Monday, March 23, 2009

Stuffed Shirt

So I'm not sure what master's degree I should pursue—though I'm pretty sure that I should pursue one.

I love working with children, specifically with children who have been damaged in life and could use some help with coping skills. No doubt it has something to do with my years as a parent... In any case, I'd like to get a degree that explicitly permits me to counsel such children.

However. Should that degree be an M.S.W, or an M.Ed. with a counseling focus, or an L.M.H.C.? Or, should I acknowledge that, like it or not—and I do like to be entrusted with more responsibilities—I tend to advance (job 1, started as a receiving clerk, became a manager; job 2, started as a data entry clerk, became an editor; job 3, started as house staff, became a program director), and pursue a degree in organizational management? Would that mean I could not work with the children, whom I enjoy so much?

The reason I feel like I should get a master's is that my current job prefers one, and I would really love to do more intense work with 'my' population. So that could rule out organizational management, except that the other reason I feel like I should get a master's is that I want to be employable anywhere, at a relatively good salary (the other side of the globe from a Wall Street salary, of course). Victor and I still dream of retiring to the South, and his retirement will occur before mine.

What do those of you who haven't abandoned reading this lengthy, self-obsessed post think makes the most sense?


  1. I vote for the L.M.H.C. I think your gift is counseling. I have seen you do it numerous times and not just with children. You have many strengths and could easily choose any of those paths. The question is what do you love doing the most.

  2. Mom, I think the answer to your own question would be to reflect on the type of impact you would like to have/bring about in the mental health field. You've outlined two possible tracks; the first involves working with individuals and the second involves working on making changes to institutional policies in the mental health field. As you've noted, and as ravyn has noted, you enjoy working and have a talent for working at the 'micro' level of mental health - with individuals. However, with your insight and intellect on how mental health policies 'actually' pan out for individuals and families, you would be a invaluable resource to local, state, and federal policy makers (or maybe even as a curriculum advisor or school director). Clearly this conundrum is the very question you're seeking an answer to, especially since it appears that there isn't a clear track that combines all of these interests.

    I'd suggest shooting for the Masters in Social Work. With this degree you would be able to have the base to pursue either track illustrated above. From Wikipedia, "Most MSW programs allow students to choose a clinical track, which focuses on direct practice with clients, or a community practice track, with a focus on political advocacy, community organizing, policy analysis and/or human services management.There are also opportunities at many universities to obtain joint degrees, such as an MSW and a Public Administration degree, MSW and Public Health, or MSW and Law." Besides, with an MSW you could always go for the LMHC.

    Of course I may not understand the differences between the different degrees or the licenses, but it appears that with an MSW you would be left with the potential to undergo either track. I feel like if you were to get an M.Ed that you would be pigeonholed into Educational Management of some sort (guidance, etc.).

  3. Thank you both so much for replying. I have been feeling lately more like an MSW is the right path, but I'm not going to force myself into a decision right away. There's a big part of me that wants the most bang for my buck (effort as well as money), and anything requiring a license, including an LMHC, requires substantial, intensive work. If I'm going to become licensed, I might as well go for the more broadly focused degree, right? I just need to get used to the idea.