101Careers in Counseling

In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!

Some counselors in the field who go on for a doctoral degree in counselor education will teach in graduate counseling programs (usually called “counselor education”). Professors of counselor education train graduate students to become professional counselors in master’s and doctoral degree programs.

Degree Required

Tenure track (or full-time) professors of counselor education are required to have a doctoral degree. Earlier, most professors in graduate counseling programs held doctoral degrees in counseling psychology, though now with counseling as a distinct profession from counseling psychology, the doctoral degree in counselor education is preferred; for CACREP accredited programs, a doctorate in counselor education is required.
The preferred counselor education doctorate is a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) in counselor education, though the traditional doctorate of education (EdD) in counselor education is still offered.

Issues to Understand
Traditionally, the professor’s job was more about research than about teaching, though teaching was always important for advancement. In today’s higher education world, the “teaching–scholarship” ratio depends on the type of institution at which a professor works. For large research institutions with doctoral degree programs in counselor education, research is very important, and professors will need to spend a lot of time conducting research and publishing books, journal articles, and the like. For master’s degree programs, some research is required for tenure and promotion, and teaching ability will be more emphasized than it is at large, doctoral granting universities. In addition, there are now virtual institutions, such as Capella University and Walden University, that offer CACREP-accredited counseling programs. These institutions usually hire only part-time faculty, many of whom hold only a master’s degree. Research is not important at these institutions, and the number of classes professors teach depends on their contract. At such institutions, almost 100% of the classes are virtual.

Best Aspects of the Job
Some of the best parts of being a professor are love for research, fulfillment in training future professionals, tenure, and the freedom that traditional academia provides. Though higher education does not pay as well as many would imagine, the benefits can be very enticing: a 9-month contract for most faculty, an occasional sabbatical for 6 months to 1 year, working with gifted students, being paid to think and express yourself, and regular breaks.

Challenging Aspects of the Job
The world of higher education is rapidly evolving, mostly due to the impact of the virtual age (Freedman, 2004). As noted above, distance education has exploded, and more and more graduate students are earning advanced degrees without leaving their homes. While this may be good for students (now called “consumers” in many institutions), traditional faculty are less enthusiastic about the changes. As a faculty member hired at the onset of the virtual institution boom, I can see both sides of the issue. The most likely future is the one where counselor education faculty will teach more online courses and less in-person classes.
Tenure is also on the decline. In the future, it is likely that tenure will be reserved for faculty at elite colleges (e.g., Ivy League, elite private institutions, and large doctoral institutions), while master’s-level institutions, state colleges, and virtual institutions will offer 3- to 5-year renewal contracts. Research will continue to be heavily emphasized at elite institutions and less so at other types of institutions.

Occupational Outlook and Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BOLS) does not separate counselor education from other fields in higher education, but we can draw some fairly accurate conclusions from the general data. As a professor who makes a weekly perusal of The Chronicle of Higher Education, I can attest that counselor education faculty positions have remained healthy regarding faculty openings. BOLS estimates a 15% job expansion for all university faculty positions through 2018 (BOLS, 2010–2011). Now, that figure included everything from astronomy to zoology, with counselor education in between. BOLS also reports a mean salary of $62,300 for faculty (BOLS, 2010–2011). Salary will depend on the type of institution: doctoral versus master’s level, public versus private, and traditional versus virtual institution. So, readers interested in a career in counselor education can feel good that the future looks healthy, but they should be aware that the field is dynamic and changing rapidly.

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