Professional counselor licenses attest that an individual has met the minimum requirements set forth by the governing entity of a given state to practice as a licensed professional counselor. Individuals who hold a professional counselor license are mental health professionals who are licensed at the state level. To earn an independent license to practice as a professional counselor, one must meet the standards established by the state’s licensure laws and regulations. Obtaining licensure requires a master’s degree in counseling; some states will accept degrees in a related field, which includes an internship and practicum, and prerequisite coursework of between 48 and 60 credits. Licensure will also require that you complete a specific number of postgraduate clinical experience hours providing both direct and indirect services, clinical licensure supervision and passage of examinations. Standards for counseling scope of practice, diagnostic authority and licensing requirements are determined by each individual state. The information provided in this FAQ provides a general overview and should not be a substitute for reviewing the specific requirement set forth by your state or territory.

  • Obtaining your professional counselor license is the next progressive step toward expanding your skills and knowledge beyond your educational degree and earns you the privilege to practice as an independent practitioner.
  • Professional counselor licensure is required by law in every state and territory in order to legally practice. As such, licensure allows professional counselors to practice legally and independently while providing mental health services.
  • Licensure represents to the public and to potential employers that you have met the minimum requirements necessary to practice in the state(s) in which you hold licensure as a professional counselor.
  • To qualify for and/or maintain employment providing mental health treatment services, counselors may be required by employers to be either licensed or licensed eligible.
  • Licensure is required for insurance reimbursement.
  • Regarding the Interstate Counseling Compact, counselors need to be licensed in their home state to have the ability to apply for a privilege to practice in other states that are also members of the compact.
  • With the recent passing of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, counselors are required to have an independent license in their state in order to be eligible to receive Medicare reimbursement when serving Medicare-eligible clients, individuals ages 65 and above and/or individuals with disabilities who are currently enrolled in the Medicare program.
  • Professional counselor licensure is one of many milestones that counselors seek to achieve in their professional development, and for many it is a step toward reaching future career goals and opportunities.

Within the United States, several different titles are used to identify professional counselors. Although the counseling profession has endorsed Licensed Professional Counselor as the recommended title, the following are the most common:

  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
  • Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
  • Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP)

Some states may also require obtaining an Associate License, which is often required for applicants who have met the education and exam requirements but have not yet met the supervised experience requirement. Examples of such titles include Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC), Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA), Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC), counselor-in-training and Clinical Resident.

Counselor licensure laws can be divided into the categories of practice acts and title acts. Title acts refer to licensure laws that restrict the use of a specific title only to those that meet education, training and examination standards. Under title acts, individuals may engage in the practice of counseling without being licensed but may not use the title of “Licensed Professional Counselor” (or related titles specified in the law). Practice acts refer to licensure laws that prohibit the practice of professional counseling without obtaining licensure. Consequently, practice acts are more strongly protective of consumers than title acts. Most states have adopted practice acts for the licensure of professional counselors.

Education requirements

  • States require applicants for licensure to obtain a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, which should include an internship, practicum and specific prerequisite coursework. Most states require individuals to complete 60 semester hours of graduate study; some states require only 48 hours. All states require that counseling graduate programs be accredited either by a counseling-specific accrediting organization or by a regional graduate education accrediting body.
  • The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is an independent agency, recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which accredits master’s degree programs in mental health counseling and other counseling specialties. Many states require that licensure applicants’ counseling graduate degrees include a curriculum based on the CACREP model, even if full accreditation by CACREP is not required. CACREP-accredited counseling programs require coursework in eight core areas and a supervised practicum and internship. States requiring a CACREP-accredited master’s degree include Florida (beginning July 1, 2025), Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio.
  • The Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), a specialty accrediting organization, merged with CACREP in 2017. CACREP has continued to fulfill the mission and vision of CORE through its accreditation process, which includes the review of graduate-level rehabilitation counselor education programs. The 2016 CACREP Standards include requirements for rehabilitation counseling programs.
  • The Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPAC) accredits counseling and psychology master’s degree programs in regionally accredited colleges and universities. It is recognized by CHEA.

