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Counselors Job Description, Career as a Counselors, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Advanced degree

Salary: Median— $47,530 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

The primary responsibility of counselors is to provide assistance to people suffering from mental health, personal or family problems, and even educational or career troubles. There are many areas in which a counselor can specialize, and the job role is defined in accordance with one’s field of expertise.

Educational counselors generally deal with students to promote their personal, academic, career, and social development. They provide educational and career counseling through various methods like personal interviews, aptitude tests, and counseling sessions. This category of educational counselors includes both elementary as well as high school counselors.

Career counselors are mostly responsible for helping an individual make the right career decisions. They evaluate a person’s education, personality traits, interests, skills, and work profile, and offer suitable employment guidance.

Counselors employed in health organizations can specialize in a wide variety of areas. Mental health counselors treat patients suffering from emotional and mental distress. They employ various therapeutic techniques to handle problems like depression, stress, addiction, and relationship issues. One can also specialize as a behavioral disorder counselor or a marriage and family therapist. Other counseling specialties include multicultural, genetic, and gerontological counseling.

Education and Training Requirements

The requirements for academic qualifications are largely dependent on the occupational specialty. In order to enter the profession, a candidate must have formal education leading to at least a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. A large number of colleges and universities offer counselor education programs where one can choose from courses in marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation counseling, career counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and school counseling, among others. It is beneficial to possess a master’s degree, since many states require counselors to have postgraduate education prior to taking up public employment.

A counselor should also be licensed in order to begin working professionally. Depending on the State, one may need a State school counseling certification, continuing education credits, or both teaching and counseling certificates.

Getting the Job

A trained and qualified counselor can directly apply for a job at any treatment center, clinic, hospital, or educational institute. Information about educational counselor openings is generally available in a school or college’s placement office, as well as at private and state employment agencies. Often, a lot of organizations advertise their job openings in the classified columns of newspapers and job portals on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

National certifications, though not mandatory, often prove to be of great help in enhancing future job prospects. Depending on one’s field of expertise, counselors can opt for the National Certified Counselor credential that is offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc, or the voluntary national certification provided by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. To obtain such certifications, one is usually required to have a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited college or university, a minimum of two years of field experience under a supervisor, have two professional endorsements, and clear a board examination.

Pursuing a doctorate degree also opens up better possibilities. A counselor holding such a degree can advance to positions of a supervisor, administrator, teacher, clinician, or researcher, depending on the specific field of counseling. Continuing education also provides one the opportunity to shift to consulting, group practice, or college teaching.

Overall job prospects for counselors are likely to experience a growth of about 21% in the next ten years. Employment opportunities are the best for those specializing in rehabilitation counseling. In case of school counselors, the job scenario is more favorable for those willing to work in rural and urban settings.

Working Conditions

Due to the confidential nature of the job, counselors generally have their own private offices. However, work schedule and conditions depend largely on the counselor’s area of specialization. Since counselors have varying occupational specialties, the work environment for each is different. For instance, school counselors spend a major part of their time in classrooms, and enjoy a 9 to 10 month school year together with a few months of vacation period. On the other hand, counselors working in health organizations generally have a 40-hour working week, and may have to frequently work in the evenings and over weekends.

Where to Go for More Information

American Counseling Association
5999 Stevenson Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22304

National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc
3 Terrace Way, Suite D
Greensboro, NC 27403

American Mental Health Counselors Association
801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 304
Alexandria, VA 22314

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
112 S. Alfred St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists
PO Box 1960
Ashland, VA 23005-1960

Earnings and Benefits

The mean annual salary of counselors in the US is around $42,240. As per research conducted in May 2006, counselors employed in vocational rehabilitation services reported median yearly earnings of $31,340, while those working in elementary and secondary schools earned about $53,750 per year.

Counselors generally enjoy a variety of benefits like paid vacations and leaves, retirement plans, and health insurance coverage.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine