Licensed Professional Counselor — Degree & Salary Info

Counselors can play an essential role in helping their clients cope with everyday problems, which may include anything from career anxieties and family struggles to mental health disorders. For those interested in the counseling profession, it might make sense to seek licensure and become a licensed professional counselor (LPC).

Earning a license to practice as an LPC takes several steps. Additionally, keeping your license may require you to adhere to continuing education requirements over the course of your career to stay up to date on current laws and changes in your field. Having a license will entitle you to work with clients directly and to advance your career within the counseling profession.

A good place to begin your pursuit of licensure is with a formal education. Enrolling in an online counseling degree program can provide you with the core skills you need to gain licensure.

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What Is LPC Licensure?

Your LPC licensure process will depend on the state you live in, since requirements can vary by state. For the most part, students can expect they will need to earn a minimum of a master's degree in their field and have one to two years of supervised internship experience to become eligible for licensure.

To complete the licensing process, graduates of degree programs may also need to pass a state board exam. Having a professional license may be a requirement for some counseling roles, making it a great factor to consider when choosing your degree program.

What Is the Meaning of LPC?

Understanding the meaning of LPC requires looking beyond what LPC stands for in counseling. What an LPC is can vary greatly based on role and specialization, though all LPCs can make a huge difference in people’s lives through their support. Because of the importance of this role, certain requirements must be met before an individual is allowed to practice, to ensure that prospective counselors are qualified to offer the right services to their clients.

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☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
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How to Become an LPC: Requirements and Accreditation

If you have chosen the field of professional counseling to pursue for a lifelong career, you should review what is required of applicants for licensure and how to become an LPC

You should only consider applying to an accredited degree program that meets the necessary benchmarks in your field. Universities and programs can be differentiated through seals of approval from accreditation agencies.

Professional counselors most often choose degree programs that have been accredited by agencies such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP is responsible for initially approving colleges and counseling degree programs for accreditation, as well as continually reviewing curricula for accreditation maintenance. Most universities display their accreditation information on their degree’s webpage, so you should verify this information before committing to enrollment.

Once you are enrolled in an accredited degree program, you can pursue coursework that can prepare you for working with clients in the field. Since the second requirement for licensure is an internship, you should be searching for local mental health agencies or counseling centers to work for during this time. 

Counseling licensure requirements may include spending two to three years gaining experience under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor, which can be helpful in extending your knowledge of general practice in the field.

Graduating from an accredited degree program and successfully completing your supervised work experience requirement are huge parts of the counseling licensure process. The final step for you to complete involves submitting your application for licensing and taking the National Counselor Examination in your state. Passing this examination can be your final step toward becoming an LPC and beginning your work in the field.

LPC Programs Online 

Counseling can be an incredibly versatile career with many opportunities. Gaining licensure can open the door for you to pursue any of a number of career options in many different settings and fields, depending on your degree program and any certifications that you may have received. In the list below, you can see some of the most popular online LPC programs. You can choose to pursue a specific field for your degree or a generalized path that can lead you to help people with varying needs and within different age groups. Here are a few of the top

  • Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: This is one of the most popular programs for aspiring LPCs. It can prepare learners for working in the public with individuals who have specific needs based on their family history, diagnosis, or presentation of symptoms. This degree program can help students learn more about the analysis and diagnosis process, as well as teach students about a wide variety of treatment options available for use.
  • Online Master’s in Group or Family Counseling: Future LPCs who have an interest in catering to families or groups in their practice may be interested in programs focusing on group or family counseling. These types of programs can be found across the United States and provide learners with the competencies needed to help people work through difficulties with relationships in their personal lives. A large number of online programs have received accreditation from CACREP and can lead to licensure.
  • Online Master’s in Counseling — Youth, Adolescent, or Geriatrics: If your work experience or personal preference is geared toward a particular age group, you might benefit from seeking out online master’s programs that focus on that age group. You can find a number of online degree and certification programs that offer an array of options for meeting your career goals. The skills learned in these programs can provide you with an excellent foundation for helping those within the age group most important to you.
  • What Can You Do with an LPC Degree? 

