Qualifying as a counselor can open up numerous job opportunities and lead to a highly successful career. The counseling industry offers plenty of benefits including an attractive base salary, career progression, and high job security. Working as a counselor could also be the ideal career choice for anyone who wants to make a living helping others.

Benefits of working as a Counselor

Working as a counselor has various potential benefits, but it involves a lengthy training process. You will be required to earn a master’s in counseling and meet the placement requirements before being able to apply for a license to practice. The route to qualification can be confusing and you must do research and understand what will be involved. With that in mind, here is a helpful guide on how to qualify as a counselor.

Learn about the role of a counselor

The first thing you should do is learn about the role of a counselor. Often, people have an idea of what a particular job role involves, but the actual responsibilities may be different. Many people think of counselors offering advice and supporting their clients. This is a key part of counseling, but counselors have many other responsibilities such as administration and corresponding with external agencies. It is vital that you have a realistic understanding of the role and what will be involved. You should also understand the qualification requirements i.e. most licensed counselors require a masters in counseling.

Take the time to research the job and gain an insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of a counselor. This will help you decide whether a career in counseling is the best option for you. Keep in mind that the responsibilities of a counselor vary greatly depending on the field that they work in. For instance, the daily tasks of a school counselor will be different from those of a substance abuse counselor. Make sure that you consider this when you are doing career research. You can search on authoritative sites like allpsychologyschools.com to learn about the responsibilities of a counselor.

Apply for placement opportunities

Work experience is extremely important in the counseling industry. Placements will give you an accurate representation of the role of a counselor and provide real-world insight into the industry. You will also have the opportunity to expand your professional network and develop relationships with people working in the counseling industry. Many masters in counseling programs require students to complete placements as part of the curriculum. However, it’s advisable to start building your counseling experience as early as possible.

Having relevant experience will give you a competitive advantage over your peers. It will also help you decide which modules you want to study when you enroll in a masters in counseling. Experts at Counselor-License.com advise that you can search for counseling internships in the following places: “your school’s career center, job fairs, job boards, and internship databases.” You could also try speaking with your masters in counseling tutor for advice on where to find work experience opportunities within the counseling sector.

Explore different counseling specialisms

Counseling is a diverse field and qualified counselors can choose to specialize in several different fields of counseling. Picking a specialism allows counselors to learn about their chosen field in more depth and become experts in that area. Generally, students choose to specialize in an area of counseling when they enroll in a masters in counseling program. It is possible to specialize in more than one area, although most counselors choose to focus on one niche.

Picking a counseling specialism can be a daunting and difficult task. You don’t necessarily need to commit to a specialism before you start your masters in counseling, although it’s advisable to have an area of counseling in mind when you go into the course. Here are a few of the most common counseling specialisms to consider:

1. Marriage and family counselor

Marriage and family counselors help people develop stronger and more meaningful relationships. They offer advice and support to couples and families who are dealing with issues affecting their relationship health. This may involve adolescent problems, infidelity in a marriage, or relationship breakdowns.

2. Substance abuse counselor

Substance abuse counselors help people with a wide range of addictions including alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, and other addictions. They diagnose addiction problems and design unique treatment plans to help people overcome addictions and lead healthy and productive lives. Most substance abuse counselors complete a masters in counseling and specialize in substance abuse or a related field such as mental health.

3. Rehabilitation counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities lead fulfilling, safe, and productive lives. Their work involves supporting people with a wide range of mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. There is an increasing demand for qualified rehabilitation counselors and job opportunities in the industry are expected to grow by 10 percent by 2029, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BSL).

4. Educational counselor

Educational counselors work with students of all ages and support different aspects of both their academic and personal lives. The role may involve helping students improve their academic performance, assisting with college applications, and referring students to external agencies such as substance abuse facilities. To become an educational counselor, you must usually earn a masters in counseling and complete the required placement hours before applying for licensure.

The roles and responsibilities of a counselor vary greatly depending on the area that they specialize in. It is, therefore, crucial that you understand the different fields of counseling and choose an area that is well matched to your skills, interests, and work preferences. Career research and internships should give you a good understanding of the different counseling specializations before you enroll in a masters in counseling. You can also try speaking with people working in the profession to learn more about the role. Keep in mind that you should have a good idea of your preferred specialism before you enroll in a masters in counseling.

