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Why Become a Professional Counselor?

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.asca.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.