Are you a great listener who is empathetic, but also objective and practical? Do you like exploring personal issues and problems on a deep and intimate level? Do you want to have an immediate and powerful impact on the lives of others?
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Professional counselors must complete a graduate (master’s or doctoral) degree and normally choose an area of specialty that can range from addictions to career, family, marriage, or school counseling – each covering an equally-broad spectrum of different life chapters and challenges – whether it be helping high school or college students choose a career path to fighting personal addictions to helping save a marriage, enhancing better communication and understanding between parents and children or providing support to caregivers and family members of aging adults.
Use this directory to find mapping programs
Counseling requires only a master’s degree, while psychiatrists must complete a medical doctorate of psychiatry and psychologists must complete a PhD in psychology.
Both therapy and counseling involve talking and meeting with a licensed professional, either in an individual, family or group setting. Counselors often help individuals understand and solve problems, cope with both emotional and mental stress, and find solutions to more immediate problems such as addictions, communication, relationship or work challenges. Confidentiality is respected between both client and practitioner in both. However, therapy may involve more relaxed weekly conversation and exploration of emotions, feelings and your situation where you will discover tactics (with the guidance of the therapist) to deal personally or find solutions to specific problems or situations, once you understand the source of your feelings, reactions or emotions.
A counseling degree and subsequent state licensing prepares you to work as a counselor in a variety of places from private practice to schools, community centers, or nonprofit service organizations.
There are multiple degrees available online in counseling, from bachelor’s to master’s and doctorate degrees, but it is important that schools be accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which only accredits master’s and doctoral programs.
Yes, most definitely and every State Board has different requirements and eligibilities. If you earn a degree from a CACREP-accredited program (Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs), you still must take the state licensing exam and complete a certain number of post-graduate, supervised hours.
Although there are a wide variety of degrees and courses you may take in pursuit of a counseling degree and career, keep in mind that above all, you must attain a master’s or PhD and be licensed to actually practice as a counselor. Here are some recommended degrees that will help you prepare for your degree path, while also ensuring you get a broad and well-rounded education.
In order to be a practicing professional counselor, you must earn a master’s degree in an accredited program in counseling.
Professional counselors normally have a master’s or doctorate in one of the following areas of specialty: (Note: Not all programs and specialties are listed here, but these are some of the most common. Research schools that may offer the programs you are most interested in pursuing.)
CMHC (Clinical Mental Health Counseling) span a wide variety of mental and emotional disorders, as well as promoting mental health and wellness.
This area of study is specific to most organized agencies that specialize in problems like drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, and family.
These counselors principally address the particular dynamics and issues of a family unit, while working with the entire family, a couple or individuals within the unit.
These programs provide the knowledge and skills necessary to work with older adults and their families, specifically around the aging process, including the psychological, biological and social-cultural factors around this particular phase of life and the needs of both older adults and their families and caregivers.
Graduates may work with any age of student from Kindergarten through high school. They work to promote the academic, career and professional development of all students K-12 in a school environment ranging from individual and group counseling to classroom and teacher guidance.
Specific to higher education and post-graduation from high school, this area of counseling tends to focus on the university environment, in everything from student life to residential, leadership and orientation events to career counseling and multiculturalism.
Online degree programs can be very helpful to students today but it is important to realize that even though there are several programs offering degrees in counseling, you must obtain your degree through an accredited program, and then later may be required to fulfill both clinical internships and/or apply and be tested for licenses to practice as a counselor in your specific state. Be sure to thoroughly research each program so you can determine both the limitations and expectations for your specific degree and area of interest.
Main accreditation authorities for counseling programs include the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), an independent agency recognized by the Council for Higher Accreditation (CORE) to accredit master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling and its specialties and related education programs offered by colleges and universities throughout the world.
Other helpful accreditation and board information can be found through these additional resources for researching (degree) accredited programs of study:
American Association of State Counseling Boards
Provides state-by-state information on specific boards that certify the practice of counseling and is the resource for information about counselor licensing and regulation, test development, and standards for licensing.
American Counseling Association
A professional organization of counselors in the US. The world’s largest association exclusively representing professional counselors. Also offers online education, advocacy, research, and professional standards.
Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE):
Develops professional preparation standards for graduate and undergraduate training in rehabilitation education since 1972. Also lists accredited programs at specific colleges each year.
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE): The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education is a specialized accrediting body that accredits master’s, doctoral, and post-graduate degree clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy throughout the US and Canada. Provides abundant info on the accrediting process and community.
National Association of School Psychologists (NASP): NASP supports that all youth have a right to receive equal educational opportunities and that discriminatory practices toward LGBTQ youth violate those rights, as well as help children thrive in school, at home and in life.
National Board for Certified Counselors
Fact: By January 1st, 2022, the NBCC will require a master’s degree (or higher) from a CACREP-accredited counseling program.
All counselors are required to complete a four-year undergraduate degree, as well as pursue their master’s degree to begin to practice as a certified counselor.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field will be helpful, but the majority of your specialty courses will be taken during your master’s program. They will range between all the areas of specialties in counseling we have listed above under “Available Degrees” and may include more, depending on your school program.
As discussed before, counselors may pursue a variety of different types of counseling in a large range of locations from private practice to schools to community centers to rehab and mental health centers.
Unfortunately, a full-time career as a counselor is not possible until you have obtained your master’s, but you may be attending school in a master’s program in counseling or social work and working as an intern or assistant to other counselors in a variety of locations.
All counselors must be licensed by their state in order to practice. The process requires a master’s degree and passing scores on at least one or more examinations. Once you have completed all, then you are credentialed and will receive a professional title and initials after your name.
Most common to most counselors is “LPC” for “Licensed Professional Counselor” or sometimes “LAPC” for “Licensed Associate Professional Counselor.” It’s very important to never use a title that is higher than what you have actually earned or been given. Specific info re; each state’s requirements can be found here: Counselor License Requirements by State
All states also require that counselors work under supervision before receiving a full license. You may have a clinical supervisor and administrator at your place of work or it may have to be someone outside the practice. It is suggested you join a professional counseling organization as well.
School counselors have a 12% growth rate and earn as much as $50,000 per year. Work-related counselors are also experiencing fast growth in addition to school and career counselors, due to fast growth in technology and the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 20.5 million new jobs will be added by 2020, a 14.3% growth from 2010. Mental health counselors ranked #28 and marriage and family therapists are #18 on the Top 30 Fastest-Growing Jobs by 2020 from the BLS.
Salaries for counselors depend on the organization (whether private practice, community center, school or institution, nonprofit or outreach center) and the level of responsibility and experience of the individual, but in general may range from $25,000 to $80,000-a-year on average. Of course, counselors can make much more than that (well over six figures) in private practice.
The BLS also reports mental health counselors have a median pay of $38,150 in 2010, with continued growth at an increase of 36.3% for jobs in 2020, based on the fact that managed care and insurance companies are providing for reimbursement of counselors as a lower-cost alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists. Marriage and family therapists are also projected to increase 41.2% in 2020 from 2010, earning a median pay of $45,720.
Counselors graduate with an extensive understanding of human relations, psychology, personality types, emotional intelligence, social sciences, careers, education, family dynamics, development (from child to adult to aging), marriage, communication skills and are often excellent negotiators. The skills they obtain through their courses of study and practice could be easily transferred to a variety of business and professional careers, across many industries or roles.
Counselors’ skills include:
Counseling internships are critical to pursing a professional counseling career and they put students in direct contact with professionals, as well as observe them in their daily work.
The following is a list of internship possibilities for a counseling major: