- High demand
- Booming field
- Desirable for those seeking a helping profession
- Ability to provide specialized services (leading to job stability)
Counseling is an expanding field that draws a large pool of prospective job seekers since it intersects with many other industries (healthcare, education, corrections, etc.). There are many career pathways a counselor can explore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for counselors is expected to grow 25% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than average. Counselors are particularly well positioned for job stability and future growth based on their ability to provide specialized treatment services sought by both individuals and organizations.
Counselors typically focus on one of many specializations, including clinical mental health, and school, career, geriatric, substance-abuse, trauma, genetic, and higher education counseling. In addition to these specialities, counselors can focus on specific populations, and mental health challenges, or specific counseling modalities. To be licensed, counselors must complete graduate school, apply for licensure based on state requirements, and receive supervision by a licensed counselor.After receiving a license, counselors are required to complete yearly continuing education (CE).
The term “therapist” is often used interchangeably with “counselor.” However, while a counselor can be a therapist, a therapist is not necessarily a counselor. “Therapist” encompasses a wide-variety of mental health professions, including social worker and psychologist. The differences among these mental health professions are important to understand if you plan to pursue a career in counseling. The chart below breaks down different paths in the mental health field, as well as necessary licenses and certifications, in more detail.
Licenses and Certifications
Title and type of license are subject to state of residence. Please verify your state’s license titles and requirements. This list provides a general framework for licensure, including an example for a particular state for each license outlined. All* licenses referenced require a master of counseling degree from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and a certain number of clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Review the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) for information about board certification.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Master’s degree or higher in counseling from a CACREP, number of supervised post-graduate hours mandated by state counseling board. (3,000 hours of supervised professional practice; 2,000 hours must be direct counseling in NC).
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Master’s degree or higher in counseling from a CACREP, number of supervised post-graduate hours mandated by state counseling board. (3,000 hours in NY).
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Master’s degree or higher in counseling from a CACREP, number of supervised post-graduate hours mandated by state counseling board. (24 months of supervised post-degree work experience; must accrue 2,000 practice hours; 1,500 must consist of face-to-face contact with clients; at least 1,000 hours providing direct services to couples and families in CO).
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
Master’s degree or higher in counseling from a CACREP, number of supervised postgraduate hours mandated by state counseling board (3,000 hours in CA).
Landing a specific role depends on experience and educational background, as well as proficiency in the skills below.
Clinical Skills (Field-Specific)
- Mental Health Treatment Planning
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Crisis Intervention
- Case Management
- Family Therapy
- Counseling Services
Transferable Skills & Qualities
Counseling Job Descriptions
Note: This is a basic guide to kick-start exploration, not a complete list of all paths. See specific job descriptions for more details.
Mental Health Counseling
Marriage and Family Counseling
Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. They utilize listening techniques, assessments, clinical interventions, and counseling to enhance relationships and quality of life.
Types of organizations where administrative social workers may work:
- Private practice
- Family service agencies
Entry-level Job Title Examples: Staff Therapist, Group Therapist, In-home Therapist
Mid-level Roles: Clinician, Family Counselor, Marriage Therapist
Future Roles: Director of Family Services, Director of Clinical Care
Relevant Licenses: LMFT
Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance abuse counselors work with clients struggling with substance use disorder. They evaluate readiness for treatment and help clients build skills and habits to modify their behavior with a goal of recovery.
Types of organizations where substance abuse counselors may work:
- Community health centers
- Treatment facilities
- Mental health outpatient centers
- Residential facilities
Entry-level Job Title Examples: Residential Counselor, Case Manager
Mid-level Roles: Substance Abuse Counselor
Future Roles: Director of Substance Abuse Counseling
Relevant Licenses: LCDC, LDAC