How to become a Counselor

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Counselor? What Counselors do? Degrees for Counselors, Steps to become Counselor and much more.

A counselor is a trained, skilled professional with whom you can form a solid, trusting relationship. They are skillfully trained in offering different kinds of assistance. The most used form of comfort is a talking based style of assisted therapy. The process of counseling involves talking BOUT and working through any traumatic or dissatisfactory experiences or events. Counselors help their patients talk through any experiences and provide level advice and provide them with positive and extensive coping mechanisms.

A counselor may work or collaborate with a medical practice or a health board to provide a more comprehensive and extensive health report in order to ensure the mental and physical safety of the patient. The biggest allure of therapy or counseling for that matter is that there exists patient-doctor confidentiality that ensures safety and privacy. Confidentiality is paramount to successful counseling. Professional counselors will usually explain their policy on confidentiality.

What does a Counselor do ?

They may, however, be required by law to disclose the information if they believe that there is a risk to life. This stipulation a sense of safety and security that puts the patient and ease and makes the section more constructive. Anyone struggling with addiction or mental instability or social insecurities can avail counseling services to help and solve their assorted problems. According to the concise oxford dictionary, counseling is defined as “the process of assisting and guiding clients especially by a trained person or on a professional basis to resolve extremely personal or emotional problems or difficulties”

Psychotherapy and counseling are rather similar in the sense that they both imply and describe the process of helping a person come to terms with a specific trauma or event that causes distress. The process that occurs when a client and counselor set aside time to explore difficulties which may include the stressful or emotional feelings of the client.

The act of helping the client to see things more clearly, possibly from a different view-point. This can enable the client to focus on feelings, experiences, or behavior, with a goal of facilitating positive change.

Steps for becoming a Counselor


Earn An Accredited Bachelors Degree

In order to be accredited and chosen for a program of your choice, one must be proficient in earning a bachelor's degree, which would open up a whole new avenue for further and more extensive study. A bachelor's degree can range from general counseling to extensive and specialized knowledge. a bachelor’s degree usually lasts 4 years from a fully accredited program and curriculum. In order to pursue a degree in masters a course in education, psychology, sociology, and even business administration and even management.


Earn An Accredited Masters Degree

The second step towards being an accomplished and certified counselor is the pursual of a master's degree in counseling. This involves picking a school that specializes in the program you desire. Schools you are considering to apply to must have some standard of certification like CARCEP. A master's degree in a related field such as - education, psychology, sociology, etc. these courses would be considered adequate preparation for the usual of a master's degree. Coursework would include appropriate counseling techniques and social and behavioral maladaptations. For instance, in order to pursue being a college counselor, one must have a basic idea regarding the dynamics that exist in a functioning typical high school.


Take The Exam

In order to be a licensed counselor in your particular state, one must pass an excel at the national counselor exam for a valid and legal license which is inherently designed to measure and quantify understanding and empathy.


Internship Or Practicum

The difference between an internship and a practicum is that a practicum is an experience in the field of counseling that permits students to observe and document how working professionals perform their job and all the incentives that come along with it. Whereas an internship takes on real-life real-time scenarios of a concentrated career focussing on skill and knowledge in a working environment. The job description of a counselor is dependent on a series of factors which is alleviated by undertaking an internship or a practicum.


Choosing Your Counseling Specialty

There is a multitude of counseling specialties one can choose from including school counselors, rehabilitation counselors, mental health counselors, and the list continues on. For example counselors at the high school level must be intimate about the preexisting dynamics that exist in high school between parents and their children.


Continue Your Counseling Education 

Each state has personalized prerequisites and conditions that one must fulfill in order to pursue a successful career in counseling and therapy.

Counselor Degree Levels


A bachelors degree in related fields and courses like-education, psychology, sociology, philosophy and so on is a necessity in order to earn a masters degree for the specialization in certain fields like addiction studies, maladaptive, social regression, etc. students planning to pursue a masters degree in counseling integrate the following classes in a bachelors degree program. Some typical courses include,

General Physiology
  • Human organs

  • Neural system

  • How the human body works

  • Focuses on different organs of the human body

  • Focuses how mind coordination works in humans

  • Understanding of human body and its structure

Life Span Physiology
  • Personality development

  • Physiology in adulthood

  • Experiment Analysis and design

  • Helps to understand different types of personality in human beings.

  • Focuses on human mind development during adulthood

  • Improves designing and Analytical thinking.

Social Policy
  • Crime and Criminal Justice

  • Children and Young People

  • International Social Policy

  • Identification of crimes and criminal motives

  • Focuses various kinds of physiology in children mind

  • Explains social living, poverty, and unemployment


A master's degree can be mainly classified into a master of arts (MA) or a master of science (MS). A master's degree is potentially the fastest way to become a licensed therapist or counselor in your chosen state. the master’s degree is a unique specialization of certain topics like addiction intervention, social and behavioral issues, maladaptive behavior, and so on. The master’s degree program usually takes about 4 years. the typical courses include :

Counseling in drug and substance abuse
  • Addiction behaviors

  • Drug use and crime

  • Addiction in Women

  • Teaches different types of addictions in human beings

  • Focuses on drugs and its use by people

  • You will understand about addiction in women

Counseling in Family
  • Couple Counseling

  • Martial/Family Therapy

  • Domestic Violence

  • Techniques to help couples solve marital problems

  • Strategic capability to enable solving family/family issues

  • Complete understanding of domestic violence

School Counseling
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling

  • Academic and Career Counseling

  • Multicultural Counseling in schools

  • Understanding the growth mentally in children and teenager.