Earn the necessary qualifications

You will need to earn the necessary qualifications before you can apply for jobs as a counselor. The typical route to qualification is to earn a bachelor’s degree followed by a masters in counseling. We are going to discuss the counseling qualifications in more detail below:

1. Bachelor’s degree

The first step to becoming a qualified counselor is to complete a bachelor’s degree. This typically takes four years of full-time study to complete, although you may have the option to study part-time. You might also be able to earn a bachelor’s degree quicker via a fast-track program. The majority of students hoping to become counselors study a bachelor’s in counseling. However, you can also choose to study a degree in a relevant topic i.e. psychology.

In most cases, you can go on to complete a masters in counseling and earn a state license, but you may need to complete a conversion course or additional training beforehand. For that reason, it is advisable to choose a bachelor’s in counseling if you are certain that this is the area you want to go into. According to counselor-license.com, you should consider the following factors before picking a counseling program – “overall course length, whether the classes offering are online or campus-based, and tuition fees and rates.”

2. Masters in counseling

Most graduates then go on to complete a masters in counseling before applying for a license to practice. A masters in counseling is designed to develop your counseling skills and knowledge and prepare you for clinical practice. Most masters in counseling programs take one year to finish, although you may also need to complete a placement year. You can either attend a campus-based program or choose to study for a masters in counseling online via distance learning.

Weigh up the pros and cons and choose the option that best suits your lifestyle and learning preferences. When you enroll in a masters in counseling, you will also have the opportunity to choose a specialism i.e. family counseling, substance abuse, or educational counseling. Remember that earning a masters in counseling is a significant investment, so make sure that you are fully committed before you enroll in the course.

Check the requirements for licensure

Most counselors need to obtain a state license before they can practice in a clinical setting. Once you have completed a masters in counseling, you should be in a position to apply for a license. The criteria for licensure vary between states, so make sure you check what is required. It is also important to check that your masters in counseling program covers everything needed for state licensure, or you risk having to complete additional training before applying.

Some states will grant a license with a masters in counseling and adequate placement hours, whereas others require graduates to complete an additional examination. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) includes 200 multiple-choice questions and costs $275 to take. You can check whether this is a requirement in your state by visiting the American Counseling Association website.

Write a standout resume

There is a high-demand for counselors, which means that newly qualified counselors rarely struggle to find work. That said, there is still competition for the best jobs, so you must write a standout resume. Ideally, your resume should be around one to two pages long and include details on your qualifications and experience. You should also highlight key achievements, especially if they are relevant to the counseling industry.

For instance, remember to include details of any internship completed while studying for your masters in counseling. Remember that you are unlikely to be offered an interview if you don’t manage to impress employers with your resume. Your resume is your most valuable tool when job-seeking, so make sure that it markets you in the best possible light. You should always proofread your resume carefully to check for grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.

Even a minor error on your resume could discourage potential employers from making an interview offer. If you truly want to impress with your resume, then it may be worth investing in a professional resume writing service. According to Talent Inc: “Candidates with professionally written resumes are worth 7% more than candidates who apply with self-written resumes.” If you decide to write your resume yourself, then use a template to ensure that you remember to include all of the important details.

Achieve a healthy work-life balance

It is natural to want to work hard and focus on building your career when you start your first job as a counselor. Your career is important, but you shouldn’t let it consume your life and damage your relationships. Counseling is rewarding, but it can also be physically and emotionally draining.

Counselors become extremely involved in their clients’ lives and have to face stressful and high-pressure situations. With this in mind, counselors must know the signs of burnout and focus on maintaining a healthy balance between their clinical practice and their personal lives.

Counseling often requires a certain degree of flexibility i.e. you may be required to support a client outside of normal working hours. However, you must still set clear boundaries and try to avoid letting work commitments spill into your personal life. You can improve your work-life balance by leaving work in the office, making time for yourself, and enjoying relaxing outlets and hobbies.

Summary

Qualifying as a counselor is a fairly long and intensive process. You will typically need to earn a bachelor’s degree and a masters in counseling before applying for a license to practice. Becoming a licensed counselor takes several years of training and assessment, but you should enjoy an extremely fulfilling career once qualified. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a counselor, then make sure that you do plenty of research, complete work experience, and gain a realistic understanding of the role and industry as a whole. If you decide that a career in counseling is right for you, then use the above guide to help you achieve the necessary qualifications and become a successful counselor.