Pursuing counseling as a career

Do you have a passion for supporting others? Pursuing counseling as a career may be a great path for you. Learn more about becoming a counselor and what it’s all about.

What does a counselor do?

Counselors help individuals, couples, or families work through life issues. They aid clients or students in processing challenges and changes while teaching them strategies to cope.

Leah Herr, CUWAAs Assistant Director of Graduate Counseling, shared her perspective on what counselors really do.

“On a very simple level, counseling is a partnership between the client or student, and the counselor. Counselors are there to listen, support you, and help you make sense of what’s happening or what you’re thinking. They can help you set goals; whether that be a behavior change, thinking pattern, or career goal. A School Counselor and, say, a counselor at a mental health facility will have several other responsibilities that differ from each other, but the core of counseling is listening! Counselors are there to work with you to become the best version of yourself that God created you to be. If you have more specific questions about what a counselor does, please do not hesitate to reach out to our on-campus counseling services, or our Master’s in Counseling program!”

Types of counselors

There are many different specialties that counselors can work in. Some of them include:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counselors
  • School Counselors
  • Marriage and Family Counselors
  • Substance Abuse Counselors
  • Trauma Counselors
  • Career Counselors
  • Higher Education Counseling
  • Correctional Counselors

What education do I need?

The amount of education needed to pursue a career in counseling depends on your specialization. At a minimum, you need a master’s degree. Most graduate programs do not require a specific undergrad major, however, here are some suggestions:

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Social work
  • Education
  • Human services
  • Human Development

Your next step would be to earn a master’s degree. This will be your most important step to becoming a counselor. As a graduate student, you will learn all the knowledge and skills you will need to be successful. Picking a master’s program depends on what type of counseling you’d like to pursue. Many apply to mental health counseling or school counseling programs. Some choose to apply to social work programs. When selecting a program, be sure to ask about accreditation and outcomes to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Important skills to learn

Although there are various types of counseling, they all require certain skills to be successful. Many technical skills you will learn within your education and fieldwork, but you can start work on your soft skills now. According to Indeed, “soft skills are abilities that relate to how you work and how you interact with other people.” But what skills are most important in the field of counseling?

According to Leah Herr, some of the most important skills a counselor can have are empathy, active listening, strong communication, and being genuine. She states, “You need to be able to set boundaries. Counselors are always giving of themselves to others. It’s important to be able to take care of yourself and know when you need to step away.  You also need to be genuine.  Your clients need to trust you and know you care.”

Herr suggests that enrolling in a counselor education program is a great way to improve your skills. These classes are created to help you grow and improve your practical skills.

Ready to jump in?

No matter if you are ready or have more questions about pursuing counseling as a career, we’re here to help.