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What are the steps I should take to pursue a career in counseling?

I am a 2nd year Psychology major student. I'm looking to go into a counseling career, such as career counseling or student counseling. I'm wondering what steps I should take to pursue this type of career. For example, what classes I should take in college, what I should minor in, and types of internships I should apply for. #psychology #career-counseling #majors #classes #student-counseling

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Seth Daniel’s Answer

Best of the Village

Hi Emily,
First, it is awesome that you are considering a career in counseling, social work, or other forms of helping. You will find that with the right training, mentoring and motivation you will meet many colleagues and organizations that will want to leverage your talent.


The information and advice you have received so far is excellent, and just to be explicit about it, the goal you seek to attain will require graduate education (Master's, PhD, PsyD are the usual suspects). Taking psychology and human development classes, as well as courses in social anthropology, will be helpful at the undergraduate level. A PhD or PsyD is needed for clinical psychology, which requires great depth in psychological theory. You can do work in the same vein with a Master's Degree in Counseling, Counseling Psychology, Social Work or similar field.


BIG DEAL: If you go the Master's route, be sure the program you apply for is CACREP-accredited (www.cacrep.org). CACREP is the "gold standard" for graduate counseling programs. After graduation, you will likely need in the neighborhood of 2000 hours of supervised clinical therapeutic practice with the population you have chosen, and having a degree from a CACREP accredited program can open doors. I chose career counseling, which did not require licensure, so in my case the CACREP accredited degree enabled me to take the National Certified Counselor exam from the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) prior to completing supervised hours. In fact, I worked as a career counselor for a number of years (leading to an Associate Dean's position) and am just now gearing up to complete the last couple of courses and supervised hours needed to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in California.


Be sure to tap into the expertise of your faculty and administrators in your graduate counseling program. They are paid, in part, to ensure their students know the in's and out's of all your options, and of course careervillage.org can also be helpful in that respect as there is so much more to potentially share.

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Adrienne’s Answer

Best of the Village

Ms. Sliva's insight and overview is very informative. As a MSW School Social Worker, I majored in Social Work, because I could obtain more jobs and entry level field experience with a BSW degree rather than a Bachelor's degree in Psyshology. Additionally, I was understood and related better with Social Worke Theories and Practices, even though my training and work contains clinical instruction.


Either way when applying to graduate schools, School Social Work and School Counseling Programs have many common demoninators but Psychological Counseling Degrees sometimes require that you take certification tests every few years. However, rules and regulations vary from state to state. Whatever concentration you decide to follow, always remain cognizant that State Certifications are becoming very strict and make sure that whatever School you choose to attend that they are accredited school, and compare your courses to the certification requirements. Once you are accepted into graduate school, go onto their State website and look over the course requirements and criteria for which particular Graduate School Practicum that they will accept. Moreover, in psychology, you may also look into obtaining your Ph.D depending on your selected specialty. Moreover, within your undergraduate studies, I would speak to my advisor and/or Department Chair about having an internship. Please feel free to ask me any specific questions, as I have a close friend who is a MSW School Social Worker who is now studying to become a Licensed School Psychologist. I also have two other colleagues who I consider close friends , one who is retired after working 30 years as a School Psychologist and another friend who has been a School Counselor in New York Public Schools and NJ Public Schools.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Emily,


The first step in the education of a school counselor is to obtain a bachelor's degree - usually in counseling, psychology, education or social work, though a degree in a related field can be acceptable. Following this four-year program, candidates must obtain a specialized master's degree in school counseling, which is required by most states for employment as a counselor in a school or university setting. Some school counselors first work more directly in education (as teachers or tutors) before entering graduate school to specialize in counseling. While this may provide useful insights into how educational settings function and how best to interact with students, it is by no means required.


Basic coursework for a master's degree in school counseling includes counseling techniques and various approaches to academic, social and behavioral issues. Aspiring school counselors should select their age or education level of interest, and accordingly select coursework that will best prepare them for working with such students. For those looking to become college counselors, for instance, additional courses that deal with career counseling are required. Training in childhood behavioral disorders or abuse reporting may be required of prospective elementary school counselors. A school counselor should also expect to enroll in continuing education courses throughout his or her career, in order to keep up with the latest developments in the field and maintain certification.


Once classroom training is complete, the majority of counseling programs require an internship or mentoring program, where the candidate is paired with an experienced counselor to learn through observation. Some states require this mentorship stage as a condition for employment or licensure.


Most states require school counselors to hold some form of certification or license. These requirements and programs vary from state to state. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) provides links for each state's requirements, as well as information on professional development. Overall, though, licensing involves taking a one-time sit-down exam, logging a required number of internship hours, demonstrating adequate education, and paying registration fees.


Source: http://www.innerbody.com/careers-in-health/how-to-become-school-counselor.html


Good luck!

