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Licensed Professional Counselor Education Requirements and Duties

Licensed professional counselors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Licensed professional counselors examine patients through therapy and other means to help them resolve their problems. Individuals interested in this profession will need a graduate degree plus state licensure.

Required Education Graduate degree
Other Requirements Licensure required in all states
Mean Annual Wage (2013) $43,700 for mental health counselors*
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 29% for mental health counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensed Professional Counselor Education Requirements

Most licensed professional counseling jobs require the minimum of a master's degree. Prior to attending graduate school, students complete a bachelor's program in psychology or a related major. Undergraduate programs may include coursework in human development, assessment, foundations of behavior and statistics. Some programs offer elective courses relevant to specific counseling professions.

Master's degree programs specific to major counseling professions, such as marriage and family therapy or school counseling, are available. These curricula include counseling techniques, research models and statistics. Students are required to complete clinical experience by working in the field under licensed supervisors. Programs may base their curricula off of state requirements.

Licensing Information

While standards vary by state, many counseling professions are regulated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), common state requirements are a master's degree, passing score on a licensing exam and professional experience (www.bls.gov). In addition to gaining licensure, many states have continuing education standards that counselors must meet to remain eligible.

Certifications

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) certifies counselors who pass a certifying examination as National Certified Counselors (www.nbcc.org). Some states use this exam as their licensing examination. The NBCC also offers specialty certifications in areas like mental health and addictions. These certifications come with continuing education requirements.

Licensed Professional Counselor Job Duties

Counselors work in a variety of concentrations, including school, family, substance abuse and mental health. While each specialty has its own duties, most counselors conduct individual or group therapy sessions to identify their patient's problematic issues. According to the American Counseling Association, counselors examine a patient's thoughts, feelings and behaviors to create a plan for improvement (www.counseling.org). They may refer a case to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other professional if a situation warrants it.

Counselors need strong communication skills, especially during therapy sessions. They need to be ethical and comfortable in stressful situations. Counselors may interact with individuals closely related to a patient, such as friends or parents.

Salary and Employment Information

The BLS offers several different job growth statistics for professional counselors, which are broken down by the specific industry of employment. As an example, employment of mental health counselors is expected to increase by 29% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. These counselors earned an average of $43,700 per year.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics