Those who are interested in becoming a career counselor can enroll in a variety of degree and certificate programs, including a bachelor's degree in counseling psychology, a master's degree in counseling with a specialization in career counseling and a graduate certificate program in career counseling. In many cases, a master's or graduate certificate might be required for employment purposes and could be needed to take professional certification or licensing exams. Students of these programs can expect to take courses in job coaching, job assessment methods, social psychology, clinical psychology and career counseling theories.
Graduate certificate programs can be completed in as little as two semesters and master's programs in two years. Programs will likely require students to complete field experiences. To qualify for admission, students should have high school diplomas or equivalent for bachelor's programs and bachelor's degrees for graduate programs.
Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology
The curriculum combines the study of psychology and counseling with coursework that prepares students to develop ethical, professional counseling skills. A personality course introduces students to the influence of biology, culture, gender and ethnicity on personality traits, which prepares students to work with a wide-rage of personality types. Coursework in substance abuse explores the origins of addiction and methods for promoting sobriety, preventing relapse, sustaining healthy relationships and returning to the workforce. Topics of discussion include marriage and family, development across the life span, social psychology and research methods. Coursework prepares future counselors to act as mediators, listeners and advisers to clients from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. Courses in the degree program include:
- Psychological assessment
- Career counseling
- Psychological disorders
- Defense mechanisms
Master of Science in Counseling
A career counselor might work in a high school, college or rehabilitation center, where they provide counseling services to individuals who are in need of career or education advisement. Offered with a specialization in career counseling, the program combines counseling practices and principles with a focus on providing career services to students, adult workers and people with disabilities. The curriculum explores the tools career counselors use to assess clients, including aptitude tests, educational histories and personal interest surveys. Graduate students study personality theories, counseling ethics and processes, and complete a counseling practicum towards the end of the program. Graduate students conduct a substantial amount of academic research in education and counseling in addition to traditional classroom courses. Coursework includes topics in:
- School counseling
- Psychology and gender
- Worker dysfunction
- Workplace violence
Graduate Certificate in Career Counseling
Designed for students who hold a master's degree in an area of counseling, the certificate program in career counseling prepares students to become licensed professional counselors (LPCs) and national certified counselors (NCCs) through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The curriculum includes topics in career counseling theories, educational psychology, group counseling and special education. Future counselors learn skills for job development, client assessment, cross-cultural counseling and methods for introducing special needs clients to the workforce. Course offerings include studies in counseling techniques and career education, in addition to supervised fieldwork in a career counseling setting. Other topics of discussion include:
- Vocational assessment
- Program development
- Educational psychology
- Job coaching
- Career change
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Graduates can enroll in a variety of degree programs to increase their job prospects, boost salary expectations and prepare them to sit for the national counselor examination, administered by the NBCC. Degree options include master's degree programs in counseling psychology and psychology with specializations in clinical health or health psychology.
Graduates who have at least 24 months of supervised counseling experience are eligible to sit for the NCC examination through the NBCC. Certified professionals are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education credits every five years to maintain certification. Graduates who are seeking state licensure as an LPC should refer to their state's licensing boards.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a bachelor's program go on to careers in counseling, education, healthcare and social services. Popular career options for graduates include:
- Career counselor
- Youth counselor
- Case manager
Graduates of a master's program go on to careers as counselors in settings such as colleges and universities, hospitals and mental health centers. Careers may also be available in rehabilitation centers where career counselors work with disabled clients or clients who are in treatment for substance abuse. Popular careers for graduates include:
- Rehabilitation counselor
- Gerontological counselor
- College student adviser
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educational, guidance, vocational and school counselors held around 292,230 jobs in the U.S. in 2020 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 8% between the years 2019 and 2029. In May 2020, the BLS reported that these counselors earned a mean annual wage of $62,320.
Depending on whether an individual wishes to pursue a specific type of career counseling and how long they wish to be in school will help them determine whether a certificate, bachelor's or master's program is right for them.