Experience requirements


  • Applicants for licensure are required to obtain a minimum amount of supervised experience prior to being licensed. Typically, states require individuals to accumulate between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of supervised experience within a certain time period, including a specific number of face-to-face supervision hours. Several states have established more than one level of licensure for counselors in order to establish formal criteria both for full independent practice and for counseling graduates in the process of accumulating supervision hours.

Supervision requirements

  • Applicants for licensure will also need to practice under the supervision of a licensed mental health provider who has been approved by the state to practice independently and supervise unlicensed applicants. You will need to ensure that your clinical supervisor meets the requirements to provide licensure supervision for your professional counselor license and has the designated approval from the state board if required. Some states require that a portion or all your supervision hours be completed with licensed counselors. There may be specific limitations to how many hours can be obtained through group supervision. You may also be required to submit a completed and signed supervision contract before starting supervision. The requirements to provide supervision, the number of supervision hours required, and limitations to how those hours can be acquired either through group or individual supervision, a licensed counselor or a licensed provider from a different type of mental health license will vary from state to state and territory.

Examination requirements

  • National Counselor Examination (NCE): Administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), this is the most common exam used by states in the credentialing process.
  • National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE): Also administered by NBCC, this examination focuses more specifically on mental health practice and is used by several states for licensure.
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRCE): Administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), passage of this exam is also accepted in some states for meeting testing requirements for licensure.

To locate which examinations are accepted by each state, visit the NBCC State Board Directory. This information can also be found on the state board's website that you are seeking to earn licensure.

Jurisprudence examination

  • Several states require licensees to pass a jurisprudence exam testing the applicant’s knowledge of licensing board rules and operating procedures, and state laws affecting counselors’ practice. Such an exam can be particularly important for counselors licensed in other states who may have considerable professional expertise but may lack familiarity with practice guidelines and restrictions in their new state. States requiring passage of a jurisprudence exam for new licensees include California, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

States and territories have legal and regulatory authority over granting and monitoring licensure for professional counselors in their state. Professional counselors are required by law in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marina Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands to be licensed in order to legally practice as professional counselors. To protect public safety, states and territories establish licensure standards, and have licensure boards whose responsibilities include issuing licenses and monitoring complaints. Licensure laws establish minimum standards in the areas of education, examination, and experience. Each state has an established board responsible for issuing licenses, handling consumer and ethical complaints regarding counselors’ practice, and issuing and enforcing regulations as necessary for overseeing the profession. In some cases, a single board is responsible for overseeing the practice of counseling and one or more similar groups of professionals (e.g., clinical social workers, substance use providers, marriage and family therapists). Professional counselor license titles are determined by the state. Requirements, laws and regulations, and definitions outlining the practice of counseling and counselor licensure vary in each state and territory.

To practice in alignment with the American Counseling Association’s 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and to stay informed about best practices, new literature, and research impacting the practice of counseling, counselors seek continued education at every professional level. Most states require professional counselors to earn continuing education (CE) credits on an annual or biennial basis in order to renew their credentials. States might also require continuing education in specific content areas at renewal. For example, it is common that a portion of your renewal CE hours will need to cover ethics. The number of CE units required for renewal will vary by state and can be located by reviewing the specific licensure renewal requirements of the state in which you are licensed and will be renewed. There may also be specific limitations to how many CE units you can receive online as live instruction may be a requirement for some or all the units earned. A renewal fee is also required, usually when you attest to having completed the CE requirements to maintain your licensure credential.

Specific requirements for state licensure are available online via the state counseling board’s website, the state’s licensure regulations for professional counselors and/or the state’s legislative statutes for professional counselor licensure. To make this easier for you to locate, some information on state licensure can be found on the ACA website in the licensure section for each state and territory.

Governmentally sanctioned credentialing is usually called licensure and is based on the legal concept of the regulatory power of the state. This power holds that the state has the right and obligation to pass laws and take other such actions as it may deem necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Passage of a state licensure or credentialing law for a given profession restricts or prohibits the practice of that profession by individuals not meeting state-determined qualification standards, and violators may be subject to legal sanctions such as fines, loss of license to practice or imprisonment.

In addition to obtaining a state-issued license, some professional counselors seek to expand their knowledge and skills by obtaining a voluntary certification. Certification is not a requirement and does not grant legal authority to practice as a professional counselor as it is separate from state laws and regulatory boards granting professional licensure. Certification is strictly voluntary and does not guarantee the effectiveness of one’s skills or grant the ability to practice independently. Certifications are granted by independent professional certification organizations that usually provide certification to various mental health providers including professional counselors, social workers, psychologists and marriage and family therapists.