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Ken’s Answer

Hi Emily!


Be very careful and determine what you want to do first. If you want to go into counseling you could study psychology, school counseling, or social work. Each has its place. Studying towards a Masters in Social Work could be the broadest opportunity to do counseling in the broadest settings. Contact the NASW (the professional organization that represents social workers) at:


https://www.socialworkers.org/


Through this site you can locate the local chapter and go as a guest to a meeting to mix and mingle.


If you want to look into being a school counselor (which is more limited) go to your school counselor and make an inquiry.


Studying Psychology may not be the best way to do counseling, as you could get much education and not be able to get a job or get paid for what you do. Here is the site that would be helpful to locate a local chapter: http://www.apa.org/


You really have to be careful that you understand what it takes to do what you want to do and get paid for it.


Send thank you notes to those who help you and keep me posted as I would like to know how you are doing.

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Sheryl’s Answer

Dear Emily,
I would also suggest researching the market you live in for what jobs are available that interest you and viewing their 'required' or 'preferred' skills and training. You may find that there aren't many jobs, or the pay is different than what you hoped for. I've found this to be the case in several markets around the country- there are many more counselors than there are jobs, or the pay is lower than expected. I've counseled others looking to go to grad school and encouraged them to do their homework before accumulating significant debt then to only find out their options are limited.


There is great work to be done, and many people benefit from good therapists- it's a noble field to be sure. Take the time to do the homework to see what will be waiting for you on the other side of the degree you are pursuing to be sure you are happy with you options. Best of luck to you!

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James Constantine’s Answer

Hi Emily!

If you're thinking about a career in counseling, you're about to embark on a rewarding journey. Here's a friendly guide to help you navigate the steps ahead:

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology or Similar Field:
- As a second-year Psychology major, you're already on the right path! A bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field is usually the first step towards a counseling career. It'll give you a strong base in understanding human behavior, mental processes, and research methods.

2. Pick Elective Courses That Connect to Counseling:
- During your undergraduate studies, choosing elective courses related to counseling can be very helpful. Courses like abnormal psychology, counseling theories, developmental psychology, social psychology, and multicultural psychology can deepen your understanding of the field.

3. Think About a Minor in a Related Field:
- While not a must, a minor in a related field can boost your knowledge and skills in certain areas of counseling. Popular minors for future counselors include sociology, social work, human development, or even education. A minor can give you extra expertise and make you more attractive to graduate programs or internships.

4. Look into Graduate Programs:
- To become a licensed counselor, you'll need a graduate degree in counseling or a related field. Start exploring different graduate programs that match your interests and career goals. Look for programs accredited by respected organizations like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the American Psychological Association (APA).

5. Choose a Specialization:
- Counseling is a wide field with many specializations like career counseling, student counseling, marriage and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, and mental health counseling. Think about which area of counseling excites you the most and matches your career goals. This will help you focus your education and internships towards that specialization.

6. Go for a Master's Degree in Counseling:
- After finishing your undergraduate degree, apply to graduate programs in counseling or a related field. These programs usually require a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and sometimes an interview. During your master's program, you'll take courses specific to your chosen specialization and gain practical experience through internships or practicum placements.

7. Get Hands-On Experience through Internships:
- Internships are key to becoming a counselor as they give you real-world experience working with clients under the supervision of licensed professionals. Look for internships in places that match your desired counseling career, like career centers, student counseling centers, mental health clinics, or community organizations. These internships will let you put theoretical knowledge into practice and develop key counseling skills.

8. Get Your License:
- After finishing your master's degree, you'll need to get a license to practice as a counselor. The specific requirements for licensure differ by state and specialization. Usually, the process includes completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours, passing a licensing exam (like the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification), and meeting any other state-specific requirements.

9. Think About a Doctoral Degree (Optional):
- While not required for all counseling careers, a doctoral degree can lead to advanced positions in research, academia, or specialized clinical practice. If you're interested in a doctoral degree, explore programs that match your interests and career goals.

10. Keep Learning and Growing:
- Counseling is a constantly changing field, so it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest research, techniques, and ethical guidelines. Take part in continuing education opportunities like workshops, conferences, and online courses to boost your knowledge and skills. Also, think about joining professional organizations like the American Counseling Association (ACA) or the National Career Development Association (NCDA) to connect with other professionals and access helpful resources.

Remember, these steps are general guidelines, and you should research and adjust them to fit your specific situation and goals. Get advice from academic advisors, professors, and professionals in the counseling field to make informed decisions on your journey.

Top 3 Trusted Reference Publications/Websites:
1. American Counseling Association (ACA) - www.counseling.org
2. Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) - www.cacrep.org
3. National Career Development Association (NCDA) - www.ncda.org
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