NCC: National Certified Counselor Licensure

In the ever-growing field of counseling, you should seek out ways to set yourself apart from other recent graduates. One way that new graduates can establish themselves in the workforce is by pursuing a National Certification in Counseling, also known as an NCC license.

NCC requirements dictate that applicants must meet certain qualifications before they can undergo board testing to receive an NCC and a state license in counseling. Once you’ve achieved national counselor certification, you’ll find a wider selection of career opportunities.

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An NCC license shows potential employers your expertise in the field, and advanced counseling positions may be limited to licensed applicants. It’s important to note that although this certification is voluntary, it’s a highly valued credential that shows the public and potential employers that you’ve met national standards. It’s the most widespread national certification in the world, offered in three specialties: addiction, clinical mental health, and school counseling.

In order to identify yourself as a counselor and begin treating patients, you’ll need to obtain licensure from the state. Licensing requirements vary by state.

NCC Requirements

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) establishes certain requirements that applicants must meet in order to take the NCC licensing examination:

  • Education: “You must hold a master’s, education specialist/educational specialist, certificate of advanced study (CAS), or doctoral degree in counseling from either a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited degree program or a counseling program administered by a regionally accredited educational institution.”
  • Postgraduate coursework: “Master’s programs must contain a required set of courses that are typically found in most CACREP-accredited programs. The NBCC provides a complete list of required courses on their website for you to review. You must complete at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of graduate-level coursework. The NCC degree must include at least 6 semesters or 10 quarter-hours of graduate degree–related supervised field experience in counseling.”
  • Postgraduate counseling supervision: “You must document at least 100 hours of postgraduate counseling supervision over a minimum 24-month period.”
  • Work experience: “You must document having completed at least 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work experience over a minimum 24-month period.”
  • Ethics: “You must adhere to the NBCC’s Code of Ethics.”

NCC Certification Process

The licensing process can vary depending on your professional field and the state you live in. Most states have specific departments responsible for reviewing applications, processing application fees, and scheduling board examinations to finalize the licensing process.

In order to qualify for licensure in the field of counseling, you’ll be required to provide proof of completion of an accredited master’s degree program and proof of supervised work experience in a real-world setting under a licensed professional counselor (LPC), and successfully pass your state’s board examination for counseling professionals.

You must obtain a passing score on either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The NCE is a 200-item multiple-choice exam that covers all the skills and knowledge one would need in order to be an effective counselor. The NCMHCE consists of 10 clinical simulations designed to test your competencies on a broad spectrum.

Here are the types of NCC National Certified Counselor licensure:

Completing NCC license requirements and obtaining a license can pay off over the course of your career. Many counseling organizations only seek out licensed professionals to ensure that they provide the highest-caliber services to the public. Earning a license can open the door to a wide range of career options.

Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program


☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
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Counseling Degree Programs for Earning an NCC License

Students considering certification as National Certified Counselors can pursue specializations in one of three fields. The online master’s degree in counseling offers concentrations in mental health counseling, school counseling, and addiction counseling.

  • Online Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: One of the most preferred online degree programs for students seeking the NCC designation is the Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This degree program can provide students with rigorous learning and experience that can translate to hands-on intervention with patients in the field. This program may also include a field experience requirement that allow students to observe clinical practice in the field being performed by licensed and experienced counselors. If you are seeking NCC certification, this is definitely a great degree program to consider completing in the online setting.
  • Online Master's in School Counseling: The NCC also currently certifies learners that have specialized in the field of school counseling. Online Master's in School Counseling programs can help you gain skills needed for helping children of school-age manage the everyday pressures of young life, as well as assist them with planning for future careers and educational opportunities. Students interested in this path can also complete a generalized online Master's in Counseling and then additional post-master's certification programs in school counseling prior to gaining their required experience.
  • Online Master's in Addiction Counseling: Online Master's in Addiction Counseling programs can train students on methods for assessing, diagnosing, and treating people that are struggling with addiction. NCC certification for this degree program may include both graduation from an accredited program and completion of a work experience requirement prior to becoming certified. If you have a desire to help others overcome powerful addictions, this could be the online degree path for you to consider.

NCC Career Options

After meeting NCC requirements, receiving certification, and securing a state license, you’re ready to embark on a career as a counselor. These are some of the rewarding careers that NCC counselors can pursue: 

Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Nationally certified counselors working as clinical mental health counselors encounter a wide variety of clients, from children working through trauma or neglect, to adolescents diagnosed with depressive disorders, to adults seeking help with chronic anxiety. Some mental health LPCs work with people diagnosed with serious mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Common employment settings include mental health facilities, hospitals, and private practice.

School Counselor

School counselors can be significant role models for children throughout the educational system. On a daily basis, they may work with individual students coping with problems at home, help seniors plan for college, or plan school events on drug prevention and bullying awareness. 

Addiction Counselor

Professionals interested in a career that can truly change lives may pursue work in addiction counseling, helping people who’ve been hospitalized due to their addiction, families that have been displaced due to addiction, and people struggling with addiction who face criminal charges.

Clinical Services Director

One benefit of the NCC is that it can open the door to management positions. Some professionals can become leaders in their organizations, responsible for organizing and reviewing services provided to clients in the clinical setting. Clinical services directors ensure that patients receive accurate services, review quality of care, and provide leadership to counselors.

Clinical Research Specialist

Clinical research specialists conduct studies and trials to improve counseling techniques and publish their findings in counseling journals. This career focuses on advancing counseling methods and ultimately improving treatment. 

What Are Some of the Benefits of Becoming a Nationally Certified Counselor?

National counselor certification offers a number of benefits, including the following:

  • Access to employment opportunities that require licensed applicants
  • Use of the official NBCC certification mark
  • Access to publications and materials via the NBCC, such as peer-reviewed journals and research
  • Inclusion in NBCC’s Counselor Find Directory, which connects clients with board-certified counselors
  • Special offers, discounts, and initiatives only offered to National Certified Counselors

Take Your First Step to Becoming an NCC Today

Continuing your education is a big commitment, but a career as a Nationally Certified Counselor can be both personally fulfilling and life-changing for your clients. With its many fields of specialization, counseling is an exciting field with a spectrum of opportunities.

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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.


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