Do you have a background in counseling and are looking to take your skills and experience on a new path? Then it may be time to consider teaching. Across the country, many colleges and universities are looking for knowledgeable and personable counseling professors to teach the next generation of counselors.

Not sure whether becoming a college professor in counseling is right for you? Here are some of the top considerations to help you make the right choice.

Why Would I Want to Teach Counseling at a University?

Start by considering some of the advantages of teaching counseling at the university level, of which there are many. Most notably, many university professors with a background in counseling enjoy the change of pace, as well as the ability to make a meaningful contribution to the field.

Change of Pace

Whether you've been working in counseling for a few years or a few decades, you may feel as though you could use a change of scenery in your career. While counseling can be an extremely rewarding job that allows you to help others, it can also lead to burnout. If you'd like to do something a little different with your career while still putting your extensive counseling knowledge and experience to good use, then teaching may be a sensible transition.

Larger Contribution to the Field

When you work as a university teacher in counseling, you'll be able to continue making a difference in your field—just in a different way than if you were counseling patients directly. Instead, you'll be teaching the next generation of professional counselors, preparing them to best serve their own clients.

As a college professor in counseling, you may also have opportunities to conduct independent research sponsored by your university. This will allow you to study aspects of counseling you’re passionate about with the potential to publish your research findings and make lasting contributions to the field.

Earnings Potential

While you probably didn't get into counseling for the money, making the switch to education may be a good option if you're looking for a salary boost. How much do college professors make when they teach counseling? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a postsecondary teacher is more than $79,000. By comparison, the median pay for a mental health counselor is closer to $49,000 per year.

How Do I Teach Counseling in College?

You may also be wondering how to go about transitioning between practicing counseling on a daily basis to teaching it to aspiring counselors. The reality is that the transition is much more natural than you might presume.

Look at it this way: You already have the skills and knowledge that it takes to be an effective and compassionate counselor. Now, you just need to translate those skills by presenting them in a way that is accessible to other people. Depending on where and what you end up teaching, you may also have some assistance with your lesson planning.

As a college counseling professor, you may teach anything from advanced counseling theories and concepts of clinical supervision to leadership and advocacy. Ultimately, the approach you take to teaching at the college level will depend on where you teach and your own teaching style.

What Experience Do I Need to Teach at a University Level?

If you're interested in teaching counseling at the university level, you'll need to meet some minimum qualifications before you begin applying for open positions. While each school will have its own set of requirements in place, it is pretty typical for a university to require professors to carry an advanced degree, such as a PhD, in order to teach.

Bachelor's Degree

If you're already in the counseling field, there's a good chance that you already have your bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field. Typically, this is a four-year degree program that focuses on the essential practices and skills needed to work effectively in the field, helping patients overcome obstacles and receive the help they need.

Time in Your Field

In addition to a bachelor's degree in counseling or a similar field, you'll also need some hands-on experience working as a counselor, therapist, or another comparable role. Universities prefer to hire professors who have plenty of hands-on experience working with real patients rather than simply studying theory; this way, they can provide the most realistic and genuine learning experiences in the classroom.

While there is no definitive requirement for how long you need to work in the field before you can become a college professor, many schools like to see professors with at least 5-10 years of experience under their belts.

PhD in Counselor Education

Ideally, a professor at the university level will have also earned a PhD, which is a terminal degree. Specifically, a PhD in counselor education  provides the skills and knowledge that a person needs to effectively teach counseling at the college or university level. Typically, a PhD takes several years to complete and is quite rigorous, but this advanced level of education allows teachers to master their skills and translate them to higher education environments with confidence and ease.

What Should I Look for in a Counselor Education Program?

Interested in becoming a college professor in the counseling field? If you already have your bachelor's degree along with some experience in the field, then it may be time to explore some counselor education programs at the PhD level.

As you begin your search for the right doctorate in counselor education program, there are a few things to look for:

Accreditation by CACREP

First, make sure the program you're considering has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This specialized accrediting body accredits counselor-preparation graduate degree programs, holding them to a high standard. When you enroll in an accredited program, you can rest assured that you are receiving a quality education that will be recognized by potential employers.

Educational Requirements

Take time to explore the admissions requirements of any PhD program before you spend your time and money submitting a formal application. Each school differs greatly in its requirements here, but it is not uncommon for applicants to be asked to submit previous school transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and more.


Most doctorate programs also require the publication of an original dissertation by the end of your program. This is a very research-intensive project that requires a great deal of time and dedication to complete. Take the time to understand your program's dissertation requirements before you apply and ensure that you're up to the challenge.

What Should I Expect Making the Change From Counselor to Teacher?

Transitioning from practicing to teaching will require some effort and adjustment on your part. There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you move forward with your career shift.

Choose to Keep Practicing

Consider, for example, that some college professors don't give up on practicing at all. Some may continue to practice as part-time counselors while they teach full-time. This can be a great way to keep up with the latest changes in the industry while keeping your skills sharp and relevant.

Change to Grades

Making the switch to assessing and treating patients to assessing and grading students can be challenging for some new professors. However, this can be made easier with a bit of practice and a thorough, precise grading system.

The Bottom Line on Becoming a College Counseling Educator

Now that you have a better understanding of how to be a college professor in the counseling field, all that's left to do is to decide whether this career path may be right for you. If it is, consider the University of the Cumberlands’ online PhD in Counselor Education & Supervision. This program can prepare you to take your career to the next level and is CACREP accredited for your peace of mind.

Learn more about University of the Cumberlands' PhD in Counselor Education & Supervision program today by requesting more information.