Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Career Spotlight: School Counselors

The following article was created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree. This article series provides an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.

School counselors work with students at the elementary, middle school, high school and college level to provide academic and career guidance to the student population they serve, they might also provide mental health counseling or life coaching when needed.  The job roles of school counselors vary depending on the setting they work in and the clients they work with.  Generally speaking school counselors who are employed in elementary schools focus on helping students develop their interpersonal skills.  This can include intervening to help end bullying in the school, helping shy students meet others and develop friendships, and improving the clients overall communication skills.   School counselors that work in a middle school or high school focus more on preparing students for their adult lives.  They help their clients make decisions about their long term academic and career goals, this process requires them to help their students decide which classes to take or which activities to participate in.  This guidance helps the client build their set of skills and knowledge base to help them accomplish their longer term goals.  High school counselors may also help to identify any emotional or behavioral problems that their students are suffering from and provide them with counseling to help them overcome their challenges in order to be better equipped to reach their goals.  School counselors who work with college students perform similar duties to that of high school counselors, but they generally spend more time developing strategies to help their clients reach their goals and less time working with their clients to define them.

Most states require school counselors to earn a masters degree in school counseling in order to be qualified to work in the field.  Many programs will offer degree programs in either elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school counseling.  Selecting a specific concentration within the practice of school counseling helps to prepare future counselors to manage the unique challenges of working with clients at a specific level.  While each concentration will offer courses specific to working with a particular age group, students enrolled in a school counseling program can reasonably expect to encounter coursework in the following topics: assessment methods for counselors, social and diversity issues in counseling, research methods, consultation and coordination in guidance and counseling, and organization and administration of school counseling programs.  Students enrolled in a school counseling graduate program are also likely to be required to complete a supervised practicum where they work with a certified school counselor to gain real world experience working with clients.  

Pursuing a career as a school counselor may be a good option for women who want to have a similar schedule to their children.  Most school counselors work during the hours that their children will be in school, which may help to reduce the amount of money spent on before or after school care for their young children.  Some counselors also have off during the summer (the specific number of days off and schedules are defined in the counselor’s contract, and will vary across different school districts or work environments).  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2012 median salary of school and career counselors was $53,610 and jobs in this field are predicted to grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022.  Click here to learn more about earning your graduate degree in school counseling or research educational options.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Career Spotlight: Physician Assistants

This is the third installment of monthly career spotlight blog series created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree. These articles are intended to provide an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.

This month’s featured career is Physician Assistants.  Physician Assistants perform many of the same duties as medical doctors, including; diagnosing injuries and illnesses and recommending courses of treatment.  In many states physician assistants are even able to prescribe medications.  Physician’s assistants can choose to specialize in a medical specialty, including; obstetrics, pediatrics, surgery, orthopedics, and psychiatrics.  

Physician Assistants are required to earn a master’s degree, completing coursework in subjects such as anatomy and physiology, biology, pharmacology, medical law, and ethics.  Students in a physician assistant graduate program are also required to successfully complete several clinical rotations where they work under the supervision of a practicing physician assistant to learn important job skills in a variety of clinical settings.  

Physician assistants are able to exercise a great degree of control over their careers because there are many career options available to them.  Physician assistants can find employment in hospitals, medical clinics, and the offices of other medical professionals; they might also find employment in urgent care centers of drug store chains that feature wellness centers.  The availability of jobs in a variety of different settings means that physician assistants might have the opportunity to choose the work environment and schedule that best fits their lifestyle.  This flexibility may make a career as a physician assistant ideal for the modern woman.  The ability to exercise a degree of control over ones schedule may make it easier to manage competing responsibilities like family obligations. 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2012 median salary of physician assistants was $90,930 and jobs in this field are predicted to grow by 38% between 2012 and 2022.  To learn more about physician assistant graduate programs check out available physician assistant graduate programs

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Art of Relationships

Why Love Isn’t Enough.

The concept goes against everything we have been taught by the media, especially Disney… I am a huge fan of Disney but let’s be honest, the idea of only needing love is not accurate (Despite what the Beatles say). Instead I challenge you to disregard what you have been told and think of the things that make up a great relationship. Things like honesty, mutual respect and trust might come to mind. Can you imagine having a relationship without these things? If it was solely based on love what would a fight look like? Since love is derived from passion it would probably be emotionally charged in a negative way. So how do we fight fair when a fight does arise? We remember that we care about the other person, respect their differing opinion and know that if we disagree respectfully they will listen and reciprocate our feelings.   

