For many different reasons, Professional Counselors may want to consider an option other than counseling for work. Perhaps, other than opening up one’s own private practice, there are no openings for counselors in their area. Another reason is near and dear to my heart—people who have obtained their graduate degrees and entered the counseling profession specifically to offer services to Troops and their Families find themselves “blocked” from those jobs. Some counselors may simply want to supplement their income, explore a new area of work, or change up routine to avoid burnout. So what are some of our options?
One line of work that I have found it’s relatively simple to get into if you are an experienced, masters level counselor is teaching. Just about every college in the U.S. (and many other countries) now offers online courses. Since online education is on the rise, this inevitably has created and opened up more teaching positions. I recently read an article about this which pointed out that most schools now prefer to have a large number of adjunct professors on hand (part-time, not tenured staff) because it is more cost-efficient. This being the case, there is a demand for online professors. I currently teach one to two online courses at Stevens-Henager College. This is a college that has been around for over 100 years and is more recently offering more courses and programs online. I just happened to stumble upon this opportunity, but there are many other schools where masters level, experienced professionals would be of value on a teaching staff.
There might also be a college in your area with on-campus positions open. While most major universities will require a doctoral degree, many smaller colleges, technical schools, junior colleges, and community colleges will have undergraduate courses with teaching positions available to professionals with a master’s degree. Many larger public or private high schools have courses in psychology or may even have tutoring positions available.
On that note, online tutoring is another area of work with positions open. Some require special skill sets which counselors might have such as understanding human learning and cognition, or working with special populations. Other companies/sites may just require you to be available at certain hours for students needing a tutor. Included in this would be services which allow students to turn in their papers or work with you “live” online to get feedback on papers. One such service is called SMARTHINKING and I have seen this type of service used at three different universities.
Research is another option. So I can finance and give proper attention to my final year of my doctoral studies, this is actually the line of work I have been in for the past year. I am employed in Washington, D.C. by a consulting company as a researcher. We are working on a project now for the FBI helping them with training needs. Here I get to use what my Professional Counseling masters degree and my International Psychology PhD have taught me—conducting interviews, facilitating focus groups, implementation of human learning and cognition, creating a valid, reliable survey, applying principles of social sciences research methodology, etc. The field of social sciences offers many opportunities for people to assist in research and projects in capacities such as research creation, data collection, statistical analysis, reporting, etc.
Another area of work is in psychology-related phone services and online hotlines. Phone services dedicated to things such as crisis hotlines, suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention, and support lines for other psychological needs are examples of services in need of true counselors. I recently tried out a military-related phone line to see what kinds of services are provided to callers. The person I spoke with was very pleasant to speak with. When I asked what his position/role was, he told me he was a “mental health counselor.” Upon further inquiry, he revealed he had a bachelor’s degree in social work. While he was very nice and had a list of people for referrals, he did not seem to have a firm understanding of psychological needs or different service options. It made me think of how much help a more knowledgeable professional would have been able to offer callers.
Yes, your experience and expertise are valuable commodities! Look into opportunities to share it with others. Write a book, contribute to a magazine, this sort of thing. There are many websites and magazines dedicated to social science-related topics. Write an article and submit it to a newspaper or website or magazine. You may end up being paid to write an article every now and then or you may even turn this into a full-time gig. I have known people to do just that.
Community and Social Services
There are also social services and community services options as well. While traditionally these may be seen as “social worker” positions, professional counselors have a lot to offer as well. Working in facilities and/or programs such as shelters, hospitals, churches, day or overnight camps, and sports and recreation is something you might not think of at first, but it makes sense when you look at the main point: Working with people and improving their quality of life.
International Work and Humanitarianism
And let’s not forget international- and humanitarian-related jobs. Sure, there are organizations such as the Red Cross and Peace Corp. But there are many other companies, groups, and non-profit organizations in need of people to work on various projects. Some of this might be short-term but there are also full-time positions and careers available for sure.
Keep in mind, even if you do not see an immediate opening for a counseling position specifically, there are many other positions for which you are a great fit! Even if you work in a non-counseling capacity, but are part of a team effort in something that benefits individuals and society, isn’t that just as fulfilling? Don’t pigeon hole yourself into only one type of work. Especially if you are in need financially—don’t hold out for one “idealized” or “cookie-cutter” counseling job. Take things that are outside-the-box or maybe even seemingly “below” your education/experience level. Who knows, you may end up loving a completely different line of work or later on more opportunities may present themselves. That seems to be what has benefited me most in my career and has allowed me to do some pretty neat things—I stepped out of my comfort zone, met new people, and got involved in different kinds of psychology-related work. I think richer, more diverse work experience offers opportunities to grow, deepens one’s knowledge, and makes for a well-rounded professional.
Natosha Monroe is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.