LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) establishes an individual as an expert in the fields of mental health and psychotherapy in the United States. This professional designation signals that graduates met both the educational and clinical training requirements to establish a private practice or work at an organization that provides counseling services.

Students who are researching “what is an LCPC” should know it’s important to review LCPC degree programs to ensure they’re accredited, and that coursework meets the licensing requirements of the state in which they plan to practice.

In addition, students who are interested in enrolling in an online learning program must evaluate whether the program is flexible enough for them to successfully advance their education.

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What is an LCPC License?

The LCPC license confirms that graduates have met the rigorous requirements set by the state in which they work. This often includes completion of a master's degree in a related field, such as psychology or counseling. It also means having accumulated the required number of counseling hours under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor.

Individuals who hold this license are certified to work with individuals or groups that are struggling with behavioral issues or addiction. The license also demonstrates practitioners have the skills to develop treatment plans for clients, and/or collaborate with other medical professionals if advanced solutions are necessary.

Moreover, an LCPC license helps professionals pursue career opportunities in educational institutions; health care facilities; local, state, or federal government institutions; or in private practice.

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What Does It Take To Get This Licensure?

There are seven different states that have the specific credential of a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor:

LCPC Requirements

LCPC degree requirements include coursework that teaches students about establishing relationships, working with groups, human growth and development, research methods and evaluation techniques, and the legal and ethical standards of counseling.

Practical experience should also be a requirement, as well as an internship that involves at least 600 hours of clinical session hours.

Each state has its own academic criteria that aspiring LCPCs must fulfill. Students should carefully review state standards to determine whether the program they’re considering meets those standards.

Among the best ways to satisfy most requirements is to complete a degree program that is regionally accredited, or accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This ensures the program has gone through a rigorous review process, and offers the clinical practicum and internship opportunities to gain an advanced degree.

State Counseling Licensure Requirements

To obtain the LCPC license, applicants must demonstrate they’ve met specific educational standards and, in most cases, must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE).

It should be noted that the National Counselor Examination (NCE) does not satisfy competence in clinical mental health. The National Board for Certified Counselors notes that the NCE is the most common certification to gain counselor licensure in states that require it, and that the NCMHCE is a specialty certification.

Clinical Experience

Upon completing a master’s degree, most states require aspiring LCPCs to obtain clinical experience. The number of required clinical hours depends on the state granting the license. In addition, clinical hour requirements can change based on what an individual has completed as part of their degree program.


LCPC requirements note that to maintain licensure, license holders typically need to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours every two years. However, deadlines to complete CE hours vary from state to state.

Steps to Licensure

  1. Each state’s Department of Health publishes requirements for various counseling licensures online. As such, prospective students should review their own state’s requirements. Universities are not responsible for ensuring their curricula meet all educational requirements for all states.
  2. In some instances, students who have completed a master’s degree in the field of counseling may be eligible to receive a temporary license. For more information on temporary licensure, research the requirements within the state of interest.
  3. The postgraduate experience prior to licensure requires additional clinical hours. Depending on the state, these hours may be reduced based on the work a student has completed in their degree program. For example, the state of Maryland requires at least 3,000 hours of total clinical experience, with 2,000 hours of that work completed after graduation.
  4. Aspiring LCPCS must pass a national licensing exam to become licensed. Retakes are possible, but limited. In some states, a jurisprudence exam, which reviews competence in legal theory, is required.
  5. Prior to receiving state licensure, an individual must pay all the associated licensing fees, provide proof of their academic credentials, and show they’ve passed a national licensing exam.
  6. Typically, licenses expire every two years. For an individual to keep their license current, they’ll need to adhere to requirements set forth by the state in which they practice. In most instances, this involves completing a set number of CE hours.


Individuals researching “what is an LCPC” should understand there’s no difference between the LCPC and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. The LCPC meaning and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor are one and the same.

However, this certification is different from a standard Licensed Professional Counselor license, or LPC license. While both licenses provide the opportunity to practice counseling in the state, the LCPC is a higher professional designation that opens the door to supervisory and management positions.

Top Degree Programs For LCPC Licensure

Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling that prepares students for board certification and state licensure. The program is geared toward both experienced counselors and those who are new to the counseling field. Individuals lacking an undergraduate degree in a psychology-related field can pursue the Bridge to Counseling program, which provides foundational courses in clinical interviewing and the latest topics in counseling.

There are three tracks for the Bridge to Counseling program: accelerated, part-time, and traditional. (These tracks are also available in the standard program.) The accelerated format is available except for California licensing, and can be completed in a seven-quarter span. (California rules require two quarters of academics before entering practicum sessions, which does not work in the accelerated format.)

