How to Become a Life Counselor

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Life counselors provide direction to people who are considering changes in their lives.
Life counselors provide direction to people who are considering changes in their lives. (Image: Andrea Morini/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

If you enjoy helping people and providing advice, a career as a professional life counselor might be right up your alley. Life counselors provide advice and direction to people who are in need of spiritual, emotional and even vocational guidance. Some life counselors are even professional mental and social service workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of available jobs for social and human service assistants should increase by 23 percent from 2008 to 2018. Similarly, the rate of job growth for counselors is expected to increase by 21 percent.

Decide what type of life counseling services you wish to offer. This will largely determine what level of education you will need to become a life counselor. As of 2010, there were no national or state standards for life counselors. Life counselors who want to provide licensed counseling services need to meet the established standards for the state where they intend to work.

Earn a bachelor's degree in psychology or some aspect of human services, like social work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social and human services assistants will generally need some education beyond high school. In some cases, an associate degree may suffice, but in most cases a bachelor's degree will be necessary. Professional counselors generally must get a master's degree to become fully licensed.

Obtain a master's degree in counseling, if necessary, for the type of counseling you will be providing. Some life counselors are vocational counselors who provide advice about getting jobs or obtaining the skills necessary to get hired. These professionals usually need a bachelor's degree. Mental health counselors and therapists usually need a master's degree to be licensed in their state.

Apply for licensing. Mental health professionals need to be licensed to provide counseling services. In most states, licensing involves gaining the minimum amount of required supervised experience and passing a licensing exam. This may not be necessary for those working as life skills coaches.

Seek life counselor certification. Many organizations offer life counselor certification, and most of these have a spiritual emphasis. The Holistic Learning Center, for example, offers training based on Eastern religious ideas and principles, while the Professional Christian Coaching and Counseling Academy offers training and certification from a Western Christian perspective. Find an organization that fits with your spiritual and philosophical views and follow its certification program. Note, however, that none of these organizations are authoritative or even required in the counseling world. Certification is a voluntary step that you can take to set yourself apart from other life counselors.

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