Voluntary certification from an independent professional certification organization is one way counselors may wish to establish recognition for meeting the minimum standards of additional education and supervised clinical experience as set by the organization that hosts the specialization certification. This certification attests to the fact that the holder of the certification has met the standards of the credentialing organization and is therefore entitled to make the public aware of this as further documentation of their professional competence. This certification is not a practice credential but rather a professional credential in that it does not give the holder permission to practice as a professional counselor. That permission is given only by the governmentally sanctioned entity, which is the state licensure board.

Professional counselors may claim to be specialized in one or more areas of practice in which they serve clients. Section C, Professional Responsibility, of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics speaks to various aspects of standards of practice. Counselors acknowledge the boundaries of their competence by only practicing within the areas in which they have received an education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience (American Counseling Association, 2014, Standard C.2.a.). Counselors are responsible for seeking appropriate education, training and supervised experience in the areas of new specialty (American Counseling Association, 2014, Standard C.2.b.). In protecting clients from the risks of harm, it is important to have competence in the areas in which you serve. Our ethics also require that we represent our qualifications truthfully and accurately (American Counseling Association, 2014, Standard C.4.a). In accordance with our professional counselor ethics, we only claim licenses and certifications that are current and in good standing (American Counseling Association, 2014, Standard C.4.b.).

Counselors are mandated by local, state and federal laws and regulations to uphold standards of practices pertaining to ethics, client welfare, confidentiality, client safety, mandated reporting, documentation security and record keeping, and best practices. Counselors are mandated by law to report any incidents of suspected child or elder abuse. In addition to the local, state and federal laws, the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics provides counselors with guidance on fundamental principles of professional ethical behaviors. The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics outline standards for ethical behaviors and professional responsibilities for counselors. When faced with an ethical dilemma, counselors carefully consider their decisions by utilizing a credible ethical decision-making process, consulting and using available resources as needed (American Counseling Association, 2014).

Laws, definitions and regulations governing the practice of professional counseling vary by state and territory. Scope of practice refers to the defined services and actions that a professionally licensed counselor has legal permission to perform as determined by the state’s laws, definitions and regulations. Each state jurisdiction and territory will have specific interventions and services outlined in the scope of practice for individuals who have met the requirements to practice as professionally licensed counselors. Some examples of what might be described in counseling scope of practices include diagnostic authority; treatment planning and implementation; assessment; and counseling strategies and interventions to reduce mental, emotional or behavioral concerns. Scope of practice helps to protect the well-being and safety of clients by defining the professional boundaries within which counselors are expected to perform.


In a few cases, states grant full recognition to counselors licensed by specific other states they deem to have adequately stringent licensure standards, and each state may recognize the other’s credentials. Only a handful of states have reciprocity agreements that automatically recognize other states’ credentials.



Some states have established an abbreviated licensure application process for individuals who have obtained licensure in another state. Licensure by endorsement typically requires the following:

  • Licensure earned in another jurisdiction must meet substantially equivalent requirements in the practitioner’s current state.
  • Licenses obtained in another state must be in good standing, with no unresolved legal or ethical issues.
  • Exam scores earned earlier in obtaining licensure in a different state must meet the current state’s passing score.

State jurisprudence exams are usually not waived and must be successfully completed. Applicants for licensure by endorsement are often required to pay additional fees to cover the costs involved in obtaining and verifying paperwork from out of the state.


Find additional information on the Counseling Compact, state licensure boards, ACA divisions, counselor associations and accreditation organizations is provided throughout our website.

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Additional information on the Counseling Compact, state licensure boards, ACA divisions, counselor associations and accreditation organizations is provided below. When possible, links are provided to supplement what has been gathered in this document.


In January 2019, the American Counseling Association signed a contract with the National Center for Interstate Compacts (NCIC), which is part of the Council of State Governments, to facilitate the development and implementation of an interstate compact for licensure portability. Ten states needed to enact the legislation, and a commission would be created to oversee the facilitation of interstate practice. Through the compact, counselors who hold an unencumbered license to practice independently in a home state can seek a privilege to practice in one or more other states; this includes the provision of services via telehealth. Additionally, the compact will facilitate the process for counselors to obtain a license in a new state when they move and will allow military spouses to practice in any compact state using their home state license. 

