After a master's degree is obtained, an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) can pursue a counseling graduate certificate, which is available in a number of counseling specialties, including mental health and play therapy. These programs typically require completion of an internship, along with roughly 5-6 traditional courses.
Master's Degree in Counseling
A Master of Science (or, in some cases, a Master of Arts) in Counseling prepares students for careers in licensed professional counseling (LPC). These programs emphasize the treatment of emotional and mental disorders. Most master's degree programs offer students the opportunity to declare a specialization or area of concentration in areas such as expressive arts therapy, Christian counseling or substance abuse counseling. Students develop the skills necessary to pass a state licensing exam, which may be offered through the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification or the National Certified Mental Health Counselor Examination. In addition to coursework in counseling, students must obtain clinical experience (under supervision) prior to receiving a license.
Students enrolled in a master's degree in counseling program must complete around 60 hours of coursework. Typical core coursework found in counseling M.S. programs include:
- Human development and behavior
- Theories of counseling
- Group counseling
- Theories of personality
- Abnormal psychology
- Addictions and related disorders
Graduate Certificates in Counseling
Counseling certificate programs tend to be directed toward counselors who are finishing or have already earned a master's degree in counseling and who wish to obtain specialized knowledge for particular counseling careers. For those who have obtained a master's degree in counseling, there are several graduate certificate options available, including mental health, trauma response, community counseling or play therapy.
Earning graduate certificates in areas of specialization is optional but can increase a counselor's job prospects and opportunities for advancement. To enroll in a counseling certificate program, students must have obtained a Master of Arts or Master of Science in a counseling degree program from an accredited college or university.
Counseling graduate certificate programs typically require a minimum of 12 hours of coursework for completion, although minimum hours and coursework vary greatly by program. Courses that may be seen in counseling certificate programs include:
- Advanced treatment approaches
- Counseling theories
- Cultural and social concerns in counseling
- Human growth and development
- Advanced internship
Popular Career Options
Because counselors have a wide variety of specialization options, employment prospects and salary can vary widely. Possible job titles for counselors include:
- Educational (school) counselor
- Marriage and family therapist
- Mental health counselor
- Rehabilitation counselor
- Behavioral disorder counselor
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in the mental health counseling field are expected to increase by about 19% between 2014 and 2024. During that same decade, jobs for substance abuse counselors are expected to increase by 22%, while jobs for school counselors are expected to see an 8% increase. As with job availability, salaries for counselors vary depending on specialization and education level, with rehabilitation counselors earning a median of $34,390 annually as of May 2015. Marriage and family therapists earned a median of $48,600 a year, according to the BLS in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
A number of professional organizations offer voluntary certification to LPCs. Most are specific to the area of specialization. Many counselors elect to obtain voluntary certification from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification or the National Board for Certified Counselors. Those who have obtained a master's degree and licensure as professional counselors may decide to continue their educations. Many colleges and universities offer graduate certificates in counseling specializations.
If you're interested in becoming a licensed professional counselor, typically you first need a master's degree. After graduating from a master's degree program in counseling, individuals can enroll in a certification program to become an LPC.