Step 1: So you wanna be a Counselor?

24 Sep

You’ve decided to be a counselor and enter the helping profession.  Cool!  Me too!  Once you decide to enter, there are several things to consider: local credentials/licensure requirements, specializations, graduate school choices, etc.

The three main specializations you will initially have to decide between are (1) Mental Health Counseling, (2) Marriage and Family Therapy, and (3) School Counseling.  Depending on what you want to do, these specializations may not be as divisive/different as they first appear.  For instance, in Louisiana LPCs (Licensed Professional Counselors) encompass both School and Mental Health Counseling.  If you look up jobs in Louisiana (which you can HERE) most counseling jobs require either a LPC or LMFT certification.

Tip 1: Look up Jobs in the field you want to enter, as if you’ve already graduated!

What does this do?

Well it let’s you know what the requirements are (licensing, etc).  It also let you know if there ARE jobs in your area IN the field you’re looking at.  It would really really suck to finish school 40K+ in debt only to find out that your job is specific to a certain region…that you don’t live in!

Tip 2: After looking at the licensing requirements, it’s especially important to pay attention to SCHOOL requirements.  Some jobs require degrees accredited by certain agencies.  Pay ATTENTION to the ones that appear repeatedly.  This will help you in narrowing down school choices.

Tip 3: Licensing…yea…it varies from state to state.  Each has it’s own requirements, but they do have some similarities between those requirements.  Similarities include: (1) coursework component, (2) practicum/internship hours requirement, and (3) accreditation.

If your license requires 48hours of course work and the graduate school requires 60…well great! You’ve overachieved.  However, if it’s the other way around…you could graduate, complete your internship, and apply for licensure only to be told the following: “Guess what? You get to go back to School!” Not good.

Internships/Practicum are important parts to counseling.  Some programs are accredited but have no internship.  This is more for if you are going to do an additional course or internship after graduation.  Be aware that if you enter a program without an internship/practicum, it is expected that you will seek additional training prior to licensing and post-graduation.  From what I can tell, these courses are designed to lead into a PhD or PsyD program.

If the school you’re looking at has both the required coursework and internship hours, next is accreditation.  The program I’m currently in is CACREP certified AND the school is accredited.  Look at the accreditation association and see if it matches up with the accepted one’s for licensure in your state AND the one’s mentioned on the Job Boards you explored.

This may sound tedious, but it will save you a lot of headache later.  Schools will all say they are accredited.  But, there are different accreditation associations and one may be more acceptable than another (in your state or for that particular specialty/degree).  Remember, a little extra leg work now could save you a LOT of wasted money later.  Also, licensing requirements change over time so keeping up with them is important.

If you click HERE I’ve provided a place to accumulate licensing research.  I plan to add to it over time, so check back!  If you have a link you would like to see here, comment here or message me on Facebook (the link to my facebook is in the About this tab above).  🙂

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