To become a program counselor, you usually need a bachelor's degree and 2-4 years of experience. The most common jobs before becoming a program counselor are internship, cashier, and counselor. Hiring managers expect a program counselor to have soft skills such as analytical skills, compassion, and interpersonal skills. Once you have all the required skills and experience, it takes an average of 3-6 months of job training to become a program counselor.

The national average salary for program counselors is $43,820, but with the right certifications and experience, they can make up to $58,000. Getting a certification as a First Aid, CPR and AED Instructor will help you to earn more as a program counselor.

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 8% and produce 27,200 job opportunities across the U.S.

How to become a Program Counselor in 5 steps:

  • Step 1: Explore program counselor education
  • Step 2: Develop program counselor skills
  • Step 3: Complete relevent training/internship
  • Step 4: Research program counselor duties
  • Step 5: Prepare your resume

Key Steps To Become a Program Counselor

  1. Explore Program Counselor Education

    If you're interested in becoming a program counselor, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 60.2% of program counselors have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 15.4% of program counselors have master's degrees. Even though most program counselors have a college degree, it's possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

    Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a program counselor. When we researched the most common majors for a program counselor, we found that they most commonly have psychology, social work and criminal justice.

    Program Counselor Degrees


    60.2 %


    15.4 %


    12.5 %

    Program Counselor MajorPercentages
    Social Work8.60%
    Criminal Justice7.70%
    Other Degrees49.80%

  2. Develop Program Counselor Skills

    It'll be a good idea to develop program counselor skills before applying for a job. Here are some skills commonly requested in program counselor job descriptions:

  3. Complete Relevent Training/Internship

    Program counselors spend an average of 3-6 months on post-employment, on-the-job training. During this time, new program counselors learn the skills and techniques required for their specific job and employer. The chart below shows how much time it takes to gain competency as a program counselor based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and data from real program counselor resumes.

    Average Amount Of Time At Training


    Less than 1 month

    1-3 months

    3-6 months

    6-12 months

    1-2 years

  4. Research Program Counselor Duties

    When you decide to become a program counselor, It's important to know what duties and responsibilities are required for this position. Some common responsibilities are a part of most program counselor jobs. Here is a list of the main duties that define the role:

    • Lead recreational activities for adolescents with ADHD and other behavior disorders.
    • Provide education, within hospital setting, to adolescent psychiatric patients regarding substance abuse and dependency issues.
    • Receive CPR and first aid certifications.
    • Attend and receive CPR and basic restraint technique certifications.
    • Assist each client with compassion to encourage them on their journey to recovery.
    • Encourage and mentore residents during their recovery and rehabilitation process.

  5. Prepare Your Resume

    Finally, when you already have checked the skills and responsibilities for this role, you can start creating your resume. Everything that goes into creating a perfect resume can take hours, days, or even weeks. No worries, we created a resume builder to make this process as easy as possible with tips and examples of skills, responsibilities, and a summary.

    Choose From 10+ Customizable Program Counselor Resume templates

    Build a professional Program Counselor resume in minutes. Browse through our resume examples to identify the best way to word your resume. Then choose from 10+ resume templates to create your Program Counselor resume.

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  6. Apply For a Program Counselor Job

    With your ready resume, it's time to start searching for a new job. Consider the tips below for a successful job search:

    1. Browse job boards for relevant postings
    2. Consult your professional network
    3. Reach out to companies you're interested in working for directly
    4. Watch out for job scams

    Program Counselor Jobs

  7. How To Become a Program Counselor
    How To Become a Program Counselor Career Overview

Average Salary for a Program Counselor

Program Counselors in America make an average salary of $43,820 per year or $21 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $58,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $33,000 per year.
Average Program Counselor Salary
$43,820 Yearly
$21.07 hourly

What Am I Worth?