Education for Child Counselors

Chandra Florio
Nov 8, 2016 · 3 min read

Education for Child Counselors is crucial to being able to perform the best job you can as a Child Counselor. Child counselors become adept at making assessments of children’s individual needs and setting appropriate treatment goals.

Children experience their own range of psychological challenges through the years. While adults might be proactive about going to a counselor for help with their challenges, children may need a guiding hand, and adult supervision, in seeking treatment for any of the following: anxiety, depression, PTSD, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Child (Pediatric) counselors work with children who have experienced a wide range of issues. Examples of situations or issues may include trauma as a victim of abuse or witnessing domestic violence in the home. Some children are going through the struggles of their parents’ separation or divorce. Some are dealing with identity issues and might be subject to bullying at school. Child counselors are there to help with all of these issues and more.

While working as a child counselor, you might find yourself working with clients representing many psychological issues, or you might specialize on one or two areas and make that the focus of your practice.

Frequently, child counselors will employ innovative therapies or other modalities such as play therapy. The counselor may also be a contributing member of a team that includes other mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and specially trained nurses; the foremost goal is to always get the child the most appropriate treatment possible.

Certification and Licensing for Child Counselors

In order to be a professional child counselor, you will need to complete a Master’s degree and become state licensed. Typically, your Master’s degree will be in mental health counseling or in a related field such as counseling psychology. Look for the few counseling psychology programs in the United States that have a focus on child and adolescent counseling. Know going into the process that counseling psychology programs remain highly competitive. This is not to dissuade you from applying; it is only to give you the facts so that you are prepared! Always make sure that the program you are looking at meets the licensing requirements in your state.

Furthermore, other avenues to continue your goal (of working professionally with children) include pursuing special training in play therapy. Many reputable universities (online or in a classroom) offer graduate certificates in play therapy. Some schools will allow you to pursue play therapy as a focus in your Master’s program. Play therapy has proven very popular in the counseling milieu.

Additionally, some students will choose the option of dual licensing as professional counselors and school counselors. One benefit of this approach is the flexibility of working with children in either clinical or school settings. Often, that variety and flexibility can enhance your career. So if your passion is to work with children, you don’t have to wait until graduate school to start the education process.

It is wise to choose an undergraduate major in a field such as child development. You can also gain valuable volunteer experience at

a place such as a child crisis center. Any environment that gives you the chance to work directly with children’s issues will benefit you greatly for this worthwhile career you are choosing. This invaluable experience you gain will provide you a much better chance of getting admitted to the program of your choice. Having the right experience and academic background will help you achieve success as a professional child counselor.

Licensing for Child Counselors

A child counselor must have a state license in professional counseling or a related field. You may also have attained additional certifications through another organization.

In the U.S., the Association for Play Therapy certifies Master’s level mental health professionals in play therapy. You are required to be state licensed in a mental health field in order to pursue the credential. In order to get the extra credential, you must also have 150 hours of instruction in play therapy. One must also have invested 500 hours of supervised play therapy work experience. Prerequisites will also include coursework in areas such as child and adult psychotherapy and personality therapy.

Salary and Job Outlook

There is a growing need for child counselors, with the job outlook for child counselors looking very good. Elementary and school counselors can make as high as $63,000 according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Chandra Florio

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I graduated with my Master’s in Education to become a school counselor. I am Currently working as part time blogger at Counselor Education