Jobs Outlook: Counselors

Overall employment of counselors is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, and job opportunities should be very good because there are usually more job openings than graduates of counseling programs. In addition, numerous job openings will occur as many counselors retire or leave the profession.

Employment of educational, vocational, and school counselors is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations as a result of: increasing student enrollments, particularly in secondary and postsecondary schools; State legislation requiring counselors in elementary schools; and an expansion in the responsibilities of counselors. For example, counselors are becoming more involved in crisis and preventive counseling, helping students deal with issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to death and suicide. Although schools and governments realize the value of counselors in achieving academic success in their students, budget constraints at every school level will dampen job growth of school counselors. However, Federal grants and subsidies may fill in the gaps and allow the current ongoing reduction in student-to-counselor ratios to continue.

Demand for vocational or career counselors should grow as the notion of staying in one job over a lifetime continues to be rejected and replaced by the concept of managing one’s own career and taking responsibility for it. In addition, changes in welfare laws that require beneficiaries to work will continue to create demand for counselors by State and local governments. Other opportunities for employment counselors will arise in private job-training centers that provide training and other services to laid-off workers, as well as to those seeking a new or second career or wanting to upgrade their skills.

Demand is expected to be strong for substance abuse and behavioral, mental health, and marriage and family therapists and for rehabilitation counselors, for a variety of reasons. For one, California and a few other States have recently passed laws requiring substance abuse treatment instead of jail for people caught possessing a drug. This shift will require more substance abuse counselors in those States. Second, the increasing availability of funds to build statewide networks to improve services for children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances and for their family members should increase employment opportunities for counselors. Under managed care systems, insurance companies are increasingly providing for reimbursement of counselors as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists. Also, legislation is pending that may provide counseling services to Medicare recipients.

The number of people who will need rehabilitation counseling is expected to grow as the population continues to age and as advances in medical technology continue to save lives that only a few years ago would have been lost. In addition, legislation requiring equal employment rights for people with disabilities will spur demand for counselors, who not only will help these people make a transition into the workforce, but also will help companies comply with the law.

Employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists will grow as the Nation becomes more comfortable seeking professional help for a variety of health and personal and family problems. Employers also are increasingly offering employee assistance programs that provide mental health and alcohol and drug abuse services. More people are expected to use these services as society focuses on ways of developing mental well-being, such as controlling stress associated with job and family responsibilities.