This concept was initially presented by Aaron Beck, M.D., a founding father of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in his instrumental book titled Love Is Never Enough.  On a brief historical side note, CBT is a form of psycho-behavioral therapy that focuses on changing thoughts and feelings in order to influence behavior. He suggested that we must first ensure that a healthy foundation has been laid in the relationship in order for it to be successful. His five foundational elements are: cooperation, commitment, basic trust, loyalty and fidelity. 

Cooperation is a basic attitude where you work together to meet mutual goals. Commitment means that you know that you will always be in the relationship together. This is the difference between feeling like “If we have a rocky patch we will work on it together till it gets fixed” versus “If it gets rough I’ll back out”. Basic trust is knowing that your partner always has your best interests at heart and they would not intentionally hurt you. Loyalty is standing by/up for your partner regardless of the situation, even if it is uncomfortable. Finally fidelity is being loyal sexually and emotionally; agreeing to not have relations outside the marriage or relationship. 

Without these basic foundational principles the relationship will not feel secure. One particularly important aspect of a healthy relationship is avoiding statements that harm the foundation. A commonly used tactic is threatening to leave your partner. This is often used when one person is frustrated or hurt and wants the other person to feel that same feeling so they use the threat, “Well then we should get divorced!” (Or something similar).  The problem with this is that it undermines the principle of commitment.  Each time it gets easier and easier to say until one day you actually get to the point that you decide to go through with it. Instead I would challenge you to say something like “I’m really upset right now and don’t want to say something I don’t mean.  Can we take some time to calm down and then come back to discuss this?” Here you are being honest with your partner, and are committing to coming back to work on it for the betterment of your relationship. If you do find yourself in a fight with your partner I would encourage you to also utilize some of the tactics presented by the University Of Texas Counseling Center (below). These tactics and the five foundational elements I’ve mentioned are the basics of what every relationship needs in order to avoid flighty passion and help love survive. 

You can also visit their website for additional resources at:

  • Understand Each Others' Family Patterns. Find out how conflicts were managed (or not managed) in your partner's family, and talk about how conflict was approached (or avoided) in your own family. It is not unusual for couples to discover that their families had different ways of expressing anger and resolving differences. If your family wasn't good at communicating or resolving conflict constructively, give yourself permission to try out some new ways of handling conflict.
  • Timing Counts. Contrary to previous notions, the best time to resolve a conflict may not be immediately. It is not unusual for one or both partners to need some time to cool off. This "time-out' period can help you avoid saying or doing hurtful things in the heat of the moment, and can help partners more clearly identify what changes are most important. Remember - if you are angry with your partner but don't know what you want yet, it will be nearly impossible for your partner to figure it out!
  • Establish an Atmosphere of Emotional Support. Emotional support involves accepting your partner's differences and not insisting that he or she meet your needs only in the precise way that you want them met. Find out how your partner shows his or her love for you, and don't set absolute criteria that require your partner to always behave differently before you're satisfied.
  • Agree to Disagree and Move On. Most couples will encounter some issues upon which they will never completely agree. Rather than continuing a cycle of repeated fights, agree to disagree and negotiate a compromise or find a way to work around the issue.
  • Distinguish between things you want versus things you need from your partner. For example, for safety reasons, you might need your partner to remember to pick you up on time after dark. But calling you several times a day may really only be a "want."
  • Clarify Your Messages. A clear message involves a respectful but direct expression of your wants and needs. Take some time to identify what you really want before talking to your partner. Work on being able to describe your request in clear, observable terms. For example, you might say, "I would like you to hold my hand more often" rather than the vague, "I wish you were more affectionate."
  • Discuss One Thing at a Time. It can be tempting to list your concerns or grievances, but doing so will likely prolong an argument. Do your best to keep the focus on resolving one concern at a time.
  • Really Listen. Being a good listener requires the following: (a) don't interrupt, (b) focus on what your partner is saying rather than on formulating your own response, and (c) check out what you heard your partner say. You might start this process with: "I think you are saying..." Or "what I understood you to say was..." This step alone can prevent misunderstandings that might otherwise develop into a fight.
  • Restrain Yourself. Research has found that couples who "edit" themselves and do not say all the angry things they may be thinking are typically the happiest.
  • Adopt a "Win-Win" Position. A "win-win" stance means that your goal is for the relationship, rather than for either partner, to "win" in a conflict situation. Ask yourself: "Is what I am about to say (or do) going to increase or decrease the odds that we'll work this problem out?"
Jessica Gorman has spent her career working in the non-profit mental health field. She has Master’s Degrees in Counseling Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure Preparation and Education/Instructional Leadership and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.  She has worked in a variety of settings including group homes, behavioral health agencies, universities and healthcare clinics. She has experience working as an individual, family, couple and group counselor for both children and adults.  Her personal interests within the mental health field include PTSD treatment (civilian and military) as well as the emotional challenges of parenthood.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Career Spotlight: Social Work

This is the second installment of monthly career spotlight blog series created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree.  These articles are intended to provide an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.
Social Work Careers
Demand for qualified social work professionals is growing at a surprising rate.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs in the field of social work will increase by 25% between 2010 and 2020.  Which means by 2020 there are expected to be 811,700 people employed in social work positions. 

