How to Become a Counselor in Oregon

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What is Counseling?


Everyone has an issue with life at one point or another. Most people address their issues head on and find ways to cope with the issue or loss and move on from it. However, there are many people who face issues and for one reason or another they cannot cope without the assistance of substances such as drugs or alcohol. Still others might not have addiction issues, but because of genetics or other outside experiences, they may struggle with mental health issues. This is where counselors come into play. Counselors help people overcome their issues, whether they are caused by trauma, substance abuse, or other factors.

A counselor is a person that helps those who are struggling with issues, whether emotional or mental, and choose to seek out assistance. Counselors can work in all parts of society and with all ages of people. The typical day for a counselor consists of seeing patients, taking careful notes regarding counseling sessions, and meeting with other members in the mental health community to help with overall community care or to consult on issues they are having with their own patients. They also participate in continuing education hours and the most experienced counselors work with new counselors who are just getting into the field. The level of care a counselor provides depends on the counselor’s education level and experience.


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Online Counseling Education in Oregon


In the state of Oregon, there are roughly 6,600 individuals who work as counselors, and three quarters of these people work as substance abuse counselors. Another large group of counselors work in the school system. Counselors can work with all ages of the population and can be found in a variety of social service agencies, hospitals, and private practice. They are also found in social work, medical settings, working for the government, and as part of emergency services. If a career helping others navigate through difficult situations or learning how to cope with situations sounds like something you’d be interested in, then keep reading. There is a plethora of information below regarding educational requirements, different types of careers, and more.

Although you can earn an associate and bachelor's degree in counseling, to work as a licensed counselor, a master’s degree is required. This is because the majority of licenses needed to work as a counselor in Oregon require a master’s degree. A person can work as a drug or alcohol counselor without a master’s degree but, to advance, an advanced degree will eventually be required. We have listed all the educational options below.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

With an associate degree, you can work as a support specialist but will not be allowed to offer any sort of counseling services to patients. With some training, you might work as an intake specialist but, in most cases, you will be relegated to administrative work only. For example, a person with a two-year degree in psychology could work in a facility ensuring patients personal items are secured, clean, and in their proper location. Or they might be able to work as a support person for a group home in the capacity of making sure all patients are always accounted for.

Students earning an associate degree in counseling will take entry-level, foundational courses in psychology, sociology, human behavior, and more. Earning an associate degree is most helpful when it can provide a student enough information to decide if they want to pursue additional education in psychology or counseling. Completing an associate degree from a community college can also get you through all required general education courses before you start classes at a more expensive four-year institution. Or, if you choose not to continue your education right away, you can get right into the work force after completing just 60 credit hours in two years.

Counseling Admissions Requirements for Associates

Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

A four-year degree could get a person a job, though you can’t work as a full-fledged counselor in Oregon. However, you may be able to work as a case worker who works with a counselor. For example, an organization that offers counseling for veterans might employ a person with a bachelor’s in counseling as an intake specialist or as a community liaison. In some organizations, a bachelor’s degree can offer limited counseling advice while working under a more experienced licensed counselor. With a bachelor’s degree a person can become a licensed social worker, but to become licensed, further education will be required. Most licenses for counselors require an advanced degree to qualify to take the licensing exam. The exception to this is for certain licenses for drug and alcohol counseling. In these cases, a certain number of credit hours must be completed in various treatment areas.

As for the bachelor’s degree itself, you’ll need to complete around 120 credit hours in order to earn this degree. If you’ve already earned an associate degree and are able to transfer your earned credits, then you might be able to start as a junior instead of starting over as a freshman. A bachelor’s in psychology aims to provide a broad foundation for future education due to the high educational needs in the field.

Some of the courses you might take in a bachelor’s degree program include the following.

  • Intro to Psychology 1 &
  • Social Psycholog
  • Human Growth and Development 1 &
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Psychology of Personality
  • Biological Psychology
  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Research Methods in Psychology
  • Statistical Reasoning in Psychology
  • Counseling processes and Technique
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Group Dynamic
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Theories in Counseling and Psychotherapy
Counseling Admissions Requirements for Bachelors

Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

Obtaining a master’s degree in counseling is the first step in getting a Professional Counseling license. Those who want to work in the mental health field in Oregon tend to get this license because it covers all elements of counseling. The degree can be in any discipline within the counseling or social work areas. To attain the LPCC candidates have to complete 600 hours of clinical work under licenses counselors as well as complete a master’s degree. The LPC doesn’t require as many clinical hours but there is a requirement that varies by discipline.

Now, in order to gain access to a master’s degree in counseling, you’ll need to have earned an undergraduate degree in counseling or a related field. A master’s degree itself will take another 18 months to two years to earn and will include many of the same subjects as your bachelor’s degree, but they will be taught at a more advanced level. In many cases, you must also complete a practicum, in which you will gain real, hands-on experience. Coursework for a degree at this level might include the following.

