MS in Psychology/Counseling is not enough

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aprvllo in Williamsburg, Virginia

21 months ago

I just finished my last discussion post in my online program and in a week I will have my MS in General Psychology. I am working with career services on a "brand" and a resume and I really hope it gets me somewhere that fits...eventually...or at least before I have to start paying the loan back in six months. I am just wondering ...if psychology jobs are impossible to find with a masters, where do you start? In this economy...is it anywhere you can find work?

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Mandy in Seattle, Washington

21 months ago

Hi Aprvllo - on the East Coast things may be a little different as far as job outlook, it's tough for me to say - in the past few years I've been mainly canvassing the West Coast (i.e. California, Washington, etc). However there are a few different things you could try - I recommend looking up government websites both at city and state level, as there will often be a variety of psychology related positions, sometimes in institutions or doing different types of casework. The pay isn't always very high but you will typically get benefits. Other places to try are EAP programs (Employee Assistance Program) - depending on the state, they often take trainees/pre-licensed Master's level counselors for things like phone counseling/suicide hotlines etc. If you're interested in becoming a therapist eventually, these type of jobs are more likely to point you in the right direction if you can find them, and might give you access to supervised licensing hours.

If teaching is your passion, and you have no experience, you're probably going to have a tough road if you didn't assist any professors while still in graduate school, or give any discussions or small seminars. But you can look at job boards at local community colleges/city colleges as sometimes they will have teaching positions available for people who don't have a PhD/Doctorate.

Other possible jobs are working at insurance companies - I worked at United Healthcare in the mental health division for awhile - not as bad of a job as you would think, but ironically the benefits were crappy. If you want to do more specialized training, there are various classes and certificates you can look into like ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) working with autism spectrum patients for example - a difficult field that's not for everyone. So, lots of choices out there, but keep in mind there's lots of other people out there fighting for those same jobs, and adding whatever they can on to their resumes to make themselves stand out.

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aprvllo in Williamsburg, Virginia

21 months ago

Mandy...thank you for your knowledge and advice!!!

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docdoc50 in Beachwood, Ohio

21 months ago

Mandy thanks for your reply to Aprvllo. I picked up some new ideas for job searching! Have you ever thought about consulting or teaching new grads. You certainly have the knowledge and advice to support even an online program or blog. LOL..like you don't have enough on your plate. Seriously, you have a voice and point of view that needs to be heard. I'd be your first customer for sure.

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D.Leigh in Richmond, Virginia

21 months ago

I myself am wrapping up a Counselor Education program in VA, will have to take additional hours or add a certificate in order to meet the education requirements for LPC. I entered this program with specific goal of working at colleges and universities-- I am still contemplating pursuing getting licensed for more long time goals.

Those of you who are struggling to find work in traditional mental health fields, try the the colleges and universities! You may or may not be able to practice in counseling centers.. but you can be a Career counselor/consultants, advisors, Res Life, etc... there are tons of opportunities for counseling trained individuals to find decent work. Working in Higher Education can be very rewarding!

Field of Student Affairs/Student Development is moving more toward a counseling orientation anyway and your skills and experiences are valued and needed!

Just a thought!

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docdoc50 in Beachwood, Ohio

21 months ago

D.Leigh in Richmond, Virginia said: I myself am wrapping up a Counselor Education program in VA, will have to take additional hours or add a certificate in order to meet the education requirements for LPC. I entered this program with specific goal of working at colleges and universities-- I am still contemplating pursuing getting licensed for more long time goals.

Those of you who are struggling to find work in traditional mental health fields, try the the colleges and universities! You may or may not be able to practice in counseling centers.. but you can be a Career counselor/consultants, advisors, Res Life, etc... there are tons of opportunities for counseling trained individuals to find decent work. Working in Higher Education can be very rewarding!

Field of Student Affairs/Student Development is moving more toward a counseling orientation anyway and your skills and experiences are valued and needed!

Just a thought!

Thank you for this gem of advice! I hadn't considered this area...will definitely be exploring this option.

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ls in Olympia, Washington

21 months ago

LadyMagnificat in Buffalo, New York said: I've been doing life coaching for a couple years -- a certification that I find very useful in many ways. I do coaching in addition to counseling to earn extra money and I love it. It doesn't involve insurance and I use Skype with clients so location is a non-issue. I've worked with people is helping them find an answer to "what is the purpose/passion in my life?'. It sometimes comes clearly to people -- other times it takes prayer, meditation, soul-searching, thinking, journaling, working with a coach, etc. If you can gain a grasp on your passion/purpose -- use that to drive the decision as to which masters to pursue (social work vs mental health). For me, I had no desire to get a MSW -- when I looked at the coursework -- 50% looked boring to me. I knew I wanted to do counseling in private practice - that's my passion. Therefore, I focused on a MA in Counseling Psych. Is a MSW more versatile? I think so but my response, "who cares - it's not what I want to do" - all my decisions were driven by my goals/purpose/passion. And, this might be different for you as you have your own goals/passion. In terms of insurance, there are 15 insurance companies in my area -- LMHC's are accepted by 12 of them. If you are thinking about a school in NY, chose one that has been pre-accepted as meeting the standards for licensing- here's the link www.op.nysed.gov/ . Lastly, I worked full-time while going to school full-time so my loans were minimal when I graduated - very important to me. Best of luck in finding your passion and pursuing it! P.S. Speaking 2 languages is an asset. :)

LadyMagnificat, can you tell me more about how you got into life coaching? I'm also interested in learning more about this field. I am a licensed therapist working in private practice but would like to branch out. Thanks!

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LadyMagnificat in Buffalo, New York

21 months ago

ls in Olympia, Washington said: LadyMagnificat, can you tell me more about how you got into life coaching? I'm also interested in learning more about this field. I am a licensed therapist working in private practice but would like to branch out. Thanks!

