Diploma vs Degree
What type of training is right for me? Best interview strategies?
These are typical questions KCPC students ask about launching a new career as a professional counsellor...
Question: Will applicants with university degrees have an advantage over me?
Answer: A diploma from vocational training college such as KCPC is not easily comparable to a university degree, since the content and goals of the two educational programs are quite different. It’s like comparing a laser beam to a floodlight.
Think of the KCPC’s Diploma program as the laser-- one year (984 hours) of intensive study and skill building exercises specific to counselling and psychology. This targeted training prepares students for immediate employment in the mental health field.
A typical undergraduate degree is more like a floodlight, illuminating a broad base of subjects in addition to one’s major. Students receive a general education that focuses on academic learning with little opportunity for practical skill development. A typical four year BA degree is comprised of one year’s worth of coursework in a 'major' subject area (such as social work), with an additional 3 years devoted to other subjects such as history, math, English etc.
Traditionally, university graduates have had an advantage over other applicants, but requirements in the mental health field are evolving from conventional academic criteria toward the competency-based model offered by KCPC. Employers are looking to hire staff who are trained and ready to work.
Question: Does it make more financial sense to invest in a university degree or a diploma?
Answer: Let me share with you the comments we hear most often from KCPC students as to why they chose a diploma instead of pursuing a university degree…. Students who have done their research and compared the two options tell us that for them, it comes down to dollars and time invested. A university degree requires a commitment of 4 plus years, and can cost up to $100,000, while a diploma can be completed online in one year for less than $15,000. Add this information to the laser and floodlight comparison (above), and you’ll have a better idea of which choice makes the most sense for you.
Question… could you give me some ideas on how to present my qualifications when competing against applicants who have a university degree?
Answer: The secret to getting the job you want, or building a successful private practice is due in part to the following:
- Many employers are simply unfamiliar with the course content of training colleges such as KCPC. Be very clear in your resume and cover letter to prospective employers that you are trained in 16 core areas of competence standard to all practicing professional counselors. KCPC will give you a letter of recommendation that outlines your specific skill set.
- Project confidence. You have done the work and learned the material; now it’s time to show what you know. Employers are more likely to see in you, what you see in yourself.
- Before starting your job search, review the “Tips for Marketing Your Job Skills” included in each course syllabus. These ideas will help you present yourself as a confident and skilled professional.
- Become a member of a nationally recognized, professional associations such as the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. This organization is a strong advocate for equalizing opportunities in the mental health field. The CPCA reports that employment requirements are shifting away from traditional academic criteria (such as university degrees) and moving to competency based standards of practice. The KCPC diploma program is an example of such competency-based training.
- Earn your professional designation. The letters “RPC” behind your name signifies to clients, other professionals, and prospective employers that you are a Registered Professional Counsellor with the CPCA.
The end result of your job interview depends on a combination of your personal characteristics, and the skills you bring to the job…
Many KCPC Diploma graduates with limited experience but good networking skills have been successful at landing entry positions.
Grads with previous job-related experience along with a Diploma have landed mid to senior level positions.
Some KCPC Diploma grads have even been hired for jobs that originally advertised for Master’s degree applicants!
Question: I really want the job, but tend to talk myself out of it before I even apply! How can I sound more confident?
Answer: As with most universities and colleges, we cannot guarantee employment in the counselling field. However, we can offer some suggestions on how to increase your chance of success.
During the interview, be proactive and exude confidence.
--Believe in yourself. The Proficiency Exam at the conclusion of your program provides excellent validation of what you’ve learned. Your successful completion of the program, along with your volunteer experience and will add to your confidence.
--Educate the perspective employer as to why they should hire a graduate from KCPC. Most employers prefer to hire those who know how to apply the skills required; thereby cutting down on the time and expense of providing additional training.
--Your Diploma represents more hours devoted specifically to the theory and practice of counseling than most conventional degree programs.
--Describe content of your courses, the number of hours and details about your volunteer placement.
--Highlight specific skills and relevant theories to demonstrate your level of competence in the core subject areas that apply to the position. Give specific examples of the types of skills you can bring to the job that will benefit the employer. This may be your strongest selling point!
--Let employers know that your coursework was based on university level text books by major theorists, and that you have a small library of reference books at home to prove it.
--Most of those working in the field of counseling, or any field for that matter, agree that networking leads to more likely success than credentials alone. Tell those in your volunteer placement, and others in your professional network (potential employers, supervisors, and colleagues) what your training involved.
Other grads have done it… you can too.
All of us at KCPC, staff and instructors, are proud of graduates who are providing quality counselling services in communities all over Canada. We appreciate the level of dedication it takes to prepare for a career as a professional counsellor. This is not a light-weight education. It requires a great deal of effort and self-discipline…
When you’re ready to take that first step, we’ll be here to help you fulfill your goal.