Community Programs Counselor: Job and Career Information

Community programs counseling is a broad category that may include career or mental health counselors, family therapists or professionals who assist clients with behavioral or substance abuse disorders. Continue reading for more information about education and licensing requirements, career outlook and salaries for individuals employed in community-based counseling.

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Career Definition for a Community Programs Counselor

Community programs counselors provide support and guidance to individuals and groups within a local area. Some counselors may work in urban settings, where they help clients who are struggling with family and parenting problems, immigration concerns, discrimination issues, elder care or unemployment. Mental health centers, social service agencies, schools and adult education facilities all offer employment opportunities for community programs counselors, depending on their areas of specialty and experience.

Required Education Usually, a master's degree in community counseling
Job Duties Include helping clients who are struggling with family and parenting problems, immigration concerns, or other concerns
Median Salary (2015)* $39,980 (substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)
$53,660 (school and career counselors)
$41,880 (mental health counselors)
$48,600 (marriage and family therapists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 12% growth (all counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Although regulations can vary by state, a master's degree in community counseling is usually required to work in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counseling degree programs are usually found through postsecondary education or psychology departments, and core coursework can include topics in social and cultural diversity, human development, research and program evaluation (www.bls.gov). Master's programs that have been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) require 48-60 credit hours to complete, as well as a supervised clinical experience (www.cacrep.org).

Graduates of community counseling programs may complete their states' required post-master's supervised clinical practice. A passing score on a state licensing exam can lead to a designation as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). National Certified Counselors (NCC) earn their credentials through the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc.

Skills Required

Successful community programs counselors are empathetic, intuitive and well-versed in human developmental and interpersonal issues. Counselors must be able to cultivate trusting relationships with their clients, and their knowledge of counseling methods should be wide-ranging enough to allow them to customize their approach to the specific needs of each person or group. Considerable physical and emotional stamina are also essential.

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the BLS, counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists will see a 12% increase in employment nationwide from 2014 and 2024. Employment opportunities for career and school counselors will increase by 8% nationwide, or as fast as average, during the same 10-year period. As of May 2015, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned median annual salaries of $39,980. In the same month, school and career counselors, and mental health counselors were paid median annual wages of $53,660 and $41,880, respectively, while marriage and family therapists earned $48,600 a year (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Psychologists

Psychologists examine the behavioral, emotional and social aspects associated with human beings, as well as how they interact with each other and their surroundings. Areas of specialization include clinical, counseling, developmental and school psychology, among other fields. While a master's degree in psychology may qualify candidates for positions as industrial psychologists, those employed as clinical, counseling, education and research psychologists usually have a doctoral degree and a license. The BLS reports that in May 2015, psychologists in general received median yearly salaries of $72,580 and can look forward to a 19% growth in employment between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help emotionally or physically disabled people acquire the life skills they need to address issues related to employment and live on their own. Educational and career requirements can include a master's degree in a relevant area, the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor credential and a state license. From 2014 to 2024, rehabilitation counselors can expect a 9% growth in the number of available jobs, according to the BLS. Those employed in May 2015 earned median annual wages of $34,390 (www.bls.gov).

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