When you choose the right program, you can become a marriage and family counselor online. Colleges design these programs for students who cannot take traditional courses. You might have a job and work unusual hours that keep you from attending a traditional college, or you might have kids at home and want to earn your degree while taking care of them. While these programs let you earn your degree online, you’ll still need to do other things offline to become a licensed counselor.
Online graduate degree programs typically require that you do at least 30 credit hours of work. The classes you take teach you skills that apply directly to your patients. You’ll also take at least one course on legal and ethical implications that show you the importance of protecting the privacy of all your clients. Many programs also have thesis requirement. This gives you the chance to do some research on your own about a topic in the marriage and family therapy field and write a paper based on that research. Schools that offer a non-thesis route often require that you take extra courses.
While you can become a marriage and family counselor online, you will need to complete a residency requirement offline. The residency requirement asks that you spend some time working in a clinical setting. You may need to spend at least 600 hours working for a family and marriage counselor in your area. With traditional degree programs, the school will match you with a counseling center or a similar treatment facility to complete your residency. If you enter an online program, you may need to find a licensed center on your own or travel to the college’s campus to complete this step.
Before you work as a marriage and family counselor, you must have a license. The National Board for Certified Counselors offers a professional licensing examination that awards you a license based on your results. You may opt to also take the test available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. When you apply to take one of these tests, you must show that you meet any requirements. You may need to have at least 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork under your belt or show that you completed 4,000 hours of combined fieldwork.
Choosing a Program
To become a marriage and family counselor online, you must know how to select the best program for you. The top programs offer a combination of specialized courses that teach you about working with your clients and how to better understand their needs. The Federal Trade Commission also warns students of diploma mills, which are a common scam. According to the FTC, some signs of a diploma mill include programs that let you complete courses in a few weeks or less and schools that charge one flat fee for all the required courses.
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Marriage and family counselors offer advice and guidance for couples dealing with issues like infidelity, but they also help children convicted of crimes like shoplifting and trespassing. Though you can earn your degree and become a marriage and family counselor online, you will still need to complete a residency requirement that asks you to spend a year or more working with clients in a clinical setting.