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What is the Best Counseling Degree to Get to Help Victims of Domestic Violence?

domestic-violence-counselorIf you are interested in a career helping victims of domestic violence, a degree in mental health counseling is the educational path you should pursue. Once you've attained your master's degree in counseling and become licensed to practice, certifications and additional training will allow you to specialize in caring for those who have been affected by domestic violence.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in mental health counseling are expected to increase by 29 percent over the next ten years, much faster than other professions. Counselors make an average of $44,000 per year. Read on to learn more about pursuing this rewarding career field.

Step One: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Earning a bachelor's degree in a related field is the first step to becoming a domestic violence counselor. Consider undergraduate education in psychology, women's studies, or a similar program of study. While some schools do offer a bachelor's degree in mental health counseling, these programs are rare–and in most states, you'll still need a graduate degree to practice.

Related: Top 25 Ranked Affordable Online Counseling Degrees (Bachelor's) 2014

Step Two: Pursue a Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling

An accredited graduate program will prepare you to become a certified mental health counselor in your state. Look for a program that is approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. As part of your master's degree, consider completing an internship program or practicum with a practice or agency that specializes in domestic abuse; in addition to valuable experience, it could lead to permanent employment.

Step Three: Become Certified as a Mental Health Counselor in Your State

The process for official licensure as a mental health counselor varies from state to state. In most states, though, you must take an exam and complete between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience. For a list of contact information for the office in each state that regulates licensure, visit the American Association of State Counseling Boards.

Step Four: Seek Additional Education and Certification in Domestic Violence

Once you're licensed as a counselor, certification and training programs are a great way to specialize in the field of domestic violence and help victims of domestic abuse. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress offers a clinical certification of domestic violence that is internationally recognized. The Forensic Training Institute offers an online course for Clinical Domestic Violence Counselors which costs $775, a cost that includes the first year's certification fee.

If you have excellent listening and communication skills, a true desire to help those in need, an interest in domestic and family issues, and compassion, you may have what it takes to become a mental health counselor specializing in domestic violence. By following the degree path outlined above, you'll be on the way to a satisfying career in a field where many job opportunities are expected to be available–and you'll be helping victims of domestic violence.

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