Becoming a Counselor in Alabama
In Alabama, credentialing as a Licensed Professional Counselor requires a degree at the master’s level or higher. Becoming a school counselor in Alabama also requires graduate level education.
If you are interested in counseling, you can hold off on many of your career decisions until almost time for graduate school. You’ll want to lay down the foundations well in advance, however. Here are some tips to help you get started.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
If you are a High School Student or High School Graduate in Alabama
Concentrate on making solid grades as a high school student then as an undergraduate. If you’re interested in school counseling, it’s best to get a degree in education.
If you’re not interested in becoming a teacher or a school counselor, you will probably want to pursue another counseling specialty. You will have a choice of undergraduate majors, but social service majors can be an advantage because they can make it easier to gain foundational experiences. Learn more about undergraduate counseling and related degree programs here.
An undergraduate degree in Psychology is a common route for students interested in later pursuing graduate studies in counseling.
Work or volunteer experience can strengthen your application. Shelters and crisis centers will often allow you to do some counseling work on a volunteer basis. The Alabama Coalition for Domestic Violence has a list of partner organizations.
If you are a College Graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree
Research graduate programs well in advance. If you are interested in professional counseling, you should look for a program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs, the Commission on Rehabilitation Education, or another program that is deemed equivalent. CORE is the accrediting agency for programs in rehabilitation counseling. CACREP is the accrediting agency for most counseling specialties, including mental health counseling.
Your program should be at least 48 semester hours total. It should include a 100 hour practicum, 600 hour internship, and coursework in eight required content areas.
If you are interested in school counseling, look for master's programs that have been approved by the Alabama State Board of Education. They will include a practicum of at least 30 hours and an internship of at least 300 hours.
Fulfill admission requirements. This may entail taking the GRE or MAT. You may have the option of taking elective courses through the counseling department before formal admission.
Complete coursework and field experience requirements, earning solid grades and good references. School counselors are required to earn a grade point average of at least 3.0.
While you’re completing coursework, you may seek student membership in the Alabama Counseling Association. This is not linked to the licensing process, but can help you make connections. There are a number of divisions which correspond with counseling specialties.
Begin the paperwork process. If you are working toward professional counselor status, you will be licensed first as a Licensed Associate Counselor. You will get your application packet from the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling. Your application packet will include two references forms.
In order to achieve full licensure as an LPC, you will need to complete 3,000 hours of supervised work. If you pursue additional counseling coursework beyond your master's, you may reduce your supervised work experience requirement. You may subtract 1,000 hours for 15 semester hours or 2,000 hours for 30.
Your experience and supervision should follow rules set by the state. (You should familiarize yourself with these before seeking licensing as an associate.)
You will need to take the National Counselor Examination before you can be licensed as an LPC. This is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.
If you are a prospective school counselor, you will take a comprehensive school counselor exam.