How Long Does It Take to Become a Counselor?

Counselor talking with young mother

If you intend to become a therapist or a counselor, you have probably wondered, “How long does it take to become a therapist or a counselor?” In short, the answer to this question varies. Depending on how you have progressed in the process of becoming a counselor, you may require a different amount of additional time to achieve your career goals.

To become a licensed counselor, you must hold at least a master’s degree in counseling. Therefore, the length of time it takes to become a counselor depends on your current level of education and experience. If you have already completed an undergraduate degree or undergraduate coursework, it may take you less time to become a counselor. Importantly, the requirements for licensure vary from state to state; therefore, the location in which you intend to practice may also affect how long it takes you to become a counselor.

If you want to better understand the process of becoming a counselor or therapist and learn how long it could take for you to become one, continue reading about the various steps you will need to complete.

What is a Therapist/Counselor?

Therapists and counselors are mental health professionals who help people overcome a variety of struggles and improve their overall mental health. These professionals specialize in various areas, including childhood and adolescent disorders, family dynamics, infancy and early childhood studies, substance use disorders, chemical dependency, addiction and trauma.

Earn a Counseling Degree

Depending on the state where you intend to work, you will most likely need to earn a master’s degree before becoming a counselor and earning a counseling license.

When choosing the best master’s in counseling program for you, it is important to consult the appropriate body in the location where you plan to work. Taking this step helps to ensure that the courses in your program of interest meet the requirements for licensure or certification in the area where you plan to practice as a licensed counselor.

Some graduate counseling degree options include the following:

Some professionals choose to continue their education and earn a counseling doctoral degree.

Obtaining a Counselor/Therapist License

To become a counselor or therapist, you will need to obtain the appropriate licensure. After you earn your graduate degree, the general process to obtain your license typically includes the following steps, although the process can vary from state to state:

  • Acquire Experience: Each state requires counseling candidates to complete a minimum number of hours under the supervision of a counseling professional. Because the required number of hours and the rate at which you complete them can vary, this requirement is among the factors that make the question “How long does it take to become a counselor?” dynamic.
  • Complete a Background Check: Individuals who intend to become counselors may have to submit to a background check and complete other paperwork with personal information.
  • Pass an Examination: Counselors may be required to take various exams depending on state regulations. For example, to become a counselor in Arizona, you are required to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), the National Counselor Examination (NCE), or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination.

After you have completed these steps, you can chose to pursue additional specialties and certifications. It is also important to note that depending on your state, you may be required to complete a certain number of continuing education hours even after you have obtained your counseling license.

If you are interested in pursuing a degree as a counselor, explore Grand Canyon University’s psychology and counseling degree programs. Each program is designed to help you become an effective mental health professional. To learn more about GCU, our online degrees or the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.