Hi Olympia,
Sure -- happy to answer your question. It was a few years ago and I knew I wanted to work with "mentally healthy" people in addition to those who have mental disorders as defined by the DSM. Therefore, I became a Board Certified Coach (BCC) through the Institute for Life Coach Training (www.lifecoachtraining.com).

Where that has lead me (after much reflection of what I liked and didn't like) -- is that I now do business coaching in companies in addition to working as a mental health therapist. For coaching, I combine my MBA background with my BCC training -- I use assessments such as PeopleMap (which I became certified to administer through one of my coaching classes) and I also use Meyers-Briggs (MBTI) which is an often used and highly accepted assessment tool in the business world.

My business coaching activities center around issues typically found in teams such as conflict resolution, team building and improved communication. I also work with individuals for career planning and job change/advancement. I find the work to be very fulfilling and enjoy it as a complementary component to mental health work. I work with a full spectrum of clientele -- which I like a lot.

I would encourage you to check out the website for ILCT - which I provided above - to see if adding coaching capabilities to your practice might be right for you. Best of luck!

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madudley in Nashville, Tennessee

21 months ago

Pat Conway in Cumberland, Maryland said: It is very frustrating to try to find a job now that most of Cumberland's institutions, where counselors are needed, demand a license. I was halfway through my supervision when I and several other counselors and Social Workers got laid off due to Medicaid non-reimbursements. I took a job as a Waiver Service Coordinator , but do not get supervised hours for counseling , obviously. Anyone out there as frustrated as myself, or on a positive wave, are there any suggestions to those who have been able to continue counseling in some way? Thank you for letting me vent.
PC

I suggest paying someone for supervision if you can't get supervision where you are. The board is usually receptive of this practice.

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Iris in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

21 months ago

Hi, Hopey in OS! I also live in OS. I graduated with a Bachelors in Psychology with an emphasis on Applied Behavior Analogy. I minored in nutrition. There are no jobs locally for us. It's very disheartening. I'm not much younger than you. I have still have two children left at home. I wondered, the same as you, if my age might be the reason I haven't found employment, but I don't think that is it. Each time I see a new office open, I promptly bring my resume. Everyone is just renting office space and handling their office on their own. They aren't keeping their doors open for long, either. Here's hoping you and I find employment in this field that we have such a passion for! :)
Iris

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Squids in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

20 months ago

Pat Conway in Cumberland, Maryland said: It is very frustrating to try to find a job now that most of Cumberland's institutions, where counselors are needed, demand a license. I was halfway through my supervision when I and several other counselors and Social Workers got laid off due to Medicaid non-reimbursements. I took a job as a Waiver Service Coordinator , but do not get supervised hours for counseling , obviously. Anyone out there as frustrated as myself, or on a positive wave, are there any suggestions to those who have been able to continue counseling in some way? Thank you for letting me vent.
PC

I was able to find a list of supervisors in my area on my state counseling site and went through them until I found one who only charges me $20 a week. It took some perseverance but it paid off, at least until I got laid off as well. :-/ I'm switching my focus to substance abuse and applying for anything in that area that will give me hours, since that serves a larger population down here. You could try checking with state schools that have counseling programs - sometimes they offer supervision at group rates.

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Squids in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

20 months ago

Iris in Ocean Springs, Mississippi said: Hi, Hopey in OS! I also live in OS. I graduated with a Bachelors in Psychology with an emphasis on Applied Behavior Analogy. I minored in nutrition. There are no jobs locally for us. It's very disheartening. I'm not much younger than you. I have still have two children left at home. I wondered, the same as you, if my age might be the reason I haven't found employment, but I don't think that is it. Each time I see a new office open, I promptly bring my resume. Everyone is just renting office space and handling their office on their own. They aren't keeping their doors open for long, either. Here's hoping you and I find employment in this field that we have such a passion for! :)
Iris

Hi Iris! What part of town do you live in? Maybe we coud gran a bite and brainstorm ?

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T WoW in Summersville, West Virginia

20 months ago

aprvllo in Williamsburg, Virginia said: I just finished my last discussion post in my online program and in a week I will have my MS in General Psychology. I am working with career services on a "brand" and a resume and I really hope it gets me somewhere that fits...eventually...or at least before I have to start paying the loan back in six months. I am just wondering ...if psychology jobs are impossible to find with a masters, where do you start? In this economy...is it anywhere you can find work?

Aprvllo. Another option is to look into companies like ResCare or PAIS. These are national organizations that work with the mentally retarded and developmentally disabiled population out of the ICF/MR and Title XIX Wavier Program. Some organization you may find locally in your area and may be non-profit. Look in the phone book under mental health or counseling services and call requesting information on job postings. You'd be surprised what you find out and how rewarding it can be to watch a grown man tie his shoes for the first time, a feat he couldn't have otherwise accomplished without you. The pay may not be great at first but it is a starting point in the right direction and it does get you experience. Good luck!

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T WoW in Summersville, West Virginia

20 months ago

WOW! I have been reading the posts in the forum over the past, I don't know how many months, and I have to say, it is depressing. I'm wondering where was this forum when I started grad school in 2009? This information would have been useful then before I, not wasted but we'll use the word anyway, wasted the last four years and Lord only knows how much money on a MS in Mental Health Counseling when I should have gone for the MSW. Oh well, ce la vie. What to do now? I am an army wife. I have dedicated my adult life to the military, in the form of my husband, and want to help our veterans. I have recently learned that the VA would only accept MSWs to counsel veterans, but there was a lawsuit recently that has forced the VA to begin to accept LPCs as well. Check out this site, some of you LPCs might find government work... soon: www.nbcc.org/Veterans_Administration/

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sunny in Bolingbrook, Illinois

20 months ago

Struggling counselor in Nashville, Tennessee said: I owe $90,000 for a MA in counseling degree and can't get a job in counseling. I'm broke and desperate-- and I was the best student in my class. On top of that, I had a fantastic internship and I worked very hard. I networked like crazy; I had so much passion for my career.

