Counseling Today, Online Exclusives

Growing number of counselor positions available at USAJOBS.gov

By Bethany Bray May 11, 2015

The number of federal jobs open to professional counselors has increased noticeably in the past six months, according to Rebecca Daniel-Burke, the director of professional development at the American Counseling Association. As part of her job, Daniel-Burke routinely keeps tabs on the number of federal postings open to professional counselors.

In years past, “Every now and then I would see one, maybe two [positions open to counselors],” Daniel-Burke says. During the past few months, however, she says she has been finding more and USAjobs_imagemore professional counseling postings at USAJOBS.gov, the federal government’s job database. “This never used to happen. It’s a huge change,” Daniel-Burke says.

Most of the postings are for positions working with veterans and their families, either with branches of the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A search of USAJOBS on a recent afternoon yielded 13 positions open to professional counselors in 11 locations across the United States.

Previously, the majority of VA job postings for mental health practitioners sought social workers or psychologists.

“We’re very happy to see that more and more positions are being posted for LPCs [licensed professional counselors] across the country,” says Art Terrazas, ACA’s director of government affairs. “The fact that local and regional VA leaders are recognizing that LPCs play a vital role in treating the invisible wounds of war will help to ensure that we can help our veterans get the care that they’ve earned.”

In 2006, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed P.L. 109-461, which authorized the VA to hire LPCs. Although the law was passed nine years ago, implementation has been slow going. Just this year, the VA started a pilot program to train counselors in VA facilities. But the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management still has not issued a position classification for LPCs, Terrazas says.

Daniel-Burke thinks the recent increase in counselor positions at USAJOBS is due to a number of factors, one of which is the recent pressure on the VA to improve care, including mental health care, for veterans.

Last year, President Barack Obama and other legislators called for an overhaul of the VA after reports came to light that veterans were waiting weeks for an appointment and, in some cases, even dying while waiting to be seen.

Terrazas says ACA’s government affairs department continues to work on the long-standing issue of getting more professional counselors into jobs at the VA. ACA government affairs staff meets quarterly with VA officials, he says.

“We [counselors] have something to give,” says Daniel-Burke.

 

Tips for searching, finding federal jobs

Federal jobs offer secure, well-paid positions featuring good benefits and opportunities for advancement, says Daniel-Burke. She offers several suggestions for counselors interested in securing a federal job:

 

  • Play around with search terms. Daniel-Burke recommends searching USAJOBS.gov using the keywords “professional counselor” or “licensed professional mental health counselor.”
  • Be sure to meet the application deadline and submit all the requested documentation.
  • Be open-minded and willing to relocate. Federal jobs are spread across the United States. Moving to take an open position may be a great way for new counselors to get started in the profession, Daniel-Burke says.
  • Submit your best work. Double-check your résumé and make sure that all forms are filled out correctly. “These jobs are too good not to go the extra mile,” says Daniel-Burke.
  • Be persistent. The job search can be overwhelming, says Daniel-Burke, who oversees the Career Center at ACA’s annual Conference & Expo. But new jobs are always being posted, so try searching every day. “It can be daunting, but keep at it,” she says.
  • Remember: ACA is here to help. ACA members can call professional development for help and advice with job searching. Call 800.347.6647 to speak with Rebecca Daniel-Burke or Danielle Irving, senior coordinator for ACA Professional Projects and Career Services.

 

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Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org

 

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11 Comments

  1. Jamie Morgan

    I’m curious as to the CACREP accreditation that appears to be needed. Is that going to go away or is that the standard they are going to stick with at USA jobs?

    Reply
  2. Robert Branch

    I am an LPC-MHSP and LMFT who had not even heard of CACREP accreditation while in grad school. I wish there were some way to qualify for these positions, especially since the state says we are qualified by issuing us the license.

    Reply
  3. andrea L

    I have heard of CACREP but hopefully if anything the government and the military allows people who desire to work for that population even without actual CACREP accredited degrees, if they are at least equivalent or have what would be considered equal to a CACREP degree in requirements met, they will be seriously considered for the position.

