Opportunities with a Doctoral Degree
However, if you think you might want a career as a researcher, professor, or administrator, a doctoral degree is a better choice. Doctoral-level education includes training in research in addition to therapeutic skills. The research training that accompanies a doctoral degree offers opportunities to teach college, work as a researcher, or engage in program review and development. As you consider your degree options, try to think ahead and imagine your future self. For example, mental health administration may not seem appealing now but your view might change in the coming years.
Independent Practice for Master's Level Professionals
Master's level practitioners may practice independently in all states, using the label of counselor, social worker, or therapist. A master's degree in counseling, clinical or counseling psychology, social work (MSW), or marriage and family therapy (MFT), followed by appropriate credentialing will enable you to work in a private practice setting. As you consider master's programs look into the certification requirements in your state, including education and supervised practice. For example, most states require 600-1,000 hours of supervised therapy after obtaining a master's degree. Carefully evaluate master's programs to ensure that they will meet the requirements for certification or licensure as a counselor in your state so that you can practice independently. After you obtain the degree, there are either licensure or certification requirements (varying by state) before you can set up a private practice. Most states require 600-700 hours of supervised therapy.
Labels for Master's Level Professionals
Should you decide to pursue a master's degree in clinical or counseling psychology, recognize that you will not practice as a psychologist. The term "psychologist" is a protected label available only to licensed psychologists -- and most states require a doctoral degree for licensure. Instead you can use the term "therapist" or "counselor."