If you are in the U.S. and are considering an MA to be a counselor , just don't do it. Wait until the market changes. Don't end up like me. I can't get a car or start a family and I have to work whatever jobs I can get. I'm getting older and I had to short-sell my home.

My biggest regret in life is that MA degree. It's worthless and has left me broke and miserable. I know that sounds dramatic-- but at this point it truly is dramatic. The $10 an hour I make now isn't enough--plus the only job I could find won't even hold water on my resume. I don't know what the future brings anymore.

Amen to this- I was named"Outstanding Student of the Year", a 4.0/4.0 and have a Masters in Addictions counseling-what a joke, after 3 years I make 14.00 an hour, in the most stressful environment you can imagine, now they are just loading the place with the severely mentally ill because they've closed almost all the mental hospitals in our state and if they have a drink they throw them in rehab because its cheaper than jail or a hospital-and we are not really trained to deal with their special issues.

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Clair in Brisbane, Australia

20 months ago

Hi,
I am an English trained registered mental health nurse currently practising as such in Australia. However, would love to look into counselling which I am passionate about. I would love some advice about what the qualifications are which are required to practice in Florida, USA as a counsellor as we have plans in the future to move to the US.
I am not sure what qualifications I would need as a "top up" from my existing qualifications and even if these which I would have to attempt to obtain in Australia, if they would be transferable and recognised in the US.
Hope that makes sense.
Your advice and experience would be much appreciated.
Thank you for even reading and considering my post.
Regards
Clair : )

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drnelson in Wyoming

20 months ago

I hate to see what so many commenters are saying on here. I have a very nice practice where I live, where I've been for 18 years. I'm not super-wealthy, but I'm happy with what I make. Two things that seem important in looking at these results and comparing them to my area: 1) Doctoral level training appears to be a "must" in order to obtain any sense of security. I see master's level therapists struggle over and again, unless they have found a real niche and a guaranteed referral base. Good psychologists, on the other hand, seem more capable of drawing in clients because of their more extensive training. And there are more options for specialization and independent practice when you achieve the "Dr." status. 2) Get out of the crowded urban and suburban centers and go to underserved areas. There are opportunities for loan repayment in rural areas and underserved inner city areas. You will be able to pay off loans through entities like the National Health Service Corps, and you can obtain good experience working with diverse populations.

Never expect to make six figures--or anything close--right out of the gate. You have to pay your dues and show your worth if you want to do well. The opportunities are there for those willing to do what's needed.

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docdoc50 in Beachwood, Ohio

20 months ago

drnelson in Wyoming said: I hate to see what so many commenters are saying on here. I have a very nice practice where I live, where I've been for 18 years. I'm not super-wealthy, but I'm happy with what I make. Two things that seem important in looking at these results and comparing them to my area: 1) Doctoral level training appears to be a "must" in order to obtain any sense of security. I see master's level therapists struggle over and again, unless they have found a real niche and a guaranteed referral base. Good psychologists, on the other hand, seem more capable of drawing in clients because of their more extensive training. And there are more options for specialization and independent practice when you achieve the "Dr." status. 2) Get out of the crowded urban and suburban centers and go to underserved areas. There are opportunities for loan repayment in rural areas and underserved inner city areas. You will be able to pay off loans through entities like the National Health Service Corps, and you can obtain good experience working with diverse populations.

Never expect to make six figures--or anything close--right out of the gate. You have to pay your dues and show your worth if you want to do well. The opportunities are there for those willing to do what's needed.

Your comment was very helpful! I often log in for the helpful comments to get recharged and to also keep a positive spin on my situation.

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Deidra47

20 months ago

My friend went back to get his PhD as he learned that the Masters was not going to get him any where.
He has a private practice, teaches, was an employed as the employee assist psychologist at a major hospital district...the list goes on.
Every state has different rules in licensing so you can't think you can move from state to state without facing some difficulties.
And it just seems to me, many didn't really sit down and get all the facts on the various levels in the profession and all expected to walk out of school and start making the big bucks....doesn't happen.
And the amounts of the loans many have.....why? Did you go to a private, for profit institution of learning vs state schools?

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Birdie in Fairfield, Connecticut

20 months ago

FrustratedCounselor in Charlotte, North Carolina said: Hi Lisa. If money is an issue, you should probably go for a MA in psy.nursing. I do not know of all the opportunities available to a psych nurse, so, you might want to research that. In the past, School Psychologists earn good money but with the down turn of the economy it may be hard to find openings. Counselors and psychologists are the first to go when their is a financial crisis in schools. If I knew 8 years ago what I know now, I would have gone for social work. They have the market cornered with Medicaid programs, jobs (private and community ), and they can have a private counseling practice once they are licensed. They also use SWs in schools. By the way, I am a LPN (since 1974). I went back to school for counseling because I knew I did not want to go deeper into nursing, but I wanted an advanced degree. Based on several career and personality tests, I found I was best suited for counseling, the ministry, or a chef . I chose counseling b/c I wanted something I could do during my retirement years, which is fast approaching! I am also in Atlanta, but I did not want to invest the time they required to get my licensed when I had just gone through that in NC. I am going back to Charlotte this summer and set up a private practice. I will be 57 this month, so, hopefully, I will be able to do this for the next 15 or 20 years, which makes it worthwhile.

