Welcome to MastersInCounseling.org: we provide an interactive guide to educational opportunities in the counseling profession. Our blog is authored by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco, a licensed mental health counselor and marriage & family therapist based in Tampa, FL. As an introduction, we’ve listed answers below to some of our most frequently asked questions (you can click on a question to skip ahead to its section):

  1. What should I look for in a master’s program in counseling?
  2. What counseling career paths can I pursue with a master’s degree?
  3. What are the certification and licensure requirements for counselors?

What should I look for in a master’s program in counseling?

Whether you’re considering enrollment at traditional brick-and-mortar institution or at an online university, you should look at every degree program with a critical eye. Consider the following questions when determining if a program is right for you.

  • Is the program accredited by a National Accreditation Agency?
  • Does the program prepare students for licensure and certification exams?
  • Does the program/school offer areas of specialization that fit my career goals?

The following accredited programs fulfill all of these criteria:

SchoolPrograms
Walden University
Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Capella University
Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Kaplan University
Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Northcentral University
Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA

You can also click here to search a database of 100+ accredited degree programs (both campus and online).

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What counseling career paths can I pursue with a master’s degree?

There are many different educational and professional paths you can take to have a fulfilling career in the counseling field. Below is a table which lists the most common careers, as well as degree programs that are relevant to those careers. If you’re unsure of what kind of degree you should get, we have a guide on MS versus MA degrees.

Type of Counselor Job Description Relevant Degree Programs
Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor Substance abuse and addiction counselors provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.
Career Counselor Career counselors help clients determine and plan for possible career paths by assessing their education, skills, interests, and personality.
Clinical Mental Health Counselor Clinical mental health counselors help clients deal with a spectrum of mental and emotional disorders, as well as to promote mental health and wellness.
Geriatric Counselor Geriatric counselors help individual and families deal with the aging process, such as issues related to retirement and loss.
Marriage, Couple, and Family Counselor Marriage, couple, and family counselors assist clients across of variety of mental and emotional disorders and relationship issues.
Rehabilitation Counselor Rehabilitation counselors help client with disabilities live independent, productive lives through unique treatment plans and therapy options.
School Counselor School counselors are trained to promote the academic, career, and personal/social development of all K-12 students within the school setting.
Spirituality and Religious Counselor Spirituality and religious counselors are devoted to helping clients draw on their spiritual values to deal with mental and emotional disorders.
Trauma and Crisis Counselor Trauma and crisis counselors help clients deal with the emotional impact of tragic events through a variety of processes including group and individual counseling.

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What are the certification and licensure requirements for counselors?

Licensure requirements for counselors depend largely on your career focus, as well as the location in which you’d like to practice. The following table offers information on national certification and state licensure. If you’re curious about state by state requirements, you can view this fantastic pdf reference.

National Certification State Licensure
What is it? National certification is a voluntary process entirely separate from state licensure. It is not a license to practice; however, holding a national certification can assist counselors in obtaining a state license. State licensure is mandatory to practice counseling independently. These standards are set by regulatory boards in each state.
Name of Credential: National Board for Certified Counselors issues the National Certified Counselor (NCC) in addition to three specialty certifications in addictions, clinical mental health and school counseling. Licensure differs from state to state; however the most common titles are: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
Examinations: Students must pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). State counselor licensure boards contract with NBCC to use one or both of the following exams: NCE and/or NCMHCE.
Requirements:
  • Must complete a master’s degree in counseling or have a major study in the subject from an institution that is regionally accredited.
  • Must complete 3,000 hours of counseling experience as well as 100 hours of supervision over a two year time period after graduation.
  • For graduate students who have completed CACREP accredited tracks, the post-master’s experience and supervision requirements are waived.
  • Receive a passing score on the NCE.
Licensure varies by state; however, all states do require that students have a combination of the following:

  • Hold a master’s degree.
  • Must have Counseling experience and supervision.
  • Receive a passing score on the NCE exam and/or NCMHCE. Note: Some states require a passing score on mental health laws exam of that state.

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