These days online learning is big business. This is partly a result of COVID-19 restrictions forcing educational institutions all across the world to close their doors and switch to virtual learning; however, this is far from the only reason. Even before the pandemic, online study was growing in popularity thanks to the convenience and flexibility it offers, with distance learning making it easier than ever to level up your qualifications from the comfort of your own home or a local coffee shop.
It’s not only short courses and free certifications that you can take online either. In addition to those sorts of programs, there are now also a wealth of degrees available to earn via virtual learning. This enables you to boost your qualifications, further your career, or retrain in an entirely new field without having to attend classes on campus – perfect for those with existing work and family commitments.
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When it comes to distance degrees, the variety of subjects and qualifications you can study is surprisingly wide. You can choose anything from an online bachelor’s degree in nursing to an online masters in school counseling. The latter is a particularly good choice if you’ve been hoping to start a career in a rewarding field that allows you to dedicate yourself to helping young people reach their full potential.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the role of a school counselor, the experience of studying for an online masters in school counseling, and also give you some top tips for successful virtual learning.
What does the role of a school counselor involve?
A school counselor works with students of all ages from elementary school up to college level, offering them guidance and support as they navigate their formative years in the academic environment. The exact tasks and duties the role involves will differ depending on the institution you are employed by and the grade of the students you work with, as each age group has its own specific needs. You’ll learn more about this on your online masters in school counseling; however, the following list gives you a good overview of the main aspects of the job:
- Administering aptitude tests and using other means to determine a student’s unique strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and interests. Based on your evaluations, you can then help them figure out what classes to take and set realistic academic goals.
- Working with students to assist them in the development of key life skills and study habits, from time management and organization to taking effective notes and preparing for exams.
- Offering emotional support to students who are struggling with a variety of mental health conditions, ranging from anxiety, stress, and depression to eating disorders and substance misuse.
- Supporting students who are having trouble with social issues such as bullying or conflicts with teachers. This could include mediating difficult situations that arise between different students or students and school staff.
- Counseling students on their future options for colleges and careers and assisting them with their applications for courses, jobs, and scholarships.
- Offering input on school policies regarding a number of relevant issues such as bullying, and also teaching classes on these subjects.
- Referring students and families to external professionals or resources where appropriate.
- Maintaining student records and completing other administrative tasks.
What are the benefits of qualifying with an online masters in school counseling?
Completing an online masters in school counseling and becoming a school counselor can bring you a number of different benefits. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, it enables you to dedicate your career to helping young people during what is often a difficult time in their lives. You can make a real and lasting difference to their futures by encouraging them to achieve their full potential and make the most of all the opportunities available to them.
In addition, this is a field in which you can expect to enjoy high levels of job security, financial stability, and employability. School counseling is a valuable part of the education system, and the job outlook in the sphere is strong. The course is also a great chance to broaden your professional network, and as such, an online masters in school counseling is well worth putting in the time and effort to achieve.
Finally, completing an online masters in school counseling is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a subject that interests you. Plus, in addition to the subject-specific knowledge you gain, you will boost many of your transferable skills. This includes critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, analytical skills, and decision making. These will be of great use to you regardless of the career that you progress to after graduating.
What is it like to study on an online masters in school counseling?
When you take an online masters in school counseling, you can expect the program to last approximately two or three years on a full-time basis and three or four years if you study part-time. It involves completing a series of academic modules, some of which will be compulsory and others that you will be able to choose from a list of electives. The exact topics available for you to study will vary according to the college you enroll with, but the list below offers a good overview of the sort of modules available:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Biological Bases of Behavior
- Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- Counseling for College and Career Readiness
- Counseling Theory and Techniques
- Crisis Intervention, Trauma Response, and Emergency Management
- Developmental Psychology
- Educational Assessment and Intervention
- Group Counseling
- Introduction to Educational Research
- Introduction to Special Education and Learning Disabilities
- Issues and Standards in Professional Counseling
- Management of School Counseling Programs
- Mental Health and Substance Use
- Multicultural Counseling
- Principles of School Counseling
- Roles and Responsibilities of the School Counselor
- School Counseling Program Development and Evaluation
When it comes to an online masters in school counseling, these modules will be delivered using a variety of virtual learning and teaching methods. For instance, this could include live or prerecorded lectures, online discussion forums, and message boards, interactive quizzes, reading lists, and written assignments.