    You have many options for what you can do following the completion of a counseling program, making LPC degrees an incredibly flexible option. Depending on your interests and the types of experience and skills you have, you might be a good fit for a specific field in counseling. These include:

  • Mental Health: Mental health clinics, contracting agencies, and private practices are some of the most popular workplace settings to consider in this area. Many LPCs provide mental health services to the public in these settings, such as one-on-one counseling services with individuals or group therapy when needed to solve common mental health issues.
  • Healthcare: People can have many distressing experiences in medical settings, such as the grief associated with the death of a family member or the shock of a newly diagnosed illness. LPCs working for healthcare centers can be on call for services needed due to the influence of health-related issues that can arise on a moment’s notice. They may also operate out of hospitals but provide counseling to healthcare professionals. 
  • Education: Students going through challenging times during their school experience can utilize the services of a school-based therapist or guidance counselor. If you choose to work in this field, you can take part in helping children or young adults work through issues associated with their personal lives or in school, while developing prevention and awareness programs and helping the students in your care prepare for life after graduation.
  • Different Career Paths

    What an LPC is can depend on what type of clients they choose to work with, as well as their work environment. Certification options are available to help students create their own perfect portfolio of education and experience. If you would like to learn more about the various types of certification that are currently available for counseling professionals, browse through the list of certification options following this section.

  • Addiction Counseling
  • Loss and Grief Therapy
  • LGBTQ Counseling
  • Guidance Counseling
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Adolescent Counseling
  • Marriage Counseling
  • Foster Care Counseling
  • Different LPC degrees can lead you into different jobs throughout your career. The list below provides some of the most common career options for people who have received licensure in counseling:

  • Licensed professional counselor
  • Mental health therapist
  • School counselor
  • Director of mental health counseling
  • Residential treatment therapist
  • Drug abuse counselor
  • Trauma counselor
  • Grief and loss counselor
  • LPC vs. LCSW

    It may be useful to consider LPC vs. LCSW, or licensed clinical social worker, roles. A good way to distinguish between these positions is that the LPC focuses primarily on working with clients whose main problems are personal psychological issues, while an LCSW focuses more on helping clients navigate broader social contexts and social structures. 

    As such, LPCs are more likely to work in private practice, while LCSWs are more likely to work for public clinics or social service agencies.

    What Is an LPC-S?

    Another career option to consider is the LPC-S, which stands for licensed professional counselor supervisor.

    Achieving this distinction typically requires a higher level of experience and training, which can vary from state to state, and entitles you to play a more active role in shaping the practices and principles that guide the counseling profession. The LPC-S designation may also give you leadership status over other counselors.

    Can an LPC Prescribe Medication? 

    Generally, it is not within their authority for an LPC to prescribe medication. However, other mental health and counseling-related roles will allow you to prescribe medication, including roles in psychiatry. Also, note that licensed counselors can refer their clients to medical professionals if they believe medication is needed.

    Find the Right LPC Program Online

    Becoming an LPC can start with the right education. If you are interested in a career in counseling, you should explore some of the available resources on online LPC programs to find out what they offer, which ones are accepting applicants, and the type of specializations they have. Discover more about LPC degree and licensure requirements, and start your career in counseling.

  • Counseling Degrees Online
  • Online Master of Arts in Counseling
  • Bachelor’s of Counseling Degree Programs
  • Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling
  • Counseling Schools by State
  • Counseling Careers
  • The 12 Highest-Paying Counseling Jobs to Consider
  • Sources
    American Psychological Association, What Is the Difference Between Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Social Workers?
    Indeed, How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor
    Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners, LPC-S
    National Board for Certified Counselors, Understanding Board Certification and Licensure
    PayScale, Salary for Certification: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

    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 write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.