Becoming a Counselor in Oregon
It takes a lot of preparation to become a counselor. You may be certified to work in a limited scope of duty with less than a master's; you may also perform counseling services in exempt settings.
However, comprehensive licensing as a Professional Counselor requires a master's. With the title come many more professional opportunities!
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
If you are a High School Student or have a diploma/GED in Oregon:
Select an undergraduate major and minor. In Oregon, school counseling is for individuals with teaching experience, public or private. If you have some interest in both education and counseling, you can select a teaching major at the undergraduate level. Learn about your counseling and related undergraduate degree options here.
A background in any field is acceptable for professional/ mental health counseling graduate studies, though programs may have some degree of preference. Portland State University notes that it is preferred that candidates have some knowledge of behavioral sciences. Look ahead -- your counseling program may require a few prerequisites.
A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.
It's good to have some experience in a mental health or agency setting. Volunteer experience is often adequate. You might opt to become a mentor through Oregon Mentors or spend a year in Americorps. You can find more volunteer opportunities on the site of Oregon Volunteers. There is a list of volunteer centers organized by county or region of the state.
If you currently hold a Bachelor’s degree:
Fulfill graduate admission requirements. You may be asked for a resume, essay, and references. If you're entering a school counseling program, you’ll need to take a pre-professional skills test at some point if you haven’t done so already. Fingerprints may also be asked at this stage -- they're a qualification for licensure in school counseling.
Interested in professional counseling? Enroll in a master's program that is accredited by CACREP or CORE or judged equivalent by the Oregon Board. The Board has specified coursework in nine content areas, and has also mandated a minimum number of semester hours of supporting coursework. Your academic program will need to be 60 semester hours total, unless the degree is granted before October 1, 2014. At this time, the minimum number of hours of applied experience will increase to 700. (CACREP-accredited programs typically include 100 hours of practicum and at least 600 of internship.)
If you are a prospective school counselor, you should enroll in a guidance counseling program through a regionally accredited institution. Your program will likely be shorter than 60 semester hours. CACREP accreditation is not required, but can confer advantages. You’ll have the option of becoming a nationally certified counselor. You may also find it easier to cross-train in other counseling disciplines.
You will need to take licensing exams. As a prospective school counselor, you will take the Praxis Test of School Guidance and Counseling. You will need to take a workshop on Civil Rights knowledge in Oregon if you did not do so already.
The usual exam for professional counselors is the National Counselor Examination. Also acceptable are the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination, a mental health counseling specialty exam, and the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination, an exam for rehabilitation counselors.
In order to be licensed as a professional counselor, you will need to accrue 2,400 supervised client contact hours. You will be a Registered Intern while completing your post-degree supervision requirements. (You may count as many as 400 client contact hours that you earned as a graduate student.)
You will need to have your fingerprints done – you can find instructions on the “forms” page of the Board site.