  • One can figure out solutions for career problems

  • Will help in understanding different cultures and how to tackle with them.


A master's degree is an essential requirement for the pursual of a doctoral degree. A Doctoral degree is not necessary to work in the field; however, it will put you at the highest level of education which will allow you to become a director, manager, or overseeing groups of colleagues or students. You will also have the credentials to teach courses for future counselors looking to get their certifications and licenses.

EdD in Counseling Physiology
  • Psychological foundations of behavior

  • Counseling Physiology

  • Research Methods and Data Analysis

  • Improvisation in analytical thinking

  • Helps to learn to counsel deeply

  • Develop  analytical skills and research experience

PsyD in Counseling Physiology
  • School Physiology

  • Advanced Counseling physiology

  • Marriage Counseling

  • Understanding school students mentality

  • Focuses to teach techniques in physiological counseling

  • Helps to understand problems in marriage and find solutions

PhD in Counseling Physiology
  • Family therapy

  • Ethical issues in Counseling

  • Statistical methods for education research

  • Helps figure out family issues.

  • Improvisation and development based on social basis and preparation of practice.

  • Improves analytic skills in counseling


The starting salaries or forms of compensation for a competent counselor ranges from between the region of $40,000-$46,000. The level and quantity of salary being paid are dependent on the level of competence and experience. Experienced and skilled counselors can earn between $30,000 to $40,000. Lead or specialist counseling roles especially concerned with addiction, attract salaries higher than the average as mentioned before. Technically there are no standard scales for private practices as it is dependent on the practitioner and the patient.

Salaries and wages are dependent on a variety of factors including the type of employer, location private practice, and so on. According to the US Bureau of labor statistics, the median wage for educational guidance, school, and vocational counselors in May 2014 was $ 53,370.

Job growth and outlook 

The demand for in house counselors and therapists has been steadily increasing according to the US Bureau of statistics, although there is a significant disparity between specialties. For instance, the demand for substance abuse specialists is expected to grow by 20% by 2026. The expected job growth for the following specialists are as follows-

Substance abuse-20%

School and career consultants-11%

Mental health-20%

Rehabilitation counsellors-10%

School and university programs for a Counselor

In order to be an accomplished counselor and/or therapist one must achieve a high school diploma or GED so they can further pursue a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in the following related fields-education, psychology, sociology, and so on. The following colleges have the most comprehensive and extensive programs for the pursual of counseling:

  • Stanford university 

  • University of Michigan-ann

  • Massachusetts Institute of technology

  • University of Minnesota twin cities

  • Yale university



Concentrations to consider for Counselor

General counselors: 

Help a wide range of people overcome issues of every sort. They work to determine the cause of persistent problems at work, in relationships, with substance abuse, or with mental health disorders. They devise treatment methods designed to help the person cope with or overcome the problems that have the most negative impact on their lives.

Mental health counselors: 

Work with people struggling from diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues including depression, anxiety, stress, obsessive behaviors, substance abuse, and other addictions.

Rehabilitation counselors: 

Work with people who have physical disabilities to help them cope with the physical, emotional, and vocational consequences of those disabilities. Unlike physical therapists, these counselors help people deal with psychological and logistical hurdles rather than issues related solely to pain or mobility.

School counselors: 

Receive specific training to work with children and young adults in a school setting. They facilitate the student’s academic, personal and social, and career development.

Family counselors: 

Help people overcome a wide range of personal and psychological issues but focus specifically on how these issues affect the dynamics of families and married couples. Their goal is to restore harmony to the family unit 

Preparing yourself for a career in counseling

a counselor will be spent working directly with patients in a one-on-one or group setting. This work typically involves lengthy interviews and wide-ranging conversations. The goal is to first understand the problems the person is dealing with and then to pursue effective treatment options. The counselor must be supportive and sympathetic, but also forceful and assertive to help patients overcome self-imposed obstacles. In order to provide effective levels of care, counselors need to stay on the cutting edge of their field.

Soft skills required

Curiosity – As a counselor, you must have a strong desire to learn about other people in depth. If you do not have a genuine interest in other people you will struggle to connect with them on the deepest levels. Self-Reflection – The way you think, act, and present yourself as a counselor has a big impact on the quality of care you are able to provide. A good counselor must be able to honestly and accurately evaluate themselves to find better ways to engage with others.

Listening – The goal of all counselors is to understand the person they’re working in very intimate and personal ways. This is only possible if the counselor is an excellent listener and able to hear not just the words, but the deeper meaning of what is being communicated.

Accessibility – All counselors must strike a delicate balance between being accessible and emotionally available to the people they serve without crossing personal or professional boundaries. 

Flexibility – A one-size-fits-all approach to counseling is rarely effective. Good counselors are able to customize their approach for each and every person they work with based upon that person’s background, personality, and struggle.