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Training and Degree Programs
Entering the Caring Professions
For those who want to become professional counselors, there are many routes to the goal. From the modest training required for life coaching all the way through doctoral degrees for psychologists, society offers different educational programs and schools.
Types of Counselors
- Modest investment counseling careers: life coach, career counselor, hypnotherapist, emergency first-respondent counselor.
- Medium investment counseling careers: marriage counselor, addiction counselor, school psychiatrist, institutional counselor, crisis counselor.
- High investment counseling careers: psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, social worker.
Modest Counseling Careers
There are few counseling careers that don’t require both licensing and extensive education; often an education up to and beyond the Ph.D. level. However, there are a number of forms of counseling that often require only limited training, degrees as low as an A.A., and some few may even lack a licensing requirement, depending on your regional laws.
The majority of these positions are associated with non-intrusive forms of counseling, in which no medical expertise is needed, no probing into private lives is likely to occur, and the basic ability to provide practical coaching in life-skills is the primary necessity. Career counseling, life-coaching, some forms of emergency counseling such as would be used for short-term support, may fall within the range of low-investment counseling careers.
Medium Investment Counseling Careers
This mid-range assortment of careers constitutes the primary services provided. A B.A. or B.S. is the minimum amount of education expected, with a M.A. and occasionally Ph.D. degrees being more common. Licensing is virtually mandatory. Professions in this group include marriage and family counselor, addiction counselor, many forms of personal growth counseling, psychotherapist, and school psychologist.
High Investment Careers in Counseling
The most advanced levels of counseling are often those either specializing in severe forms of mental illness, long-arc therapies, or work that is deeply rooted in academic work and research. This can include clinical psychiatry at the highest level of that field, psychology, medical psychiatrists, and more. Many social workers may hold a Ph.D. in a counseling field. Post-doctoral work is not uncommon, and for researchers and academicians, such training may simply be a constant obligation.
Finding Training Programs
There are many training programs and schools at all levels of counseling training. Depending on your goals, you may be able to obtain the training you need through a local community college, a college or university, or through an online training program, college, or university. With a steady demand for workers in the counseling professions, you can count on finding many willing to give you training.
Be careful: many programs, especially those not associated with a state accredited college or university, may give you less value than you hoped. Before you enroll in a program, take the time to call state, county and federal licensing bureaus to determine the actual requirements to become a licensed professional in a particular field of counseling. Establish that the program you’re considering does provide that set of training and that the work you do will be recognized by licensing boards.
Making Use of Local Institutions
On the lowest levels of training, your local community college or state university are probably your very best resources. Even if you don’t make use of programs they offer, their counseling services can provide you with superior information and guidance as you assemble the necessary training to become a counselor. If you do wish to attend a state-run community college, or university, the cost may be the lowest available for the highest value of training.
For many low and mid investment counseling careers, online schools and programs can also provide a great option, especially to students with difficult schedules or serious geographic restrictions. Be very careful, however; be sure to choose an accredited program, and be sure to establish with licensing boards that the program you choose does meet the requirements for license. Also, be aware that in many instances, licensing involves actual internship, serving in the field as a trainee. Often, this final portion of your qualifying study can’t be provided by an online program, and must be arranged locally.
Resources for Training and Degree Programs
It’s useful to have guidance and information as you navigate the complex maze of counseling education and licensing. You can begin with information found in educational sites. Be sure to seek and make use of information from your local schools and licensing boards. By doing your footwork ahead of time, you can spare yourself tragic mistakes and costly detours.