Master’s in Mental Health Counseling

  • Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations
  • Mental Health Counseling Approaches and Interventions
  • Applied Research and Program Evaluation in Mental Health Counseling
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling

Master’s in School Counseling

  • Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Introduction to School Counseling
  • School Counseling Program Development and Evaluation
  • Counseling for College and Career Readiness
  • Theories of Counseling with Children and Adolescents
Counseling Admissions Requirements for Masters

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

A doctorate not only allows a person to work as a counselor or psychologist after passing the required licensure exam, but it also opens the door to formally teaching and training opportunities. Whether the teaching or training takes place for an organization or an institution of higher education, those who possess a terminal degree in counseling can work in practically any capacity. They can also find positions in research or consulting.

Become a Counselor in Oregon


There are several levels and categories for those who want to become counselors in Oregon. All of the levels require certification and licensure. Below are the different types of counselors that can be certified in Oregon and a brief listing of the requirements.

Quality Mental Health Associate (QMHA -R)

  • Must provide official transcripts
  • Must have supervisor complete a competency assessment
  • Candidates are required to complete 1,000 hours of supervised experience to qualify for the certification exam

Quality Mental Health Associate II (QMHA II)

  • You must possess QMHA-I Certification to apply for QMHA-II Certification
  • QMHA-I Certification provides competency-based verification of the basic core competencies of qualified mental health associates
  • QMHA-II Certification provides verification of advanced mental health associate skills
  • Verification of 4,000 supervised experience hours, verified by a qualified QMHP supervisor who meets the requirements of a supervisor in OAR 309-019-0125
  • Successfully pass the QMHA-II competency exam (available online)
  • Exam fee: $165

Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor (CDAC)

  • Candidates are placed on the MHACBO Registry and are bound by the MHACBO Code of Ethics
  • Candidates have two years to complete the program
  • MHACBO Registration is required within 6 months of beginning employment performing addiction treatment services, and full certification is required within 2 years of registration, unless the individual holds a health or allied provider license or registration issued by one of the following state bodies, and the individual possess documentation of a least 60 contact hours of academic or continuing professional education in substance use disorders treatment:

    • Oregon Medical Board
    • Board of Psychologist Examiners
    • Board of Licensed Social Workers
    • Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists
    • Oregon State Board of Nursing

Certified Gambling Addiction Counselor

  • Candidates are placed on the MHACBO Registry and are bound by the MHACBO Code of Ethics
  • Candidates have two years to complete the program
  • MHACBO Registration is required within 6 months of beginning employment performing addiction treatment services, and full certification is required within 2 years of registration, unless the individual holds a health or allied provider license or registration issued by one of the following state bodies, and the individual possess documentation of a least 60 contact hours of academic or continuing professional education in substance use disorders treatment:
    • Oregon Medical Board
    • Board of Psychologist Examiners
    • Board of Licensed Social Workers
    • Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists
    • Oregon State Board of Nursing

Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors work with people who find themselves at a career crossroads. It could be someone who is getting out of the military and is trying to figure out what they want to do for a civilian career, or it could be someone who is dissatisfied with their current career and are trying to find a better option. Using testing and questioning techniques, career counselors can help people zone in on their desires, interests, and goals and assist them in finding a career that suits them.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
    Counselors who work as substance abuse counselors assist people struggling with addictions to alcohol or other substances. They can work with individual patients, but also assist with recovering addicts in a group setting.
  • Community Health Worker
    Community health workers are involved in keeping communities as healthy and stable as possible. They carefully evaluate the health needs of a particular community and implement programs to address these issues, as well as working to increase public awareness of community issues.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors work with individuals who are in treatment. As might be obvious from the name, they usually work in in-patient facilities rather than those without-patient options. Residential counselors offer individual and group therapy and counseling sessions and help patients learn the tools to navigate through life without the use of substances such as drugs and alcohol.
  • Clinical Therapist
    Clinical therapists are what most people picture when they think of counselors. Clinical therapists assist people with their issues, whether they are emotional trauma or caused by other underlying issues. Therapists help people find healthy methods of dealing with their mental or other issues so they can live a more fulfilling life without needing to self-medicate or perform other harmful or dangerous acts.
  • College Counselor
    College counselors assist student who are trying to navigate the final semesters of their college careers. They help students find their first jobs in their careers, continue their education, and more.
  • Social Worker
    Social workers are often the first to discover when a person needs additional coping mechanisms and tools to navigate through life. For the most part, a social worker’s job is to connect people who are struggling to find the assistance they need. Some social workers handle cases with children and families, while others work with the elderly or veterans. Social workers can also be therapists but, in most cases, they use their skills as therapists to match people with the other social service agencies they need.

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