I would love to know how you are doing with this. Seems this post is a few years old. I am 57 and will have my psych degree this Dec. Hoping to pursue MSW Fall of 2013. I too hope to work in the field for at least 15 years or so after retirement from my current job.

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kauai_girl in Lihue, Hawaii

18 months ago

LadyMagnificat in Buffalo, New York said: Hi Olympia,
Sure -- happy to answer your question. It was a few years ago and I knew I wanted to work with "mentally healthy" people in addition to those who have mental disorders as defined by the DSM. Therefore, I became a Board Certified Coach (BCC) through the Institute for Life Coach Training ( www.lifecoachtraining.com ).

Where that has lead me (after much reflection of what I liked and didn't like) -- is that I now do business coaching in companies in addition to working as a mental health therapist. For coaching, I combine my MBA background with my BCC training -- I use assessments such as PeopleMap (which I became certified to administer through one of my coaching classes) and I also use Meyers-Briggs (MBTI) which is an often used and highly accepted assessment tool in the business world.

Thank you! I am so indecisive when it comes to MSW vs. MFT/LPC. I live on Kauai and am considering the online MSW program that USC offers. This would allow me to stay here and build a practice on island. Another part of me wants to attend Pacifica in Santa Barbara and study depth psychology because I love working with dreams, astrology and transpersonal. I would most likely like to get Psyd and extended trainings and am interested in life coaching as well. I feel that I would most likely like to practice either in Hawaii or Texas (family is there). Either way it is a lot of money and I want to make a smart decision. So many people keep steering me in the direction of MSW because it is safer and more practical. Do you think this is true? Any suggestions? How difficult is it to start private practice and get teaching jobs?

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LadyMagnificat in Buffalo, New York

18 months ago

kauai_girl in Lihue, Hawaii said: Thank you! I am so indecisive when it comes to MSW vs. MFT/LPC. I live on Kauai and am considering the online MSW program that USC offers. This would allow me to stay here and build a practice on island.

Hi Kauai Girl,
I can only share what worked for me. You might notice that my opinion/experience runs counter to many people on this forum - and that's ok -- we're all different. I did not pursue a MSW because the courses looked super boring to me. I chose the Masters in Counseling Psych route and I LOVED every single class in my program. I moved to NY after graduating and I knew no one (except my husband) so I was starting completely from scratch. I put A LOT of effort into networking, made a few friends in the field of mental health and got a job 4 months post-graduation because of my networking efforts (not blindly sending resumes to organizations -- that rarely works). I became licensed 2 months ago, gave notice at my job 1 month ago and am starting my private practice in 2 weeks.

I still spend a lot of time networking with other professionals in the field of mental health. I learned a lot about starting a private practice by hanging around people who are in private practice. Decide what you want -- put together a game plan and begin to implement it. And, PLEASE -- pay attention to how much your degree is going to cost. I never considered getting a PsyD or PHD. It would be too expensive and take too many years to pay it off. I don't need anything more than a Masters to start and build a successful private practice. Private practice has always been my dream and I've never lost that focus.

Best of luck to you and all.

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georgewduke in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

18 months ago

edpsymom in Asheville, North Carolina said: I'm an ADN Student Nurse at 60 years old (also LPN, LMBT, MA in School Psychology, and MS.Ed). I thought I'd go into psych nursing but am being dismissed from the RN program as a result of an accusation that I practiced (reflexology) "outside the scope of a nursing student". It is a bogus allegation but it boils down to my word against the clinical instructor . During my appeals meeting, I stated clearly that reflexology was neither done by me nor charted. Since experiencing the viciousness of nurses who eat their young, I have no desire to remain in nursing. What should I do with my wild assortment of degrees and certifications at this critical juncture in mt life?

With your MA in School Psychology, you might be able to parlay that into a career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Check out the licensing requirements for LPCs in the State of North Carolina, and pay attention to the coursework that you need to be eligible for licensure. In some states people with a Masters in school counseling can become an LPC with a few additional courses, a passing score on the NCE (and any required state exam), and completion of the required hours of post-graduate experience. In MD for example, someone with a Masters in School Counseling must take another 12 hours of graduate coursework, pass the NCE and the MD State Law exam, and accrue 3,000 hours of post-graduate counseling experience.

Good Luck!

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georgewduke in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

18 months ago

LadyMagnificat in Buffalo, New York said: Hi Kauai Girl,
I can only share what worked for me. You might notice that my opinion/experience runs counter to many people on this forum - and that's ok -- we're all different. I did not pursue a MSW because the courses looked super boring to me. I chose the Masters in Counseling Psych route and I LOVED every single class in my program. I moved to NY after graduating and I knew no one (except my husband) so I was starting completely from scratch. I put A LOT of effort into networking, made a few friends in the field of mental health and got a job 4 months post-graduation because of my networking efforts (not blindly sending resumes to organizations -- that rarely works). I became licensed 2 months ago, gave notice at my job 1 month ago and am starting my private practice in 2 weeks.

I still spend a lot of time networking with other professionals in the field of mental health. I learned a lot about starting a private practice by hanging around people who are in private practice. Decide what you want -- put together a game plan and begin to implement it. And, PLEASE -- pay attention to how much your degree is going to cost. I never considered getting a PsyD or PHD. It would be too expensive and take too many years to pay it off. I don't need anything more than a Masters to start and build a successful private practice. Private practice has always been my dream and I've never lost that focus.

Best of luck to you and all.

Thanks for all of your helpful posts. Your advice is spot on.

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georgewduke in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

18 months ago

I am a 40 year-old woman who started an MS in Mental Health Counseling last fall in preparation to embark on a second major career change. I am currently blessed to have a well-paying full-time job, and am thus able to pay my own way through my program by going part-time. My ultimate goal is to start a part-time private practice, and to slowly transition into a full-time private practice by augmenting my counseling clients by offering other services, such as mediation. I throughly researched all of my options for how I could become a therapist before applying to schools and investing money in my degree. I understand what is required for licensure, and I am working hard to build my CV, by researching and networking my way into the answers that I need to make informed decisions about my next steps. I am confident that I will accomplish my goals through hard work and perseverance.

I realize that my goals and outlook would be different if I had borrowed upwards of $90k for a graduate degree and was unable to find full-time employment in my field. I also understand that some of the posters here need to vent their frustration and express their disappointment, but I also think that they need to expend some of that negative energy generating ideas about what else they can do to reach their goals. When I graduated from law school in '97, I had $55,000+ in student loan debt, faced a depressed market for legal jobs, and worked 7 days/week at a pretrial services agency for more than a year before I found a job as an attorney with a legal nonprofit organization.

I earned $27,000 a year to start, and was able to only pay $95/month on my student loan debt. After 2 years I left and nearly doubled my salary by taking a non-legal job with the government. I have not practiced law in 13 years, have burned out in my current profession & now have the ability to puruse my passion. To those who are young and struggling-persevere, be flexible, & be optimistic.

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Squids in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

18 months ago

I agree. I didn't qualify for grants but I did receive an assistantship which covered my tuition and books, otherwise I don't think I would have gone. Husband made too much for needs assessment but not enough to help me pay for school. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out a semester after I started and funding was cut, including all but two assistantships, which were political and understandable - those students were planning to get a doc after they finished. At any rate, there I was, along with 13 other students who had their assistantship funding pulled. I'm sure we weren't the only ones out there to go through this. That left me with adding to my debt or dropping out. I don't regret making the decision to move ahead with the degree. And I now have a job in a private practice and a part time job to help tide me over while I build clientele.

I'm saying this because not everyone is old enough to have the funds, has the resources (took me 14 months to get a job and it was networking that made it happen) to even afford interview clothes sometimes. My loans are currently deferred while I pay my more urgent debts. I'll pay them when I'm able to. This is just my response to the above post. I stayed optimistic as much as possible , sent out 1800 resumes and was continually turned down for public assistance because the hubby bailed on us when he hit midlife. When I felt down, I came here and read the posts. I tried to offer what I could but honestly, I didn't feel so alone about my circumstances after reading some of our posters' stories.

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georgewduke in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

18 months ago

Squids,
I understand completely about not having the financial means to make it. Earning $27k and living on my own in Washington, DC meant that I had to live in a studio apartment, paid only a tiny fraction of my monthly loan obligations for several years, and sometimes had to roll pennies to afford the gas to get to work. I offered my story to illustrate that sometimes our goals/aspirations have to be altered to fit with the financial realities of our circumstances. I also meant to show that it's never too late to change course (career wise) and pursue your passions if you have to compromise early on. Networking, being positive, creative, and resourceful are the keys to making it through any difficult time. I recognize that support from family, friends, and peers is just as important, and hopefully that's what people are taking away from this forum. However, some of the posts are filled with so much bitterness I wonder how much their attitudes are getting in the way of their progress. I'm not saying that they aren't making an honest effort to move forward, but for those who have a reason why any suggestion won't work for them, I just have to wonder.

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what in Astoria, New York

18 months ago

Planters in Pomona, California said: MBA and MFT is a waste of time and money. Go for the MSW with LCSW. It has the best pay at $90,000 a year in state and federal government . MBA is the most overrated degree. LCSW is where the money is at!

No offense, but you sound like an idiot or clueless. MBA is waste of money and a social worker in MSW with LCSW has better prospect in over saturated field and get better wage.

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what in Astoria, New York

18 months ago

Some people are out of touch with reality.

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CraigP in Lakeville, Minnesota

17 months ago

I was an LICSW and recently ran across a neuroscience breakthrough called Higher Brain Living about a year ago. They were looking for people to join their national team. I was so amazed by what I found that I left my 30-year private practice. I can send a link to free HBL training videos. And I made two testimonial videos I can send as well. If you get interested, I would love to talk about it! Contact me at craigp@higherbrainliving.com.

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YouCanCallMeAL in Woodstock, Illinois

16 months ago

Thanks, Mandy, for posting your story. Made me feel that perhaps someone out there could empathize with my own story, which is so similar to yours. My degree is an MS in MFT, which I finished last August (2012). I cannot, cannot, cannot afford the licensing and I had to move back home with mom and dad, in a different state altogether, further dooming my laughable itinerary...and I'm in my late 30s. Not good.

My debt, much like yours, is absolutely astronomical....and all in default. These days (can you blame me?) I'm questioning if the education was really worth it.

I read all of the replies after your posting. They're good replies, and your replies to theirs were also very good ones. I am going to be looking at community colleges thanks to your advice!

To be honest, these days I'd be happy with any job, whether it's related to "my field" or not. But even those seem few and far between. Even the jobs like Walgreens or Walmart seem to be at an all-time low.

What makes me cringe are those [well-meaning, but doofy] friends or relatives of mine who innocently quip, "Why don't you just get that license thingie?" from a standpoint of not knowing just what fiery hoops a person has to leap through for it to even be a possibility.
Your story helped somehow. Just thought I'd let ya know!
So right back at ya! Hang in there, champ!
I know just how you feel.
Take care, Mandy. Hope you found what you were looking for.

