Online Degree Programs: Finding the Right Program for
by Mariah Kashino
Have you been thinking about going back to school?
Do you think an online
degree might be the best option for you, but are
dubious about selecting one? Do you wonder how you will
know if the school is legitimate or not? Do you feel
overwhelmed by the number of programs available and
wonder how you will ever find the program that is just
right for you?
Help has arrived. Armed with the insider knowledge
of those who have gone before you, your quest for the
perfect program will be much easier and more
successful. A little prior investigation into your field
of choice and asking the right questions can make all
the difference in selecting the best
program to suit your needs.
Whatever career you are thinking about getting into,
it is a good idea to spend a little time learning the
ins and outs of the field. A great place to start is
the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The site discusses degree requirements for employment
and licensure, a general description of the variety
of jobs available to those in the field, employment
outlooks, average salaries, and contact information
for organizations and accrediting bodies specific to
It also discusses professions that allow you to do similar
work by taking a different educational path. This could
be highly useful if, for example,
you wanted to be a psychologist, but didn't want to
spend more than two years in school. Counseling may
be a good alternative field if your goal is to
work in mental health centers or have a private practice.
If you have access to professionals already in the
field, spend some time talking with them to find out
how your educational and career path is likely to
unfold. For example, if you wanted to pursue a master's
degree in counseling, you would need to know that you
will likely spend about two years as a full
time student taking courses and participating in a supervised
internship or practicum.
Once you have received your degree, you will not be
licensure in most or all states until you have completed
further supervised counseling experience - usually an
additional one to two years. In many cases, you can
do this while working under other licensed counselors.
It is important to know that your experience must be
supervised, and thus, you may have some difficulty in
finding someone who is willing to supervise you. This
is important to know, especially if you imagined yourself
setting up a private practice as soon as you received
your diploma. Becoming a clinical psychologist comes
with similar caveats.
It is also important to note that there are many different
names for similar licensing. In counseling, for example,
you can be licensed as a mental health counselor (LMHC)
and licensed professional counselor (LPC). The two licenses
essentially depend on which license each state awards,
but have the same general educational requirements.
On the other hand, a licensed marriage and family therapy
counselor (LMFT) would require a different course of
study. It is also extremely important that you understand
for licensing in the state or states you plan to
practice in. Requirements can vary widely even in terms
of the number of credits. Some states may require 48,
while others require 60 credits. While you may not be
looking into the fields of counseling or psychology,
these examples illustrate the importance of doing some
serious investigating into all aspects of your field
before selecting an online program. It is unlikely that
any schools you contact will automatically address these
issues for you.