Information About How to Become a Counselor

Becoming a counselor is a noble goal to pursue and adds a vital function to your local community. In order to be a practicing counselor in your area you will need to become a licensed counselor. In most states this requires a Master’s degree in counseling. When considering this career it is wise to have a group you wish to work with in mind.

For some working with children and teens is a specialization that has particular appeal. Children are the group you will see the most rapid change in and can have the greatest impact on. For others working in couple’s counseling might be the focus one is drawn to. Still others will find they resonate with working with the disabled. Different focuses appeal to different people and you can be certain that if the idea of counseling appeals to you, that you can find a group you will really want to work with.

A career in counseling is one that offers many avenues for helping your fellow human beings and giving back to your community. However, when you start down the road of education it’s a great idea to have your end specialty already picked out. We will provide you with a few examples of career in Human Services counseling that might appeal to you.

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Steps to Become a Counselor

Earn an Accredited Bachelor’s Degree
Any program that will accept you to further your education always requires a Bachelor’s Degree. Your Bachelor’s Degree can range in specialization outside of counseling up until the stage of application for graduate school.

Earn an Accredited Master’s Degree in Counseling
Apply to a variety of schools that offer a Master’s Degree in Counseling. Choose a school that specializes in the program you are looking for. The schools you are applying too should hold high standards of accreditation such as CACREP. This accreditation will enhance the programs reputation which will make your job application to internships and career choices more appealing to the employer.

Take the Exam
Taking an exam in your state is required to be licensed in that area, therefore check with your state on specific exams and requirements. On a national level, The National Counselor Exam NCE for Licensure is designed to measure understanding and expertise to provide professional counseling services.

For Mental Health Counseling, there is an additional National exam NCMHCE, which is a requirement in some states for Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor certification. As well, you will want to check with the state in which you live on what specific exams, background check and requirements are mandatory to start practicing in your state.

Choose an internship or practicum
There a difference between the two:

  • A practicum is an experience in the field of counseling that permits students to observe and document how working professionals perform their job responsibilities. Simultaneously the student can enroll in a program which frameworks the requirements of the practicum.
  • The Internship: takes on real scenarios of the concentrated career focusing on skill and knowledge in the working environment. The student is placed under supervision of a professional who can critique and pass valuable knowledge of the student’s observations and practice.

Choose Your Counseling Specialty
There are a variety of counseling specialties that you may want to pursue. Below, on this page, there are overviews on different types of counselor including School Counselors, Rehabilitation Counselors. Mental Health Counselors and the list continues from there. Each type of counselor may require a different college degree or certification, which will also require different courses and education. Check with your state to understand what credentials you will need to practice to further becoming a counselor.

Continue Your Counseling Education
Each state will have additional requirements to keep your credentials as a counselor. You will have to check with your state on re-certification processes which may be required between three and ten years. There are a variety of ways to accrue these re-certifications which may include areas of your everyday work.

Earn a Doctoral Degree
A Doctoral degree is not necessary to work in the field; however it will put you at the highest level of education which will allow you to become a director, manager or overseeing groups of colleagues or students. You will also have the credentials to teach courses for future counselors looking to earn their certifications and licenses.

School Counselor

The school counselor is a career, academic and vocational counselor that works with students to help them determine what aptitudes and skills they have to pursue the education and career of their dreams. Whether you are working in a High School setting or as a College counselor, you will be working with young people who are looking for guidance in critical life choices. By properly assessing the natural skills, personality and aptitude of the student you can help them discover their inborn talents and natural career arc. Once you’ve determined a likely career you will have counseling sessions with the student to help them form an educational and extra-curricular plan to meet their vocational goals.

This is a field that has a massive impact on the lives of others and can really help a young person come into their own. If the idea of working with energetic young people and helping them find their life path is an exciting one, then a career as a school counselor might be a perfect fit for you.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Some people feel the call to work with people with disabilities. This is a challenging and rewarding career choice as few professions give one the sense of satisfaction that comes from empowering someone to work with and overcome limitations imposed by their disability. There are many forms of disabilities a rehabilitation counselor might help a client to work with from emotional, developmental, mental and physical disabilities.

The rehabilitation counselor can act in many different capacities from helping clients overcome barriers to employment to increasing their self- sufficiency in day to day life. The variety of agencies a rehabilitation counselor can work at is also large. Some counselors might prefer to work in private practice or in another capacity within the private sector. Others might feel drawn to work at a non-profit working with a specific segment of the population. If working with disabled people in an empowering and healing way sounds appealing to you, then you might want to consider a career in rehabilitation counseling.

Mental Health Counseling

Perhaps you visualize a career working with families or individuals in dealing with mental health issues. Becoming a mental health counselor is an exciting career choice that gives you a wide variety of sub-sectors to choose from. As a mental health counselor you will be working with the client to assess their mental health needs and work on a strength based healing model. Increasingly this field works with the assumption that a client is able to work with and resolve their problems and return to a natural homeostasis of health. This stands in stark contrast to the past when mental illness was considered a static condition with little hope of relief and a chronic condition mentality.

To use this modern model the first priority is rapport with client and working with them to assess their own mental health needs. By empowering the client and working in a mental health partnership the mental health counselor acts as a catalyst on the personal healing journey of their client. For many people, working with a skilled mental health counselor can be a profoundly positive and life changing experience. If this sounds appealing to you, perhaps you should consider a career as a mental health counselor.

Procedure to Become a Counselor

To become a licensed counselor most states require that you earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree – or in some States a closely related field – from an accredited university. Getting into a Master’s program in counseling will first require a Bachelor’s in Counseling, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work or other highly related field. Once you’ve earned your Master’s you will need to check out the licensure laws in your state. Almost all states require 1000’s of hours of supervised professional experience to apply for your counseling license.

For example certain state require that you:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Of good moral character
  • Have completed a Master’s or Doctoral degree from an accredited university
  • You must submit either a plan for supervision for your first 2,000 hours of practice or submit proof of 2,000+ supervised hours in a professional practice that is acceptable (as determined by the board)
  • You must demonstrate professional levels of competence by passing either the National Counseling Exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors or an equivalent national examination as determined by the board.
  • The board may also require ethical, oral or situational examinations if they choose.

Education requirements

To become a licensed counselor most states require that you earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree – or in some States a closely related field – from an accredited university. This will require that you earn your bachelor’s in a closely related field and go on to be accepted into a Master’s of Counseling program. Once you’ve earned your Master’s or Doctoral degree, you will need to check out the licensure laws in your state as they vary.

It is critical that you find a program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) or by a regional accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Here are a list of schools that have accredited programs in counseling

Exams to Prepare for

Most states will require you to have passed the National Counseling Exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors or an equivalent national examination. Some states may also require you to pass exams as prescribed the local board on counseling. It is important that you understand the licensure requirements of your state. Preparation for the exam will vary depending on your state so it is wise to research your local state licensure board and their requirements.

If the idea of helping people whether, children, the elderly, the disabled or individuals with mental health issues is appealing, then a career in counseling is an excellent choice. As most states have disciplined requirements in terms of licensure and lengthy academic studies it is wise to begin planning for your academic future right away. Get started on your path towards becoming a counselor today!