How Do You Become a Forensic Counselor?

Forensic CounselorTo become a forensic counselor, you must feel comfortable working around both criminals and the victims of crimes. Forensic counseling is a relatively new field of study that specifically deals with crime and how it impacts different people. Those working in the field work in jails and prisons, domestic violence shelters, rehabilitation centers and for parole boards. They ensure that those convicted of crimes can safely leave the corrections system and they help victims feel stronger and more confident. You need both experience and education before working in this field.

Obtain Your Counseling Degree

There are only a small number of accredited colleges that offer forensic counseling degrees, but all of these programs require that you successfully complete a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or a similar field first. You’ll need a master’s degree to work in many fields, but some jobs require that applicants also possess a Ph.D and have a high level of both experience and research into the criminal justice system or forensic counseling. Some master’s level programs offer generalized counseling degrees with a concentration in forensic counseling.

Gain Forensic Experience

Gaining experience in the forensics and counseling fields is one of the best ways to become a forensic counselor. You can work in the field during your undergraduate and graduate years. Talk to the career development center at your college about the internships, externships and jobs available in the local corrections systems and similar areas. You can gain more experience as a volunteer. Working at a domestic violence shelter will help you better understand why some victims return to those abusers and give you firsthand knowledge of how the abuse affects others. Other jobs and volunteer experiences will give you more knowledge about the laws in your city or state.

Apply for a Counseling License

You can only become a forensic counselor if you have a counseling license. While some states will let you work with a license from another state, most states require that you meet the requirements of that state and both apply and receive your license before working. Licensed counselors usually pass a criminal and civil background check that shows they are responsible and do not have any past or current charges against them. You also need to show proof that you have an undergraduate and graduate degree. Some states will also ask for proof that you completed a minimum amount of fieldwork before, during and after graduate school.

Get Other Certification

The National Association of Forensic Counselors is the organization responsible for awarding certificates to those working in this field. According to the NAFC, it offers 12 different types of certifications and some certificates are available to those working in clinical or non-clinical settings. Those certificates include recognition as a certified Master Addictions Counselor, Forensic Counselor, Domestic Violence Counselor, Forensic Social Worker and Criminal Justice Addictions Specialist. The NAFC requires that all applicants submit an application and pay a set fee before taking the test associated with each certificate.

Related Resource: Christian Counselor

Forensic counselors help the victims of abuse and other crimes recover from those crimes, but they also provide support to drug addicts and work with criminals themselves. Those who hope to become a forensic counselor need a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, some experience in the forensics world and both a license and certification.