The Counseling Compact is a top priority for ACA. The first Counseling Compact Commission meeting occurred on October 25, 2022. On October 26, 2022, during the second day of this inaugural meeting of the Counseling Compact Commission, ACA was voted on and approved as an ex-officio member of the commission. This role will allow ACA to have a voice at the table and help provide the commission’s voting members with the resources they require to make decisions to support the member states of the commission. Find more updates on the status of the other states’ progress with enacting legislation to participate in the Counseling Compact and information on frequently asked questions


State boards and state associations offer specific information and guidance related to their state. We encourage membership and participation in ACA state associations and branches.


Association for Adult Development and Aging (AADA)
Chartered in 1986, AADA serves as a focal point for information sharing, professional development, and advocacy related to adult development and aging issues; addresses counseling concerns across the lifespan.

  •  2023-2024 President: Matthew L. Nice
  •  2023-2024: President-Elect: Janelle Jones 
  •  2023-2024 Past President: Adrianne Trogden

Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC)
Originally the Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance, AARC was chartered in 1965. The vision of AARC is to recognize and advance excellence in assessment and research in the counseling profession.

  •  2023-2024 President: Stephanie Crockett
  •  2023-2024 President-Elect: Ching-Chen Chen
  •  2023-2024 Past President: Madeline Clark

Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC)
Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling aims to focus on the training needs of counselors who work with children and adolescents, while also providing professional support to those counselors, whether they are school counselors, play therapists, or counselor educators.

  •  2023-2024 President: Sean J. Nixon
  •  2023-2024 President-Elect: Hayley Stulmaker
  •  2023-2024 Past President: Rachel Jacoby

Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC)
The Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC) is a forum for counselors, counselor educators, creative arts therapists and counselors in training to explore unique and diverse approaches to counseling. ACC's goal is to promote greater awareness, advocacy, and understanding of diverse and creative approaches to counseling.

  • 2022-2024 President: LoriAnn Stretch
  • 2022-2024 President-Elect: Patricia L. Kimball 
  • 2022-2024 Past President: Edward Hudspeth

American College Counseling Association (ACCA)
ACCA is one of the newest divisions of the American Counseling Association. Chartered in 1991, the focus of ACCA is to foster student development in colleges, universities, and community colleges.

  •  2023-2024 President: Rudy Wayne Strother
  •  2023-2024 President-Elect:  Amy Broadwater
  •  2023-2024 Past President: Rebecca Smith

Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES)
Originally the National Association of Guidance and Counselor Trainers, ACES was a founding association of ACA in 1952. ACES emphasizes the need for quality education and supervision of counselors for all work settings.

  •  2023-2024 President: Margaret Ryan Lamar
  •  2023-2024 President-Elect: Cassandra Storlie
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Natoya Haskins |  Executive Director: Kelly Duncan   

Association for Humanistic Counseling (AHC)
AHC, formerly C-AHEAD, a founding association of ACA in 1952, provides a forum for the exchange of information about humanistically-oriented counseling practices and promotes changes that reflect the growing body of knowledge about humanistic principles applied to human development and potential.

  •  2023-2024 President: Kevin Doyle
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Caroline Perjessy
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Alfredo Palacios

Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD)
Originally the Association of Non-White Concerns in Personnel and Guidance, AMCD was chartered in 1972. AMCD strives to improve cultural, ethnic and racial empathy and understanding by programs to advance and sustain personal growth.

  •  2023-2024 President: Asha Dickerson
  •  2023-2024 President-Elect: Ann Shillingford
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Angela Coker

American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA)
ARCA is an organization of rehabilitation counseling practitioners, educators, and students who are concerned with enhancing the development of people with disabilities throughout their life span and in promoting excellence in the rehabilitation counseling profession's practice, research, consultation, and professional development.

  • 2023-2024 President: Daniel Balva
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Paige Dunlap
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Valerie Dixon

Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC)
Originally the National Catholic Guidance Conference, ASERVIC was chartered in 1974. ASERVIC is devoted to professionals who believe that spiritual, ethical, religious, and other human values are essential to the full development of the person and to the discipline of counseling.

