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Too Late for me to get a Psychology Degree?

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Question:
Dear Psychologist:

I am 33 years old graduate in mass communication and post graduate in mba. I always wanted to pursue psychology as a profession (counseling; guidance psychology) but couldn't due to family problems. Now I finally think I should leave my fears behind and start doing what i should have done years back. But I still have many concerns.

1. I don't know whether I should pursue MA directly or first complete BA in psychology . I am eligible for MA psychology as I am a graduate but I think to become a certified psychologist, I should have a Bachelors, Masters and Phd in the same subject. Is that correct?

3. I'll most probably be able to pursue psychology only via distance education due to various responsibilities. Do you think completing my entire education via distance education PLUS my age could be obstacles in my career?? ( I'll be approximately 40 years old by the time I become a certified psychologist if I start with B.A degree)

3. What is the MINIMUM education qualification I need to achieve to start working as a counselor with educational institutes? My final aim is to have my own practise working as a full time counselor or working with a hospital. Thank you, Reva.

Answer:
Dear Reva,

Your ultimate aim is to work as a full-time counselor in your own practice or work in a hospital. You already have an MBA (no small feat!) and a bachelor's degree. The short answer is, yes, you can certainly become a counselor, and no it is not too late (although of course your path will require hard work, time, and financial investment). Let's look at your questions one by one.

1) You do not need to get a bachelor's degree in psychology to proceed in your career goals. I don't think that would be the best option for you given how much education you already have. However, a graduate school of psychology or counseling might have certain psychology prerequisites. Consider taking these classes online or at a local college.

2) It is certainly doable to get your degree online and your age shouldn't be a factor. Since counseling is a hands-on profession requiring supervised experience, look for a hybrid program (one that blends in-class time with online time) or an online program with a good internship component. Please make sure that any online school you enroll in is accredited for the mental health field you choose to enter.

3) The minimum degree you need to work as a counselor is a two year master's degree. You can be licensed as a clinical social worker or counselor. Doing so will allow you to have a private practice (although some insurance companies will only cover a doctoral level psychologist) or to work in a hospital. Given your age and stage of life, a master's degree might be the best choice right now as a doctoral degree in psychology takes a minimum of four years of school and training.

Finally, it might be good for you to get some related experience before you apply to schools to prove your commitment. There are some entry level jobs in the mental health field that require only a bachelor's degree.

Good luck with following your dream!

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