Careers in Counseling and Related Fields
Many students express interest in a career in counseling or psychotherapy. There are a number of helping careers that can be pursued with a bachelor's degree (e.g., case manager). More information on the initial jobs of our Human Development and Psychology graduates can be found in Career Services' annual survey of graduates. You might also explore the links to the right under "Bachelor's Degree Careers." Note that not all of that information pertains to helping professions.
To become a psychologist, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist (MFT), school counselor, or school psychologist; however, you will typically need a master's or doctoral degree. In many cases, you will also have to earn a professional license from the state in which you hope to practice. You will find information at the right regarding several different types of helping professionals, as well as salary and job outlook trends for those careers. Keep in mind that these are national trends, and you are investigating professional careers. A good job outlook overall does not mean that a position will be readily available in the geographic location you hope to live. State-wide or national job searches may be necessary.
Please note that there are many fields you can pursue to become
qualified as a therapist. You might begin by deciding what kind of work
you hope to do (e.g., mental health counseling), and then investigate all of the
different types of training (counseling, social work, psychology, marriage and
family therapy) that would potentially prepare you for that particular career.
Sometimes labels can be misleading. For example, social workers with
graduate degrees and specific training can work as licensed mental health
professionals in many states (doing individual, group, or family counseling), and many
psychologists, counselors, and social workers (not just marriage and family
therapists) conduct couples or family therapy. This means you have to do
careful research to understand the differences among these professions and to
make a good decision for yourself. Please also keep in mind that
there are a number of professions that involve helping people in ways other than
counseling or psychotherapy (e.g., student affairs, occupational therapy). You
can read more about some of these options in an
Eye on Psi Chi
Many students are interested in specialized types of counseling, such as art therapy, play therapy, or forensics. In many (but not all) cases, working in these fields requires first obtaining a Master's or doctoral degree in counseling, social work, or related fields and then pursuing post-degree specialization and additional certification (beyond the typical state license). You should investigate these options carefully. More information about
Licensure and Certification
States typically license mental health professionals to protect consumers of those services. To become licensed, professionals often have to graduate from an approved master's or doctoral program, complete 1-2 years of supervised experience after finishing their graduate degree, pass a national examination, and pass a state oral or written examination. Requirements vary from state to state, however. After becoming licensed, professionals are typically required to complete regular continuing education.
If you are interested in learning more about licensure requirements, follow the links related to to that topic. The WI-DRL link will take you to the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing, which licenses psychologists, counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. The WI-DPI link leads you to the Department of Public Instruction, which is responsible for certifying school counselors and psychologists in the state.
Professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, can also be good resources for students. They will often have information about graduate school, as well as pages specifically designed for undergraduate and/or graduate students. Links to some such organizations are included to your right.
Other Sources of Information
Make sure to examine the career information on the Human Development and Psychology websites. In addition, there are files of information on different careers in the C Wing of MAC Hall. Career Services is also an excellent resource for students.
If you have additional questions, please consult with your academic advisor.