How Do I Become a Licensed Professional Counselor?

Licensed Professional CounselorHas your dream always been to become a licensed professional counselor? To become a professional counselor who is licensed by the state to practice, you need to follow a specific set of steps. There may be many different routes that you can take to satisfy state licensing requirements, but some routes are more direct than others. Here is one of the most common set of steps that prospective counselors will take to legally practice in a clinical setting in any state:

Meeting Higher Education Requirements

The first step to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, often called an LPC, is to earn your degree. All states, including the District of Columbia, have licensure laws that make completing a regionally-accredited Master’s degree or Doctoral degree program a requirement. For your coursework to be recognized, you must major in counseling and study different areas of counseling which may include behavior, development, ethics and human behavior. Once you meet these higher education requirements, you can move on to getting the hands-on clinical experience that you need.

Getting Clinical Experience

Once you complete a minimum of a Master’s degree, you need to attain clinical experience before you can apply for licensure. In most states, you must work for 3000 hours under the supervision of a licensed counselor. According to the American Counseling Association, all of these 3000 hours need to be completed within a span of two years. Completing an internship or residency within a clinical setting may be sufficient to meet the requirements of state licensing boards. With the completion of your degree and internship, you can move on to applying to sit for your licensing exam.

Passing the National Exam

If you meet educational and professional experience requirements, you can apply to sit for the National Counselor Examination exam. This is a national exam that is recognized by the state for licensing purposes. The test will help see if you are a competent counselor so that you can diagnose and treat mental and emotional health disorders. After you pass the NCE, you must also show that you know the Code of Ethics followed in the state by passing an Ethics test. This ensures that you practice as an ethical counselor.

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The Licensed Professional Counselor Job Profile

Now that you know what it takes to get licensed, you may be wondering if the job outlook in the field is positive. You will be happy to hear that you can expect long-term career prospects if you enter the field. Employment in the field is projected to grow by 29% in the area of mental health, and you can take full advantage of high-paying jobs if you get licensed before the demand starts dropping. Consider specialties where demand is high, and you will have a huge scope of opportunities.

Licensed Professional Counselors can work in a range of settings. From rehabilitation centers and hospitals, to vocational centers and homeless shelters, there is a need for qualified Licensed Professional Counselors in different environments. Consider where you would like to work, and then consider the competition. If you want to become a Licensed Professional Counselor, start with school and then move on to working with a licensed professional who can teach you what you need to know.