How to Become a Direct Care Counselor: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a direct care counselor. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a direct care counselor. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 0:35 Career Requirements
  • 1:10 Step 1: Complete…
  • 2:30 Step 2: Consider…
  • 2:50 Step 3: Join a…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Direct Care Counselor?

Direct care counselors work with youth, adolescents and adults who suffer from developmental or mental disabilities. They might help these individuals perform daily life activities, provide transportation for errands or medical appointments and monitor medication intake. These counselors might work at community facilities, group homes or day program sites. Working with the disabled may be stressful for some, but others find great reward in assisting those less fortunate than themselves.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent
Experience 1-3 years' experience working with disabled populations may be required
Key Skills Written and verbal communication skills, detail-oriented nature, multitasking skills, valid driver's license and ability to transport clients.
Salary $24,807 per year (median salary as of 2015 for all direct care workers)


Let's look at the steps required to become a direct care counselor.

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Step 1: Complete Required Coursework

Employers of direct care counselors seek candidates who possess at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. Completing courses in math, home economics and health during high school could prepare individuals to perform the care giving and other tasks they will engage in when working as a direct care counselor.

Success Tip:

  • Attend a training or certificate program. Some community colleges offer direct care counselor training programs, which sometimes culminate in a certificate. These programs provide instruction in crisis intervention, CPR and first aid, medication administration, human growth and development, American Sign Language and treatment services for development disabilities. Programs might include both lectures and internship experiences. Although graduating from one of these programs is not required to work as a direct care counselor, doing so might increase employability.
  • Consider becoming certified. Becoming certified in first aid or to administer medication could increase employment opportunities. Certification to administer medication is a process managed by each state, but usually requires passing an exam and completing continuing education to retain certification.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Degree

Some employers seek counselors who have a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs in psychology and community studies or adult development and aging could lead to a career as a direct care counselor. These programs normally take four years to complete.

Step 3: Join a Professional Organization

Aspiring direct care counselors can advance their careers by joining membership organizations, such as the American Counseling Association (ACA), which helps members continue to develop professionally through continuing education, networking opportunities, resources, career centers and other avenues for professional growth and career advancement.

In summary, direct care workers should have a high school diploma, should consider earning a BA in psychology or adult development, and should join an organization, such as the American Counseling Association.

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