Delaware’s licensed mental health counselors and school counselors have master’s degrees. It’s a lengthy process, but you can begin by getting a solid education – and some experience helping people.
You do not have to choose any particular major. However, human service majors can be helpful if you want to work in a counseling-related position before getting your master’s. People often work in substance abuse counseling with less than a graduate degree (though a master’s is required for the highest level of credentialing). Learn more about undergraduate preparation.
An undergraduate degree in Psychology is a common route for students interested in later pursuing graduate studies in counseling.
If you are a prospective school counselor your experience requirement will be lessened if you have teaching experience. So if you can see yourself putting in a few years in the classroom, you’ll want to select an education major.
Meanwhile, look for service opportunities. If you don’t have paid employment in the field, you can try volunteering. You can browse volunteer opportunities on the site of Get Involved Delaware. There are a range of opportunities from being a mentor in an after school program to visiting a hospice patient. You may also want to visit Volunteer Delaware – there is a link to the Americorps service organization.
Begin researching graduate programs early, and allow ample time for the application process. You may need to do a writing assessment. Expect to submit references and an account of your professional activities.
If you are interested in mental health counseling, you will enroll in a master’s program that meets the standards of some national mental health certifying agency. Usually this is CACREP.
If you are interested in a career in school counseling, look for a program that is NCATE-accredited or state-approved. You may opt for a program at either the elementary or secondary level. (You will be eligible to work in a middle school setting with either credential.)
As you pursue your counseling master’s, give thought to your next steps: completing a doctoral degree or working as an associate counselor. If you’re on the mental health counseling track, a doctoral degree can reduce the amount of time you spend accumulating post-master work experience; still, it’s not for everyone.
If you are pursuing credentialing as a school counselor, your master’s program will include a one year internship. You may have the option of completing it half time over a two year period. If you have sufficient teaching experience, the requirement may be waived.
You may also want to seek membership in a professional organization like the Delaware Professional Counselors Association at this stage.
If you are in a CACREP-accredited program, you can apply to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) when you’re in your final semester. When you pass the exam, you’re a nationally certified counselor – this in turn will help you get your Delaware licensing. As an addiction professional, you may opt to take a certifying exam through either the Delaware Certification Board or NAADAC.
After you have completed your graduate degree in mental health counseling, you will spend two to four years working as a Licensed Associate Counselor of Mental Health. You can expect to draw a salary during this time. You will need to work at least 1,600 hours under direct supervision. If you do not have 30 post-master hours, you will need to work an additional 1,600 hours before you can be eligible for full professional licensure. However, it does not have to be under direct supervision.
You will need to complete some paperwork before beginning. The process includes a criminal background check.
If you have a master’s in another subject, you can enroll in a 30 unit course of study and become a school counselor.
Licensed Professional Counselor Requirements in DE (Application Information and Links to Forms)