How to Become a Counselor: 4 Vital Steps to Get You Started

howtobecomeacounselorA career as a counselor can be very rewarding. It gives you a chance to help people and make a living at the same time. To some people, this really is their dream job. Becoming a counselor is a lot of work but it is worth it for those willing to buckle down and do the work. For those seeking a career as a counselor, this is the path to follow.

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Before you can become a counselor, you need the right educational background. Entry-level positions are available to those with an associate’s degree in counseling, psychology or social work. However, most counseling positions require a bachelor’s degree. Those interested in becoming a primary counselor or operating a counseling clinic will need at least a master’s degree. Doctoral degrees are available for those that want to specialize in certain types of counseling.

Before selecting an academic program, survey the counseling industry to determine what type of counselor you want to be. Then talk to the department adviser at several universities to determine which one has the right program for your career field. You will also find that most university programs feed directly into doctoral programs. This is because those truly serious about their careers traditionally will eventually specialize and seek a doctoral degree.

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In addition to classroom study, certified counseling programs require additional internship and training. This training places students in real clinics to assist with and experience the counseling of real patients. Students sit in on real counseling sessions. They will also help diagnose patients and assist in developing counseling treatments.

This training serves as a mentorship program designed to prepare students for real counseling environments. State licensing boards require a certain amount of training or internship hours before an applicant is eligible for licensing. While certified programs provide this training, not all of them provide the amount of hours needed to meet the requirements of every state. If your state requires more hours than your desired program, contact the department adviser to request additional training hours. There might be additional tuition fees required for additional training hours.

It should be noted that most university programs meet the requirements for the state they are located in. If you are wanting to go to an out-of-state university, you might need to coordinate training hours between the university and your state’s licensing board.

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Once you have completed your education, you will need to take a certification exam for the type of counseling you have chosen to study. Most universities administer this exam for the state they are located in. Those that do not administer the exam usually coordinate with a state office for the exam to be administered off-campus. You may need to coordinate this exam yourself if you are attending an out-of-state university. However, your department adviser should be able to help you.

There may be an application that you need to fill out before you can take the exam. However, this is not always a requirement. It depends on the state you are in and the university your are attending. Some locations require an application fee, others do not. You should contact your department adviser for information about possible exam applications and fees.

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Once you have passed the exam, you need to apply for your license. You do this by sending a licensing application to your state’s licensing board. Your department adviser should be able to help you contact the board and fill out the application. This application must be filled out and returned with a licensing fee and a copy of your exam results. Then you wait. States can take a few weeks to a few months to review applications.