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What are the Licensing Requirements for Counselors?

licensing-requirements-for-counselorsIf you're embarking upon a college education with a major in counseling, you'll eventually need to be aware of the licensing requirements for counselors.

Mental health counselors are professionals with graduate degrees who help clients work through personal issues through talk therapy and other methods. Counselors may diagnose and treat mental health disorders in conjunction with psychiatrists, social workers, and other behavioral health professionals. They also help guide clients through important decisions, mediate family conflicts, and perform other functions with the goal of promoting well-being.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is expected to grow much more quickly than average through 2022. If you would like to become a professional counselor, it is necessary to become licensed both through the national organization and through the state where you practice. Read on to learn more about licensing requirements for counselors.

Certification vs. Licensing: What's the Difference?

While licensure is required on a state-by-state basis, certification for counselors is done on a national basis through the National Board for Certified Counselors. This organization maintains national standards for the profession; attaining the NCC certification through this group shows potential employers and clients that you meet the highest standards for counselors nationwide.

Through the NBCC, you can specialize in either addictions, clinical mental health or school counseling. To become certified, you must have a master's degree in counseling from an accredited institution; 3,000 hours of counseling experience, including 100 supervised hours; and pass the The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). Institutions that accredit mental health counseling master's programs include the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).

State Licensure

In addition to national certification, you must be licensed by the state in order to practice as a counselor. While requirements to become licensed vary from state to state, there are some common requirements that apply to most jurisdictions. All states require a master's degree, a specific number of counseling hours, and a passing score on either the NCE or the National Certified Mental Health Counselor Exam. More information about licensing requirements is available on the website of the American Counseling Association.

While titles for licensed counselors vary by state, the most common titles include Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).

If you are a good listener who is striving for a career that will help others, becoming a mental health counselor is a smart choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than 49,000 new jobs in this field created over the next ten years. The median salary for licensed counselors is $41,500 per year, with many counselors working part time hours, which makes it a desirable career for those who value flexibility. Those who work for the government tend to earn the highest salaries, followed by state and private hospitals, outpatient care centers, and private practice.

To learn more about licensing requirements for counselors in your state, visit the National Board website at

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