Counseling (LPC) Certificate and Certification Programs

An aspiring professional counselor can pursue a master's degree in counseling or a similar field; these programs are widely available at many colleges and universities. Most programs include both traditional lecture-based coursework and extensive clinical practice in healthcare facilities or counseling centers. Graduates are prepared for professional licensure.

Essential Information

After a master's degree is obtained, an LPC can pursue a counseling graduate certificate, which is available in a number of counseling specialties, including mental health and play therapy. These programs typically require completion of an internship, along with roughly 5-6 traditional courses.

  • Programs Levels in Counseling: Master's degree, counseling graduate certificate
  • Some Program Specializations Available: Expressive arts therapy, Christian counseling, substance abuse counseling
  • Program Lengths: 5-6 courses for master's, 12 credit hours for certificate
  • Prerequisites: Master's degree, bachelor's degree

Master's Degree in Counseling

A Master of Arts in Counseling prepares students for careers in licensed professional counseling (LPC). These programs emphasize the treatment of emotional and mental disorders. Most master's degree programs offer students the opportunity to declare a specialization or area of concentration in areas such as expressive arts therapy, Christian counseling or substance abuse counseling. Students develop the skills necessary to pass a state licensing exam, which may be offered through the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification or the National Certified Mental Health Counselor Examination. In addition to coursework in counseling, students must obtain clinical experience (under supervision) prior to receiving a license.

Students enrolled in a master's degree in counseling program must complete around 60 hours of coursework. Typical core coursework found in counseling M.A. programs include:

  • Human development and behavior
  • Theories of counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Theories of personality
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Addictions and related disorders

Graduate Certificates in Counseling

Counseling certificate programs tend to be directed toward counselors who are finishing or have already earned a master's degree in counseling and who wish to obtain specialized knowledge for particular counseling careers. For those who have obtained a master's degree in counseling, there are several graduate certificate options available, including mental health, trauma response, community counseling or play therapy.

Earning graduate certificates in areas of specialization is optional but can increase a counselor's job prospects and opportunities for advancement. To enroll in a counseling certificate program, students must have obtained a Master of Arts in counseling degree from an accredited college or university.

Counseling graduate certificate programs typically require a minimum of 12 hours of coursework for completion, although minimum hours and coursework vary greatly by program. Courses that may be seen in counseling certificate programs include:

  • Advanced treatment approaches
  • Counseling theories
  • Cultural and social concerns in counseling
  • Human growth and development
  • Advanced internship

Popular Career Options

Because counselors have a wide variety of specialization options, employment prospects and salary can vary widely. Possible job titles for counselors include:

  • Educational (school) counselor
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Mental health counselor
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Behavioral disorder counselor

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in the mental health counseling field are expected to increase by about 29% between 2012 and 2022. During that same decade, jobs for substance abuse counselors are expected to increase by 31%, while jobs for school counselors are expected to see a 12% increase. As with job availability, salaries for counselors vary depending on specialization and education level, with rehabilitation counselors earning a median of $34,380 annually as of May 2014. Marriage and family therapists earned a median of $48,040 a year, according to the BLS in 2014.

Continuing Education Information

A number of professional organizations offer voluntary certification to LPCs. Most are specific to the area of specialization. Many counselors elect to obtain voluntary certification from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification or the National Board for Certified Counselors. Those who have obtained a master's degree and licensure as professional counselors may decide to continue their educations. Many colleges and universities offer graduate certificates in counseling specializations.

Related to Counseling Certification

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