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Become A Program Counselor

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Working As A Program Counselor

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $41,871

    Average Salary

What Does A Program Counselor Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Duties

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to eliminate unwanted and damaging behaviors and to replace them with more productive ones.

Although some disorders can be overcome, others need to be managed. With the latter, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.

Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. 

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, they bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

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How To Become A Program Counselor

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Education

To become a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, applicants typically need a master’s degree in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s program.

Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.

Many employers prefer to hire counselors who have graduated from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

Training

Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licenses

All states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Contact information for state boards regulating mental health counselors is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Counselors and therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors and therapists. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, both of whom need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.

Organizational skills. Good organizational skills are especially important for counselors and therapists in private practice, who must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.

Speaking skills. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express ideas and information in a way that clients can understand easily.

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Program Counselor Jobs

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Program Counselor Career Paths

Program Counselor
Clinician Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Home Health Aid Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Direct Support Professional Behavioral Specialist School Counselor
Counseling Director
5 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Senior Project Manager Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Program Director Clinical Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Case Manager Clinician
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Family Counselor Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Night Auditor Leasing Consultant
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Director Home Health Aid Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Direct Support Professional Case Manager Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Licensed Practical Nurse Utilization Review Nurse
Utilities Manager
9 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Juvenile Counselor 2.9 years
Teacher Counselor 2.6 years
Resource Counselor 2.1 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 2.0 years
Relief Counselor 1.9 years
Youth Counselor 1.8 years
Peer Counselor 1.7 years
Teen Counselor 1.7 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 14.4%
Counselor 10.4%
Cashier 6.6%
Volunteer 5.7%
Teacher 3.8%
Assistant 3.1%
Therapist 2.8%
Top Employers After
Internship 11.8%
Counselor 7.5%
Volunteer 5.4%
Therapist 4.6%
Cashier 4.4%
Teacher 4.2%
Clinician 3.8%

Do you work as a Program Counselor?

Program Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

65.4%

Male

32.8%

Unknown

1.9%
Ethnicity

White

63.7%

Hispanic or Latino

15.2%

Black or African American

10.8%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

59.4%

French

13.4%

Italian

4.8%

Mandarin

2.7%

Chinese

2.7%

Hmong

2.1%

Cantonese

2.1%

Hindi

1.6%

German

1.6%

Arabic

1.6%

Swahili

1.1%

Hebrew

1.1%

Korean

1.1%

Japanese

1.1%

Urdu

1.1%

Somali

0.5%

Akan

0.5%

Indonesian

0.5%

Hawaiian

0.5%

Igbo

0.5%
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Program Counselor Education

Schools

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

10.1%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

7.6%

University of Phoenix

7.6%

Liberty University

7.6%

Capella University

6.9%

Walden University

6.3%

Southern Connecticut State University

5.7%

Saint Cloud State University

5.4%

Saint Catherine University

4.1%

University of Northwestern - Saint Paul

4.1%

Grand Canyon University

4.1%

Syracuse University

3.8%

Arizona State University

3.8%

Norfolk State University

3.8%

Fordham University

3.5%

Metropolitan State University

3.5%

University of Bridgeport

3.2%

Rasmussen College

3.2%

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

3.2%

University of South Florida

2.8%
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Majors

Psychology

15.6%

Social Work

13.0%

School Counseling

8.3%

Business

7.8%

Criminal Justice

6.1%

Counseling Psychology

6.0%

Mental Health Counseling

5.4%

Education

4.4%

Nursing

4.2%

Human Services

4.0%

Sociology

3.6%

Clinical Psychology

3.0%

Elementary Education

2.9%

Communication

2.6%

Biology

2.5%

Liberal Arts

2.2%

Health Care Administration

2.2%

Special Education

2.1%

English

2.0%

Kinesiology

2.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

35.8%

Masters

33.3%

Other

16.9%

Associate

6.0%

Certificate

3.3%

Doctorate

3.3%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.4%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Program Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Industrial Technology Education Program Counselor Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas Henderson, NV Jul 19, 2016 $85,527
Rehabilitation Program Counselor North Shore Medical Rehabilitation NY Sep 08, 2014 $62,400
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Apr 13, 2015 $52,853
Asian Program Counselor Metropolitan Jewish Home Care New York, NY Sep 20, 2010 $50,000
Asian Program Counselor Metropolitan Jewish Health System New York, NY Sep 20, 2010 $50,000
Senior Program Counselor Friends of Grace Seniors, Inc. Englewood, NJ Sep 02, 2009 $47,278
University Program Counselor Lado International College Washington, DC Oct 01, 2015 $44,098
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Oct 29, 2012 $42,554
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Oct 31, 2012 $42,554
University Program Counselor BUEI, LLC DBA Harriet Fulbright College Arlington, VA Jul 15, 2013 $42,554
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Apr 15, 2013 $42,554
Youth Program Counselor The National Institute of Family Counseling Vienna, VA Oct 01, 2012 $42,512
College Program Counseler The University of Northern Virginia Manassas, VA May 05, 2010 $41,740
Educational Program Counselor Global Education Institute Inc. Chapel Hill, NC Aug 24, 2014 $41,600
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Irvine, CA Sep 23, 2015 $41,218
Counselor for ESL Program Washington University of Virginia Inc. Annandale, VA Nov 15, 2015 $40,676
MBA Program Counselor Delaware State University Dover, DE Jan 05, 2015 $39,707
University Program Counselor BUEI, LLC DBA Harriet Fulbright College Arlington, VA Dec 01, 2010 $39,173
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Sep 23, 2012 $37,420
Program Counselor New Visions Foundation Santa Monica, CA Oct 01, 2011 $37,420
Program Counselor New Visions Foundation Santa Monica, CA Jan 26, 2012 $37,420
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Sep 15, 2012 $37,420
Program Counselor Assistive Technology Resource Centers of Hawaii Urban Honolulu, HI Feb 01, 2012 $36,439
Program Counselor Community Management Assistance C MA Sep 30, 2013 $35,479
Program Counselor John P Holland Community Council, Inc. MA Oct 01, 2010 $35,479
Children's Program Counselor New York Asian Women's Center New York, NY Jul 05, 2012 $34,102

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Top Skills for A Program Counselor

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  1. Behavioral Issues
  2. Comprehensive Treatment Plans
  3. Safe Environment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Report any misconduct or behavioral issues
  • Performed comprehensive psycho-social assessments by interviewing youths and their families to develop individualized comprehensive treatment plans.
  • Modeled and encouraged positive behavior-Maintained a fun and safe environment for children-Helped deal with challenges and resolve issues
  • Received comprehensive training and expanded knowledge of crisis intervention for patients in a locked psychiatric facility.
  • Maintained close contact with developmentally disabled clients in their home while helping to develop independent living skills and promoting community inclusion.

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Top 10 Best States for Program Counselors

  1. Maine
  2. Alaska
  3. New Jersey
  4. Wyoming
  5. Connecticut
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Nevada
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Hawaii
  10. Massachusetts
  • (126 jobs)
  • (43 jobs)
  • (337 jobs)
  • (25 jobs)
  • (218 jobs)
  • (520 jobs)
  • (84 jobs)
  • (39 jobs)
  • (37 jobs)
  • (917 jobs)

Top Program Counselor Employers

Jobs From Top Program Counselor Employers

Program Counselor Videos

Darryl Cross - Career Guidance Program

A Day in the Life of a School Counselor

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

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