How to Become a Youth Counselor

What does it take to become a youth counselor? Read on to learn about career options, desired qualifications, and license requirements, as well as potential salaries and job growth statistics. Schools offering Child Development degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Youth counselors provide support and guidance to young people in a range of issues that affect their educational or social development. Problem sensitivity and interpersonal skills are very crucial to this profession. Check out the following table for more details.

School and Career CounselorsSubstance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsMental Health Counselors
Degree Required Master's degreeBachelor's degreeMaster's degree
Education Field of Study School Counseling, Psychology, Education and Social WorkPsychology, Clinical Social Work and LawMental Health Counseling
Licensure/Certification Varies by state and work settingRequired in private practiceRequired
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13%*23%*23%*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $56,310*$44,630*$44,630*

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

What Is A Youth Counselor?

A youth counselor is a professional who works with and helps children, adolescents and young adults to overcome difficult situations in their personal and professional lives. They work with parents, teachers, guardians and other professionals in determining and improving an individual's overall skills and help them in achieving their goals. They also provide information and teach young people about important issues like drug abuse and bullying. In most cases, youth counselors work with youth at risk, providing crucial counseling and supervision. Some counselors also provide treatment and support young people in overcoming addictions such as alcoholism and behavioral problems such as low-self esteem.

In a youth counselor career, you can choose to work in a primarily academic environment as a school and career counselor or you can choose to work with young people with behavioral problems and substance abuse as an addiction counselor or focus all your energy in treating mental and emotional health issues of the young as a mental health counselor.

As a youth counselor, you will most likely be evaluating and identifying possible issues or problematic behaviors. A successful evaluation then leads to developing possible strategies and working on them to combat the diagnosed issues.

What Educational and Certification Requirements Are There?

Most states in the United States require a youth counselor to hold a master's degree in counseling or related fields. Many employers prefer their counselors to hold a master's degree in counseling, as the degree program helps to equip students with the essential skills required for the job and for a supervised counseling internship. However, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master's degree.

A state-issued credential is a mandatory requirement in most states to become a school and career youth counselor. The credential type, license or certificate, varies from one state to another. Holding a license is compulsory for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice and all mental health counselors. License requirements vary from state to state for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors outside private practice. Typical requirements for licensure include a master's degree, an internship under the supervision of a licensed professional, and clearing a test.

Where Might I Work?

The work environment of youth counselors depends largely on their area of expertise. A school and career counselor will most likely work in a school or university environment, whereas substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor workplaces range from mental health centers to juvenile detention facilities. School counselors may or may not work during the summer break but other counselors usually work full-time throughout the year.

What Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary during May 2018 of school and career counselors at $56,310 was higher than the median salary of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors at $44,630. However, the employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is estimated to grow faster at 23% than school and career counselors at 13% between 2016-2026.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A career in teaching or social work are two very similar alternative careers to youth counselors. Both professions' work is directed towards having a positive impact on the lives of young individuals. Since counselors are required to study psychology as a part of their curriculum, being a psychologist is a possible alternative career, as the duties and tasks of the professions are very much alike. Both professions also require licensure and certification.

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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