Professional Counseling as a Career Choice
What is professional counseling? Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.
People have many different reasons for deciding they want to become a counselor. Some people choose this career because they once had a good experience with a counselor during a difficult time in their own life and they want to “pay it forward.” Another person may have done some volunteer work at a crisis hotline and realized that they enjoyed both the challenges and joys of working with clients facing difficult times. Yet another person may have been told that they are a good listener and they ought to consider working as a mental health professional.
“I have always desired to become a counselor since I was five years old. I have always loved helping people A wonderful lady in our community who worked in the counseling field was instrumental in encouraging me to follow my dreams.” -Barbara Mceuen
Whatever the reasons, individuals that choose to seek a career in counseling usually have one thing in common – a desire to help people work through life’s challenges. Some individuals want to work primarily with children or teens. Others prefer to work with adults. Some want to work in specific settings, such as K-12 schools or college campuses. Others prefer to work in a community setting such as a mental health center or private practice setting.
Counseling can offer the right individual a rewarding career path in a health profession that is growing. It requires a strong desire to interact with people, exceptional communication skills, and an ability to complete a graduate degree. Choosing to become a professional counselor is a commitment to yourself, to others, and to society as a whole.
But choosing to become a counselor is just one of the choices that prospective students must make. Student will need to consider all of the different specializations in counseling with their varying work environments. School counselors work in K-12 educational environments (schools), while clinical mental health counselors may work in private practice, a hospital setting, or some other community agency.
The master’s degree is considered the entry degree for practice as a professional counselor. In order to work as a licensed professional counselor, it is necessary to get a master’s degree. The doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision expands on the master’s degree and is individually tailored to provide emphases in counseling, supervision, teaching, research and scholarship, and leadership and advocacy. Some individuals pursue a doctoral degree in order to work in colleges and universities teaching and supervising future counselors and adding to the research base for the counseling profession, while others might pursue the doctoral degree to advance their counseling career through assuming administrative and/or supervisory roles within their organizations. In most circumstances, an individual will need to have a master’s degree in counseling and have worked as a counselor before he or she would be eligible to pursue a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision.
Other sources for information include the American Counseling Association and its Divisions (www.counseling.org), the American Mental Health Counselors Association (www.amhca.org) and the American School Counselors Association (www.schoolcounselor.org). The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and available online (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) is an excellent resource providing information and statistics pertaining to the counseling profession.
Why Should I Choose an Accredited Program?
CACREP Accreditation provides recognition that the content and quality of the program has been evaluated and meets standards set by the profession. The student, as a consumer, can be assured that appropriate knowledge and skill areas are included and that the program is stable, professionally and financially.
Prospective students are advised to be wary of diploma and accreditation mills. Diploma mills or degree mills award academic degrees with substandard, limited, or no academic study. Often these degrees are awarded on the basis of ‘life experience.’ While this may sound promising, the motivation is profit on the part of the degree mill. An accreditation mill claims that it awards accreditation to a higher education institution, but they have no authority or recognition to do so, and there are either subpar or no standards involved. These types of organizations do not have recognition as legitimate accreditors through any sort of organization that awards such recognition, such as the Council for Higher Accreditation, the US Department of Education or ministries of education in other countries. Click here to read more.
What Are The Different Counseling Specialties?
Click here to learn more about each Counseling Specialty.
A Guide to Graduate Programs in Counseling
Written for undergraduate students and other prospective counselors, A Guide to Graduate Programs in Counseling is the first of its kind to create a comprehensive, reliable means of learning about the counseling profession, entry level preparation (i.e., master’s degrees in counseling specializations), and what to consider when searching for, applying to, and ultimately selecting a graduate program in counseling that is the “perfect fit.” The Guide offers vital information relative to accreditation and its importance in the counseling profession with regards to obtaining licensure, certification, and even employment opportunities after graduating. As a CACREP publication, this book is the official source of information about accredited counseling programs and includes information about what counseling programs seek in candidates, what programs can offer students in terms of professional development and job placement, and guidance on personal and practical considerations for entering the counseling profession. Authored by counseling experts and featuring insights from voices in the field, A Guide to Graduate Programs in Counseling is a must-have resource for anyone interested in becoming a professional counselor.Buy Now
Student Graduation Certificate:
If you graduated from a CACREP program and require proof that is not verifiable by simply providing information from our directory or your transcripts you can request a student graduation certificate.
A Student Graduation Certificate is $50*.
*You can pay with a VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card by calling in your credit card details to the CACREP Office at 703-535-5990.
Three federal agencies have made graduation from a CACREP accredited program a requirement for independent practice in counseling.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released qualification standards that formally recognize licensed professional mental health counselors who have graduated from CACREP accredited programs as mental health specialists within the Veterans Health Administration. The full text of the standards is available by clicking here.
Prior to the passage of legislation and creation of qualification standards, mental health counselors were not eligible for employment within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Department of Defense will require a CACREP accredited Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Mental Health Counseling degree in order to obtain the TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselor credential, which grants the authority to provide independent care to TRICARE beneficiaries after December 31, 2016. There is a phase-in period through December 31, 2016 which allows for a graduate without one of those two degrees to qualify by meeting an alternative series of requirements. Prior to this legislation, mental health counselors could not practice independently in the TRICARE system. For more information see the Federal Register Listing.
Army Substance Abuse
Beginning in July 2011, only LPCs with a degree from a CACREP accredited program may be employed as Fully Functioning Army Substance Abuse Program Practitioner. This requirement is waived for those already employed by the Army Substance Abuse Program for those in the application process at the time the regulation was adopted.