There may also be residency courses to attend in person, where you can take part in mock counseling sessions and other activities to put what you’ve been learning into practice in a safe and supportive environment. This is a great opportunity to get valuable feedback from your peers as well as guidance from academic staff.
What are the advantages of studying for an online masters in school counseling?
There are many different advantages to be gained from choosing to study for an online masters in school counseling rather than a traditional course on campus. Perhaps the most important of these is the flexibility that such programs offer. Distance learning enables you to study at a time and pace that suits you. This means you can fit your studies around your current job, existing hobbies, or looking after your kids or elderly relatives.
Linked with this is the chance to craft your ideal study environment. The fact that you can study at any place you want to means that those who like absolute silence can retreat to a library or their home office, whereas those who prefer some background noise can settle in at a coffee shop. Whether you like to study at the crack of dawn, on your lunch break, or after dark, online learning gives you that freedom.
An online masters in school counseling also opens up doors in terms of where you can enroll. Rather than being limited to those colleges you can reasonably commute to or are happy to move to, you can choose to take a course with any institution worldwide. In addition, online study can also be cheaper as a result of lower tuition fees and saving you money on factors such as commuting and accommodation.
Finally, studying for an online qualification is a great way to improve your computing skills. You will be using a range of cutting-edge software in a virtual learning environment, which could prove useful if you need to use them in a professional capacity after you graduate.
Are there any disadvantages to studying an online masters in school counseling?
It’s important to recognize firstly that there are no major disadvantages to online study that should put you off taking a distance learning degree. At the same time, you ought to be aware of certain differences between these and traditional degree programs to help you choose the most appropriate study experience for you.
As a distance learner you will need to take responsibility for your own learning, making sure you show up, put in the work, and complete all of your assignments on time. This might sound daunting; however, it’s great training for your time management and organizational skills. It also helps you develop into a more independent student. Plus, successfully completing an online masters in school counseling while still holding down your day job looks impressive on your resume!
Virtual learning means that your socializing and networking with other students and the academic staff must also be done virtually. As we have all realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is more than possible, but if you’re looking forward to taking part in group study sessions in the library followed by drinks at the campus bar, then distance courses might not satisfy you.
Top tips for doing an online master’s in school counseling alongside work and home life
Don’t panic if the idea of combining an online masters in school counseling with your current job or existing family obligations seems a little overwhelming. Plenty of people do so every academic year, and there are lots of tips out there to help you make the experience easier. Here are some of the best:
- Work out your study schedule in advance and stick to it. Take a look at when you have time available for college, and when you definitely can’t study, plan accordingly. It doesn’t matter whether you get your learning done first thing before work or last thing at night, as long as you complete all of your reading and assignments. Don’t forget to take exams, coursework deadlines, and other factors into account.
- Set up a dedicated study space. This will help your brain to get into learning mode when you sit down. If you have a home office you can work in, that’s great, but if not, even a table in the corner of another room will be fine. Just make sure it has an ergonomic setup, good lighting, so you don’t strain your eyes, and enough room for all your books, notes, and stationery.
- Get support when you need it. Whether it’s making use of the services offered by your college or asking someone to watch the kids while you write your essays, don’t be afraid to reach out to others.
- Practice self-care. It’s always important to look after yourself, especially when you’re taking on extra work as an online masters in school counseling. Simple actions like eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep can keep you physically healthy and help your brain function more efficiently. That means you’ll not only avoid burnout; you might also boost your grades!
How to prepare for an online master’s in school counseling
Once you’ve made it through the admissions process and received an acceptance letter for an online masters in school counseling program, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared for the beginning of your first semester.
For instance, try speaking to your college about getting a copy of the reading lists for some of the introductory courses in advance. Browsing some relevant books or articles will help you to get in the right frame of mind for the degree program and familiarize yourself with the material you’ll be studying.
For those who have never studied virtually before, it can be helpful to take a free short online course on a relevant topic to get used to the way that distance learning works. This is a great chance to boost your confidence before your first day and maybe even practice using some of the same software. Good luck!