A degree in counseling can lead to a rewarding career as a mental health professional. Counselors work in a variety of settings, including schools, rehabilitation centers, private practices and hospitals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for counselors is expected to increase by 18 percent from 2008 to 2018. Obtaining a degree in counseling takes hard work and commitment, including additional work beyond undergraduate school. Counselors must be fully licensed to legally work in the state in which they provide counseling services.

Apply to colleges or community colleges of interest to you. Counseling degrees are offered at the master's degree level, so it will not matter if you apply to a school that offers counseling degrees or not. You will need to obtain your bachelor's degree, but you can obtain it in just about any field prior to entering a counseling degree program. A degree in psychology will be the most helpful, so you should consider applying to a school with bachelor's degree options in that field.

Complete your general education requirements. Once you have started school, you will spend your first two years of study pursuing general education coursework. General education courses are required by most colleges. These courses provide you with a broad knowledge in many different fields. This is designed to provide you with a well-rounded education.

Finish your bachelor's degree by completing coursework required for your undergraduate major. Most majors will require more than 30 credit hours in the degree field that you are pursuing. Many schools also allow you to pursue a minor field of study in conjunction with your major. Complete these courses during your last two years of study as well.

Apply to schools that offer master's degrees in counseling. Many universities offer degrees in this field, so it is a matter of finding one that offers a counseling specialization that meets your vocational needs. Some of the specializations you can choose to pursue include marriage and family counseling, clinical counseling and rehabilitation counseling. Some of the top counseling schools include Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Maryland and the University of Missouri.

Complete your counseling coursework once you have been accepted to a program and can enroll in classes. The required coursework will vary by school, but these should be similar. Degrees can take anywhere from two to four years to complete, depending upon the emphasis of the program. Coursework usually includes work in counseling theory and strategy, counseling research, ethics in counseling and other courses related to your specialization. You may also be required to complete a counseling practicum or internship as part of your program in order to gain practical experience in the field.