How to Become a Counselor in North Carolina

Counseling Education Guide for North Carolina

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What is Counseling?


As the number of people seeking degrees in counseling grows, so too do the choices for counseling colleges and degree programs. The right degree program can narrow the selection considerably, especially with careful planning and research. Additionally, educational requirements for obtaining counseling credentials vary from state to state. As a result, it's important to select a regionally accredited college or university.

Counseling colleges and degree programs in North Carolina offer a diverse range of educational opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in counseling. With campuses located throughout the state, students should have access to plenty of programs that meet their specific needs and interests. Whether they are interested in pursuing a master's degree or earning a certification, students can find the perfect program to help them launch or focus their career in counseling.

Some schools offer great counseling programs, while others do not have any counseling degrees available at all. It’s important to find a school that offers the type of counseling degree you want.


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Counseling Education in North Carolina


The term ‘counselor’ can mean many things, but they all share a desire to help people in need. Counselors must have exceptional listening and communication skills, as well as significant knowledge in counseling techniques and theory. After all, they may be called upon to help individuals deal with a variety of situations, from personal emotional problems to relationship issues or even mental health crises. Because of the many things they can help with, counselors are crucial in our society. They can help people overcome personal or mental health problems and improve their lives.

Some counselors work in schools to help students deal with learning disabilities or even problems they are having at home. They can provide education in topics like conflict management, friendship, and career exploration. They can also collaborate with teachers and parents and may refer students to outside agencies for more intensive counseling if it is needed. School counselors sometimes also offer individual and small group counseling, as well as support groups.

There are a number of situations in which a counselor or therapist can provide help to someone in need. They can aid those who have fallen into addiction, provide treatment plans for children who are having issues with behavioral problems or trauma, or they can help someone who is suffering from grief to move forward with their life. It’s impossible to tell you what your day-to-day work will look like as a counselor without knowing where you will focus your education. But it is certain that you will spend your time helping people.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

If you're looking to work in a field that helps others, an associate degree in counseling may be a good choice. These degrees typically consist of 60 credits and take two years to complete if you can attend full-time. Any degree can be a great way to boost your competitiveness in the workforce, though an associate degree won’t prepare you to work in private practice or give you access to any counseling license in North Carolina.

Despite its shortcomings in the long run, many people pursue this degree to give them an idea of whether or not counseling is the right career for them. It can also enhance your knowledge base and increase your chances of obtaining a good job whether or not you continue on to earn more education in the field. An associate degree in counseling will include the same general education courses that any liberal arts degree requires, and also several basic psychology classes, which should provide you with a solid overview of the field and its history. Typically, you'll learn about topics in human development, psychology, and ethics.

Online Bachelors Degree in Counseling (BS or BA)

A bachelor's degree in counseling will provide all students with the same level of training whether they attend online or through a traditional, campus-based program. Online students will simply learn through web-based learning platforms that stream lectures and classes, often non-synchronously so that students can take the courses at their own convenience. Distance-learning courses can also cost less than traditional on-campus programs because students can save money on travel and tuition costs.

No matter how you choose to earn your bachelor's degree in counseling, these programs typically include a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for entry-level positions in the field, such as a psychiatric technician or as a substance abuse counselor. The curriculum will likely also include counseling practice, research projects, and internships. A typical full-time program will require four years of study, assuming you can attend full-time. Part-time programs are also available, though this will mean it will take longer to complete the program. These programs require that students complete around 120 credit hours.

Online Masters Degree in Counseling (MA or MC)

If you are interested in a career as a counselor, obtaining a master's degree in the field will be the best move for your future and may actually be required, depending on what type of counseling you want to do. You can work as a substance abuse counselor with just a bachelor’s degree in North Carolina, but those who wish to work as marriage and family counselors, school counselors, or in private practice are going to need this extra level of education. And those who wish to work as psychologists are going to need to earn a PhD.

This field involves a variety of job opportunities, from substance abuse counseling to mental health counseling to school counseling. And a counseling master's degree can help you find employment in a huge variety of settings including hospitals, healthcare organizations, rehabilitation centers, schools, and more. Graduates can begin their careers in any one of these fields, though you’ll likely need to spend time after you finish your degree working under the supervision of a licensed counselor and complete an exam before you gain full licensure yourself.

The curriculum for an online master's degree in counseling programs is based on making sure every student understands the foundational and in-depth concepts that are required for counseling, including a history of the practice and many techniques and treatment practices. Graduate programs also stress ethical concerns, research methods, and best practices in the field. A major component of a counseling program is a practicum, which allows students to apply their skills to real-world situations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recognizes five major categories of counseling: marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and substance abuse counseling. A master’s degree will prepare you for a career in the field, with many different career options.

Online PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in counseling is a doctoral degree offered by many colleges and universities, and it is required for those who wish to work as psychologists, forensic psychologists, and in research and teaching roles. These are rigorous programs that prepare graduates for careers as counselors in a variety of settings including mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, and private practice. However, one of the main reasons that prospective students choose to enter these programs is to gain tenure as college professors or the chance to work in high-level research positions.

These programs cover theoretical approaches to counseling, research methods, and ethical and professional issues.

Online Counseling Certifications

Students pursuing certifications in counseling will learn the fundamental skills needed to assist clients with specific issues. For example, you may choose to earn a certification in sex addiction in order to expand your client base if you already work with substance abuse sufferers. Whatever your field, there are likely optional certifications that could help you to move your career forward.

