How to Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania

Counseling Education Guide for Pennsylvania

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What is Counseling?


It is essential, when searching for a college, to pick one that meets your needs. If you are hoping to work as a counselor, you should consider the school's counseling or psychology degree programs. There are a range of counseling specializations available for study at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels including addiction counseling, marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation counseling. You will have more options for specialization the more education you earn.

Some colleges also have online counseling degree programs, which can be helpful for students who live far from the campus they want to attend or whose work or family obligations prevent them from attending classes on-campus altogether. However, some online programs require students to fulfill on-campus prerequisites, such as an internship, so it’s important to know what you’re signing up for before you start any program.

Colleges and degree programs in counseling in Pennsylvania provide students with the chance to study counseling, psychology, human behavior and personality, and other related topics. Students can select degrees that correspond to their individual interests and the careers that are most in demand. Counseling degree programs equip students with the skills necessary to be effective in a range of counseling contexts.


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Online Counseling Education in Pennsylvania


In a world where you are interested in becoming counselor that people can turn to for guidance in dealing with life's ups and downs, it's important to understand the actual role of a counselor. The term ‘counselor’ can refer to a variety of mental health professionals and programs, despite the fact that you tend to only see one example or type in television shows and movies. In some cases, a counselor may refer to a physician, who may perform a formal diagnosis. A counselor can be someone you meet with in private to discuss your emotional responses to life and get help dealing with issues. A counselor may also be someone who helps a child to learn to control their behavior in a more appropriate way or who leads support groups for those who are dealing with addiction or who have been court ordered to therapy for sex crimes. In other words, counselor can refer to a person specializing in a number of roles within the field as a whole.

The word can also mean different things to different people. Counselors must have excellent listening and communication skills and know when to provide guidance in a situation and when to let their client talk their way through it. Counselors are able to provide guidance for a variety of situations, from addressing personal issues to overcoming addictions or deciding when to try a change in medication for a mental health disorder. A counselor's job is to help others, and they play a crucial role in the lives of many.

A counselor's role varies depending on where they work, what their specialty is, etc. and it’s important to decide if you are interested in working with a specific demographic (women, children, LGBTQ, military, etc.) or a specific disorder (substance abuse, behavioral disorders, depression and anxiety, etc.). You can specialize in specific fields, such as marriage and family therapy. Some counselors specialize in helping people dealing with alcohol or drug addictions, while others focus on issues related to disabilities, mental health, or family issues.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

An associate degree in counseling is a two-year program that introduces students to theoretical foundations in psychology and human development. Students acquire the necessary academic and professional skills to pursue an entry-level career in counseling or human services, though they will likely not be able to work one-on-one with clients without more education. They also learn about various ethical issues, multicultural issues, and behavioral science research methods.

An associate degree is typically made up of around 60 credits and takes two years to complete if the student attends full-time. Associate degrees in counseling or psychology can help students prepare to gain some experience in this field through internships or working as support within rehab or mental health facilities.

Online Bachelors Degree in Counseling (BS)

There are many places where you can work toward earning a Bachelor of Arts in Counseling or psychology, both online and through traditional programs. An online degree is usually identical to those earned on campus; however, distance learners utilize web-based learning tools to hear lectures and complete assignments at their own speed. A further advantage of online degrees is that they can be less expensive than campus-based programs, as distance learners save money on transportation and other expenses and fees. Accredited colleges offer online courses of the highest caliber and outcomes for graduates are no different than those who complete their degrees on-campus.

If you want to make a meaningful contribution to society, it’s not a bad idea to seek a career in counseling. As a professional counselor, you can help individuals and families overcome problems such as despair, stress, and loss of a loved one. Counselors can assist patients in overcoming obstacles and realizing their full potential in a variety of contexts. However, it’s important to note that most counseling professions require more than a bachelor’s degree for full licensure. You can often work as a substance abuse counselor with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree as long as you gain enough experience but, if you want to work as a marriage and family therapist, child counselor, or psychologist, you will need to earn a master’s or even a doctorate degree to gain licensure.

