How Do I Become a Vocational Counselor?

Jeremy Laukkonen

In order to become a vocational counselor, you typically need a college degree and professional certification. The process typically begins with attending school to attain a bachelor's degree in a field such as psychology or counseling. At that point you can often become a vocational counselor's aid, but you will need more education and professional certifications to advance further. Most areas require a government certification to work as a vocational counselor in a school, and in many cases you will need to have a master's degree before a public school will employ you. It is typically possible to be certified as a vocational counselor after you obtain a master's degree, which can help you stand out when you are looking for work.

Vocational counselors keep an eye on newspaper classifieds for opportunities that might benefit their clients.
Vocational counselors keep an eye on newspaper classifieds for opportunities that might benefit their clients.

The first step to become a vocational counselor is to obtain a bachelor's degree. You will typically want to study subjects such as psychology, social science, and counseling. The specific degree you obtain will usually be in psychology or a similar field. At that point, you can immediately transition to graduate school or obtain real working experience. In some cases, you can get a job at a school as an aid to a vocational counselor, which can provide the kind of experience you will need when you become one yourself.

You may also wish to obtain counseling experience in other venues while studying for your bachelor's degree or immediately after. Camp counselor positions can allow you to work with children and teenagers. You will typically work with them in a very different capacity than you would as a vocational counselor, but it can still be useful experience. Other opportunities, such as crisis counseling, can also offer valuable experience that may serve you well once you become a vocational counselor.

Some private schools may hire you as a vocational counselor with only a bachelor's degree and a great deal of work experience. This is one potential career path to become a vocational counselor, though you will typically need to stand out in some way to be competitive in the job market. Otherwise, you will need to attend graduate school and attain a master's degree in a field of study such as counseling. This is often a requirement to become state certified and work in public schools.

In addition to state licensing, there are also professional vocational counselor certifications that you can obtain. These are usually national organizations, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) in the United States. Whether a particular job requires such a certification or not, having these types of professional credentials can help you become a vocational counselor.

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