Becoming a Counselor in Massachusetts
Massachusetts licenses mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and school guidance counselors. Some professionals pursue dual licensing. Massachusetts' education department has regulations that actually encourage this.
If you get off to a good start, there will be lots of opportunities to tailor your education and career.
If you are a High School Student or Hold a High School Diploma in Massachusetts:
Earn good grades. Your junior and senior years sometimes carry more weight, but it's best to have a solid GPA throughout. You do not need to select any particular undergraduate major. Massachusetts’ school counselors are not required to have degrees in education. Learn about counseling and related undergrad programs here.
A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.
You should, however, get some experience out in the field. If you are interested in school counseling, you will need to decide whether you are interested in working with elementary (K-8) or secondary (5-12). You can volunteer for organizations like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. You will be asked to identify the type of facility you’re interested in and any special skills you have.
If you already have a Bachelor’s Degree:
Graduate school admission may depend in part on GRE scores, but the admission committee will try to look at the total person. Committees typically ask for three references and a personal statement. Determine if you're ready to impress. Some prospective counselors choose to spend a year or so working. If you want experience with school kids, you may look into Americorps.
If you are interested in either mental health counseling or rehabilitation counseling, you will enroll in a program that meets accepted national standards and is licensed in either Massachusetts or another state (if it is located elsewhere).
A school's accreditation is a signal that it meets national standards. Rehabilitation counseling programs will be at least 48 semester hours. Mental health counseling programs are typically 60.
As a prospective guidance counselor, you have some choices. The educational requirements for the professional license are higher than those for the initial license. You will need some actual work experience before you get the higher license. However, you can opt at the onset for a program that will meet the educational requirements for the higher license.
The initial guidance counselor license requires a master's degree that meets the state's curriculum standards. The professional license requires that you either achieve national certification or have a total of 60 semester hours of graduate coursework.
Massachusetts does allow school counseling to be pursued in combination with related counseling or psychology disciplines. You might opt for a dual program in school counseling and mental health counseling that meets the 60 semester hour requirement.
As your program is winding down, prepare to take licensing exams. As a prospective mental health counselor, you will take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. As a prospective rehabilitation counselor, you will take the certification exam administered by the Commission for Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
Before you can be licensed as either a rehabilitation counselor or mental health counselor, you will need to practice for two years under the guidance of a board-approved supervisor. Your clinical supervisor will fill out paperwork which will be used to evaluate your application for licensing purposes.
Once you've completed your master's degree, you can get your initial school counseling license. A professional school counseling license requires three years employment as a school counselor.
If Counseling is a Second Career:
Individuals who have significant formal education and life experiences relevant to school counseling may be evaluated individually.