When it comes to counseling, two paths you can look at are clinical counseling and school counseling. Both require developing relationships with people, but they work with different, specific, groups of people. If you’re a recent psychology graduate, or about to graduate with a psychology degree, it’s time to consider the specific career path upon which you want to embark.



The modern workforce has countless specializations for successful college graduates. Counseling is a perfect example of a career path with several branching specializations to consider. Writers at All Psychology Schools published an informative article outlining the different types of professional counseling available. You’ll notice that when it comes to counseling, the specializations vary depending on the disorders and/or populations you treat, and the method of treatment itself. For instance, there’s a big difference between a school counselor and substance abuse counselor, despite both professions sharing the same term.


The steps to take

We can use that comparison as an illustrative example. The path to becoming a substance abuse counselor is somewhat different from the path to becoming a school counselor. The former requires six distinct steps:

  1. Earn an entry-level certification
  2. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  3. Get clinical experience
  4. Pass the substance abuse exam
  5. Accrue supervised work experience
  6. Apply for licensure in your state

Notice that those interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor don’t necessarily need an advanced degree. The focus is on accumulating relevant field experience. Becoming a school counselor requires four steps:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
  2. Earn a master’s degree
  3. Get supervised work experience
  4. Pass all appropriate exams


Advanced degree?

An advanced degree is necessary before you can become a practicing school counselor. That isn’t any easier than accumulating more work experience in pursuit of a career in substance abuse counseling. It’s also important to remember that there’s some proportion of meaningful overlap between the responsibilities demanded of each professional role. In other words, don’t be surprised if you encounter substance abuse issues while working as a high school counselor with inner-city adolescents. On the other hand, substance abuse counselors can regularly interact with patients who are minors, as well as adults.

The biggest obstacle, aside from obtaining a graduate degree, is passing the state licensure exams. Each state has unique requirements, in addition to nearly universal ones, like a bachelor’s, supervised work experience, and an immaculate criminal record. You should spend time exploring a comprehensive list of different state licensure criteria.

The last thing you should know is that the clinical aspect of counseling, such as patient evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, etc., almost always requires an advanced degree. That means you’d likely benefit from having a firm grasp of what’s expected. Think deeply about what aspects of each career path are the most attractive. Adjusting one’s course after the fact isn’t out of the question, because there are countless transferable skills you can bring to either role.

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