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Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Education Requirements

Licensed professional clinical counselors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Licensed professional clinical counselors help people deal with and overcome mental and emotional issues in their lives. These professionals have at least a master's degree and may specialize in a variety of areas. The following article details the educational requirements and job outlook for this occupational field.

Essential Information

Licensed professional clinical counselors support, rehabilitate and counsel people from all walks of life, across a variety of ages and social backgrounds and with a broad range of needs. Their services can range from school or vocational counseling to substance abuse and family therapy counseling. Aspiring licensed professional clinical counselors need to earn a master's degree related to counseling and then take the National Counselor Exam to obtain temporary state licensure. They must complete a post-graduate work experience to become fully licensed. There are also voluntary certification options available.

Required Education Master's degree in counseling
Other Requirements State licensure; voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth 19% for all mental health counselors from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (January 2016) $44,052 annually**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Licensed professional clinical counselors use a variety of psychological techniques to help their clients improve their mental health. Clients who are having difficulties in their relationships or in making career decisions often come to professional clinical counselors for guidance. Counseling services provided by a licensed professional clinical counselor include marriage counseling, family counseling, individual counseling and group therapy. Clinical counselors are different from psychologists and psychiatrists because they tend to help people with life and emotional issues. Psychologists and psychiatrists typically treat more serious mental health disorders.

Education Requirements

Licensed professional clinical counselors must earn at least a master's degree in counseling or in a related field such as psychology. Coursework for clinical counselors includes developmental psychology, human growth and development, group counseling, family counseling, abnormal psychology and ethics.

Prior to obtaining state licensure, a counselor may take the National Counselor Exam. Those who pass receive a temporary license that allows a student counselor to complete a supervised post-graduate counseling internship. Counselors may also receive on-the-job training, education or tuition reimbursement when hired by a counseling organization or practice.

Licensure and Certification

In order to become licensed, clinical counselors must pass licensure exams in the states in which they plan to practice. Clinical counselors must complete a pre-determined number of hours (usually around 3,000) of supervised clinical experience before they may apply to take a state exam; requirements differ because each state defines its own licensing requirements. Some counselors may also apply for voluntary certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors. In some states National Certified Counselors are exempt from taking state certification exams. Many clinical counselors also elect to join specialty-related professional organizations like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Licensed professional clinical counselors need at least a master's degree and a state license to practice. With a high job growth rate, this is a field with a lot of benefits for someone who enjoys helping people deal with and overcome problems.


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