Students pursuing online counseling certifications are often provided with an array of helpful services and resources. These may include an online library, an academic advisor, or veteran and military services. It depends on the program you choose, so you may as well shop around and find one that will complement your current career. You should be able to choose from a variety of program types. The flexibility of an online program allows students to customize their education and work with their schedules, not to mention the fact that knowing you will attend online means that you will have even more certificate options to choose from.

Become a Counseling Professional in North Carolina


  • Step 1: Obtain a degree in counseling from an accredited university

    Counseling is a vital field that helps people with various issues in their lives. It can be rewarding to help others work through their problems, and a degree in counseling can provide the necessary training for this career. There are many accredited universities that offer degrees in counseling, so it’s important to do your research and find the right program for you. The courses will cover topics such as counseling theories, ethics, and techniques. Once you have completed the appropriate degree level, you will be ready to start helping people with their mental health needs. Just be sure that you understand from the beginning what degree you need. For most counseling careers in North Carolina, you will need to earn at least a master’s degree, though those who wish to work as substance abuse counselors can earn a bachelor’s degree and get started in the field.

  • Step 2: Become certified as a counselor

    Counselors play a vital role in our society, assisting people with a variety of issues. If you are looking to become a counselor, you’ll need to earn your education and then gain basic counselor licensure in North Carolina. Once you have completed your program, you will need to pass an exam in order to gain your first, limited license. There are three exams you can choose between including the National Counselor Examination (NCE) – provided by the National Board for Certified Counselors; the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) – provided by the National Board for Certified Counselors; and the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRC) – provided by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. You must also pass the jurisprudence exam. This license can allow you to work as a private counselor under supervision.

  • Step 3: Complete the required supervised work experience

    Those who have earned their first licensure must gain experience counseling under the supervision of a counselor who has already received their unrestricted license. Those who are in this position must gain at least 3,000 hours of experience working under a licensed counselor. This usually equates to around three years of work experience.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Counseling?


A bachelor’s degree in counseling can lead to a variety of career paths, though you won’t have much opportunity to work in counseling with this degree. In North Carolina, you could work in substance abuse counseling with this education level, but otherwise you are probably going to end up working in business or another field. Some good options might be marketing or human resources as your psychology education will give you a good understanding of human behavior and that can help immensely in those fields.

Potential Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Counselor Educator (Teacher):

    A counselor educator or teacher will provide instruction and guidance to students in the field of counseling. They will develop curriculum, teach courses, and advise students on their career path.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • A teaching license
    • Several years of experience teaching counseling courses

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for postsecondary psychology teachers was $77,860
    • The mean annual wage for postsecondary psychology teachers in North Carolina was $80,960
  • School Counselor:

    A school counselor is responsible for providing guidance and support to students in order to help them achieve academic success. They also works with parents and teachers to develop educational plans and address any concerns that may arise.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in counseling or related field
    • Valid state counseling license

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors (as well as and educational, guidance, and career counselors) was $60,510 in the US in 2021
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors in North Carolina was $52,870
  • Mental Health Counselor:

    A mental health counselor is responsible for providing counseling and therapy services to patients with mental health disorders. They work with patients to help them cope with their disorders and improve their overall mental health and also provide guidance and support to family members and caregivers.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Licensed as a counselor in the state of practice
    • 2+ years of experience working as a mental health counselor

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in North Carolina was $52,850
  • Marriage and Family Counselor:

    A marriage and family counselor is responsible for providing counseling and therapy services to married couples and families, both one-on-one and in a group. They will help couples and families resolve conflict, communication, and other issues that may be causing problems in their relationships. The counselor will also provide guidance on how to strengthen relationships and improve communication skills.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Must have a Master’s degree or higher in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field
    • Must be licensed or certified as a marriage and family counselor in the state where they practice
    • Must have experience providing counseling and therapy services to couples and families

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists in the US in 2021 was $49,880
    • The mean annual wage for marriage and family therapists in North Carolina was $46,900
  • Child Counselor:

    A child counselor provides counseling and guidance to children who are experiencing personal, social, or behavioral problems. They help children develop coping skills, resolve conflict, and make positive choices.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or social work
    • Licensed as a professional counselor or social worker
    • Experience working with children

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors was $60,510 in the US in 2021 and child, family, and school social workers earned $49,150
    • The mean annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in North Carolina was $52,870 and child, family, and school social workers earned $51,060
  • Psychiatrist:

    A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. They use a variety of techniques to help people understand and manage their mental health.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Must be a licensed medical doctor
    • Must have completed a residency in psychiatry
    • Must be board certified in psychiatry

    Estimated Salary

    • The mean annual wage for psychiatrists in the US in 2021 was $249,760
    • The mean annual wage for psychiatrists in North Carolina was $224,080
  • Group Counselor:

    A group counselor is responsible for facilitating group counseling sessions with clients. They help clients explore their thoughts and feelings, work through personal issues, and set goals for themselves. A group counselor may also provide support and guidance to clients outside of counseling sessions.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Experience leading group counseling sessions
    • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520 and rehabilitation counselors earned $38,560
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in North Carolina was $52,850 and rehabilitation counselors earn $40,850
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