Have you wondered about licensure or certification as a counselor? Are you curious about the difference between them? In this lesson, we will be looking at licensure and certification, what the differences and similarities are, and the requirements.
Licenses and Credentials
In this lesson, we will be learning about licensure and certifying of counselors. Licensing and certification differ in their purposes but have features in common, including:
- Requiring applicants to meet specific requirements in terms of education and training.
- Reliance on tests to determine whether or not the applicant has met standards.
- Are both protections for the public from unqualified and untrained practitioners.
Certification is a recognition for those who have met the minimum standards of a certification agency. It indicates to clients that the individual is qualified to help them. There are two types of certification in counseling: state certification and national certification.
In most states, school counselors and substance abuse counselors are certified by the state in order to work under that classification. This means certification is not voluntary for those fields. Most states also require substance abuse counselors to be certified.
In the counseling profession for national certification, the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) certifies National Certified Counselors (NCC). This certification and its specialty certifications are voluntary. It gives counselors the right to use a specific title and is not required to practice. To receive the certification, the counselor must complete a master's degree or higher in counseling, 48 semester hours of graduate credit with courses in eight different areas, and six hours of field experience.
They must also pass the NCE exam and provide documentation of 3,000 hours post-graduate experience or completion of the CACREP accredited graduate classes. National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers specialty certifications in school, mental health, and addictions counseling. An affiliate of NBCC Credentialing offers credentialing in supervision. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) certifies rehabilitation counselors.
Licensure is issued by the state to protect the public from unqualified and untrained practitioners. Passage of state licensure law restricts or prohibits the practice of counseling by individuals not meeting state-determined qualification standards. To practice as a private practice counselor, a license is required. All states provide for licensure of counselors.
The most common title of a recipient is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but other names may be used. Most states with licensure credentialing require a minimum education requirement of 60 hours of graduate study, 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passing of an examination on counseling practice. For example, in the state of Alabama, obtaining licensure requires 60 semester hours of coursework in eight areas, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passage of the NCC exam. This seems typical of most states, although some states, like California and Vermont, offer their own exam or more than one exam.
Licensure affects private practice counseling the most. Most states exempt counselors in certain settings, such as the schools, local, state, or federal agencies, and in nonprofit organizations. At the state level, licensure statutes may have different titles, with some called licensed and others certified.
In addition to obtaining licensure and certification, recipients are to continue training and study in their area of practice to retain their credentials over time. Renewal of counseling certification every five years requires that NCCs acquire 100 continuing education clock hours by the next renewal time. Renewal of licensure requires a minimum number of continuing education activities over time determined by the state; for instance, in Alabama, it is determined by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling. Without continuing education, the practitioner's abilities can get stale, and they may miss out on new innovations in the field.
So, let's review. Counselor licensure and certification are alike in some ways and different in others. They are both designed to regulate counseling practice; they both tell the public that the individual has met certain requirements and use passing of exam as a requirement. In counseling, national certification is through the National Board for Certified Counselors, and includes not only a broad certification, but has certification in some specialty areas as well. The state also certifies counselors in some specializations, including school counseling.
All states presently have licensure of counselors. The requirements for licensure and the title of the recipient vary by state. Most states require a master's degree in counseling with at least 60 graduate hours, 2,000-3,000 hours supervised experience, and passage of an examination. The counselor also must meet state requirements to renew their license.
Following this lesson, you should be able to:
- Compare and contrast licensing and certification in the field of counseling
- Describe common national and state licensing and certification requirements for counselors
- Explain continuing education requirements for counselors