Counselors assist people with personal, family, mental health, educational, and career decisions and problems. Their duties depend on the individuals they serve and the settings in which they work.

Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with the personal, social and vocational effects of disabilities. They evaluate strengths and limitations of individuals, provide personal and vocational counseling, and arrange for medical care, vocational training, and job placement.

Mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorder counselors emphasize prevention and work with individuals and groups to promote mental health. They help individuals deal with substance abuse, suicide, stress management, self-esteem problems, job and career concerns, educational decisions, and family, parenting, and marital problems. Mental health counselors work closely with other specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and school counselors.

School and college counselors work in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools. They help students evaluate their abilities, interests, talents, and personality characteristics to develop realistic academic and career goals. Counselors use interviews, counseling sessions, tests, or other methods when evaluating and advising students. They operate career information centers and career education programs.


Potential Employers

  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Substance abuse treatment programs
  • Mental health facilities, or units within hospitals
  • Private or group practice
  • Managed care organizations
  • Federal government

Job Outlook

Employment of counselors in all areas is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2008 and 2018, faster than the average for all occupations.  Employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselors is expected to grow by 21 percent, and mental health counselors are expected to grow by 24 percent, both much faster than the average for all occupations.  Job opportunities should be favorable because job openings are expected to exceed the number of graduates from counseling programs.


  • Ability to learn and apply counseling theories and techniques
  • Strong verbal abilities for talking with and listening to clients, reading professional literature, and writing reports
  • Ability to work with a variety of people and a desire to help others
  • Ability to make judgements based on data, observations, and experience
  • Good math skills for interpreting test results



The minimum educational requirement is a master’s degree in counseling.   This requires a 4-year bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 2 years in a master’s level program.  Coursework will depend the selected field of study, but may include human growth and development, social and cultural diversity, relationships, group work, career development, counseling techniques, assessment, research and program evaluation, and professional ethics and identity.

An applicant for a license to practice as a mental health practitioner must have a master’s degree, have 3,000 hours of supervised experience in mental health practice, and have passed the mental health practitioner exam.

Programs in Nebraska

Related / Links

Other careers that involve helping people evaluate their interests, abilities or disabilities, and deal with personal, social, academic and career problems:

Professional Associations

For more information about a career in counseling:

Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Counselors, on the Internet at