Careers in Counseling

This article was originally published on CounselingDegreeGuide.

Nationally, over 700,000 counselors work across the major counseling practice areas.1-5 On this page you will learn about the areas of counseling, what counselors do, and how to become a counselor. Salaries and the market outlook are also addressed. A master’s degree and licensure are required for most counseling careers.

Table of Contents

Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Counseling

Are you interested in a career that lets you work with people while improving their quality of life? Here are 10 reasons that a career in counseling might be for you.

  1. You want a career that allows you to help people. Counselors working in all practice areas are focused on helping people understand themselves and others as well as adopting healthy behaviors.
  2. You’re interested in mental health but do not want to be a psychologist. Counselors are more focused on “talk therapy” for common challenges, whereas psychologists’ scope of practice includes diagnosing and assessing disorders.
  3. You’re not interested in earning a doctorate. While some counselors do hold doctoral degrees, most counseling licenses require a master’s degree.
  4. You want to work for and with the local community. Counselors have many opportunities to enrich the communities in which they work.
  5. You enjoy challenging work. Counselors may see both the best and the worst sides of people who are facing serious life issues and must be able to remain objective and calm during stressful conversations.
  6. You’re seeking a career in a growth industry. According to projections, demand for counseling services and counselors is expected to be between 9% and 22.9% through 2030, which is roughly 300% to 1000% faster than the average job growth.6
  7. You want a career that gives back. Even counselors who work in private practice frequently collaborate or volunteer with community agencies and nonprofits.
  8. You’re interested in working directly with a certain population. Often, counselors specialize in helping certain populations of people, providing opportunities to become experts in their areas of interest.
  9. You’re interested in the “science of the mind.” Counselors use scientifically-backed methods to help their clients and have a deep understanding of the biological basis of behavior.
  10. You want a career that offers flexibility. Counselors frequently set their own appointments and schedules.

What Do Counselors Do?

While counselors have broad responsibilities, counseling, at its core, helps people cope with challenges. These challenges might be mental, physical, social, or economic. Counselors primarily offer clients mental tools to cope with or overcome challenging circumstances, such as emotional regulation, stress management skills, and cognitive reframing.

In addition to mental tools, counselors help their clients learn adaptive behaviors and develop tools for communicating with and understanding others (who can be romantic partners, children, coworkers, and so on). For example, an addiction counselor may teach clients alternative ways of coping with stress–such as visiting the gym or the park–rather than using substances.

To be successful, a counselor must believe that people have the ability to change their behaviors and attitudes in positive ways. It is these kinds of positive changes that define progress in counseling and therapy. Witnessing these changes in clients largely contributes to fulfillment as a counselor.

Counselor Job Description

Careers in counseling can be exciting since no two days are likely to be the same. However, while clients and challenges change, the fundamental tasks that support a counselor’s job tend to be consistent among the different types of counseling. In a typical day or week, counselors will:

  • Hold sessions with individuals and groups facing mental health challenges.
  • Help clients access tools and research that will assist them in reaching their goals.
  • Guide clients in analyzing their thoughts and actions, and how these impact their goals and quality of life.
  • Maintain and regularly update clients’ case files.
  • Refer clients to other specialists when needed, such as psychologists or doctors.

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By Alice Song
Alice Song Career Counselor