A master’s in school counseling is essential to getting on the fast track for a career in public and private schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this sector is expected to grow by about 8 percent, driven by increasing school enrollment at all levels. Graduates can expect a long and stable career with many growth opportunities in related sectors if you have the right credentials. Typically, a master’s in school counseling is the minimum requirement, and you will benefit if your program includes a residency portion.
A residency refers to that part of your master’s program that requires you to be on-campus for a short period. This may be scheduled anytime during the two or three-year period that you are enrolled, but come colleges recommend turning the residency portion into a capstone project scheduled toward the end of your program. The residency requirement may overlap with the internship portion in universities that also host a laboratory school, assuming you can get an internship slot in said school.
1. Interaction with Faculty and Peers
An online or dual enrollment master’s in school counseling program may not provide many opportunities for physical interaction with peers and the teaching team. This program encourages intense focus on course material, but real world interaction will provide the opportunity to test theoretical knowledge. Physical interaction with peers will be an opportunity to gauge real world reactions without filters.
2. Real World Testing of Concepts
A career in school counseling means front line interface with real people. Some of your clients will be at their most vulnerable while others may be unwilling participants in any dialogue. The residency portion is a chance for you to test your ability to read other people’s subtle and not-too-subtle reactions. It will also be an opportunity to gauge your ability to deal with the public.
3. Analyze your Career Path
It is easy to misread your career direction when you are insulated from real life situations. The residency requirement is intended to show you that you will be dealing with different types of people with divergent motivations. Navigating your way around real life situations will either enhance your passion or redirect your energy to related fields more compatible with your goals or life preferences.
4. Find a Mentor or Coach
The residency program will put you in touch with faculty and other authorities in your field. Use this opportunity to find someone you respect and admire. If you can establish rapport with leaders in your field, this will be an opportunity to work toward a mentorship relationship that can guide your career direction and boost your opportunities in the field.
5. Network with your Peers in the Program
Chances are you are already employed as you pursue a master’s in school counseling. You have your own circle of friends and professional colleagues to lean on. However, to lean in and achieve more, do not hesitate to make lasting connections with your peers in the program. Use the residency portion to get to know a few of them better. It never hurts to have a large pool of acquaintances to provide inside information on job opportunities or write letters of referral. Remember that this should work both ways, so be prepared to offer assistance when you can.
The residency portion of a master’s in school counseling program is an excellent opportunity to enhance your theoretical knowledge through physical interaction with faculty and other professionals in this field. It is also a chance for you to interact with your peers whether or not they are in your program. Turning the residency into a capstone project underlines the skills and specific knowledge you will need to have a productive and fulfilling career in school counseling.