The educational requirements needed to qualify for counselor employment varies according to specialty and requirements for certification and state licensure; however, a master’s degree is generally required to be a licensed counselor. Applicants should check first with prospective employers, local and state governments and certification organizations which requirements are specifically required. Courses that are most appropriate as preparatory for counselor jobs are psychology, human services, or education. After completing a bachelor’s degree in these courses you are then required to take up a master’s degree program for 48 to 60 hours of graduate study which includes supervised experience in counseling. There are some employers who provide on the job training and others that allow newly hired counselors time off or give tuition assistance for them to complete their graduate studies. To maintain their license and certifications counselors have to attend workshops and seminars. Requirements for earning a license vary according to state, specialty, and place of work. In some states school counselors are required to have a school counseling certification for that particular state and completed graduate studies, but most require a master’s degree. In other states school counselors are required to have some teaching experience and have separate teaching certificates. For counselors other than school counselors all states have some form of license governing the practice of counseling. There are also cases where a high school diploma and certification is considered enough, like in some behavior disorder and substance abuse counselors in some states. It is best to do some research about the specific requirements in a particular area or organization before applying. People who want to enter this field of work must have a strong desire in helping others and able to command confidence, respect and trust. They need to follow and be fully aware of the code of ethics associated with their license or certification.
Employment outlook for all kinds of counselor careers is good with job growth expected at 18 percent between 2008 and 2018 which is faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth varies according to specialty but opportunity is generally favorable because there are not many graduates from counseling courses. In terms of specialty, the area that is expected to have the highest growth at 24 percent is in mental health counseling because they are seen as low cost alternatives to psychologists and psychiatrists and also because more individuals are seeking or brought in for treatment; Behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors are next at 21 percent. Recently, more and more people are seeking treatment for addiction to many kinds of substance, legal or illegal, and most drug addicts would rather seek treatment than be sent to jail; At third is rehabilitation counseling at 19 percent expected growth. This is expected to increase because of the growing number of elderly, who are prone to injury and disablement; following are the family and marriage therapists where employment growth is expected at 14 percent as it is now common for people to seek help for problems in their marriage or family. School and career counselor employment is also expected to grow at 14 percent as more people are experiencing less job security and more people are aware of such services. In schools, counselors are needed more because of the ever increasing number of students who are having problems in school. The median wage for a counselor job also varies according to specialty. Here are their respective median wages in 2008: School and career counselors - $51,050; Family and Marriage counselors - $44,590; Behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors - $37,030; Mental Health counselors - $36,810; and Rehabilitation counselors - $30,930.
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