counseling is the right option for you. Choosing a degree program that aligns with your strengths and interests is so important for your academic success, professional prospects, and personal journey.

Be Open to Changing Specializations

Once you have decided on a specialization, keep an open mind. As you begin to complete your coursework and explore internship opportunities, you may find that the specialization is not quite what you expected. Remember that nothing is set in stone, and there is an entire team of student success professionals available to guide you through any challenge you face. It’s completely possible to change your specialization and pursue a different counseling career without a significant delay. Allowing yourself the chance to start fresh and change specializations will ensure that you enjoy a truly impactful and rewarding career.

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Counseling at Carson-Newman University

As a Christian liberal arts college, Carson-Newman University is dedicated to helping develop the next generation of compassionate and hard-working counseling professionals. Learn more about what specialization will work best for you in your counseling career path. Find out more with Carson-Newman today!

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