There are many ways that you can prove your expertise within your professional field to organizations in which you are applying. Holding a degree is a great way to communicate your dedication to the field of counseling and help your future employers interpret your potential skills.
However, if you want to go one step further in showing how much practice and reliability you have in your field, you might have to move forward into degree programs that can lead to licensure. A license is often required in fields that provide direct practice to the public and can be obtained through extensive educational and practical experiences.
What is Licensure?
The licensure process can look different depending on the state you live in. For the most part, students can expect to complete a minimum of a master's degree in their field and engage in 1-2 years worth of supervised internship experience prior to becoming eligible for licensure.
In order to complete the licensing process, graduates of degree programs may also be required to complete state board exams as a final step. Having a professional license can be a requirement for some counseling careers that you have in sight, making it a great factor to consider when choosing your degree program.
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Licensure for Professional Counselors
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 before starting your degree program. In order to ensure a successful journey, you must apply to an accredited degree program that contains all of the necessary elements for professionals in your field. There are certain universities and specific programs that can be more useful to you along the way, which can be differentiated through seals of approval from accreditation agencies.
Professional counselors most often choose degree programs that have been accredited by agencies like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The 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 engage in 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 requirement. Counseling licensure may require you to spend 2-3 years gaining experience under the supervision of a license professional counselor (LPC), 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 setting up your National Counselor Examination in your state. Passing this examination can be your final step towards becoming a LPC and beginning your work in the field.
Counseling Degree Programs Fitting for LPCs
One of the many reasons that so many students choose to pursue the LPC path for their career is that it is incredibly versatile in the overall field of counseling. Receiving your national certification and licensure as a LPC can set you on track for 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 degree options for individuals pursuing their LPC license. 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.
- Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: One of the most popular degree programs for upcoming LPCs is the online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This degree program can prepare learners for working in the public within individuals that have specific needs based on their family history, diagnoses, or deliverance 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: Upcoming LPCs that have an interest in catering to families or groups in their practice can do so through engaging in online degree programs focusing on group or family counseling. These types of programs can be found at several universities all across the United States and can provide learners with the competencies needed to help people work through difficulties with relationships in their personal lives. There are a large number of online programs that have received accreditation from the CACREP – leading to licensure.
- Online Master’s in Counseling – Youth, Adolescent, or Geriatrics: If your work experience or personal preference is geared towards a particular age group, you might benefit from seeking out online master’s programs that focus on your preferred age group. Degree and certification programs can be found in the online setting, providing you with 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.
Counseling Certification Paths
As a LPC, you can choose to work with clients in the mental health setting, in schools, or even in private practice. Having this type of licensure can leave you free to pursue career options that match your personality and your personal desires. Another component of the field of counseling that draws in a high number of students each year is that there are certification options 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 LPC learners, 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
Career Options for a LPC
Once you have decided to pursue your license as a LPC, you can create an ideal educational scenario for you to follow to meet your goals. One way of effectively planning for your educational future is through researching your intended career field and finding programs that would be most suitable for obtaining your license. Some of the most popular career fields for licensed counselors can be found in common fields in society, some of which are located within most cities all over the U.S. Upcoming LPC learners that wish to learn more about potential career options as LPCs should read through the helpful career guide provided by our team of educational experts below.
LPCs can be a great addition to many different mental health teams all over the country. Depending on your interests and the types of experience and skills you hold, you might be a better fit for specific fields providing mental health care to the public. In the first section, our team outlines some of the most popular fields for LPCs to be a part of. Read more to see if any of these fields would be a great fit for you.
- Mental Health: Mental health clinics, contracting agencies, and private practice are some of the most popular subfields to consider for working in this area. This is the largest platform for LPCs to extend their services, and can be found in small and large cities providing mental health services to the public. In this setting, you could provided one-on-one services to clients in need or even lead group therapy when needed to solve common mental health issues.
- Healthcare: Many things can take place in a medical setting. People can experience grief associated with the death of a family member or even grief associated with 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 in a minute’s notice. Professionals in this field can also operate out of a hospital but provide counseling to a wide variety of people in need.
- Education: Students going through normal lifestyle and educational changes 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 work through issues associated with their personal lives or school, while developing prevention and awareness programs and collegiate planning exercises for the students in your care.
Furthering your education and experience by receiving certifications as a LPC can also lead you into different job titles during and throughout your career. Some of the most common specific career options for professional counselors can be found in different organizations in your current area. If you would like to read through some of the most common career options for people that have received licensure as LPCs, check out the list below.
- 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