Child Counseling Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for child counselors. Get the facts about educational and licensure requirements, career outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Child Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Child Counselor?

Child counselors provide therapy, treatment and guidance tailored to the specific needs of children struggling with mental and/or emotional disorders, behavioral issues or learning disabilities. They may conduct studies or interviews to gather information, identify patterns, and diagnose patients. They may also perform independent research to educate others or publish articles. See the following chart for essential details about becoming a child counselor.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Clinical or school psychology, children specialty
Key Duties Help children cope with trauma, loss and family issues; manage spectrum disorders, like ADHD and autism
Licensure Required Most states require some form of licensure, which may vary by state and area of practice
Job Growth (2014-2024) 20% for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists*
Average Salary (2015) $76,040 for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is Child Counseling?

A child counselor helps patients cope with trauma and loss, manage ADHD and autism, adjust to divorces or remarriages and confront self-esteem issues. In this field, you might work in a school, hospital, community health center or private office. Elementary school counselors, for instance, provide guidance to children in school settings and convene with parents and teachers to address their academic and developmental needs. You might use techniques such as play therapy for children younger than twelve and help them use play and toys to communicate feelings they haven't yet learned to express with language.

What Should I Study?

The level of education you need to practice child counseling depends on your state, but most people in this field are required to have master's degrees, at minimum. At the undergraduate level, you might study in the fields of psychology, education or human services. Then you might seek a master's or doctoral degree in clinical or school psychology and specialize in the psychology of children. A graduate degree in counseling with a concentration on marriage, family and child counseling would also give you specialized knowledge of working with children through studying such subjects as family systems, child abuse and child psychotherapy.

With a master's degree-level education, you must still work under the supervision of a psychologist with a doctorate. If you want to work independently, you must enroll in a doctoral degree program. You might pursue a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in counseling to follow your master's degree program. An Ed.D. would prepare you to work in elementary, middle and high schools and intermediate schools managing guidance and counseling programs.

What Are Licensure and Certification Like?

Licensure for child counselors differs from state to state. Some states require counselors to be certified by the state to practice and usually require some graduate-level education. If you practice child counseling in a school setting, some states will require you to become licensed and take continuing education courses. Public schools may require you to have teaching certificates and experience in the classroom.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) grants the credential of National Certified Counselor to applicants who meet their standards. To become certified, you must take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). If you're looking to work in a school setting, you might become certified as a National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) by taking a separate examination. Some states accept NBCC exam as a replacement for the state certification exam.

What Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual average salary for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists, including those that work with children, was $76,040 in 2015. The job outlook for these careers was anticipated to increase 20% from 2014-2024, reported the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists also help clients manage mental and emotional disorders, with an emphasis in relationship dynamics. Those who pursue either of these occupations must earn a master's degree and obtain state licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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