How To Become a Counsellor

A counselling career gives you the opportunity to help others every day and this resource is here to help you achieve your professional goals. Whether you are a practicing professional, seeking a career change, or following a dream or passion, our mission is to provide all of the information you need to pursue a career as a professional counsellor, no matter where you live.

Steps to Become a Counsellor

  1. Pursue a master’s degree in counselling
  2. Complete practicum and/or internship hour
  3. Obtain counselling licensure and/or certification
  4. Choose a counselling career path
  5. Advance your practice through continued learning
  1. Pursue a Master’s Degree in Counselling

To forge a successful career in counselling, and to receive state licensure or certification, you will first need to earn a master’s degree in counselling. Determining your counselling preference and speciality before application helps to best prepare you for your future career in this rewarding profession. Obtaining your master’s degree in counselling with a state license or certification demonstrates to employers and clients that you are a qualified counsellor and are competent within your scope of practice.

Discover which graduate counselling programs can help you launch your career as there are many counselling specialities and add-on certifications.

Research the counselling curricula and related career pursuits such as therapy, social work and clinical psychology.

You can specialize your study and focus on a concentration or specific population you would prefer to work with, i.e. adolescents, geriatric, urban, LGBTQIA, or couples – to name a few.

Learn about admission requirements, application processes, tuition, financial aid and scholarships.

  1. Complete Practicum and/or Internship Hours

In order to obtain licensure or certification, counsellors are required to participate for a minimum number of documented hours in supervised clinical fieldwork. Accredited master’s programs require an on-site practicum or internship for graduation. These hours may be counted toward your state requirement, but depending on your state, you will likely need to complete additional fieldwork hours to become a licensed or certified counsellor. This is also dependent upon your concentration.

Practicum: Required practicum hours range from 100 to 300 hours. Students have the opportunity to work alongside licensed or certified counsellors during sessions both supervised and independently. They also attend meetings, participate in training, write reports and clinical notes, review tapes, engage in professional development, and more.

Internship: Required internship hours calculate to about 600 hours. Students work under supervision and independently both in and out of sessions with clients. Counselling interns are held to the same standards as other practicing professionals at the clinical site. Interns must keep clinical records, engage in professional development, collaborate and interact with other counsellors and family members as well as meeting with their assigned clients.

  1. Obtain Counselling Licensure and/or Certification

Without a license or certificate, most states will not allow you to practice or accept health insurance from clients. To meet state requirements for practice, counselling licensure/certification is necessary. A valid state counselling license/certification serves as proof that a counselling professional has met state-determined qualification standards, including a minimum level of education and requisite hours of supervised clinical experience.

Research the licensing or certification requirements in your state.

Learn how many supervision and fieldwork hours are necessary in your state of interest and how/where you can fulfil them.

  1. Choose a Counselling Career Path

With a state license/certification and a master’s degree, you’ll find counselling career opportunities in hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, schools, nursing homes, and government and community agencies. Continue to visit this website for guidance and as a resource as you work toward your educational and career goals.

Explore the many counselling specialities and the types of clients you can help.

Research where the counselling jobs are in your state.

Learn about employer requirements and job expectations as well as responsibilities as they correlate with your lived and learned experiences.

  1. Advance your practice through continued learning

A successful counsellor stays ahead of the curve and continues to expand their knowledge as their career progresses. The counselling field is always growing with research and new findings. There may be a new way to apply a counselling technique to a mental health concern that was previously unexplored. As a professional counsellor, in any speciality and field, it can even be required by licensure and certification to engage in continuing education credits and research. You may also wish to explore additional professional certifications and doctoral programs for counsellors.

Become a member of professional counselling organizations.

Explore PhD counselling programs.

Understand the value of additional certifications and learn how to obtain them.

Research different ways to obtain continuing education or professional development credits for licensure, certification, or renewal.

Counsellors typically complete a four-year bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree in counselling before they begin their practice. Some counsellors earn a counselling undergraduate degree, but those interested in pursuing a master’s degree may have a bachelor’s degree in a different or related field such as sociology, cultural anthropology or psychology.

There are different types of graduate counselling degrees, depending on what the school offers and what topics interest you the most. Some schools offer a Master of Arts in Counselling while others offer more specialized degrees that include mental health, clinical counselling, school counselling, and family and marriage therapy.

The time it takes to complete a graduate degree depends on the program you choose. If you are interested in pursuing a full-time program, two-year master’s degrees available. If you would like to continue working and need more flexibility, there are part-time as well as online options, which may take between two and three years to complete, depending on your level of commitment.

A master’s degree requires a supervised practicum, which allows students to practice counselling in the real world. Depending on the program, a practicum can range from 500 to 1,000 hours.

Professional counsellors address the mental, emotional, and behavioural needs of individuals, families, students, and communities. After their counselling education, professional counsellors go on to earn post-graduate hours in working with a variety of people under the supervision of an already licensed counsellor. Through the use of different approaches, therapies, and skills many different counsellors treat mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders. Counsellors will also often work with other mental health professionals and community resources to ensure that their clients receive holistic care.

There are at least 10 different careers in counselling you can pursue. As a counsellor, you can work with students as a school counsellor or assisting those getting back to work as a rehabilitation counsellor. Majority of counselling careers require a master’s degree in either counselling or a specialized field like substance abuse counselling. While there are sometimes options for alternative pathways to licensure, be sure to check with your state’s licensing board first.

  • Mental Health Counsellor
  • School Counsellor
  • Career Counsellor
  • Child Counsellor
  • College Counsellor
  • Grief Counsellor
  • Military Counsellor
  • Pastoral Counsellor
  • Rehabilitation Counsellor
  • Substance Abuse Counsellor.
  • Counselling Licensure

Becoming a licensed professional counsellor will require you to pursue licensure standards set forth by your state of practice. Some states offer reciprocity licensure paths, but it is important to understand your initial licensure pathway first. Most states require the following: accredited graduate degree program completion, practicum and/or internship hours during graduate coursework, post-graduate supervised hours of practice and sometimes a submission of a state of the national exam.