How to Start a Career in Counseling

Counselors do more than provide career advice. They can also support the mental well-being of individuals across various settings. Whether they are working at a school or in a corporate environment, counselors play a role in helping people reach their full potential.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a counselor? There is a high demand for practitioners in this field. That includes mental health specialists, social workers, and therapists that are trained to help people rise above their fears. Being successful at what you do won't come easy.

Much like any other profession, counseling requires patience and effort. More than that, you also need to adopt the right attitude when it comes to dealing with people from different walks of life. Here's what you need to do to become a successful counselor.

1. Know the path you should take

Before entering college, you should have a good idea of the best path that will take you to a career in counseling. While it's possible to enroll in an undergraduate counseling course, you can also take up a related program. Pursuing a degree in psychology and social work will help train you for the next step in your career. Sociology and biology are also popular options. 

If you graduated from an unrelated field, you can still start a career in counseling through a Master's program. After all, you can enter the practice even without a  bachelor's degree in a related field. Charting a clear path towards your end goal will help you focus your time and effort on learning how to become an effective counselor. 

2. Choose a good school 

Picking a proper training ground for your counseling practice matters a lot. You wouldn't want to enter a school that lets you graduate without mastering your skills and learning you need to know about the field.

Spend time coming up with a shortlist of the top universities, colleges, and institutions offering counseling and personnel services programs. Sites like U.S. News provide rankings of the best institutions for your preferred sub-discipline in counseling. 

If you're already working and you are planning to take up a Master's degree, look for universities offering remote study arrangements for busy professionals like you. Canberra University, for instance, offers online courses for its Master's Degree in Counseling, Graduate Diploma in Counseling, and Graduate Certificate in Counseling programs.

3. Prepare for a certification exam

If you are planning to practice counseling, you will need to obtain a license or certification. This is required for many professionals in the field except for those handling supportive roles.

Before you can take a licensure exam, you must first complete a fixed number of hours of fieldwork. Depending on the program you entered, you can apply for a practicum or an internship. Either way, you will need to make the most of your field experience so you can qualify for a license. 

After completing your fieldwork requirements and graduating from the program, you can prepare for a certification exam in the place where you will practice. You also need to learn as much as you can about the specific exam you are taking. 

The National Counselor Exam, for one, consists of 200 multiple choice questions that will test your competency in the field. Consider downloading study guides and asking people you know who took the exam before. 

4. Build your network

It's never too late to start building a career in counseling. Even if you started late, you can still grow your practice. It's just a matter of investing time and effort in widening your professional network.

Begin by connecting with fellow students. Take part in study groups and make friends with people who can become the best allies in your career. You can also reach out to your professors and instructors, but don't limit your network to your field. Consider reaching out to professionals in other disciplines, as well. You will never know if they can offer you better opportunities for growing your practice. 

You can also take the opportunity to build networks during your fieldwork. Be proactive, ask for feedback, and initiate conversations with practitioners and fellow interns. Apart from fieldwork, professional events can also be great sources of contacts. Make the most of every conference and workshop you attend by introducing yourself and sharing insights. By investing in quality networks, you can make your career journey easier and more meaningful. 

If you are looking to start a career as a professional counselor in a school or corporate setting, use this guide for getting to where you need to be.