If you currently have a job but feel like the majority of your time at work is spent wishing that you were doing something else and checking the clock to see how close you are to going home, then it’s probably time to start thinking about a career change.
Perhaps you are interested in getting into a more meaningful career where you have a clear sense of purpose and the opportunity to help people from all walks of life.
If you are empathetic, a good listener, and enjoy the idea of helping people with their personal development and improvement, then a career as a counselor might be an ideal choice for you.
Along with being a highly rewarding career, working as a mental health counselor or therapist can often be a flexible role with a high rate of self-employment, good work/life balance, and generous rates of pay.
How to Become a Mental Health Counselor
If you are ready to be a licensed mental health counselor, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area before continuing with graduate-level education, such as a masters in counseling from St Bonaventure University.
You may then need to complete post-graduate clinical work to get real-life experience of counseling before passing the MCMHC Examination and applying for your license.
How long it will take you to become a mental health counselor will vary depending on where you are in your journey when you start and how you decide to study – for example, studying for one or more degree programs part-time will take longer.
On average, it takes around four years to get an undergraduate degree, two to three years to get a master’s degree, and another two years to complete any required post-graduate clinical work.
1. Getting an Undergraduate Degree
While you will need to get a graduate degree in a relevant field to qualify to become a licensed mental health counselor, you will first need to complete an undergraduate degree to qualify you for this.
Each master’s degree program that is available to get you into a career in counseling will have its own guidelines for entry requirements. Some of the most popular degree programs for students who go on to become mental health counselors include psychology, human services, or sociology bachelor’s degrees.
If you already have an undergraduate degree that isn’t related to psychology or counseling, you may be able to find a master’s degree program that allows you to enroll once you have completed some undergraduate prerequisite courses.
2. Getting a Master’s Degree
Once you have completed a bachelor’s degree, you may want to spend some time gaining work experience before completing a relevant master’s degree.
A master’s of science in counseling psychology or mental health counseling are some of the most popular, although there are other relevant degree programs to consider.
When choosing the right one for you, consider which coursework is required for licensure by the state that you wish to practice in, as each state mandates the courses that you will need to get.
3. Complete Clinical Work
Once you have graduated with your master’s degree, you will need to complete a certain number of clinical hours to qualify to apply for your license. This will usually be done at your first job after getting the degree. Along with this, you will need to complete supervision hours, which involves time spent working directly with a licensed counselor who will review your treatment approach and cases.
4. Pass the Exam and Get Your License
The final step in qualifying as a licensed mental health counselor is to pass the exam that is required by your state licensing board. In most cases, this is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam or the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification.
Once you have passed this exam, you can then apply to get a license in the state where you wish to practice as a counselor as long as all other licensing requirements have been met.
Why Change Your Career to Counseling?
Along with the fact that online degrees in psychology, counseling and other relevant subjects have made it easier than ever for those in work to learn in their own time and earn qualifications to help them change their careers, there are plenty of different reasons to consider a career in counseling
. If the following reasons resonate with you, then a career change to counseling might be a good fit for you.
You Want to Work with People
Counseling is a career that is all about working with other people and helping them improve their situations, deal with mental health issues like anxiety, and generally become better at coping with the everyday stresses of life.
It is a job that gives you the chance to work with and help people going through a wide range of different situations from stressful life events to serious mental health issues. If you enjoy giving advice and tend to be the go-to person in your social circle when something goes wrong, counseling might be a career that comes fairly naturally to you.
You Want to Make a Difference
If your main reason for being bored with your current job is that you feel that you do not get much of a chance to make a real difference to the world, working as a counselor might be perfect for you.
In this role, you are often going to be one of the first people that others are going to turn to when things are not going so well in their lives. Often people come to speak with a counselor when they have lost hope or are unsure of what to do next and need some direction.
When working as a counselor, you can enjoy a lot of rewards for what you do as you see your clients take your help on board and work together with them to guide them towards a more fulfilling life.
You Care About Improving Mental Health Services
If you are frustrated or even sad about the current state of mental healthcare and want to make it more widely available to people, then working as a mental health counselor is one of the best ways to do this.
Although there is definitely much more awareness these days regarding mental health and counseling as a service that is in increasingly high demand, many people still struggle to get access to the mental health care and support that they need.
Once qualified as a counselor, you are in a better position to have a direct impact on mental healthcare availability and help to improve services across the board.
You’re Highly Empathetic
If you are not the type of person to turn away when somebody else is in trouble and always want to help others wherever you can, working as a mental health counselor might be a good choice for you.
If you often try to see both sides of the story and have a lot of empathy for the ‘why’ of people’s behavior even when you don’t always agree with what they do, you might already possess many of the qualities that you need to succeed in this role.
As a mental health counselor, you are going to be working with people from all walks of life and while you may not always agree with their behaviors or opinions, it’s important that in order to help them as effectively as possible, you can put yourself in their shoes and see things from their point of view.
You Enjoy Building Relationships
If you are all about other people and enjoy meeting new people, learning more about them, and building relationships with others, a career in mental health counseling will probably suit you well.
This is a career that is going to give you more opportunities than most to learn about other people and build a unique relationship with them. As a counselor, you need to be approachable and trustworthy as your clients are often going to be coming to you to tell you things that they might not tell anybody else.
You Want a Flexible Career
Finally, if you are tired of working the same old 9-5 or working for an employer and want a more flexible career option, counseling could be for you. Many counselors work for themselves as this is a career choice that lends itself very well to self-employment.
But if you don’t like the idea of working for yourself, there are plenty of different employment settings that you can consider too. Counseling can be a very flexible career option and there are now more options for counselors who want to work from home, including various online counseling services that are growing in popularity as clients find that accessing therapy remotely is a better option for them.
If you’re getting tired of your current job and want a new, flexible, and rewarding career where you can spend your time getting to know people on a deeper level and helping them improve their lives, it might be time to consider a career change to counseling.