Becoming a Counselor in Arizona

Independent practice as a counselor in Arizona requires a graduate degree. There are multiple categories of licensure. You can begin your preparation by putting in a strong performance in the classroom and community. You will not need to choose a career track or counseling specialization, though, until much later.

CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:

learning tree

If you are a High School Student or High School Graduate

Step 1:

You have quite a bit of flexibility at the undergraduate level. Enroll in the degree program of your choice and earn solid grades. Some graduate colleges set the minimum GPA at 3.0. Having a higher one can be an advantage. Learn more about undergraduate preparation.

An undergraduate degree in Psychology is a common route for students interested in later pursuing graduate studies in counseling.

If you know you’re interested in substance abuse counseling, you might want to enroll in a behavioral science program at the undergraduate level. Arizona licenses workers with associates and baccalaureate degrees to work as substance abuse technicians or associate counselors. The highest level of licensing is reserved for those with master’s degrees.

Step 2:

Professional experiences can help you get into a graduate program. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities. Community Information & Referral, Best Buddies Arizona, and the Child Crisis Center are some organizations you might look into.

If You Have a Bachelor's Degree

Step 1:

Begin researching graduate programs. Different branches of counseling have different requirements, but some people choose dual licensing.

To become a school guidance counselor (Pre-K - 12), you will need to enroll in a graduate program in counseling. Generally, it must include a practicum. If you have three years' teaching experience or two years ‘ experience as a school counselor, you will not be required to do the practicum.

To become a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor, you will need to enroll in a behavioral services graduate program that includes 24 semester hours of counseling. (Up to three semester hours of the requirement can be completed outside the formal master’s program.)

To become a Licensed Professional Counselor, you will need a program that includes at least 60 total hours of coursework. If your degree program is accredited by CACREP or CORE, it is considered approved. If it accredited by another agency, you will need to demonstrate to the Board that it includes coursework in the 14 required content areas.

Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here.

Step 2:

If you are pursuing credentialing in school counseling only, you will not be required to take an exam. Other licenses are granted partly on the basis of examination.

Most professional counselors take the National Counselor Examination, administered by the NBCC. Rehabilitation counselors may take a certification exam through CORE.

If you are going for substance abuse credentialing, you might opt for the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/ Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse exam or the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse exam (at Lever II or higher).

Step 3:

To become an independent substance abuse counselor, you will need to work for at least 24 months under supervision and accumulate at least 3,200 hours of experience.

Full licensure as a professional counselor also requires the equivalent of two years of full-time work. If you choose to enroll in a doctoral program in counseling, though, your clinical internship may count for a year of experience. You will be licensed as an associate counselor. Your supervisor will assess your performance for licensing purposes.

Step 4:

Complete the paper work process. The Arizona Department of Education certifies school counselors. You’ll need to send a fingerprint clearance card in addition to transcripts and verification of experience. (Clearance cards issued after January 1, 2,000 must be IVP.)

If you’re in another counseling discipline, you’ll be licensed by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. You’ll need to have fingerprints made and do a self-query through the National Practitioner Data Bank Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.

AZ Credentialing Agencies and Additional Information

Licensed Professional Counselor Requirements in AZ (Application Information and Links to Forms)

Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners

Arizona Department of Education – Certification Unit (This is a PDF doc)

A Sample of Schools Offering Bachelor's and Master's Programs

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