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

You are likely keeping your budget in mind when considering master's in counseling programs. Even though the degree will demand a substantial investment of time and money, the majority of schools offer financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and fellowships. However, online programs not only allow you to skip the expensive drive to class every week, but it can also mean that you pay less in fees, and it can let you spread your learning out over a longer period, letting you pay for your degree as you complete each class. This is one way that a counselor can get the education they need while working to support themselves.

Many counseling programs can be completed in as little as two years, while others can take up to three years. Those who enroll part-time will, of course, take longer than those who attend full-time or opt for an accelerated course of study (which may make it difficult to work while you take classes). And the length of the program doesn’t even include the number of necessary supervised work experience hours needed to gain licensure. However, after earning a master’s, you will be ready to gain full licensure and start working in your chosen field.

Online PhD in Counseling (PhD)

Numerous colleges and universities offer a PhD in counseling as a doctoral degree, and online programs are particularly common at this level as these degrees are only available to professionals. These programs require that you complete a demanding curriculum that can prepare graduates for careers as counselors in mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, and private practice.

These programs may covers theoretical approaches to counseling, research methodologies, and professional and ethical concerns. In addition to coursework, students gain clinical experience working with clients under the supervision of a licensed counselor. They will also have access to an advisor who will help them to research and complete a dissertation, which they must defend in order to earn their degree.

Online Counseling Certifications

Graduate certificates in counseling are just as varied as the professions they prepare students for. In the case of addiction counseling, for example, graduates are prepared to work with individuals struggling with substance use disorders. In child and adolescent counseling, students become qualified to work with children and teens. And, if you want to pursue a career in counseling, an online certificate can provide a boost to your resume. It cannot take the place of education, but it can provide insight into a type of counseling where you have limited experience and prepare you to take on a new type of client.

Most of these programs are delivered online, but some require live virtual lectures. Additionally, financial aid and grants are available to help offset the cost of pursuing an online degree or certification program. Depending on your situation, you can also choose to take out federal or private loans to pay for your education. Furthermore, you can take advantage of government programs, scholarships, and grants that help you pay for your training.

There are many benefits to earning a counseling certification. They can help you to meet any continuing education credits required to maintain licensure, they can prepare you for a shift in your career, and more.

Become a Counseling in Pennsylvania


In order to become a counseling professional in Pennsylvania, there are several steps that must be taken.

  • Step 1: Get a degree in counseling or a related field

    An online degree in counseling can lead to a career helping people deal with life's challenges. Counselors provide support, guidance, and advice to their clients on a variety of issues. There are many different types of counseling degrees available, so it’s important to choose one that matches your interests and goals. A degree in counseling can be used in a variety of settings including private practice, schools, hospitals, and corporations.

  • Step 2: Complete an internship or residency program

    A counseling internship or residency provides an opportunity to learn about counseling from experienced professionals and is often a requirement for those seeking full licensure. Internship and residency programs may offer a variety of training experiences such as individual and group counseling, testing and assessment, educational consulting, and program development. Internship and residency programs also offer opportunities to gain experience under clinical supervision.

  • Step 3: Become certified or licensed in your state

    Counseling is a vital profession that helps people manage their lives and relationships. To become a counselor, you need to be certified or licensed in your state. Each state has different requirements, so it's important to check with your state board of counseling. Usually, you need to have a master's degree in counseling, although some states will accept a bachelor’s degree for those who wish to be substance abuse counselors. You will also need to complete supervised work experience and may need to pass an exam.

  • Step 4: Get experience working with clients in a variety of settings

    If you want to be a counselor, it's important to get experience working with clients in different settings. This can help you figure out what kind of counseling you want to do and where you want to do it, if you haven’t already. You can work in a variety of places including hospitals, schools, or private practice. Working with clients in different settings will also help you develop your counseling skills.

