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Are 2-Year Education Programs Available to Become a Counselor?

counselor students in training
counselor students in training

If you want to explore the field of counseling, a 2-year training program may sound appealing.

Depending on where you are in your academic path, there may be programs available to help you become a practicing counselor.

Today, a master’s degree is the minimum qualification to become a counselor. You can start out with a 2-year associate’s degree to see if you are seriously interested in pursuing the career before you go on and obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

But you should be aware that while you may be able to get some of your coursework completed in a 2-year program, it will not on its own, allow you to become a practicing counselor.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating counseling programs.

Areas of Study and 2-Year Training Schools for Counseling Careers

Whether you want to attend a 2-year training school to lay the groundwork for a counseling career or wish to obtain a PhD as your end goal, programs for this field can usually be found at universities in the departments of psychology or education. You can choose from a vast array of counseling-related study fields:

  • Elementary or secondary school counseling
  • Career counseling
  • College student affairs
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Clinical mental health counseling
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Gerontological counseling
  • Agency or community counseling

Master’s degree: A master’s degree is usually the entry-level requirement for you to begin practicing as a counselor and should enable you to begin applying your skills assessment and intervention in a variety of settings. Earning a master’s degree usually takes two years.

Doctoral degree: You’ll focus equally on both research and practice when working toward your PhD, which can take between three and five years.

Counseling Licensing

After receiving your academic degree, the next step is licensing. Since licensing requirements vary widely among states and specialty areas, be sure to research the qualifications that apply specifically to you. In most cases, you can expect the following to be required in order to obtain licensure:

School counselors:

  • Master’s degree (most states)
  • State school counseling certificate
  • Continuing education requirements
  • Teaching certificate plus some teaching experience (some states)

Counselors, non-school:

  • Master’s degree
  • Accumulation of two years or 3000 hours of post-master’s supervised clinical experience
  • Successful passage of a state-recognized exam
  • Compliance with ethical standards and codes
  • Completion of annual continuing education requirements


Once you have your degree and license, you may want to consider professional certification. This may help you specialize in an area or help you move to a new level in your current area of practice later on.

Out of several counseling organizations, here are the certification requirements from two major groups:

National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc:

  • Master’s degree with focus in counseling from an accredited college or university
  • At least two years of supervised field experience in a counseling setting
  • Two professional endorsements, one from a recent manager
  • Passing score on the board’s exam

Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification:

  • Graduation from accredited educational program
  • Completed internship
  • Passing score on a written exam