How Do You Become a Vocational Counselor?

Vocational CounselorBefore you can become a vocational counselor, you need to show that you have the experience and education needed to lead others. A vocational counselor is someone who works with clients uncertain of what they want to do in the future. They often work with college students at public and private colleges and in community colleges, but they may also work in independent counseling centers and at vocational schools. They help students decide what jobs they like the best and what steps they need to take before working in those fields. To become one, you need to follow a specific series of steps.

Attend College

College is the first step that you will take before you can become a vocational counselor. As an undergraduate, you want to select a program that gives you experience working with others and a background in social sciences. Some of the more popular degree programs include social work, psychology and sociology. Many colleges offer internship opportunities for students that will let you work with a vocational counselor or in a vocational training program to get some more hands on experience working with clients.

Go to Graduate School

During your last year in graduate school, you can start the application process with graduate schools. Look for schools that offer degrees in vocational and occupational psychology and similar fields, and make sure that the school has accreditation from the American Psychological Association. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the best programs are those that offer a concentration in career development. Most graduate school programs of this type require that students complete at least one year of fieldwork after finishing their studies before they can earn a degree.

Take an Internship

Even if the program you choose has a fieldwork component, you’ll want to take an internship during your first or second year in the program. Many schools will let you complete an internship in lieu of an elective or a thesis. Internships give you the hands on experience that you cannot obtain in the classroom. You’ll have the chance to work with clients in a private setting, administer some of the tests that vocational counselors offer and learn more about the ethics of working in the private or public sector.

Apply for a License

To become a vocational counselor, you need a license that qualifies you to work in this field. Every state in the country has different regulations in place regarding who can apply for a license and the steps needed to obtain a license. Most states ask that you have a graduate degree and one to two years of fieldwork experience, but some states will also demand that you continue your studies and earn a Ph.D in a related field. You’ll also need to pass a background check that shows you have no felonies or serious crimes on your record. Some states may also require that you take an examination that asks various questions about vocational counseling and the laws of working with clients.

Related Resource: Community Counselor

Vocational counselors help those struggling to decide on a major or a career better plan for the future. Those working in the field often have an undergraduate degree in one of the social sciences and a graduate degree in a counseling field. To become a vocational counselor, you also need some experience and a license to practice in your state.