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aprvllo in Williamsburg, Virginia

16 months ago

If I had to do it over, I would try the psychiatric nurse practitioner program. We have one nearby. I am a former elementary school teacher and have oodles of teaching, child care, tutoring, etc. that I can list my resume. I completed my Masters online in February and the loan payback is calling. I haven't found any mental health job that I am qualified for. My major is General Psychology. I backed out of Mental Health Counseling. I wanted to teach. Now I'm not so sure. I have been to job fairs at the local community college to try to secure a psychology adjunct position. Meanwhile, I am registered at Care.com and taking care of young children 15 hours until 8/15/13. I apply to all sorts of jobs. I keep in mind what matters to me most. Helping people. I volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center because I have a special interest in women's issues. I thought I might find employment in that area but I haven't. I don't know where my future will lead...I apply to all sorts of jobs that include my interests. It was recommended that I apply to government jobs....there was nothing for me. Case work required social workers or licensed clinical counselors...at least here in Virginia. I like the flexibility, however, I need more to pay my loan back. I hope this hasn't been too confusing. I am just sharing my experiences in case anyone can relate to them.

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Mandy in Seattle, Washington

16 months ago

I definitely hear where you're coming from, believe me. Since the last time I posted on this board, I'd love to be able to say that I found a job in the mental health field, and have been happily accumulating my licensing hours ever since. Unfortunately, life often seems to derail the most carefully laid plans.

As a few posters have been so kind as to point out, perhaps those of us with large amounts of student loan debt should have planned better before getting into so much debt in the first place. About half of my debt is from my undergraduate degree, so I didn't actually take out a giant 100k loan to finance a private master's degree program (although no judgement here for anyone who might have done so).

But I will freely admit that I didn't save my pennies in a tin can and live off of Top Ramen inside of a cardboard box until I paid off all of my undergraduate loans, before embarking on another program of higher learning. I made a choice to move forward with my education, while I still had unpaid debt, in order to get a degree in a field that I was passionate about, and that at the time seemed to have relatively decent future employment prospects. While still in my program, my professors (of course) assured us all that finding paid employment and/or ways to get our hours would require effort, as with everything worthwhile in life, but would not be impossible.

...

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docdoc in Beachwood, Ohio

16 months ago

I haven't posted in awhile but I have continued to read and learn from the posts. As I posted previously, I received my masters in counseling psychology/trauma studies last year. I have searched relentlously for any type of position. I live in Ohio but I am very open to relocating. My search goes on because I love the field of mental health counseling!

I must admit that I have issues with some posts that imply that people should have researched the field more or that people should not expect to get rich (this one really irks me). I hope to become employed, help others and simply take care of myself. This is still a very tough economy especially in this field. Some agencies have lost funding,etc. I found this out the hard way a few months ago. This forum for me represents a place where I can learn, provide and receive support, and truly empathize with others. Remember this is not a one size fits all site-so the comments should reflect a more sensitive tone that is indicative of not only professionals in the field but compassionate human beings as well.

I remain steadfast in my deterination to find work in the field and I will continue to pray and support others in their efforts too!

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jdawg in Alpharetta, Georgia

16 months ago

FrustratedCounselor in Atlanta, Georgia said: I understand your frustration. I have the NCC and I am a LPC in the state of NC, however, when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia I did not have enough supervision hours to get a GA license. No one will hire you without that license, but you need the job to get the supervision. I love the field of counseling, but I wish I had known how hard it would be to practice it. The few jobs that offer supervision are VERY low paying. Carol is correct---get as many certifications as you can, but without a license it is a uphill battle. I am thinking about coaching, which requires you work for yourself. Good luck to you.

I am wondering if you contacted the state board to see if they would give you a reciprocal license (LPC). Is this the situation that they told you that you needed additional supervision hours? You may try seeking employment at a residential treatment center. Many of the Clinical Directors are LPC and you could get supervision at work. I think you would earn between 50-60k.

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jdawg in Alpharetta, Georgia

16 months ago

Jean Luc Picard in London, United Kingdom said: Well, from the looks of things, I think I need look at working in Canada, as I currently about start my second year doing a bachelors degree in Sociology and Psychology - Joint Honours here in London, UK, I am also working a couple of days a week working with people with drugs and alcohol abuse issues, I have been offered work in Canada, I plan to do my Masters in either Mental Health ,Dual Diagnosis, Psychosocial studies. I plan to work as an outreach work/ counselor working in mental health /addications. Their are opportunties their to work for health authorities in BC, Alberta etc. working inn

I have been considering looking into counseling jobs in UK. What are the licensure requirements? I have a LPC. I have looked on some web sights and the pay looks terrible (17,000 pounds annually)? Is this for a licensed therapist? Thanks

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Pet20000 in Saint Charles, Illinois

16 months ago

Hi all,

I am considering going into counseling in IL and if I understand so far the MA is a degree with limited options whil a PHD or PSY D would open more doors, I definately want to have my own practice down the road and probably teach (this would let me have more job prospects down the road or have more streams of income) my passion would be to help people/couples.

Is it still difficult to get supervised hours in IL after graduating with either a MA or PHD--it sounds like it, that SUCKS since I cant get licensed without it and if I am correct I cant even have my own practice without the supervised hours.

Arent there private practices that would love to have "cheap labor" with newly graduated MA and PHD students to counsel their clients while they make more money by expanding their client list, or duplicating themselves.

Regarding "cheap labor" when can you actually start making money with your degree (MA or PHD) right out of school or none until you are licensed???

Any comments or advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance

Peter

My thought would be to

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saustin1024@gmail.com in Columbia, South Carolina

15 months ago

Dahlia in San Francisco, California said: Hi there,

I'm almost a licensed Marriage, and family Therapist (Masters degree in clinical/ counseling Psychology with 3000 clinical hours of training). My colleague and dear friend has been a licensed Clinical Psychologist for about 13 years. You can make decent money - but you won’t be making more than 70.000-80.000 a year. This seems awfully low after consuming heavy student loans. If I were to do it again - I would go into a traditional medical field, such as being a specialized nurse (psych nurse), medical doctor, or a nurse practitioner. They make much more money and better job security. Additionally, they tend to receive more respect when working at hospitals, than do Psychologists, LCSW's, or MFT's. These programs of study are unfortunately more difficult to get into - but you will be making more money and have better job security.

