How to Become a Suicide Counselor
Suicide intervention counselors have a variety of skills to help people who are in crisis. They help people who have suicide ideations, attempts, and risks. Training and education are critical for students who want to become suicide intervention counselors.
Some states or employers may have different names or titles for their suicide counselors. Students who do not see suicide counselor programs at the school that they hope to attend may want to look for "crisis counselor," or "crisis intervention counselor" programs. Following the steps to become a suicide intervention counselor can help students to gain the education and skills needed for working in the profession.
Step 1: Complete a Suicide Counselor Degree
Suicide intervention counseling programs are not always available at the undergraduate level. Students who want to become suicide counselors often earn a degree in mental health, addiction counseling, or a similar program.
- Associate's Degree: Many students choose to complete a two-year associate's degree program and then transfer to a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor's degree. They often go on to complete a graduate program. Students are not likely to find a specific suicide intervention counselor program at the associate's degree level. Consider earning an associate's degree in mental health, psychology, addiction counseling, or a social services program.
- Bachelor's Degree: Students who cannot find a specific suicide prevention counselor program should not worry about their chances of working in the field. Earn a bachelor's degree in mental health counseling, addiction counseling, psychology, rehabilitation counseling, or a social sciences program. Some students may discover that the college or university that they want to attend offers a concentration in suicide intervention counseling or crisis counseling as part of a bachelor's degree program.
- Master's Degree: Graduate students have the opportunity to earn a master's degree in suicide intervention or trauma counseling. If a student does not find a suicide intervention counseling program at the school they wish to attend, then they should look for a program such as a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a Trauma and Crisis Intervention concentration. Another option is to earn a master's degree in counseling and to look for a concentration in suicide intervention, trauma counseling, or a similar concentration. Students need to make sure that any program that they enroll in is an accredited program offered at an accredited college or university. Earning a degree that is not a properly accredited program may result in students not being able to sit for required exams, or not being able to find a job in some states.
- Graduate Certificate: Complete a graduate certificate in one or two years. Students who want to increase their chances of being hired at a particular agency or government organization and who have a graduate certificate may stand out among other applicants. Consider a violence and crisis intervention certificate program or a Certificate Program in Trauma Response and Crisis Intervention.
- Doctorate Degree: Earning a doctorate degree to work in suicide intervention counseling is likely to open many doors for students. Look for degree programs that have suicide intervention counseling as a concentration. Choose to complete a doctorate degree in Counseling and Psychological Studies, a Ph.D. in Counseling, or a similar program. Gain advanced skills in theory and practice, and in research.
Step 2: Become Licensed as a Suicide Intervention Counselor
Licensure is likely always a requirement to work as a suicide intervention counselor. Most counselors have to pass state exams for licensure. Some states or employers or agencies may require additional certification.
Students are likely to have to complete other requirements, such as an exam or clinical hours.
Completing an internship experience is usually required for students who enroll in a bachelor's degree program in mental health, addiction counseling, psychology, or a similar program. Failure to complete the internship hours is likely to lead to not earning the degree.
Graduate students complete a practicum at an agency or organization to satisfy their required number of clinical hours. Students who do not satisfy the required practicum may not earn the degree or may not find work as a suicide intervention counselor.
Future suicide intervention counselors take an exam to obtain licensure in the state where they wish to practice. The examination that students take depends on the specific licensure that they seek after completing other requirements.
Examples of required exams in some states or for specific type of counselor licensure include the National Counselor Examination, National Clinical Mental Health Examination, or the Licensed Professional Counselor Examination.
The states vary in their requirements for working as a suicide counselor. Students need to make sure that they complete all requirements for the state in which they wish to practice, and not just the state where they get their degree.
Step 3: Apply for a Suicide Counselor Job
Applying for a job as a suicide intervention counselor requires that students have the educational requirements and other job requirements. Some students volunteer at a suicide intervention agency or a similar organization to gain additional skills.
What Careers Can I Pursue with a Suicide Intervention Degree?
Some careers available to students who want to work in this specialty field include:
- Suicide counselor
- Crisis counselor
- Trauma counselor
- Mental health counselor
- Veteran's counselor
Where Can I Work with a Suicide Counselor Degree?
Work for suicide prevention centers, crisis intervention agencies, or for agencies or organizations that specialize in counseling victims of trauma, domestic violence, or those in need of grief counseling.
Consider working for a government agency, a school system, or in private practice.
Step 4: Learn About Suicide Counselor Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a specific listing for suicide intervention counselors. The career is considered in their "Counselor, all other" category. The BLS lists the mean average annual salary at $49,730.
Salary.com lists the average Crisis Intervention Counselor salary at $51,798. Salary varies, based on factors such as the employer, the location where the counselor works, and the level of experience of the counselor.