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Schools for Aspiring Licensed Professional Counselors: How to Choose

A master's degree program in counseling can prepare students to become Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), sometimes known as Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs). Depending on the career focus of the student, both Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) programs are available in this field, with students studying the theories, techniques and practices of counseling.

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State licensure requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) vary, but typically include completion of at least a master's degree in counseling. In these programs, students learn about techniques and approaches in the field to assist those struggling with mental or emotional disorders, or personal crisis and issues.

10 Schools with Master's Degrees in Mental Health Counseling

Here's a list of school with applicable programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition 2015-2016*
Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, Inc. Brookline, Massachusetts 4-year, Private Master's $16,680
Carson Newman University Jefferson City, Tennessee 4-year, Private Master's $8,100
Emporia State University Emporia, Kansas 4-year, Public Master's In-state tuition $5,640
Out-of-state tuition $17,554
Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, Massachusetts 4-year, Public Master's, certificate** $3,006
John Brown University Siloam Springs, Arkansas 4-year Private Master's $13,152
Mississippi College Clinton, Mississippi 4-year, Private Master's, doctorate** $9,810
North Carolina Central University Durham, North Carolina 4-year, Public Master's In-state tuition $4,491
Out-of-state tuition $16,747
Southern Methodist University Dallas, Texas 4-year, Private Master's $40,896
Texas A&M University-Central Texas Killeen, Texas 4-year, Public Master's In-state tuition $3,476
Out-of-state tuition $10,436
University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona 4-year, Public Master's In-state tuition $11,040
Out-of-state tuition $29,362

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, **School website

School Selection Criteria

Prospective students should keep these considerations in mind when choosing their school:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) programs are available for those pursuing counseling careers and Master of Science (M.S.) programs for those pursuing doctoral studies, followed by research or program evaluation careers, with non-thesis (and sometimes thesis) degrees likely requiring students to pass a comprehensive exam.
  • Counseling program concentrations include career counseling, child and adolescent therapy, Christian counseling, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy and school counseling with licensure requirements possibly varying from those for LPCs.
  • Programs with faculty ties to the professional counseling community offer the best opportunities for career counseling and advice.
  • Best choices may be schools that prepare them for the National Counselor Examination (NCE), an important part of the LPC licensing process in many states and a precursor to voluntary certification as a National Certified Counselor (NCC).

Master's Degree in Counseling

Students enrolled in a M.A. or M.S. program in counseling typically learn about counseling practices, theories and techniques, including methods of interviewing, assessing and researching. Additionally, aspiring LPCs may be required to complete individual and group practicums, as well as a counseling internship. They also might explore cross-cultural counseling, crisis intervention and substance abuse counseling.

Before enrolling in a professional counseling program, students must verify that available degree paths and concentrations match their career aspirations and prepare them for the licensing process.

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