What Education Is Required for a Mental Health Counseling Career?

Mental health counselors are not required to have as much education as psychiatrists. Job duties vary greatly according to career roles and specializations, which may include substance abuse counseling, group counseling, or family counseling. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education Requirements

Mental health counselor's typically need a master's degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or a related field. Counselors also need a license in order to practice.

Important Facts About This Degree

Prerequisites Most master's programs require bachelor's degree
Common Courses Ethics, human development, counseling techniques, substance abuse counseling, psychopathology, career development, assessment techniques
Online Availability Offered partially online; many programs may include internships or field work
Continuing Education Necessary to maintain certification

Certification and Licensure

For licensure in mental health counseling, educational requirements are more advanced. Licensure candidates must have a master's degree in counseling and between 2,000 - 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. They must also pass a state exam.

Those who wish to earn the National Certified Counselor credential through the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. must hold a master's degree in counseling from a regionally accredited university, have at least 3,000 hours of field experience, 100 of which should be supervised, and earn a passing score on the board's exam. This is a voluntary advanced certification and separate from general licensure, but may enhance employability.

Career Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines mental health counselors as practitioners who assist people with emotional and social problems. Mental health counselors may be tasked with a wide range of duties depending on the field in which they specialize and the population they serve. The BLS projects that the overall mental health counseling field will grow by 29% between 2012 and 2022.

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