Mental health counseling is a form of behavioral science that addresses patients' mental health issues and emotional struggles in a face-to-face environment. Counselors diagnose specific problems like anxiety and depression and, over a period of time, develop coping strategies and skill sets to ease their clients' daily lives or adjustment to difficult situations. Counselors also collaborate with other medical professionals to ensure that their patients' specific needs are met.
Why a Bachelor's Degree?
The road to a career in counseling begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Online degree programs are common, affording flexibility for working students or adults making a mid-stream career change. Since the accreditation requirements for practice are somewhat strict, it is vital to earn a degree from an accredited online school.
Counseling is just one way to make use of an education in psychology. A career in counseling requires graduate study to obtain the necessary licensure to counsel patients. There is technically no such thing as a ‘counseling bachelor’s degree’; rather, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a prerequisite to a master’s program in counseling. Other options for graduates with this degree might be careers in human resources, social service agencies, or in medical professionals who work in facilities like nursing homes or in-patient psychiatric hospitals.
Inside a Counseling Bachelor's Degree Program
A psychology bachelor’s degree is a four-year program that typically includes a liberal arts curriculum. Standard education requirements in language arts, basic sciences, and humanities apply, after which students are introduced to the discipline of psychology. Classes on theory and methodology, developmental history, and introductory diagnostic techniques expose aspiring counselors to the field’s vast body of knowledge.
Typical core class requirements for a counseling bachelor’s degree program might include:
- Cognition and Learning
- Social Psychology
- Ethnicity and Cultural Diversity
- Biological Psychology
- Human Sexuality
- Child Development Psychology
Often, students in a program like this are offered the opportunity to choose a concentration in the field. These choices might include organizational psychology, criminal justice, substance abuse, or adolescent studies. Opting to concentrate on a subspecialty at this degree level can increase marketability for postgraduate employment and further prepare students for graduate study.
Most schools require seniors to develop a professional portfolio as part of the Senior Capstone course. This portfolio is comprised of assessment plans, intake documentation, and a treatment plan for a hypothetical case, and sometimes also includes the student’s professional development plan.
What's Next for Counseling Bachelor's Degree Holders?
Along with basic psychological concepts, a degree in psychology imparts graduates with research, writing, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. While this degree does not qualify individuals to practice counseling, it does provide unique qualifications for jobs in many industries. Positions outside of the clinical environment might be found in advocacy, case management, program development or community relations.
Entry-level jobs in counseling and other social services are also options, such as crisis hotline counselor, activities coordinator or care plan supervisor. Basic knowledge of psychology also leads many graduates to careers in human resources, employment recruiting, and placement, customer service or advertising and marketing.
An undergraduate degree in psychology is the first step toward a career in general counseling. Graduates of this type of program are eligible for entrance into a master’s degree program in psychology; many will go on to earn online counseling degrees. Postgraduate study in the field allows aspiring counselors to specialize their study; common online master’s programs include marriage and family therapy, general counseling, forensic psychology, experimental psychology, and others. Students may earn master of arts or a master of science degree, depending on ultimate career goals.