    Reply
  4. John N.

    CACREP is going to be around for a while. It sets the general standard for the counseling profession for all 50 states due to the growing needs of licensure portability. Looking at all 50 states, you can see that there are huge disparity in incorporating some or all of CACREP standards. Marriage and Family Therapist and Social workers have standards in place for their profession. Why are there so many different titles for our profession (LMHC, LPC, LPCC, LCPC)? But yet…..you know what an MFT’s or CSW’s are in each state. In many states, CACREP is being implemented and those that are licensed before CACREP accreditation, could still obtain licensure for their states. Just wanting to work with this population isn’t just enough; you should have the basic skills and techniques to utilize with your clients. While there are definitely license individuals that have been in the field for so many years, there are always exceptions to the rules. With so many new for-profit schools, they are pushing out counselors faster than anything and states have very limited standards to measure against. Our profession is growing and we should have a single professional identity, which is important to unify all these different acronyms for our field.

    Reply
  5. Kirby Schmidtgall, Ph.D, LPCC, NCC

    I have applied for a few positions within the VA. They only hire counselors that have a master’s degree from a CACREP program. While I have a doctorate from a CACREP program, the VA does not allow a Ph.D. to be substituted for a master’s degree. From what I have heard from colleagues that work in federal positions, counselors are usually
    hired at a grade 11 while social workers are hired at a grade 12. THe federal government still has a ways to go to include counselors in the federal system.

    Reply
    1. Jahalia M. Imes

      I think all LPC should get together and go to DC and fight for what we know is wrong, and maybe the people in DC does not know what is going on just as before at the VA or at least write letters.

  6. Stephanie G

    I did my internship at the VA. There is a way around the CACREP requiement if you are able to get someone there in a position of authority to vouch for you (a process involving paperwork). It’s uncommon according to my supervisor at that time. They tried it at the VA where I was and were shut down immediately. I’m hoping they will change this in the future as I also went to a college that isn’t CACREP accredited. They dont care if you intern there but they won’t hire you. IHS or job corps will take people with non-CACREP degrees though, if you are still looking to work for the government.

    Reply
  7. Malcolm Wilson

    Unfortunately, these jobs require that the candidate’s graduate program was CACREP accredited to be eligible. My program included all the CACREP coursework, but was not accredited. I have applied for multiple licensed professional mental health counselor positions for the past 2 years and continuously get rejected as ineligible. This is very disappointing. I have family members who are pharmacists for the VA and 2 sons who are commissioned officers in the Army. My passion is to help those who are/have served our great country!

    Reply
  8. Jahalia M. Imes

    I too feel the pain, of not being aware of this CACREP, I have a cousin n law that works at the one here in Fayetteville NC and he had given a Supervisor Social Worker my information to call me and when she did talk about being rude. She was very rude and if this is the type of people that are taking care of our veteran population no wonder they have so many issues and problems. This must change let us in make us a part of this growing field and I even have my Bachelors in social work and although I am in grad school I tried to get an internship which did not happen and I for one cannot work with rude people such as the one that spoke with me. I think that some of them are afraid we will replace them, when we can work together and make a difference. We need to write more letters to congressmen about this issue, I have student loans out the bozoo and yet I am saddened about I may not be able to work because of this one issue. My school has all the same qualifications yet why doesn’t it matter, I don’t get it someone explain.

    Reply
  9. Ashley

    Although I do understand the CACREP importance, I do believe there should be a waiver for those who graduated prior to this rule being implemented. I begin working on my Masters in Counseling in 2008 while in the military and no Education Counselor informed me of the importance of CACREP Accreditation which is probably because at that time it wasn’t as important. Fast forward to now and I’m working on my license and I won’t be able to work at the VA which is a shame because I am a Veteran. I did work as a Victim Advocate, but recently had to move because my husband is in the military and we PCSed. I plan to attempt to get a position as a MFLC when I am eligible, but if not all the work of getting my masters and licensed may be for nothing if I cannot use it to help my Veteran brothers and sisters.

    Reply

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