Counseling Licensure Guide

Holding a license can make you a valuable resource for organizations seeking only the most reputable and reliable professionals for their positions, which can lead you into many diverse and interesting positions during your career.

The road to licensure can be unique depending on your field of practice and your intended treatment population. Our team of educational experts has put together this guide to help you differentiate the specific needs of professionals in varying fields so that you can make the best educational decisions for your future.

What is Counseling Licensure?

Upcoming professionals with an interest in the field of counseling may be intrigued by the licensing requirements that can set them on track for career success. There are a number of steps required in order for you to become qualified for licensure, beginning at the very onset of your educational experience. If you are like many others determined to become a part of the field of counseling, you should begin preparations for your license when choosing your initial degree program and university.

Counseling licensure includes choosing a degree program in counseling with the right type of accreditation. The most common accreditation agency for counseling degree programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The CACREP is responsible for accrediting master's and doctoral level degree programs in counseling, so that graduates of these programs can move forward in the licensure process. Your state may dictate the accreditation requirements for licensure, so always review what type of accreditation may be required for your degree program prior to enrolling.

Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program

School and Program Information Online Program? Entry Requirements Course Information
Northwestern University
Online MA in Counseling
CACREP Accredited Programs CACREP Accredited
check_circle Online GRE Scores Not Required 24 Courses (standard program for those with counseling experience) or 27 courses (bridge program, for those with no counseling experience)
New York University
Online Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
MPCAC Accredited Programs MPCAC Accredited
check_circle Online GRE scores are not required for admission. Weekly live classes taught by distinguished NYU Steinhardt faculty.
University of Denver
Online MA in School Counseling
CACREP Accredited Programs Designed to adhere to CACREP standards
check_circle Online No GRE required. Learn from doctoral-level faculty in live classes and gain experience through mock counseling and in-field training.
Vanderbilt University
Online Master's with School Counseling Specialization
SACSCOC Accredited
check_circle Online Bachelor's Required Live, online classes every week led by Vanderbilt faculty
University of Southern California
Online Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling
Can be completed in less than 2 years.
check_circle Online No GRE requirement Classes led by USC Rossier faculty who are experts in school counseling, educational leadership and family therapy.

info For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs

Eligibility for Licensure

Before you are eligible to receive your license in counseling, you may also be required to complete an experience requirement in a real-world counseling environment. This aspect of counseling licensure can help you to connect the educational and practical components of your degree program, as well as observe counseling techniques being applied in the field. Most states require that graduates engage in around 2 years of this type of experience prior to completing this component in the licensure process.

National Counselor Examination

One of the last steps in the counseling licensing process is completion of the National Counselor Examination. Completing your degree program and engaging in work experience can help prepare you for this exam, which may contain concepts and scenarios that can commonly occur in the field. Passing this examination can help you to qualify for licensure and being your career in the field.

Degree Programs Ideal for Counseling Licensure

If obtaining your license is one of your goals for your future, you might be intrigued to learn that there are a few different specialized paths for achieving your goal. In order to obtain your license, you should choose an online degree program that is relevant to your chosen field and accredited by the right agency.

For counseling programs, you should choose an online degree program that has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). There are currently 3 popular specialized fields for upcoming counseling professionals to consider for their education. Read more about these programs below.

  • Online Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Students that have a profound interest in working with individuals struggling with the general stresses of life, or managing symptoms of common mental health disorders or illnesses should consider the online Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This accredited program can be found at many universities and can train students to be primary mental health providers for a wide range of clients in the field. This degree program can lead you into licensure after meeting the educational and practical requirements in your state.
  • Online Masters in School Counseling: If you have more of an interest in working with youth throughout your career, you could enroll in an online Masters in School Counseling to pursue your license in your state. In this field, you can learn more specifically about problems and issues that are specific to school-aged children, as well as prevention programs and group tactics for use in the field. This field has experience expectations that can put you in touch with school systems within your area. Licensure in this field can qualify you to become an employee of school systems or a reputable resource for widespread student wellness programs across the country.
  • Online Masters in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling: Counselors can play a positive role in the lives of individuals or groups. The online Masters in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling could be an excellent resource for upcoming counselors interested in salvaging relationships within the family unit. The CACREP currently accredits multiple online programs in the U.S. in this specialization, making it a great option for you to consider when seeking licensure in the field of counseling.

Certification Paths

The field of counseling can have an influence on many different societal groups in your area, as well as specific people with very unique needs. It can be beneficial to consider certification in specialized fields in addition to your degree program in order to qualify for specialist positions in your geographical region.

Since counseling can be such an important component in healing and self-improvement, certification programs can include a wide range of needs and new-age fields. Our team of educational experts has researched some of the common certification programs available today in order to provide you with a helpful list of some examples for you to consider for your career. Read through some of the common certifications beneath this section.

  • Neurocounseling
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Play Therapy
  • Trauma and Crisis Intervention
  • Family and Group Therapy
  • Health Counseling
  • Career Counseling
Counseling Career Guide

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed writeup of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.