Good luck and it seems like a smart idea to investigate…

Best,

Dahlia

Good morning,
This is my concern as well. I'm a little off topic but I'm presently considering returning to school to pursue my Masters in Forensic Psychology, which I'm very interested in. However I don't want to make what I feel was a make in receiving my BA in Sociology/ Criminal Justice Administration in 2011, that's not paid for yet and I'm not working the field! And let me toot my own horn to say I graduated with honors Magna Cum Laude.
I've been pursuing law degrees since 1989, with desire to be a Paralegal, which i did, then Family law attorney and ultimately to run for family court judge, got older, family situations changed, and changed and changed....then I decided to become an Crime Scene Investigtor to find out after earning my BA that I was too old.. So I figured Forensic Psychology would provide some of that for me, since the profession collaborates with law enforcement..
I neglected to mention that I will be 50 in September! Suggestions are welcomed!

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drnelson in Wyoming

15 months ago

In sure this will upset people, but I gotta say that there is a lot of whining in this string. Getting a master's degree or even a PhD is no guarantee of success or a job in any field, let alone psychology. You have to work hard, promote yourself and garner a good reputation. But before that, you have to invest in good, nationally-accredited training. Steer clear of for-profit, online programs that claim the same level of success as traditional academic institutions. It's a lie designed to separate you from your money. The APA and other professional organizations have an accrediting process for a reason.

And if you can't find work where you want to live, be prepared to move or commute. There is work out there, there is need out there, but you have to be willing to go to it. And you can be rewarded, especially if you look for the rewards. The NHSC provides loan repayment for those who work in underprivileged areas for only a small service commitment.

I started my psychology career 20 years ago in a similar economy. I collected unemployment, and we lived on food stamps when I was in grad school. I piled up $50k in loans before I finished. My first job as a psychologist paid me $35k a year--not what I expected. I joined the NHSC, and within three years my debt was gone. After six years I left my job and set up private practice where I was and immediately found success because of my reputation and hard work. And I make more than any of the naysayers above say is possible.

Get rid of the victim attitudes, and get to work. Btw--if you think that should happen by your simply clocking in and out every day, then you need to do something else.

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Mandy_M in Seattle, Washington

15 months ago

There have been several negative comments on here from people who somehow think it is helpful to disparage other people as "whiners" or "victims" because they have had the audacity to come onto an internet job board to share their personal stories. In my opinion people are here both for advice, and to find a sense of comfort in the fact that other people are also going through tough times just like them - i.e. none of us are alone. It's great to hear positive success stories, and helpful advice (when worded in a non-condescending manner), however it really serves nothing except your own ego to come here and say things like "Well, I was a success, therefore everyone here that's whining and bitter who failed must not be trying hard enough, otherwise they would be able to do it exactly like me!" Everyone's situation is different, the current economic times are different, and not everyone is able to succeed in the same manner, so please try to keep that in mind before writing everyone else off. BTW, the National Health Service Corps is a great way to help pay off student loans by making a commitment to work in under-served areas of the country, HOWEVER one of the requirements is that you must be licensed to practice in the state in which you will serve as a Corps member - therefore this information will become useful only for those who are already licensed.

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drnelson in Wyoming

15 months ago

Kind of expected that response. And yet, what I keep hearing is people having some expectation that they will get an MS and/or an LPC and the skies will open up and all their dreams will come true. That kind of magical thinking doesn't work for clients, and it won't work for you. If you want to commiserate, then that's fine--I'll leave you to it. If you want something useful to consider, I'm happy to oblige as well.

Good luck!

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Mandy_M in Seattle, Washington

15 months ago

You're definitely right, magical thinking doesn't help anyone accomplish anything. However, in my opinion there is nothing wrong with listening respectfully to people's stories, sharing your own if you want, and then offering helpful advice without being negative or kicking people while they're down. In any case, arguing on a forum doesn't help anyone either, so I'm done.

To put my money where my mouth is, here's a few more ideas for people who need help looking for places to get hours: look on all of your local city and state government job boards, and sign up for any email lists they have. You can often find counseling or mental health casework jobs there, and sometimes school counseling jobs if your state allows interns to counsel within schools. If you haven't already, you should sign up on the APA website (www.apa.org) as an associate member, which gives you access to their job boards.

Worst case scenario and the debt collectors are knocking at the door, and you haven't been able to find work in months...maybe it's time for plan B (or C or D...whichever plan you've gotten to at this point). My local community college has a return-to-work program for in-demand careers like nursing and tech, with tuition completely covered through various types of grants and funding - guess what I'm doing in the fall? Explore all of your local community resources to see what's available - you may be able to get additional certificates to make you more marketable, or change career paths entirely if that's what you finally decide to do. Cheers!

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Deidra47 in Hollywood, Florida

15 months ago

Dr. Nelson....
Bravo!
As the R.N. following the comments on this site, your comments are right on target.
I've sat here and questioned how so many of these folks came up with all these debts......they had to do all these programs from private, for-profit institutions.
I've also wondered about the counselors in their schools on what type of information was given to them before deciding which avenue to pursue.
No one walks out of any school for any profession and start out with "big" money and why they thought they would is beyond me.
And just because you get out of school, doesn't mean that there are not other things you must do to be considered proficient and able to move on.
I know too many social workers and psychologists and don't hear these kind of stories from them. And my friend who is a PhD in psychology with his own practice told me that he found his Masters wasn't really going to get him any where...he needed that PhD and he went for it. His schooling came from Purdue/Uof Mass./and JMH-UofMiami and he didn't walk away with all this type of debt.
There is more to these stories then we are hearing.

