To become a community counselor, you will typically need to complete an educational program and complete the licensing requirements to become a mental health practitioner in your jurisdiction. The exact requirements for becoming a community counselor can vary significantly between jurisdictions, so it is important that you understand the requirements in the area in which you hope to practice. In many places, the process to become a community counselor involves the completion of a postgraduate degree in counseling, passing one or more professional or licensing examinations, and completing a specific number of hours of supervised counseling practice. In addition, you may be subject to a criminal background check before you can receive a license to practice.
Community counselors offer counseling services in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, community mental health agencies and in substance abuse facilities. Unlike some mental health specialties, individuals typically do not need a doctoral degree to become a community counselor, but may only need a master's degree. Many master's degree curricula include both classroom hours and practical experience working as a counselor. In the United States, the requirements to become a community counselor differ from state to state, while in other countries, the licensing requirements may be established on a national basis.
If you become a community counselor in an area that requires you to obtain a master's degree, you will typically have to complete an undergraduate degree. In some cases, you may be expected to hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, social work or a related field. If you don't have a degree in a social science discipline, you may need to take some basic psychology courses before being admitted into a postgraduate program. At some point during your master's program, you may be placed in an internship so you can begin earning the required experience hours to complete your degree and eventually earn your licensure. After you complete your degree, you may also need to complete additional supervised hours if you want to be licensed to practice independently.
Depending on where you live, you may have to complete one or more examinations before you can receive a license. In some places, such as the United States, you may need to pass a national licensure examination and then pass a state examination as well. Once you have completed your education, worked the number of supervised hours required, and passed your exams, you can typically apply for your license. Once you receive your license, you may be expected to complete continuing education courses each year in order to renew your license to practice.