Veterans' efforts abroad are nothing short of heroic, but the trauma and occasional horror of combat can follow some veterans back home and make everyday life a bit harder to endure. That's where counseling comes in. Whether it's the large number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases or issues with depression, counseling can make a real difference in the lives of veterans, their friends, and their family members. For those with an educational background in the field, opportunities abound both within and outside government, and each of these opportunities can help veterans tackle their issues, take charge of their future, and settle more comfortable into civilian life after months or years abroad.
Positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs
The VA has long been the leading employer of veterans' counselors and it remains so today. With veterans returning home from two major wars, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the agency has had to step up the number of medical professionals, counselors, and other agents that handle common veterans concerns on a daily basis. For this reason, there are more counseling positions available now than in recent years.
Applicants to these positions will need to be highly qualified in order to even land an interview, however, as the agency looks to ensure that all veterans receive only the highest-quality, most qualified care available. For this reason, applicants should have both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in the field. Work experience is generally preferred, though it is by no means a requirement for entry-level work within counseling at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many universities offer highly concentrated certificate programs in veterans counseling as well, and these certificates can only be considered an added bonus for candidates looking to assure themselves at least an interview with the agency.
Private Positions Counseling Returning Veterans
While the Department of Veterans Affairs is probably the best way to get a job dealing directly with veterans, it's certainly not the only one. There are plenty of counseling firms that deal primarily, or even exclusively, with those Americans returning from combat theaters abroad. These private counseling firms often have the same tough requirements as the Department of Veterans Affairs, but they serve veterans in areas that simply don't have easy access to the VA or one of its owned-and-operated hospitals.
Applicants for these positions will absolutely want a graduate degree in the field, and they'll probably want to pursue a certification program in veterans counseling as well. These two educational opportunities are even more central outside the VA since counselors will be working without the help and oversight of seasoned Veterans Affairs directors and managers.
Non-Profit Positions are Also Available
For every major counseling firm or government agency that deals with veterans' concerns, there's a nonprofit that helps veterans at a reduced cost after they return home. These nonprofits are a really great way for new counselors to get experience in the field before pursuing opportunities with private firms and the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. Nonprofits typically have higher turnover for this reason, and that means they may be willing to work with an applicant who is new to the field. They may also work with candidates who have an undergraduate degree and who are actively seeking graduate-level education in counseling.
Excellent Opportunities to Help Returning Veterans
From the Department of Veterans Affairs to private firms and not-for-profit groups, today's counselors with an interest in the wellbeing of America's veterans have ample opportunities. Remember that most positions do require graduate work, and many prefer specific certification, in order to get the job. With those things in hand, it's easy to start helping right away.