Do I Have To Do an Internship With a Counseling Degree?

All Master’s level counseling programs in the United States require a number of clinically supervised internship hours as a prerequisite for degree completion. These hours ensure that candidates are capable of working in the field by applying the information gained in the classroom to direct experience in providing counseling services to individuals, couples, and groups. However, a Master’s degree is not the only step in becoming a licensed counselor. In order to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC), one must complete a Master’s degree from an accredited university, national certification, and state licensure. An internship is imperative for the completion of each step.

Master’s Degree in Counseling

Accredited counseling degree programs are governed by the Council of Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs (CACREP). CACREP evaluates both the content and quality of degree programs. Accreditation ensures the program provides knowledge, skills, and practice needed for success in the counseling field. As a requirement in maintaining accreditation, Master’s level counseling programs must require an internship comprising of at least  240 clinically supervised hours of providing direct service. Direct service includes providing individual, group, and family mental health services. These direct service hours must be supervised by a professional holding a Master’s degree in a related field, preferably obtained from a CACREP accredited program. In addition, Master’s candidates must receive one hour per week of individual supervision from an accredited faculty member, as well as 1 1/2 hours of group supervision from an accredited faculty member.

National Certification

The NCE is used to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities of candidates. The direct service hours included in internship are needed to register for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). More hours may be required if the candidate is seeking to specialize in school or addiction counseling. A passing score on the NCE is a requirement for those persons wishing to practice as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the United States. More information on requirements for registering for the NCE can be found on the website of the National Board for Certified Counselors.

State Licensure

The NCE serves as both national certification and state licensure; however, the number of clinically supervised hours varies by state. For example, Oklahoma requires at least 300 hours of direct service experience, while many other states do not require more than the 240 hours required by CACREP. It is important to be aware of these differences if planning to practice in a state other than that in which the Master’s program was completed. The state requirements must be met for that state in which the candidate intends to practice, regardless of the requirements set forth by the state in which the degree was completed.

Accredited Master’s level counseling programs are designed to produce well-rounded, efficient mental health professionals. Part of this process includes immersing candidates in experience relevant to their chosen field, accomplished by a clinically supervised internship.

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