In addition to these two programs, students can add courses in child and adolescent counseling. This special track provides coursework on the evaluation and treatment procedures when working with youth. It also teaches students about the growth and development stages that children undergo.

Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor’s degree. Submitting GRE scores is not mandatory, however. Students must complete two in-person residencies. The first helps them prepare for the program, while the second is a capstone project to demonstrate what they’ve accomplished while pursuing their degree. This is a CACREP accredited program.

Bellevue University

The Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Bellevue University is a 60-credit-hour program for students interested in becoming a licensed counselor. Although the program’s coursework and credit hours fulfill most state requirements, students should review the requirements in the state they wish to practice.

Bellevue’s CACREP-accredited MSCMHC program includes 100 hours of practicum sessions and 600 clinical internship hours, 40% of which must involve direct contact with clients. Foundational courses in Bellevue’s program include classes such as introduction to counseling theories; theories of psychopathology; and ethical, legal, and professional issues in the practice of counseling; among others. Elective options include classes such as human sexuality; Orthodox Judaic theoretical perspectives; and trauma, crisis, and traumatic stress counseling; among others.

The Bellevue Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is available on campus and online. Online courses are hosted by the Cyber-Active Online Classroom. This enables students to attend courses and complete assignments on their own time, interact digitally with fellow students, and utilize resources in an online library.

Program applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree and have graduated with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Other admissions requirements include submitting transcripts, a current resume, two letters of recommendation from professional colleagues, and a 1,000-word essay that outlines their career goals and how completion of Bellevue’s MSCMHC can help them achieve their goals.

Capella University

The CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Capella University prepares students to become certified mental health counselors This 100% online program aids students in the process of becoming a licensed professional in all 50 states. 

The coursework meets LCPC requirements and the curriculum includes classes such as principles of psychopathology and diagnosis, introduction to clinical mental health counseling, and crisis assessment and intervention, among others. The program also includes two internships and a practicum designed to help students become more comfortable in communicating with clients, dealing with crisis management, and performing administrative tasks in the treatment process. 

Career Options

What is an LCPC degree and what careers can you pursue once you complete it? The career paths are numerous and include licensed professional clinical counselor, clinical psychologist, educational psychologist, and counseling psychologist, among others. Although the average salaries for these professions are listed below, salary ranges can vary widely based on an applicant’s experience level and the location in which they work. 

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Licensed clinical professional counselors provide psychotherapy, talk therapy, and other types of counseling services to patients. They’re trained to work with patients of all ages, including children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Some professionals in the field may prefer to specialize in a particular patient demographic. 

Those who choose the path of becoming a counselor are also trained to work with individuals, couples, groups, and families to help address a specific behavioral, emotional, mental, or social issue. 

LCPCs work in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, state and government institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and in private practice. Their advanced training helps prepare them for managerial and supervisory roles. Data from the compensation website PayScale notes that as of November 2020, the average mid-career salary for professionals who choose this career path was $49,199.

Clinical Psychologist 

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat patients with behavioral and emotional disorders. They identify specific problems and explore what has impacted the client’s abilities. Patient exploration may include further discussions to determine background or historical events, or giving tests to analyze information. Psychologists often specialize in a specific group of people or a certain type of psychology. Data from PayScale notes that as of December 2020, the average mid-career clinical psychologist salary was $80,847.

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists deal less with applying theory and concentrate more on communicating with clients to talk them through their issues. This may lead to further conversations with partners or family members who may be impacted by the client’s actions or behaviors. Counseling psychologists never provide medical treatment for their clients, and the vast majority of states do not allow prescriptions from clinical psychologists. Data from PayScale notes that as of October 2020, the average mid-career salary for counseling psychologists was recorded at $57,888.

Education Psychologist

Education psychologists work in academic settings such as elementary, middle, and high schools and help students achieve their learning potential. They may also work with students who have learning disabilities such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Professionals who work in this field may also provide services to students who are being bullied. Data from PayScale notes that as of October 2020, the average mid-career salary for educational psychologists was $75,116.

Job Outlook for Psychologists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for psychologists is expected to increase 3% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects that demand for psychological service will continue to increase due to a variety of factors, including increased demand for in-school services, and services at mental health centers, social service agencies, veteran’s affairs agencies, and hospitals. 

Are you ready to pursue a career as an LCPC? Research the degree programs at Northwestern University, Bellevue University, and Capella University to determine which school is right for you.



National Board for Certified Counselors, Examinations
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PayScale, Counseling Psychologist
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