About Counselor Degrees, Education, and Professional Licensing

Reader’s Question

I am from Laveen, AZ. I am a college student at Grand Canyon University. I want to become a professional counselor. Do you know what type of degree I should have, or have to have? Can I have a BA or BS degree as a counselor? I am going for my B.S. degree now.

Psychologist’s Reply

Each state has a licensing law for counselors, social workers, psychologists, etc. That licensing law will list what degrees are appropriate and what courses are required. You should contact your state licensing board for Counselors to make sure your degree is acceptable.

The second part of this question is related to levels of licensure. Many states allow a BA or BS level of licensing as long as the individual is under the supervision of a licensed counselor. A Master’s Degree is typically required for a license to engage in independent practice as a counselor.

For students who intend to work in mental health professions (counseling, psychology, social work, etc.) there are some important rules:

  • The goal of your education should be obtaining a degree and educational background that permits licensure in your profession. If your college credibility, coursework, and eventual degree are unacceptable to your state’s licensing board, you’ve wasted your time and money.
  • A degree from a university/college is not automatically accepted by your state licensing board. Some universities/colleges are unacceptable and don’t qualify for licensure. Some “programs” in acceptable universities don’t qualify for licensure due to weaknesses in that program.
  • When it comes to education — it’s buyer beware! You are responsible for making sure your education meets the criteria for licensure in your chosen profession.
  • It is possible to obtain a “Ph.D.” in a mental health field that doesn’t qualify you for anything more than working at the local grocery.

What to do:

  • Contact the licensing board of your chosen profession in your state. Make sure that degrees from your current university are acceptable.
  • Download a copy of your state licensing law — make sure you are taking all the courses required for licensure.
  • Contact local licensed professionals in your chosen field and seek feedback and ask questions. Most professionals have been in your spot and are glad to be of help.
  • Talk to graduates of the university program you are currently attending. Did they have problems or concerns related to licensure?
  • Keep all email, phone records, correspondence from a licensing board.

Summary: You may be the best automobile driver in the world, but if you don’t have a driver’s license you can’t legally drive. It’s that simple. Students in all licensed professions must focus on future licensing as well as their college and degree. Hope this is helpful.

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