What is the best way to keep myself motivated to get my masters?
I am currently in college and I want to get my masters in clinical mental health counseling. I know it is hard and anything is possible but I don't know if I would have the money to pay for it and it's just stressful to think about but I do want to get my masters.
Michele Meyer, EdD
Good morning Jocelyne,
I can totally undersand how pursuing your Masters can seem overwhelming. I was a career changer. At the age of 43 I decided to return to schol to get my Masters Degree in School Counseling. I wanted to work with children and wanted to make a difference I was tired of being in Sales in Corporate America. At times I thought I must be crazy, so I can understand how you are feeling. Here are a few suggestions I have for you. First, gather all necessary information so you can make an informed decision. Break down the process, looking at everything you need to do at once is overwhelming! I remember on the first day of class each semester when the class would receive our assignments , I would be totally overwhelmed. However, when I got home I would take out a calendar and put a plan together on how I would get the work done and that always made me feel better. Figure out your schedule and see when you would be able to go to school and when you would have time to complete your assignments. As far as affording school, speak to a financial aid counselor at the school you are thinking of attending. There is money available for you to use to complete your education and depending on your situation you might not need to pay it back. I can promise you one thing, if you decide this is a good option for you, you will work hard but once you see your first patient and make a difference, you will feel it was all worth it. I wish you the best of luck!
First off look at smaller pieces of this puzzle. Looking at the overall picture and everything that needs to be done to graduate is exhausting! 1 step at a time.
Next, it can definitely get expensive to go to graduate school. Do research, what are typical salaries in your area? What types of jobs are available? What do you need to get the job (license, certificate, etc.). What schools are available? Do you prefer online or in person courses? What’s the cost of each school? And are they accredited?
I do not live in Texas but I’ll speak to my own experience. I have a Masters in Mental Health Counseling. I did a online program. It was extremely flexible and I am very independent and motivated so I was able to manage deadlines, etc. This setting does not work for everyone.
A frustration I have found is I did over 1,300 hours of internship work for my degree. I graduated. Then the state I live in requires a post masters internship which can only be completed in 2 years minimum. So it’s a “registered intern” status. It requires finding a “qualified” supervisor (someone with 5+ years of licensure). Finding a job and a qualified supervisor is best, because it’s free. Otherwise people pay $30-$90 per week for supervision to finally become a Licensed Mental Heath Counselor. There’s also an exam. I’m pretty positive each state has something similar that requires additional work to become licensed. This was a surprise to me.
I think about nurses and how once they’re done nursing school, they are a nurse and able to practice as a nurse under their license. Mental Health Counselors have to do another internship before getting that license.
Also, something to think about. Employability. Schools in my area require a social work degree. They will not hire a mental health counselor (silly). Social workers go through the same internship I mentioned above. They are able to apply for more positions than a mental health counselor (I think).
Lastly, it is definitely worth the effort and time. The job is so rewarding and tiring, but what job isn’t? Once licensed you can find jobs working from home, be a supervisor, practice independently, work in a nonprofit or for profit organizations.
P.S. I believe if you work for a non profit for 10 years and pay your loans on time there’s a loan forgiveness program. So that’s something to consider when thinking of the cost.
As you said, you can do anything you put your mind to! You’ll do amazing!
Heidi L. Henry, PhD, LPC
What a great question! And you are already a step ahead by considering your motivation level and how to maintain it through obtaining another degree. You have received some great suggestions above. As a counselor educator (I teach in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling programs), I will try to offer you a perspective from being an instructor. We have students from all walks of life and different stages in their counseling development. We have students that go straight from their Bachelor's degree to their Master's degree and some who are midlife career changers. And they all have something great and unique to offer.
The great thing about getting a Master's degree is that you are only taking courses that are specific to your "major," so it is easier to maintain motivation when you are interested in the material. Also, many counseling programs are geared towards workers, meaning that classes occur in the evening. It is possible for you to have a job, make money, and obtain your Master's at the same time. Additionally, look for a college that offers plenty of graduate assistantships. Many of our students have GAs and get their tuition paid (they still have to pay fees), have an additional part-time job for extra cash, and still attend our program full-time. Also, some colleges have unique financial assistance opportunities. Where I got my Master's degree, they had tuition waivers for out-of-state students if they had a GA, tuition waivers for minority students, and where I currently teach, students can apply for a $10,000 stipend while completing their Internship. It is possible to make it work! I wish you the best of luck in your journey.
Heidi L. recommends the following next steps:
- Hi Jocelyne. First of all, what a wonderful ultimate goal - to serve and help others. I have learned that, sometimes, the journey towards my initial goal produces new and different opportunities which I had not, previously, known I wanted. In terms of staying motivated, I have found that breaking down the process into smaller steps sustains my momentum. Calling this person or writing that letter become goals within themselves . Each smaller goal attained feels like a victory in and of itself. And even if a particular effort is not successful, I am on a forward-moving trajectory and will, inevitably, accomplish something positive. In the same vein, I think that it is important to remind ourselves that the worst-case scenario, of missing or being denied an opportunity, is really a lesson learned ( no matter how bad it may feel at the time) on our forward-moving path. I congratulate you now for your certain successes in the future, in whichever form and shape they end up taking.
Find a local college with a course plan to get to exactly which degree you would like to obtain and stick to that plan but be flexible if the required courses change or if something needs to be taken down to part or half time versus full time. Rely on your guidance counselors in the college you've chosen and try to always register in person to ensure you're on track and only take what's required as to not miss any wasted hours.