Dear Career Doctor:
I am 48 years old and am pursuing a psychology BA and perhaps an MA because I want to work as an academic counselor. Being realistic, I would finish at around age 53. Is it reasonable to expect to be hired at that age, or am I just wasting my time and money?
If your name was Michael, I would be much more positive, because there is a perpetual shortage of male teachers and counselors. So, while no one would publicly admit it, principals usually hire men if they can, hoping to provide students with positive male role models.
But since you are female, the question is, “What have you been doing for the last 28 years?” Principals also like to hire people with “real life experience” in the working world. They often feel this background helps counselors (and teachers) guide young people who are naive about the skills and behaviors they need to succeed. On the other hand, if you have good experience raising your own children — especially if you were active in their schools — that might count in your favor.
Regardless of the experience you have, here’s a suggestion: Many people getting their Masters in Counseling are teachers. In fact, some graduate programs are set up to accommodate teachers’ schedules. So, if you have any interest in teaching, I would strongly recommend that you hedge your bet and switch to a degree that would let you teach. That way, you will be paid to get relevant experience while pursuing your Masters.