Counselors generally earn a bachelor's degree in social work, psychology or education and then go on to earn a master's degree in clinical social work, family counseling, family or marriage therapy, or educational counseling. Those who wish to become school counselors typically take classes in individual and group counseling, cultural and social foundations, and human growth and development. Those who wish to counsel individuals and families generally take classes in conflict resolution, personality development and psychotherapy.
In addition to basic classes that help counselors evaluate and test individuals, many counselors take in-depth courses on topics that frequently arise in the field, including recognizing and treating addiction, diagnosing and treating psychopathology, and dealing with a diverse clientele from a wide range of cultures. These courses give potential counselors the tools they need to cater to a wider range of patients, such as those dependent on drugs and alcohol, those with sex addiction problems and those with issues stemming from sexual or physical abuse.
Some states require counselors to gain supervised clinical experience before applying for licensing, though others only require a master's degree for counselors to gain a provisional license. Though work experience is a requirement for licenses in many states, some states with supervised clinical experience requirements don't require extra work experience prior to granting a counselor's license.