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


What you can do with a bachelor’s depends on the state’s requirements. Most counselor positions require that you have at least a master’s in order to have one-on-one sessions with patients or clients. However, a bachelor's degree in psychology or counseling can lead to a career in a variety of other industries where knowledge of human behavior comes in handy. For instance, human resources workers can use this as a jumping off point to get into the field and then gain credentials in human resources management. Or you can forge your own path and work as an editor, as you will have experience following a style guide after using the APA manual to write all your reports throughout your college career. The truth is that knowledge of human behavior, personalities, and research and statistics can help you find a career in any industry. So, if you earned a bachelor’s before deciding that working as a counselor isn’t for you, you can choose to branch off into another field and still be successful. Or you can earn a master’s and become the counselor you want to be. It’s up to you.

Potential Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor:

    The role of a substance abuse addiction counselor is to provide support and guidance to individuals who are struggling with addiction. This may include helping them to overcome their addiction, providing counseling and therapy, and helping them to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A bachelor's degree in psychology, social work, or a related field
    • Experience working with individuals with addiction
    • Knowledge of substance abuse and addiction

    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 Pennsylvania is $49,480
  • Community Health Worker:

    Community health workers play a vital role in promoting and improving the health of communities. They work closely with members of the community to identify health concerns and needs, develop, and implement health education and promotion programs, and link members of the community to appropriate health care and social services.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • High school diploma or equivalent
    • Certification or completion of a training program

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for community health workers in the US in 2021 was $46,590
    • The mean annual wage for community health workers in Pennsylvania is $44,060
  • Clinical Therapist:

    A clinical therapist is responsible for providing therapeutic services to patients in a clinical setting. They will work with patients to help them overcome mental and emotional disorders and will also provide guidance to patients on how to cope with stressors in their life.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in psychology or related field
    • Licensed as a Clinical Therapist in the state of practice
    • 2+ years of experience working as a therapist in a clinical setting

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in the US in 2021 was $82,510
    • The mean annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in Pennsylvania is $477,140
  • College Counselor:

    A college counselor is responsible for providing guidance to students in the college application process. They will assist students in choosing the right college, filling out applications, and writing essays and will also help students with financial aid and scholarships.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Experience working with high school students
    • Knowledge of the college application process

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for career counselors and advisor in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Pennsylvania is $66,390
  • Group Counselor:

    A group counselor will provide support and guidance to a group of clients with similar issues. They will facilitate group sessions, lead discussion, and provide feedback and advice.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, social work, or a related field
    • Licensure or certification as a counselor, social worker, or in a related field
    • Experience leading groups and facilitating discussion
    • Strong 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 counselors (all others) earned $45,160
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Pennsylvania is $49,480 and counselors (all others) earn $56,630
  • Psychiatrist :

    A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. They use a variety of methods to assess and treat patients, including medication, psychotherapy, and hospitalization.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Must be a licensed medical doctor
    • Completion of residency training in psychiatry
    • Board certification 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 Pennsylvania is $247,900
  • Marriage and Family Counselor:

    As a marriage and family counselor, you will work with couples and families to help them resolve conflict and improve communication. You will also help them to develop coping skills for dealing with stress and other challenges.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • A license to practice counseling in your state
    • Experience working with 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 Pennsylvania is $51,260
  • School Counselor:

    A school counselor is responsible for providing guidance and support to students in areas such as academic planning, career development, and personal/social issues. They also work closely with parents, teachers, and other school staff to ensure the success of students.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling or a related field
    • State certification as a school counselor
    • Experience working with students in a school setting

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for career counselors and advisor in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Pennsylvania is $66,390
  • Counselor (Private Practice):

    A counselor in private practice provides individuals, couples, and families with counseling services. They may also provide substance abuse counseling, group therapy, and mental health assessments.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A master’s degree or higher in counseling, psychology, or a related field
    • A state license to practice counseling
    • Experience working in a private practice setting

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for counselors (all others) in the US in 2021 was $45,160. The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists in the US in 2021 was $49,880. Clinical and counseling psychologists earned $82,510 and psychiatrists earned a mean wage of $249,760
    • The mean annual wage for counselors (all others) in Pennsylvania is $56,630. The mean annual wage for marriage and family therapists in Pennsylvania is $51,260. Clinical and counseling psychologists earn $77,140 and psychiatrists earn $247,900

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