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Is the Counseling Profession in your Professional Future?

By Michael Kiener PhD, CRC Director of Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University, Missouri Rehabilitation Association Eastern Chapter, Co-host of the Mentor Moments podcast.


Laura Weeks Graduate Student Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University

As the world continues to respond, both positively and negatively, with the seemingly endless pandemic, mental health is at the forefront of successfully managing both its impact as well as other life stressors. For some, the pandemic has served as a calling to become a professional counselor, the need for which is increasing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be a need for over 122,000 additional counselors (school, career, mental health, substance abuse, and rehabilitation counselors) over the next 8 years. If you are contemplating becoming a professional counselor, below is a list of qualities that many effective counselors possess.

  • Ability to listen to understand, rather than listen to respond.

  • Sense of curiosity and wonder.

  • Openness to new ideas with a zest for learning.

  • Engagement in critical thinking and analysis.

  • Knowledge of the difference between empathy and sympathy.

  • Acceptance of cultural differences.

  • Passion for helping others.

  • Commitment to following an ethical code.

In addition to having the qualities of a competent counselor, you will need a master’s degree in your chosen specialty. The good news is there are an abundance of choices; most colleges and universities have graduate counselor education programs. However, digging a little deeper into each institution and program will help find the best fit for your needs. Below are essential points to consider when applying to a graduate counselor education program.

  • Look for accredited programs that meet state licensure requirements.

  • Know the different types of program formats (on campus, online, and or hybrid).

  • Understand the schedule of class offerings, including time of day and required number of courses per semester.

  • Find programs that have multiple full-time faculty members and inquire about opportunities for interaction between students and faculty outside of the classroom.

  • Ask about the licensure and certification pass rate and the employment outcomes of recent graduates.

  • Know the faculty/student ratio and look for programs that are under 12 students to 1 faculty member.

  • Ask how the program helps students and graduates with employment and career development.

  • Seek programs at thriving institutions with quality reputations.

After narrowing your list of programs, visit the campus and meet with the program director or other program faculty to finalize your choice. This is a great opportunity to confirm your research and ask follow-up questions. Talking with a current or graduating student can also provide information about the overall experience and program environment. A combination of “counseling” qualities and a great educational program will go a long way towards setting yourself up for a successful career in a growing profession.

Check out this video on how to pick a counseling program.

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