School Counselor Licensure in Montana

Montana school counselors are licensed by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Licensure is based on graduate education and on demonstration of good character. Montana does not currently mandate a content examination for school counselors.

School counseling is considered an educational specialist license; the credential is valid from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Candidates who have met all requirements are issued five-year Class 6 specialist licenses. Those who have yet to meet some requirements may be issued nonrenewable three-year Class 5 alternative licenses.

Candidates should be aware that the state has made changes in educational requirements; new rules were adopted in 2014 and go into effect in the summer of 2015.

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Educational Requirements: Class 6 Specialist License

Effective July 1, 2015, school counselors will need a degree in school counseling. There must be a 600 hour internship. A program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is accepted as meeting coursework requirements. Programs that are not CACREP-accredited must be housed in regionally accredited institutions. An applicant from a non-CACREP program will need to submit a recommendation from a program official.

CACREP-accredited school counseling programs include 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship; total program length is a minimum 48 semester hours. The CACREP website includes a directory of accredited programs (http://www.cacrep.org/directory/).

The Department of Public Instruction publishes information about approved in-state programs (http://opi.mt.gov/Class6SpecSC).

Requirements are described in 10.57.435 of administrative rules of Montana. For individuals applying under earlier (2009) regulations, program-level accreditation is not specified. The requirement is for a master's degree in school counseling or a master's degree in another field with additional coursework to establish equivalency. The Department did mandate that the program include 600 hours of internship.

Educational Requirements: Class 5 Alternative License

Effective July 1, 2015, a candidate who holds a bachelor's degree and is within four courses of meeting the graduate level requirements specified in state administrative rules can be issued a Level 5 license.

Prior rules specify that a candidate hold a master's degree and be within four courses of meeting the educational requirements specified in the 2009 edition of state code.

The recommending institution will note that the applicant is within four courses of meeting requirements and will list remaining coursework.

Background Check Requirement

Montana requires fingerprint-based background checks. Some candidates will have had fingerprints made by a Montana university or school district in the two years prior to licensure. These candidates will not have to have them made again provided that they make a request that the institution share the results with the licensing agency.

Candidates who need to have fingerprints made are advised to go to a local law enforcement agency prior to application. The agency may capture fingerprints in the traditional manner or through livescan. Fingerprint cards are made available to law enforcement agencies at no charge.

The application form includes a visual of a fingerprint card showing the required information (for example, ORI and reason for fingerprinting); additional fields that must be filled out are highlighted.

The completed fingerprint card is to be mailed to the Montana Department of Justice at the following address:

Montana Department of Justice
PO Box 201403
Helena, MT 59620-1403

There is a $27.25 fee for the criminal background check.

The Application Process

There are now two ways to apply for a Montana school counseling license. Applicants can download the school counselor application package from the Department of Public Instruction website (http://opi.mt.gov/TeachingandSpecialist-Certificates).

The prospective counselor will need a recommendation from the preparing institution.

The Department requires both bachelor's and master's level transcripts. They may be included in the application package or requested directly from the university. They do not need to be in sealed envelopes, but do need to be official copies.

The application form includes questions about professional and legal history. Candidates who hold licenses or certificates in any profession are required to provide the name of the jurisdiction as well as the license type and license number. Those who have had criminal convictions or entered into pretrial diversion or who have had actions against licenses or allegations of misconduct must provide detailed information; the Department will require date, location, and circumstances.

The fee for the Class 6 license is $36. The fee for the Class 5 license is $24.

The application form is to be notarized. Application materials are to be sent to the following address:

Montana Office of Public Instruction
Attn: Educator Licensure
P.O. Box 202501
Helena, MT 59620-2501

The applicant will receive a postcard verifying that application has been made. In some cases, the postcard may be accepted for hiring purposes. Turnaround times vary. The Department cites four to six weeks as the average processing time between April and September.

Applicants now have the option of submitting their applications online.

Out-of-State School Counselors

School counselors who hold current credentialing in other states may be excused from providing institutional recommendation. In some cases, however, the Department of Public Instruction may notify the applicant that the information is required.

Additional Information

School counselor licensure information is available on the website of the Montana Department of Public Instruction (http://opi.mt.gov/Class6SpecSC). Licensing rules can be found in Chapter 57 of state administrative code (http://opi.mt.gov/Class6SpecSC). Certification can be reached by email at 'cert at mt.gov' or by telephone at 406-444-0743. Office hours are 8:00 to 5:00 Mountain Time.

The Montana School Counselor Association is the state division of the American School Counselor Association. The organization does not issue licenses but is an additional professional resource (http://www.mtschoolcounselor.org/).

You may also be interested in the Montana Counselor license requirements.

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