  • 2023-2024 President: Hannah Barnhill Bayne
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Janee Avent Harris
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Jesse Fox

Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW)
Chartered in 1973, ASGW provides professional leadership in the field of group work, establishes standards for professional training, and supports research and the dissemination of knowledge.

  • 2023-2024 President: Julia Champe
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Kendra Jackson
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Kathy Ybanz-Llorente

Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ)
CSJ is a community of counselors, counselor educators, graduate students, and school and community leaders who seek equity and an end to oppression and injustice affecting clients, students, counselors, families, communities, schools, workplaces, governments, and other social and institutional systems.

  • 2023-2024 President: Shon D. Smith
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Chiquita Holmes
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Ebony White

International Association for Resilience and Trauma Counseling (IARTC)
The mission of IARTC is to enhance the quality of life for people and communities worldwide by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing ACA, the counseling profession, and the ethical practice of counseling through trauma-informed practices, respect for human dignity, cultural inclusivity, and resilience.

  • 2023-2024 President: Lisa Lopez Levers
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Matthew Walsh
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Peggy Mayfield

International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC)
Originally the Public Offender Counselor Association, IAAOC was chartered in 1972. Members of IAAOC advocate the development of effective counseling and rehabilitation programs for people with substance abuse problems, other addictions, and adult and/or juvenile public offenders.

  • 2023-2024 President: Rochelle Cade
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Dilani Perera
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Melanie Iarussi

International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC)
Chartered in 1989, IAMFC members help develop healthy family systems through prevention, education, and therapy.

  • 2022-2024 President: Martina S. Moore
  • 2022-2024 President-Elect: TBD
  • 2022-2024 Past President: Rebecca Lynn Pender Baum |  Executive Director: 

Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA) formerly ACEG
Initially known as the Military Educators and Counselors Association, MGCA was chartered in 1984. MGCA is dedicated to counseling clients and their families in local, state, and federal government or in military-related agencies.

  • 2023-2024 President: Edward Hudspeth
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Elizabeth Burgin
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Danette Berksteiner

National Career Development Association (NCDA)
Originally the National Vocational Guidance Association, NCDA was one of the founding associations of ACA in 1952. NCDA provides professional development, connection, publications, standards, and advocacy to career development professionals who inspire and empower individuals to achieve their career and life goals.

  • 2023-2024 President:  Carolyn Jones
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect:  Marty Apodaca
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Lakeisha Matthews |    Executive Director: Deneen Pennington
         *NCDA term of office is October 1 - September 30

National Employment Counseling Association (NECA)
NECA was chartered in 1966 as the National Employment Counselors Association. NECA is committed to offering professional leadership to people who counsel in employment and/or career development settings.

  • 2023-2024 President: Joseph F. Parks, Sr. 
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: TBD
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Melanie Drake Wallace
         Executive Director of Strategic Leadership, Professional Development, and e-News: Kay Brawley

Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)
Formerly Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC)
Educates counselors to the unique needs of client identity development; and a non-threatening counseling environment by aiding in the reduction of stereotypical thinking and homoprejudice.

  • 2023-2024 President: Robert McKinney
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Stacy Pinto
  • 2023-2024 Past President: Tamekia Bell


Association of Counseling Sexology and Sexual Wellness (ACSSW)
The mission of ACSSW is to promote sexuality as a central aspect of being human that includes the intersection of interpersonal and intrapersonal influences on sexual expression and identities inclusive of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender and gender expression, physical and mental health and abilities, and socioeconomic status.

  • 2023-2024 President: Shannon Shoemaker
  • 2023-2024 President-Elect: Laurie Bonjo
  • 2023-2024  Past President: Francis McClain


International Branches


  • Association of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness (ACSSW) 
    The mission of ACSSW is to promote sexuality as a central aspect of being human that includes the intersection of interpersonal and intrapersonal influences on sexual expression and identities inclusive of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender and gender expression, physical and mental health and abilities, and socioeconomic status. 






In addition to the following references, some information provided in this document was obtained through the summary of a survey of the most current licensure requirements outlined on state licensure board websites.