This growth is expected across a broad range of specializations within the field.  Social Work professionals are employed in a variety of industries and work environments.  They might be employed by schools, hospitals, in-patient and out-patient mental health and rehabilitation facilities, non-profit organizations, home healthcare service providers, or local, state, or federal offices.  Social work professionals might pursue careers where they provide services directly to clients, as researchers, or as program directors or administrators. 

Clinical social workers, those who spend most of their time interacting with clients spend most of their time meeting with clients to assess their needs, provide counseling, and connecting their clients to available services.  Available services might include; food assistance, health care, housing, and employment or vocational training services.  Working as a clinical social worker is dynamic; no one work day will be identical to the next as each client will present the practitioner with new challenges and opportunities to provide care.  Clinical social workers must work to keep up to date on available services that may help their clients improve their lives. Social workers who wish to pursue careers as administrators or community organizers spend less time working directly with clients and more time creating programs  or managing programs that provide services to those in need, examples of these programs might include managing a food pantry, or working to establish community gardens in urban areas.  In essence, these social work professionals create and manage the programs and services that clinical social workers can utilize to connect the clients they are working with to the resources they need.  Social workers who focus on research might conduct studies to determine whether or not a specific program is able to create positive outcomes for the participants, or work to identify new intervention or counseling methods clinical social workers can use to better treat their clients.  Social workers in the field of research may spend some time working with the population seeking services, but they rarely provide direct care to these individuals.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in social work you may have several options.  If you have not already earned an undergraduate degree, you might consider majoring in social work as an undergraduate and then seek admission into a social work graduate program.  Individuals with an undergraduate degree in social work may qualify to enroll in an advanced standing program where they may be able to earn their MSW (Master’s in Social Work) in as little as 1 year.  Those without an undergraduate degree in social work are usually required to participate in a more traditional 2 year course of education.  Both programs are likely to require students to complete mandatory supervised training hours, working in professional settings under the guidance of a licensed social work practitioner.  Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in social work may be qualified to work in the field, but are not able to obtain licensure in most states.  Licensure may be particularly important for those interested in a career as a clinical social worker as licensure (LSW, LCSW) is often required for those interested in providing counseling.

Social workers salaries vary across industries and specializations the table below outlines some of the median salaries of social workers practicing in different job environments and specializations.  This data can be found in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

Social Work Specialization/Work Environment
Median Salary
Federal Government
Insurance Carriers
Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds
Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Specialty Hospitals
Local Government
Individual Family Services
Social Advocacy Organizations
Community Food and Housing

Visit if you are interested in learning more about a career in social work or researching graduate programs in this discipline.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What To Bring To Your Job Interview

It’s January, and hopefully you will start getting responses to the applications and resumes you’ve been submitting. While you don’t want to bring a box of items to an interview and look like you’re moving in, it is important to have a few key items with you. Here is a list of those key items.
  1. While you’re getting ready for an interview there are some simple things to remember. Simple – often forgotten – items include directions to the interview location, identification that may be needed to get into the building or suite, a fresh breath  spray, names of the people with whom you are meeting, notebook and pen and enough drive time to be about 15 minutes early to the interview.
  2. Resume copies for the hiring manager and others who may be at your interview. It may be helpful for them to review the resume as they are asking you questions.
  3. Reference list including contact information. Only present the list when requested by the recruiter or hiring manager. Be sure to tell your references when the list is given to a prospective employer so they are prepared to answer questions and provide feedback on your behalf. Additional tips about References for the Job Seeker.
  4. Bring a copy of the job description to use as a reference when you answer interview questions. Don’t overkill the use of keywords; rather show that you have a working knowledge of what the position entails through your use of similar language in the interview.
  5. Depending on the type of job you are interviewing for, you may need to bring a portfolio or samples of your work. Often this can be avoided by having samples available on your LinkedIn profile or other online venue. It is important to include links to these profiles on your paper resume.
Use a briefcase or folder for all printed materials that you bring to the interview. A simple portfolio with clear labels is a great option and will prevent you from looking disorganized when the hiring manager is requesting information from you. Here’s to you landing the career of your dreams!

Jessica Pierce the Executive Director of Career Connectors, a community outreach program dedicated to connecting Real People to Real Careers.