Anyone who possesses the top characteristics that all good counselors possess should learn the best path to becoming a counselor. There are so many different routes that a student with the ambition to become a therapist can travel down, that navigating through these paths to find the best option can be daunting and also confusing. It's also extremely difficult for the student, or prospective student, to map out how many years they will be in school completing studies before they can become licensed. This is why guides on how to become a counselor can be so helpful in planning.
See our ranking of the Top 25 Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree.
Requirements to Become a Counselor
According to the American Counseling Association, every state has its own state counselor licensing board that sets the requirements that applicants must meet before they can sit for a licensing exam and become a licensed counselor. Anyone who is planning to attend school and who knows where they plan on practicing after school should look to see the current educational and experiential requirements for the state.
A majority of states have similar requirements in place, but there are some that are much more flexible than others. All states require licensed professional counselors to earn a Master's degree from a program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Some states will allow applicants to pass by completing only 48 hours of semester hours while others will require 60 semester hours. The number of hours that are required is what will directly impact how many years a student will need to study.
Earning a Bachelor's Degree
The first step students take to start their careers will be entering into an accredited Bachelor's degree program. Performing well in this 4-year degree program is a must for students who will then need to enroll in graduate-level programs with a focus on counseling and other specialties. It takes the average full-time student, 4 full years to earn their Bachelor's, however it is possible to shorten this time by taking extra credits each semester or studying during summer semesters.
Completing Master-level Coursework
When students apply to a graduate program, they must meet all of the prerequisites and also be able to show they were a good undergraduate student. This is what helps the admissions counselors choose which applicants will make it into the Master of Counseling programs and which won't.
Students should always assess their options when it comes to getting a graduate degree. This is why students cover the most specialized and advanced topics that pertain to the career they are choosing. While some programs only require 48 credit hours to be completed, others might require 60 or more. If a student completed 15 credit hours per semester, it would take 2 years for a full-time student to complete 60 credit hours.
Students must study at a rigorous pace to spend just 6 years in school studying to become a counselor. There are also bridge-style programs where students can use their Bachelor's degree coursework to satisfy some other graduate school requirements. Once they complete their educational requirements, they then need to meet the experiential requirements before they will be considered a licensed professional. A lot goes into becoming a counselor, however, many say it is worth the journey.