We have thought carefully about who could best speak to you as a reader and what content is most relevant to make this a useful guide. We include chapters such as the one mentioned above through the eyes of, and written by, professional counselors, recent counseling students, and counselor educators (professors in counseling programs). We want this to be both a usable guide for you as you think about graduate school and also a resource once you are there and beyond. The chapters are written in a way that we think is sequential. But, as with any good publication, we hope you will read them as they are most relevant to you depending on your current needs.

The guide is organized into three sections. In this first section, The Counseling Profession—An Overview, we offer three chapters beyond the introductory one you are reading now to give you a sense of the profession you seek to enter. Chapter 2 will give you greater depth into the history of the counseling profession and define counseling more clearly. There are many issues that brought the profession to its current state, and we want to give you the foundation for thinking about what it will be like to be a member. In chapter 3 we will discuss the types of career opportunities and settings available to you as a counselor and how to prepare for a career in counseling. We will address the educational and licensure/certification requirements needed to work in various settings (e.g., mental health, school) and, more specifically, the basic knowledge and skills you will need to begin a career as a counselor. Don’t worry if these are new concepts; that’s why counselors complete a master’s degree program to become good at what they do! Finally, chapter 4 will outline trends in counseling that will affect you as you enter the field. We will share data regarding job outlook, salaries, and recognition of counselors by regulating agencies. You will also be introduced to the documents and principles that guide the profession, including ethical guidelines, credentialing/licensure bodies, national standards, and professional organizations.

Section II, Graduate Programs in Counseling—Personal and Practical Considerations, transitions the orientation of the guide to more specific, individual aspects of becoming a counselor. The four chapters in this section are all about you, why you want to be a counselor and how you will get there. Chapter 5 focuses on your decision to be a counselor. We will encourage you to consider your personal and professional goals, how counseling fits in with these goals (both presently and in the future), and what might be required of you as a graduate student in a counseling program. We will also engage you in discussion about your undergraduate academic preparation, lifestyle, emotional well-being, and self-care. This is good practice for the self-awareness emphasis you will find in graduate study in counseling and is an important part of what makes a good counselor. Once finished with reading about and taking time to think about these personal considerations, you will be ready for the focus of chapter 6 on finding and selecting the right graduate counseling program for you. This includes questions about accreditation, course offerings, schedules, program size, type of institution, and other considerations. There are many options to choose from, so we have carefully and thoughtfully provided data to foster and support your decision-making process regarding what makes the most sense for you in finding a graduate counseling program. Chapter 7 helps you transition from thinking about graduate school to the actual application process. We will be practical in this section and focus on specifics such as updating your resume, how to put your best foot forward in an essay, how to prepare for standardized testing, and resources for financial aid. We will assume nothing but success in this process, and will turn our attention in chapter 8 to what it’s really like to be a student in a graduate counseling program. You will hear from current and recently graduated students on topics from time management to involvement to self-care and what they have found significant in their experiences.

As you read about student experiences we will transition the focus from graduate school to working in the profession in section III, Life After Graduate School. The first content chapter in this section will address counselor certification and licensure and delineate the required credentials in the profession and specific settings. Here you will also find resources for accessing your state’s requirements and even considering continuing education to further your skills and counselor development. Chapter 10 will then address the important issue of professional involvement through continuing education, conference attendance, reading professional journals, professional leadership, and contributing to the profession through action research, publishing articles, and collaborating with university faculty members to help bridge the gap between theory and practice. This may all seem overwhelming to consider before you’ve even applied to graduate school, so we will sum up with a chapter to allay those fears and keep you grounded and excited about your professional journey.

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