Careers in Counseling
What do counselors do?
Counseling professionals work in diverse communities to provide support and rehabilitation services to people in order to help them resolve the issues they face every day. A counselor’s work varies greatly, ranging from counseling children facing learning difficulties to adolescents in rehabilitation. They also cater to individuals battling with trauma or facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS). Counselors working in the education sector assist students at all levels, from elementary school to universities, in order to promote the academic and personal development of students. Counselors working in the healthcare sector use their knowledge of psychology and mental health to treat various mental and emotional disorders. Marriage and family therapists apply various techniques of counseling to solve the issues faced by married couples and families. Counselors need to be good listeners with the ability to look at problems from various perspectives and focus on understanding their patient’s needs.
Degree Programs in Counseling
A number of colleges offer degree and certification programs in counseling. Students aspiring to join the field of counseling need to have at least a high school diploma. There are no specific subjects required at this level. Before enrolling in a counseling program, it is important to ensure that the program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP) or the American Psychological Association (APA). The basic degree offered for students considering counseling careers is the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in counseling degree. This degree normally lasts four years and includes courses in counseling techniques, social diversity, patient assessment, medical ethics, medical & psychological therapy and cultural studies. After completing this degree, students usually go on to obtain a master’s degree in counseling. Education up to the graduate level is mandatory for all counselors in order to ensure a strong educational background and proper knowledge and qualifications. The two year long master’s degree allows students to specialize in various areas of counseling, including child therapy, educational psychology, rehabilitation, family therapy, marriage therapy and mental health counseling.
After graduating with a master’s degree in counseling, students can start their counseling careers by working at entry level positions across the education and rehabilitation sectors. For work in the healthcare or private sector, certification is required. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, however in most cases a master’s degree in counseling is an essential prerequisite. Other requirements include two years of supervised practice and strict adherence to medical ethical codes. Counseling professionals can then appear in the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) exam which is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Successful applicants are then granted their counseling licenses which include Certified Mental Health Counselor (CMHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of counseling will grow by 18% till 2020, giving it one of the highest growth rates among all occupations. With median wages for entry level counselors starting well above $80,000 per year and reaching $200,000 for experienced counselors, it is no surprise that more people than ever are considering counseling careers.