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Career Advice

Becoming a Counselor: What to Expect

Do your friends and family often come to you for advice on everything from their relationships to their careers? Do you have the ability to look at issues objectively, seeing all of the possible solutions and their logical outcomes? Do you like to genuinely help others?

If you answered “yes!” to these questions, then pursuing a career as a human services counselor may be a good option for you. Different than a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist, a counselor generally works with a specific population – the elderly, jobseekers, drug addicts – to provide assistance with their issues and the struggles of daily life.

What is Human Services?

Are you asking yourself ‘What is human services’? In the broadest sense, human services is the field of helping other people. Human service counselors work in a wide variety of settings, including government and nonprofit agencies, schools, rehabilitation and correctional facilities, mental health facilities, group homes and others, to assist people with their problems and help prevent additional problems from occurring. Their overall purpose is to help others improve their quality of life, by giving them strategies and advice for handling issues, improving access to services and identifying potential problems.

How do I Become a Counselor?

The first step to becoming a counselor in any type of human services setting is to seek a human services degree or the equivalent; for example, psychology, sociology or social work. Most organizations that hire counselors require a master’s degree in human services or counseling; some will hire counselors with a bachelor’s degree in a related field and certification in counseling.
Coursework in human services programs varies according to the school and specialization. In general, though, you should expect to take classes in human development, listening, decision-making, community building, advocacy and mediation, group dynamics, case management, human behavior and counseling. Master’s level and certificate programs in counseling often focus more specifically on counseling and often include a practicum or internship experience to build your real-world counseling skills.
Some counselors gain experience by working as case workers, aides or assistants in the field. For example, those seeking to become a geriatric counselor may gain experience working as a human services aide in a nursing home or assisted living center.

What is it Like Working as a Counselor?

There is no denying that working in the counseling field is challenging – but the rewards are great. Depending on the agency, counselors may work in the office during normal business hours or they may work during shifts in a group or residential setting. Counselors need more than just a strong desire to help others; good communication and listening skills, patience, compassion and time management are also vital for a successful counseling career. On a day-to-day basis, you can expect the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; it’s your ability to manage those successes and setbacks that often determine your success in the field.

What’s the Job Outlook?

Depending on your field of specialization, you can expect significant growth in the field of counseling over the next few years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Take into consideration that the demand for drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors is expected to increase by nearly 27 percent by 2018; while opportunities in rehabilitation counseling, particularly with the elderly, will grow by 28 percent. This high level of growth means that the chances of landing a job – and most counseling jobs pay well, from the mid-$30’s to the low $50’s annually. The biggest employer of human services counselors are state and local government agencies, but as the population ages and more elderly people need assistance, opportunities with private organizations and nonprofits should see a notable increase.
If you like to help people, then pursuing a career in counseling may be a good option. Whether you want to work with the very young or the very old, the seriously ill or just those who need a little extra guidance, there is a job and specialization for you. Spend some time exploring the different options and you’ll begin your path to becoming a human resources counselor on the right foot.

This guest post article was written and provided by Amanda Connely. Amanda is a freelance writer who is currently going to school in pursuit of her a human services degree. She expects to graduate with her Master’s in another two years.

This was a guest post for TheEmployable


One Response to “Becoming a Counselor: What to Expect”

  1. After battling through an anxiety disorder the majority of my life, once I had it fairly under control, I went back to school to become a counselor because I could understand what those people were going through.

    Posted by Neil Aspen | September 28, 2012, 11:07 pm

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