There is a wide variety of applied specializations in the counseling profession and coursework in each of these specializations involves academic classes, supervised fieldwork and internships. Courses vary according to the emphasis placed on professional roles, theoretical orientation, and population or age groups. They include courses in interventions, substance and drug abuse, research evaluation and in consultation. Courses also most often touch on a particular group of people such as infants and toddlers, adolescents, culturally diverse populations, emotionally disturbed individuals and disabled people.
For instance, rehabilitation counseling involves courses that deal with the history, ethical practices, and social and cultural issues that relates to individuals with disabilities. In alcohol and drug abuse counseling, students must take courses such as clinical counseling, treatment and prevention of alcohol and drug abuse, group counseling for addictive behavior, and family treatment of substance abuse. Other courses grouped into core areas include human growth and development, assessment, ethics, relationships, group counseling, counseling techniques, research programs, and career development.
Education requirements for counselors depend on their specialization. Licensure requirements also vary by state and it is advisable to check with the state or local government and the state governing board to verify the requirements for licensure.
Usually, a masters’ degree is required to be eligible to sit for state licensure and to practice as a counselor. An accredited masters’ degree program must have 48-60 semester hours of study with hours of supervised fieldwork in counseling. In most cases, counselors must also attend workshops and seminars in order to maintain their licenses.
Aside from completing a criminal background check and the fingerprinting process, the following are some of the most common licensure requirements in various counseling specialties:
For school counselors:
- Minimum of three years of graduate study (full-time) with at least 60 semester hours.
- One year of academic internship
- Required coursework by the National Association of School Psychologists
- Masters’ degree in School Psychology
*In some states, school counselors are required to pass an Education Skill Test such as the CBEST (California Basic Education Skill Test) in the State of California.
For Marriage and Family Therapists:
- Masters’ degree in Marriage and Family therapy/ Doctoral degree in Marriage and Family therapy or
- A graduate degree in other mental health field such as psychiatry, clinical social work, or psychology
- 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical fieldwork
- Completion of continuing education to maintain licensure
- Pass a state licensing examination
For Rehabilitation Counselors:
- Masters’ degree or higher in Rehabilitation Counseling
- Complete an internship
- Pass a state written examination for licensing
- For recertification, counselors must retake the certification exam or fulfill continuing education hours every five years.
The National Board for Certified Counselor administers certification examinations such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination. The Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRCE), on the other hand, is administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.