A minimum of a graduate degree is required to become a community counselor--that and licensure. Certification is available to those with the necessary credentials, and it may be beneficial to job potential in this growing field.
Community counselors offer counseling for individuals and communities, usually after a tragic event. They help individuals or groups of people cope with challenges in their lives. Community counselors need to hold a master's degree in counseling and must possess a state license. Employers may prefer to hire community counselors with a national certification.
|Required Education||Master's degree in counseling|
|Other Requirements||State licensure typically required; certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors is recommended|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||20% for mental health counselors|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$41,880 for mental health counselors|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Community Counselor Salary
Community counselors may belong to a broader group of counselors such as mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2015, mental health counselors held 128,200 jobs, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors held 87,090 positions (www.bls.gov). A community counselor may work in clinics, hospitals, social service agencies, private businesses or other organizations or be self-employed in a private practice.
The BLS reported a median annual salary of $41,880 for mental health counselors as of May 2015. As of that month, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median of $39,980.
Community Counselor Career Information
The BLS projected job growth of 12% for community and social service occupations in general from 2014-2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Mental health counselors could expect job growth of 20% (much faster than average) during that decade.
Community counselors need a master's level education in counseling. A master's degree in community counseling will provide a student with the necessary training to qualify for state licensing and national certification. This program consists of courses that cover topic areas such as:
- Human development
- Family counseling
- Cultural diversity
- Juvenile counseling
- Mental disorders
- Addictions and interventions
The licensing requirements for a community counselor are mandated at the state level. Most states require applicants to have a master's degree in counseling to be licensed. The general requirements in all states for licensing include:
- Obtaining a master's degree in counseling
- Having two years or 3,000 hours of clinical experience
- Passing a state exam
- Adhering to ethical standards
- Completing continuing education on a yearly basis
Certification is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Certification is usually not required under state regulations, but it could increase the job opportunities for a community counselor. A student must be enrolled in a program that is participating in the Graduate Student Application for the National Certified Counselor credential (GSA-NCC) to qualify for certification through the NBCC (www.nbcc.org). If students are enrolled in a program that is not part of the GSA-NCC, they must meet one of the following criteria:
- Graduate from a Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredited program
- Hold a master's degree in counseling and have at least two years of experience in counseling
- Hold a master's degree in counseling and be licensed at the state level
A community counselor can work in a number of settings, usually helping traumatized individuals or assisting with other community problems. A master's degree in community counseling is needed as well as experience and passing examination to become licensed; certification is optional. In 2015, mental health counselors made $41,880 while substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors made $39,980.