Many of the questions received in American Counseling Association Career Services are from our graduate students. As we head back to school, here are some of the most frequent questions from new and prospective graduate students.

Q: I am considering a career change to counseling. Do you know what the employment outlook is for counselors or where I might be able to research this?

A: The best resource for employment outlook is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is available online at Counseling is covered in pretty good detail, and much of the information has been developed in conjunction with ACA.

Q: I’m torn between mental health counseling and school counseling. Can I pursue training that will make me eligible to practice in both fields?

A: Typically, school counselors are licensed by each state’s department of education, while counselor licensure is regulated by a state counseling board. We recommend that those seeking training in counseling understand the licensure requirements before enrolling in any counselor education program to ensure that your course of study will result in appropriate preparation for licensure.

ACA offers two publications relevant to your question for a nominal fee: Licensure Requirements for Professional Counselors: A State-by-State Report and A Guide to State Laws and Regulations on Professional School Counseling. You can order both by contacting the ACA publications office at 800.347.6647, ext. 222.

Q: I’m making a midlife career change and want to work as a substance abuse counselor. Could you give me some recommendations as to what type of degree would be best to pursue?

A: There are many options and levels of certification for substance abuse counseling. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has developed a resource that provides state-by-state options for the field. You can request a copy of A National Review of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs and Certification Standards for Substance Abuse Counselors and Prevention Professionals by calling 800.729.6686. Ask for item BKD517. As with any counseling field, a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related academic discipline is the minimum requirement for licensure as a counselor.

Q: Flexibility is important to me as I pursue education to become a counselor. What can you tell me about online programs? Are they reputable?

A: In most academic fields, “reputable” is equated with “accredited.” The accreditation body for the field of counseling is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. You can access lists of accredited programs and programs that have applied for accreditation by visiting the CACREP website at

Because online education is still a relatively new phenomenon, few programs have achieved accreditation to date. A number of accredited traditional programs have added (or are in the process of adding) an online component to their educational delivery system as well. Beyond determining accreditation, though, the overriding issue should be whether the program will prepare you for licensure in your state. Check with your state licensure board to ensure that the program you are pursuing will adequately prepare you for licensure in your state.

Q: How can I get a password and user name as required by sections of the ACA website?

A: If you are a member of ACA, you can contact Member Services to receive a user name and password to access the members-only sections of the website ( Call 800.347.

6647 ext. 222.

Q: Do you know of any good resources for résumé formats and information that graduate students can use when seeking employment while in school and/or after graduating?

A: I hesitate to refer anyone to specific outlines for résumés and vitae because I dislike what I refer to as “cookie-cutter résumés.” That said, I recognize some standards for résumés should be followed. Check your local library for books that provide multiple résumé formats, or surf the Internet for examples. Bear in mind that you may need to change the headings to most appropriately present your qualifications. But if you use the format and not necessarily the content, perusing samples isn’t a bad way to begin developing your résumé. Beware of anything that is presented as “the one and only way to present your credentials.”

After you have developed your résumé, I’ll be happy to look it over and give you some input. That’s just one benefit of membership in ACA.