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Early Childhood Counselor: Education Requirements and Career Info

Oct 20, 2021

Early childhood counselors help children aged six and under with different issues, such as behavior or experiencing a traumatic event, through therapy sessions. There are a few options as far as careers related to this field, including mental health counselor, a marriage and family therapist, or a school counselor.

Essential Information

Early childhood counselors help young children overcome mental disabilities, traumatic experiences, bad behavior and negative feelings. This career most commonly requires a master's degree and a state license. Specialized certification is recommended.

Career Mental Health Counselors Marriage and Family Therapists School Counselors
Education Requirements Master's degree Master's degree (possible concentration in family therapy) Master's degree (usually with specialized certificate)
Other Requirements Specific state licensure/certification Specific state licensure/certification Specific state licensure/certification
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 25%* 22%* 8% (for school counselors)*
Annual Mean Salary (2020) $51,550* $56,890* $62,320*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for an Early Childhood Counselor

Depending on the state employed in, early childhood counselors typically need to possess a master's degree. A bachelor's degree in education or psychology may prepare students for graduate study in counseling. Some colleges and universities offer master's degree programs in counseling with an early childhood specialization, but aspiring counselors may need to pursue a concentration in family therapy or education counseling. Students learn about child development, family consultation and educational psychology.

Students may also choose to obtain a graduate certificate in a related specialty, such as school counseling or early childhood mental health. Specialized certificates vary in length, but they're normally only made up of a few classes. Topics may include assessment and intervention techniques, as well as identifying disorders. Most counseling programs incorporate internships and supervised counseling into their curricula.

Meeting the education requirements helps counselors qualify for state licensure and certification, and counselors working with children or families often need to meet higher standards. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that some states require school counselors to hold teaching and counseling certificates, while others just require counseling licensure and certification. Becoming a licensed counselor involves passing a state examination, along with agreeing to follow an ethical guideline of codes and standards. The National Board for Certified Counselors offers general and specialty certifications, including school counseling. Counselors must fulfill continuing education requirements from time to time to maintain their designations.

Career and Employment Information

Early childhood counselors specialize in helping children aged six and younger, along with their families, with diverse problems. Some specialize in assisting with physical or mental disabilities while others try to help with psychological issues, like repeated thumb sucking or reoccurring nightmares. By holding regular therapy sessions with the child and family and examining their behavior, an early childhood counselor can identify issues that plague a child and suggest ways to improve them. The primary goal of early childhood counselors is to promote a healthy environment for families and children while helping them overcome any problems they may face.

Professionals specializing in early childhood counseling may seek employment through private practices, schools and community agencies, just to name a few environments. The BLS does not provide information specifically for early childhood counselors; however, they do offer information on a variety of closely related careers. The BLS predicted an employment growth rate of 25% for mental health counselors, 22% for marriage and family therapists and 8% for school counselors between 2019 and 2029. As of May 2020, the BLS reported that mental health counselors earned an average annual income of $51,550, while marriage and family therapists earned $56,890 per year and school counselors earned an average of $62,320 per year.

If you are interested in a career in early childhood counseling, then mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or school counseling may be good career options for you. All three of these careers require a master's degree and certification, depending on the state.

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