I know many of you have visualized yourselves in the role of a counselor. You’ve imagined what it would be like to be in this role of helper. You might have even thought about what your life in general will be like once you’ve earned your master’s degree and taken the state exam. One thing I often hear from students after they’ve completed their intro to counseling class is ” I didn’t know that!” This article will cover some of the things that are important to know but that you usually wouldn’t find out until it is too late.
1.) It actually takes 4-10 years to become a fully-licensed counselor. Master level counseling programs are moving towards becoming 60 hour programs. A full-time student could finish a graduate program in counseling in as little as two years, if they also go over the summer. A part-time student, on the other hand, may take as many as four or five years to complete the program. Some individuals don’t realize that once you’ve completed your master’s degree and taken the National Counselor Exam, you’re still considered an intern and are required to train under a licensed supervisor for another 2-5 years. Students looking to pursue a degree in counseling need to realize that graduate level counseling programs are different than most other graduate level programs. The amount of training required to become a licensed counselor goes well beyond what is listed in the college catalog.
2.) The cost of training is a lot more than you think it is. In addition to the cost of your graduate program, you’ll incur costs for association fees, supervision fees, insurance fees, exam fees, and licensing fees. By the time you become fully-licensed you could have spent a total ranging anywhere from $ 25,000 to $ 50,000. The cost that most often catches students off guard is the $50-100 weekly supervision fee they are charged by licensed professional counselor supervisors. Students usually aren’t aware of the necessity to have a paid position after graduation so that they can afford to pay the supervision fees for their required 2-5 years of interning after school.
3.) Most employers want you to be fully-licensed. While getting a paying job is extremely important after graduation, students need to realize they probably won’t be qualified for many of the jobs they see advertised. If you take a look at the positions most employers are advertising, you’ll notice that they all have one common theme-LPC, NCC, LMFT, etc. preferred or required. Despite the great report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that counseling is expected to grow, there just aren’t many counseling jobs opening in Texas. This means that you are competing with licensed counselors for these jobs; unless you have something really great to offer as a new grad, you likely will not be chosen over a licensed professional. You may consider leaving Texas to move to a state where counseling is more in demand. Other options are to start off at a very low paying agency, take a part-time position as a counselor, or take a position that involves counseling but is given a different title (usually at a lower wage), such as case worker.
The bottom line is that becoming a counselor requires a big investment and sacrifice of both time and money, and one should not expect to see a return on their investment right away. However, given time, you’ll become fully licensed, find a position that you love and earn a decent wage without having to shell out money to pay for supervision.