Education and Competencies of a Professional Counselor

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  • 0:01 Importance of Competence
  • 0:54 Education
  • 2:47 State Licensure
  • 5:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Professional counselors must obtain a satisfactory education with experiences that prepare them to practice on their own. This lesson is an overview of the education, licensure, and continued competency of a typical counselor.

Importance of Competence

If you were just diagnosed with cancer, who would you want to treat you? Would you choose a doctor who is a cancer specialist with a degree from a well-known medical school and completed a residency at a prestigious research hospital, or would you choose your cousin who just finished his pre-med degree at a local university?

Of course you would choose the experienced and competent doctor to treat your cancer. Experience and competence are also important when choosing a professional counselor. Counselors are trained to provide guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems.

A professional counselor needs a graduate-level degree from an accredited university. They should also complete supervised experience before they're allowed to practice on their own. In this lesson, we will follow Jeremy's experience as he attends graduate school and seeks licensure as an independent counselor.


Jeremy has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has just been accepted into an accredited master's program at a university. In order to graduate from the program, Jeremy must take specific, required courses, such as counseling theory or graduate statistics. These core class requirements will provide Jeremy with the academic background to succeed as a professional counselor.

However, Jeremy must do more than just gain in-depth knowledge of counseling. He must also learn to apply this knowledge. This step requires him to complete a practicum that is supervised by his university. A practicum is a graduate-level course that provides students with a supervised practical application of counseling theories that have only been studied previously.

During his practicum, Jeremy will spend a certain number of hours completing observations. He will then apply specific theories to these observations and get feedback on his ability. Jeremy must demonstrate an ability to apply his knowledge before he can move on to the practice of his counseling skills.

Once he has demonstrated mastery through the practicum, Jeremy must complete a specific number of hours of internship experience. A counseling internship is similar to on-the-job training. It provides students with an opportunity to work in the counseling field under close direction to learn independent counseling skills.

This is Jeremy's chance to practice his counseling skills in real life. His work is closely monitored by an experienced professional who can offer feedback and ensure that Jeremy is properly serving the clients assigned to him. This will help Jeremy perfect his interviewing and assessment skills.

State Licensure

Jeremy has successfully completed his master's program. The next step is obtaining a license to practice in his home state. A license may also be known as a certification or endorsement depending on the state.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all states require some combination of the following to obtain a counseling license:

  • Master's degree
  • Verified counseling experience and supervision
  • Passing scores on required examinations

Jeremy has completed his master's degree, but he must still meet the other state requirements to gain his license. Depending on the state, he may need additional experience beyond his practicum and internship before becoming licensed. Jeremy finds out what exams are required by his state and schedules an exam date.

Once he has all of the required information gathered, Jeremy submits it to his state's licensing agency to be processed and receives his license to practice counseling. This license must be renewed periodically.

Additional Competencies

In order for Jeremy to keep his counseling license current, he will need proof of continuing education. Continuing education refers to seminars or other formal education programs that keep a professional up to date with advancements in their field of work. Continuing education is not only a licensing necessity but also keeps Jeremy aware of new techniques and research findings that will keep him up to date in his counseling practice.

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