Retraining as an adult in an entirely new field such as school counseling can seem like a daunting prospect. You have to go back to college-level education, potentially after a long break, and study a lot of topics that you might have no background knowledge of. These days however it’s becoming more common to take master’s courses and other degrees as a mature student, and it’s also easier than ever before to switch careers later in life. This means you shouldn’t think that achieving your dream of becoming a school counselor is out of reach, no matter how old you are. So if you’ve been looking at online school counseling programs and considering giving this career path a go, here are answers to some questions you might have. Hopefully, they will help you to determine whether it’s time to make that leap of faith and enroll!
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What does a school counselor do?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A school counselor provides support and guidance to students of all ages, from elementary school up to college age. Their main role is to help young people navigate their educational years successfully and achieve their full potential both academically and personally.
The duties and responsibilities you will have can be divided into three main areas: academic assistance, career guidance, and emotional support. For example, you could find yourself evaluating a student’s performance, helping students to set and achieve academic goals, working with them to develop good study habits, or providing support to those with special educational needs. You could also assist students with college, scholarship, and job applications and decide what subject to major in and what career to aim for.
In terms of personal and emotional support, this can involve supporting students suffering from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression or who are struggling with social issues such as bullying. You could also work with students who are exhibiting behavioral problems in class or skipping lessons altogether. The role can also require you to input various school policies or teach classes on relevant issues such as drug misuse.
What makes a good school counselor?
There are a number of skills and traits you will need in order to become an excellent school counselor. Many of these are abilities that you will work on in online school counseling programs, for example, by studying specific counseling techniques and taking part in mock counseling sessions. However, some of the other required characteristics are more personal and can be developed independently.
For instance, school counselors must be kind, compassionate, understanding, and empathetic people who can put themselves in the shoes of those they are trying to help. This enables you to relate to your students, build up trust with them, and ultimately help them more effectively. As such, the job also involves lots of patience, integrity, and honesty.
Other key skills include professionalism and communication because you’ll be working with a large number of students, parents, and teachers from all different backgrounds. Similarly, you will need good organization and time management skills to handle a wide variety of cases at the same time. Mediation and conflict resolution will come in handy when managing disputes between students or between students and teachers, and adaptability is important because you might have to cope with unexpected problems or rearrange your schedule if a student needs to see you out of the blue.
What are the benefits of becoming a school counselor?
Taking online school counseling programs and becoming a school counselor can offer you a number of benefits. Firstly it gives you the chance to make a real and valuable contribution to society by helping children develop into happy and productive young people. Your actions can make a lasting positive difference to their lives and also to the wider community. This makes it a very rewarding career to embark upon. Secondly, school counseling is an industry that’s set to experience faster than average job growth, so you can expect to enjoy good levels of job security, employability, and financial security after qualifying.
How do you become a school counselor?
In order to become a school counselor, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree, then enroll in a master’s program in school counseling. Both on-campus and online school counseling programs are available, as well as part-time and full-time study options. In addition to graduating with this qualification, you will be required to complete a certain number of placement hours. This involves working in a real educational setting under the guidance of a certified school counselor, where you can gain valuable experience and put what you’ve learned into practice. The requirements for becoming licensed as a school counselor vary from state to state, so be sure to check the details for where you live. As a guideline, you can expect to have to undergo a background check and pass a licensed professional counselor exam.
What do you study on online school counseling programs?
For both online school counseling programs and those held on campus, you will study a series of modules on topics relevant to the field. Some of these will be compulsory, and for the remainder of your credits, you will have a choice from a list of electives. Each college will have its own unique curriculum; however, you can expect to cover subjects such as counseling techniques and theories, crisis intervention, various aspects of psychology, educational assessment, ethical and legal issues surrounding school counseling, and certain topics in mental health.
As well as taking these modules, you will normally also be required to get some hands-on practice by doing some internships. These will be conducted in a relevant real-world setting, where you can gain valuable feedback and advice from experienced professionals in the field. Depending on where you study, you might also have to complete an independent research project or write a lengthy dissertation toward the end of the program. This will be on a topic of your choice and is a great chance to take a deep dive into an area of school counseling that you’re particularly passionate about.
Is it better to take online school counseling programs or study on campus?
This is a more difficult question because it depends on your personal preferences and unique life circumstances. For example, suppose you want to continue working in your current day job while you study or have existing family obligations that make attending classes difficult. In that case, online school counseling programs can offer you the flexibility you need. They enable you to study at a time, place, and pace that suits you without sacrificing anything in terms of the quality of your education. Plus, your internships will still be carried out in person so that you won’t miss out on this crucial experience either.
On the other hand, for those hoping for the full, traditional college experience of sports games, late-night study sessions in the library, and extracurricular activities, a campus program is probably a better choice. Many people also find networking with their fellow students easier this way. Ultimately the decision will come down to exactly what you want to get out of your study experience, but rest assured that both options are equally good in terms of career progression and job opportunities.
How do I choose between online school counseling programs?
Once you have decided between online school counseling programs and campus courses, you’ll need to consider a number of other factors to narrow down your choices even further and pick which ones to apply to. The first step is to look at the module lists offered by different colleges in order to find those with a curriculum that covers the topics you are most interested in. Other aspects to think about include whether you meet the entry requirements if you want to study full time or part-time, the reputation of both the college and the program, and the support services offered.
A good tip is to look at the percentage of graduates who pass the licensed professional counselor exam and go on to be employed as school counselors. You should also make sure that the course has all the relevant accreditations and offers help with finding placements for your internships. Remember, you can always contact the admissions tutors if you have any questions about the course or your suitability for it.
How do I apply for online school counseling programs?
Once you’ve chosen between one and three online school counseling programs you like the look of, you’ll be able to start putting together your applications. This generally involves filling out a form and submitting it along with supporting materials such as your resume, certificates and transcripts from your previous studies, and academic or professional references who can testify to your suitability for the program.
You might also be asked to write a personal essay about why you want to study these online school counseling programs and become a school counselor. This is a key part of the application, so take your time with it. The idea is to show the admissions tutors that you are passionate about the program and the career and that you can successfully complete the course. Remember to check carefully for any spelling or grammar errors before you submit it!
At this stage, you should also be thinking about how you are going to fund your studies. For instance, do some research to find out whether you are eligible for any financial aid or if there are any scholarships you can apply for.
What is the best way to prepare for online school counseling programs?
If you’ve never completed any virtual learning courses before, there are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself for online school counseling programs. For instance, it might be worth signing up for a free short course in order to get used to the concept. This doesn’t even have to be in a relevant topic; the idea is simply to become more comfortable with the sorts of software you’ll be using and the types of learning and teaching methods involved.
Another helpful idea is to contact your college before the start of your first semester to see if you can get hold of a reading list or some other recommended resources. By looking through some relevant books and articles in advance, you’ll prime your mind for learning and get yourself familiar with the sorts of topics that you’ll be covering. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything yet; it’s more about getting an initial overview of the subject that you can then build upon in your lectures and seminars.
Finally, before studying for online school counseling programs, you want to make sure that you have a suitable study space ready. Key factors include having good lighting to prevent eye strain, an ergonomic setup to prevent backache and posture problems, and enough space to store your books, notes, and stationery.
Can I succeed as a mature student?
People are often concerned about returning to college as a mature student; however, in reality, being older gives you plenty of advantages. For instance, you likely have a better idea of exactly what you want out of the course and your future career, plus a wide variety of life experiences to lean on. You may also have a clearer notion of how you learn best – for example, whether you prefer absolute silence or background music if you are most productive first thing in the morning or late at night, and what types of study resources you like to use. Plus, it will be easier for you to bond with your professors and tutors because you’ll be closer in age to them.
So don’t be intimidated by the idea of studying later in life. You’ll almost certainly find other mature students on your course which you can bond with or a college society specifically for older learners. Remember to practice self-care and to take advantage of your college’s support services if you find yourself struggling – these are available both on online school counseling programs and courses held on campus.