Licensing Requirements

Licensing Requirements: Gaining a Professional Counselor License

We want to ensure that you have timely and relevant information regarding gaining a professional counselor license in the state of your choice.

If you have done some soul searching and have decided to become a counselor, you should be aware that there is a lengthy and somewhat challenging path ahead of you. We certainly want to encourage you to go for it; counseling can prove to be a very rewarding career. For those who are dedicated, they can make it happen. Professional counselors must go through a licensing process in every state. In order to be licensed, one usually needs a Master’s degree and acceptable scores on one or more examinations. Full licensure also will require that you work for a period of time under supervision.

You can become credentialed once you have completed all requirements. You will gain a professional title. Usually “Licensed Professional Counselor” is what you are going for, but the titles may vary in some states. Some states will require that you hold a lower license (such as Licensed Associate Professional Counselor) while completing your experience requirements. Educate yourself on the standards in your state.

All states require a licensing process for professional counselors.

Different states will have various levels of licensing for professionals who have already completed supervised experience. The states will often have separate requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors. Professionals at higher levels of credentialing usually have more authority when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. Coursework requirements are often more stringent, as well. There are often differences in internship and work experience requirements. Be knowledgeable regarding what the requirements are in the state where you will be practicing. This will save you lots of time and potential hassle along the way.

Differing Requirements in Different States

Counseling licensure can be challenging because many states have different requirements even for the same level of licensing. Most states mirror CACREP standards. Some states have policies similar to the general professional counselor licensing standards while others use the standards for mental health counselors. This can translate to more specific curriculum requirements as well as more semester hours. CACREP-accredited clinical mental health programs have largely transitioned to a 60 unit minimum. Some states specify that a counselor must have at least 48 semester hours, while others state that it should be 60. Familiarize yourself with the requirements in your state.

CACREP standards have typically mandated 700 combined internship/ practicum hours with 600 hours of internship. Earlier standards mandated 900 hours.

If you attend an accredited school in the same state where you will pursue licensing, the program is probably designed to satisfy state minimum requirements, as well as CACREP requirements. Look into matters carefully if you are going to practice from state to state. It is usually the safest and best bet to enroll in a CACREP-accredited program.

Supervision Requirements

In order for you to gain full licensure, all states require you to work under supervision for some specified period of time. Different states have different standards for exact credentialing needed while you are fulfilling your practice requirement. Some states require you to have an associate license. Other states will require you to register your supervision. Educate yourself about your state requirements to ensure that you are on the right path.

Do not practice without credentials!

Make sure that you have the appropriate credentials to practice.

Some states will allow you to have a clinical supervisor who is also an administrator at your place of work. Other states consider this to be a conflict of interest. Some states will allow you to contract for supervision, while others will not. It’s easy to see that you must know your state requirements very well.

Check the requirements in specific states. In some states, you will not get credit for your hours if you begin your supervised practice before credentialing. In some states, you could actually lose your license eligibility and possibly face criminal charges. Familiarize yourself with your state board as early as possible in the process. Join professional organizations and meet with others in the same field.

Knowledge is power.