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Deidra47 in Hollywood, Florida

15 months ago

So Mandy....when you can't get something you want you will fall back into something else like nursing that you obvious weren't interested in the first time around.
Nursing is hard and it is a "calling" not something you choose when nothing else is working out for you.
And right now with the economic situation being what it is.....the nursing grads are not having an easy time finding jobs. Many have been hitting the pavement for months looking for a job.
And if you think starting salary is "big" money, you are deluded.

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Mandy_M in Seattle, Washington

15 months ago

Ok, some of you are still stuck on the "large salary" issue for some reason, which if you'd like to go back and read some of my earlier posts, I've never mentioned as a motivation for going into ANY career, let alone counseling or nursing, so I'm not sure why this is even being discussed. I sincerely doubt anyone going into the mental health profession (unless they're delusional) would have chosen that field if they had aspirations towards making the big bucks; this is a helping profession, where even licensed professionals who have been in the business for years aren't going to be zooming down the street in Jaguars. As the title of the thread itself suggests, a Master's degree alone is clearly not enough for anyone fresh out of college to head straight out into the workforce and immediately get a great job. I doubt anyone here was expecting for that to happen. But unless you yourself have recently gone through the licensing process and have obtained your hours after receiving your Master's degree (or PhD, or PsyD or what-have-you), then you actually don't have any personal idea what you're talking about on this topic.

Personally I'm not going to sit on a high horse and judge everyone around me if I think they made the wrong choices in their lives. I'll take responsibility for my own life, and make practical, realistic decisions and try to learn and move forward from past mistakes. Perhaps counseling wasn't the right path for me. If you believe there are "callings" for people, and that no one has the ability to shape their own reality according to practical necessity and acquire new interests and passions over time, hey - that's your belief system, and you are free to think whatever you like. Nursing is also a "helping" profession, albeit within the medical field rather than psychological - if you fail to see the similarities and how one might be able to transition from one to the other, there's nothing I can do to change your mind.

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drnelson in Wyoming

15 months ago

Again, same refrain. "It's different for us".

Honestly, I blame the for-profit "universities" who promise a new, exciting and profitable career in counseling. As a supervisor of psychotherapists myself, I can tell you that it's a huge risk to take responsibility for someone else's work, and there's no way in hell I'd take on a newly-minted counselor from Argosy or Phoenix. My license and livelihood are on the line with every new client that person takes on. What if that person screws up and their client kills him or herself or someone else? What if that therapist sexually exploits that client? Then my ass is on the line.

There is clearly a glut of counselors out there, so if you're not prepared for it to be hard, do something else.

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Squids in Jackson, Mississippi

15 months ago

Allow me to comment on big debt and universities. I received my undergrad without benefit of grants (ex made too much gross to qualify but not enough net to help and I had two youngsters at home and battled breast cancer. Still, I came out alright. Some debt but I had plans to work for the Feds or in a public facility and have it forgiven after I earned my masters. There was only one school available here that offered a mental health masters. My undergrad's social work program was falling apart with no sign of support from the main campus. I decided to get a masters in counseling at the only other school that offered anything in mental health post Katrina. They offered me an assistantship so no real debt there. I broke even at first in gas traveling 3 hours round trip. At first. At nearly the end of my 2nd semester, with three to go, suddenly assistantships were cut from 9 down to 2 and tuition skyrocketed 17%. Most of us were sunk if we didn't finish - half a masters is worse than none. We kept on. I was so lucky that I worked at two sites for my internship, one of which paid me. Tuition went up again by another 8% the following semester and 7 the semester after.

This was a public state university. Most ost secondary institutions have raised their rates by 115-125% over the past decade. When did you think that would happen, those of you who have made comments linking rising debt to fiscal irresponsibility? Before anyone started their programs? Or maybe after they graduated? They happened while they were going and the next cohort worked even harder to hang on to diminishing returns in order to see some future for themselves in 20 years.

While I would love to say that what I've expressed here is simply anecdotal, research and statistics support my experiences and those of my cohort. I now work two jobs in mental health to earn my hours for licensure and I'm damn lucky. Pay isn't much but I'm working.

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tas305 in Miami Beach, Florida

15 months ago

This is absolutely great insight. I've done hours of research and learned so much in regards to the area/s of concentration and dual tracks. These posts have added to that knowledge. I'm applying to graduate school in Florida. Fortunately, the program does lead to licensure in the state. I've only read the first three posts, but one important thing to note is to make sure the program you apply to is CACREP accredited; most employers and states expect or require it. I would like to focus on Mental Health/Rehabilitation and Marriage and Family/Relationship counseling. My goal is to some day open my own practice and possibly teach at the post-secondary level. I was considering going to Nova Southeastern University here in Florida. I read the program descriptions very closely. The program does not have CACREP accreditation and it's extremely expensive-private school- and it does not lead to licensure. Needless to say, I have selected another school that is far less expensive and has all accreditation and leads to licensure.

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FormerLawyer in Palo Alto, California

15 months ago

Hi all. I live in California. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I worked as a lawyer for five years, then took time to have two kids (2 and 5 years old). I want to do something else. In an ideal world, I could be some sort of counselor -- really to anyone -- couples, addicts, etc. I want to help people. I want to make in the range of $70-80k, at least eventually if not at first. Ideally, I would be able to work until 5 each day, then come home. If this is possible, what degree would make it possible? Can I go the partially evening, partially online route, or do I have to go the most prestigious, time consuming and costly route possible? I should mention I'm still in $100,000 of student loan debt. Someone, please point me in the right direction/degree.

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FormerLawyer in Palo Alto, California

15 months ago

Also - I don't speak a word of Spanish.

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