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Counseling in a community or technical college has traditionally been radically different from counseling in 4-year institutions. The community and technical college movement mostly evolved in the 1960s as a means of offering 2-year transferrable degrees to 4-year colleges and to provide short-term certificate training in industrial and health care professions (e.g., welder, electrician, cosmetology, and nursing). For these reasons, that is, a focus on professional training as opposed to “education for education’s sake,” counseling in 2-year colleges has traditionally been
The vast majority of counselors in community and technical colleges will hold master’s degrees in counseling. Some counselors at community/technical college settings will have a doctoral degree, though they are a minority.
Issues to Understand
While the population at community and technical colleges is evolving, students at community colleges are older, are more likely to have children, are more likely to be single parents, have greater financial constraints, and are more likely to drop out of college (Chen, 2005).
Few community and technical colleges have residence halls; so, the campus tends to be commuter oriented. Community and technical colleges also will scarcely resemble their 4-year counterparts, as the campus may be a few buildings that more resemble a mall than a collegiate setting.
Counselors at community colleges will spend the vast majority of their focus on career, vocational, and academic advising. A small part of the job will involve addressing personal issues, but the principal counseling focus is to assist students in transfer to a 4-year college, to assist
completion of their certificate in welding, bookkeeping, nursing, and so on, and to assist with job placement. The counselor in this setting may make extensive use of career and vocational testing (e.g., Strong Interest Inventory, Campbell Interest and Skills Survey, and Self-Directed
Counselors should also be prepared to see many, if not most, of their clients drop out of college due to financial issues, day care concerns, health issues, and the stress of trying to attend college and be a single parent at the same time. Counselors will need to work closely with academic advisors, financial aid staff, and faculty in order to retain as many students as possible. There is little doubt that counselors at community and technical colleges will be very busy, especially because they will also have to serve on campus committees.
Best Aspects of the Job
Counselors at community and technical colleges generally are paid well, and in many cases, better than their counterparts in 4-year colleges. Many counselors will work a 12-month contract, though some will have 9- and 10-month contracts. Community and technical college counselors will focus on career and vocational concerns and refer students with more serious personal issues out to community mental health clinics; thus, there will be less dealing with serious mental disorders.
Challenging Aspects of the Job
Community and technical college enrollments have risen dramatically, perhaps due to a more affordable cost. This means counselors at 2-year colleges are likely to be understaffed and overworked. Counselors at 2-year colleges will have a steady stream of students coming through
their door for career, academic, job placement, and personal issues.
The community college counseling center, like most of the campus, may resemble a large high school with modern, low-rise buildings and very few classical, ivy-covered, stately architecture designs evident. The high dropout rate has been previously noted, and the student population will have many personal, financial, and social needs that far exceed a counselor’s time to address.
Occupational Outlook and Salary
Though statistics for community and technical college counselors were reported by the BOLS, the growth rate for all higher education administrators is projected as only at 2% (2010–2011). Now, it is likely that the growth rate for community college counselors would be higher given the expansion of community colleges. Median salary for all college counselors was $43,980 (BOLS, 2010–2011), though again, the median salary for community and technical college counselors may exceed this. Counselors interested in working in community or technical college settings should complete an internship at a 2-year college. Community and technical college counselors should also have a strong background in career counseling and assessment and should have worked extensively with older students and understand their needs.