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For those who want to find a career path that will allow them to work directly with people to help them in their daily struggles, becoming a counselor can be an excellent choice. Come and explore exactly what a counselor will do and how you can prepare to enter this exciting field.

What do counselors do?

As a counselor, you will play an important role in helping people heal and live their best lives. Counselors help people facing a wide range of problems, struggles and disorders, including:

  • Substance misuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Relationship and communication problems
  • Mental health issues

You work with clients to help them see what obstacles stand in the way of their recovery and mental health. You help them find ways to correct the problem and use your expertise to offer advice and guidance.

When you meet with clients, you will evaluate specific needs and work with them to create a treatment plan and goals. Depending upon the needs of the patient, you might also work with their family, such as providing education about the client’s struggle or providing them with the tools that they need to better help their loved one.

Within your practice, you will generally find yourself holding both one-on-one sessions and group sessions to support these client recovery efforts. Group sessions can also serve as support groups where several people with similar struggles come together to offer each other support and advice with you acting as a guide.

Counselors also work in a variety of locations. You might have your own practice or work in a clinic with other professionals. Some counselors also prefer to work with different facilities, such as hospitals, schools, or rehabilitation centers.

Many counselors choose to specialize in working with people from a specific population of need. For example, you might work specifically with children or adolescents, married couples, or in areas such as crisis intervention. In Post University’s MS in Counseling and Human Services degree program, you can select between a Clinical Mental Health Counseling or an Alcohol And Drug Counseling concentration. These concentrations can set you up for the area in which you want to specialize.

Download your guide to learn everything you need to know about earning a Counseling & Human Services Master’s Degree online.

How do you become a counselor?

Becoming a counselor requires studying a wide range of subjects related to the human body, psychology, psychiatric disorders, sociology, and counseling. Practicing counseling also generally requires a license or certification. Earning a credential requires a specific education, passing one or more exams, and completing supervised work experience. Let’s start with the educational requirements: What degree should you pursue?

Education requirements, and how long does it take to become a counselor?

The precise position you want to pursue and even the states in which you want to practice will impact the educational requirements you will need to meet. Generally speaking, you will need a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree to pursue licensure in most states, which means that earning a higher degree can help to drastically broaden your job opportunities.

When you pursue a master’s degree from a rigorous school like Post, you will study the core courses and subjects you need to thrive in the field. You will have the opportunity to learn how to prevent and diagnose many mental health struggles, how to assess patients, and how to create and professionally execute a solution.

You will want to study these subjects in classes that allow you to see real-world applications of the topics and treatment strategies you learn. In addition to coursework, you will also need to pursue opportunities to practice your skills. This will become particularly important as you prepare to finish your degree and enter your fieldwork experiences.

It is important to note that some states require educational credits beyond a master’s degree to earn a license. Students may be able to meet these requirements with Post’s Graduate Certificate in Professional Counseling. It is important to fully understand the requirements in your own state to better prepare for the education and supervised clinical hours required. You can then make sure your educational path meets these requirements.

It is important for students to also keep in mind that some of the insights they will learn through their education in counseling may not come from a textbook. From qualities such as compassion and trust to skills in communicating and listening, successful counselors work hard to acquire certain characteristics and traits to help them work with their clients.

Licensing and credentials

All states require clinical mental health counselors to be licensed, but the requirements you must meet to earn this credential vary. There are a wide variety of alcohol and drug counseling credentials, ranging from certifications to licenses. You should generally plan on earning a master’s degree in the field to reach the licensure level, as well as accumulating 2,000-6,000 supervised hours of supervised work experience. Check the board in your individual state to know your precise requirements. You can work with your academic advisor while you progress through your education to help you meet these goals and work towards your dream job.

Internships and real-life work experience

States will generally require students to complete fieldwork experiences within their educational programs and to earn supervised work experience hours before they can earn various certifications. These hours provide you with the excellent, hands-on practice you need to prepare for your future career. During your supervised hours, you get to put into practice the skills and lessons you have gained through school and work on them with clients. At the same time, you’ll receive guidance and assistance from an experienced counselor who can help you navigate different situations that arise with clients.

You will build your resume and experience through fieldwork courses in your educational program. You can also work with your school advisor to learn more about getting the required supervised clinical hours for your state.

Salary and job outlook for counselors

The job outlook for counselors remains very strong, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field of counselors in substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health is projected to grow 25 percent from 2019-2029. This rise is likely because of the increased awareness of mental health care and treatment in society as well as the growing shift towards treatment rather than incarceration in the criminal justice system for drug offenders.

The median salary for those in this with the highest 10 percent earning more than $78,700.

It is important to note, as you prepare to enter the counseling field, that hours will vary depending upon where you practice. For example, a standard office with traditional hours will typically see clients during the day. However, those who work in hospitals or in-patient facilities may work occasional night or weekend shifts.

If you are thinking about making a future out of helping people, you will find counseling offers a career that can be both challenging and fulfilling. If you want to begin the process of entering this field, pursue a relevant online degree program at Post.


Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.