Counseling Career Path

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I need a second opinion. I’m a senior getting ready to graduate this May, with a degree in elementary education. I have a few possible job opportunities lined up after graduation, but none of them are ideal. For instance, one role for which I was invited to an interview was a junior daycare manager. They invited me because I had two successful internships with them.


I wouldn’t necessarily mind the income, but I’d rather have a job that offers more meaningful, one-on-one contact with children. At first, I was thinking about getting a master’s in psychology, so I could pursue a career as s child psychologist. However, now I’m worried that programs might reject me because my college major wasn’t in psychology.


Is this a valid concern? Are there other alternatives I should consider?

Your question is more common than you might expect. Graduating from college is certainly a joyous occasion, but it’s also more stressful than people anticipate. The first thing to consider is whether you should transition into graduate school immediately after college.


Forbes contributor Robert Farrington openly debated this dilemma, and convincingly outlined when grad school makes sense and when it doesn’t. His recommendations are almost universally relevant, especially when it comes to the financial aspects. Having income to finance further education isn’t the same as having an employer subsidize it directly. You should also remember that an advanced degree is a large personal investment regardless of who foots the bill. The best programs are highly competitive, time-consuming, and often extremely rigorous, too.


One author at Bustle explains that waiting to go to graduate school can make you a more appealing candidate. She also said that waiting lets you validate exactly what you want to study. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until you land a job. Doing sufficient research now can arm you with the information you need to narrow the job search. Writers at CareerBuilder published a helpful list of 10 jobs for people who want to work with children. They even go so far as to include the median hourly pay for each career path.


Some students are under the assumption that their college major is the determining factor for their jobs. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. In 2013, Brad Plumer at the Washington Post reported that just 27% of college grads have a job related to their major. Those figures are promising for anyone establishing or changing their career.


These things aside, it’s definitely possible to earn a graduate degree in psychology without having studied the discipline before. Kendra Cherry at Very Well Mind explains that it can sometimes mean completing prerequisite coursework and passing qualifying entry exams (e.g., GRE, GMAT, etc.). The exams and mandatory coursework could prove more expensive than you expect, which is another reason you should be confident about your choice.


One alternative career path that would still involve helping kids is a school counselor. Whereas a child psychologist interacts one-on-one in a private clinical setting, a school counselor interacts one-on-one in a private educational setting. If the latter is more appealing, then a master’s program in school counseling would be a much better option than one in psychology.


The key takeaway is to simply explore all of your options, and always be thorough before making any serious decisions.