Becoming a Counselor in Colorado
Colorado licenses master's level counselors in several disciplines. If you want to be licensed as a professional counselor, you will go through the State Board of Licensed Professional Counselors. If you seek a school counselor license, you will go through the Colorado Department of Education. The State Board of Addiction Counselors Examiners, meanwhile, grants certifications and licenses to addictions counselors.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
If you are a High School Student or High School Graduate in Colorado:
You have a lot of choices as an undergraduate. You do not have to select any particular major. However, it's a plus, when it comes time to apply for graduate school, if your references and personal statement clearly reflect a commitment to the counseling profession. You may have an easier time getting internships or employment with some majors than others. Check out undergraduate counseling and related programs here.
If you are fairly sure you want to go into addictions counseling, you may want to pursue a degree in behavioral health sciences. You can be certified in addictions counseling without a degree, but higher levels of certification/ licensing do require one; the highest level requires a master's. (If you don't follow the specific guidelines of the State Board of Addiction Counselors Examiners, you will still be able to counsel individuals with addictions, but you won't be known as a Licensed Addictions Counselor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Licensed Professional Counselor credential is a very versatile and desirable one.)
An undergraduate degree in Psychology is a common route for students interested in later pursuing graduate studies in counseling.
Whatever your major, you should maintain a solid GPA to be competitive for graduate programs.
If You Have a College Degree/Bachelor's Degree
Begin researching requirements early. That way, you'll have an idea if you're already a strong candidate or if should pursue more experience (paid or volunteer).
If you are pursuing licensure as a school counselor, you will need to enroll in a master's program with a practicum.
If you are interested in a professional counseling license, you should enroll in a program that is CACREP-accredited or substantially equivalent. Colorado requires that programs be at least 48 semester hours in length. The actual length will depending partly on the discipline (for example, mental health, rehabilitation, or addictions). CACREP has set a 60 hour minimum for some counseling specialties while others can be accredited with 48.
If you are pursuing licensing as an LAC only, you must enroll in a master’s program in a behavior science field. This could include one of several branches of counseling; it could also include other related fields. Find more detailed LPC & LAC requirements here.
After you have completed your educational requirements, you will take one or more exams. As a school counselor, you must take the Colorado PLACE: School Counselor (unless you have three years counseling experience in another jurisdiction).
If you are pursuing licensure as a professional counselor, you will take the National Counselor Examination. You will also take the Colorado jurisprudence exam, but this is a very brief step – it’s online and downloadable.
As you near completion of LPC educational requirements, you will decide whether to take a position and begin working under supervision or continue for a doctorate. Either way, you will need to work under supervision for a specified time period before you can attain professional level licensing. The requirement is 2,000 hours of post-master's experience or 1,000 hours of post-doctoral experience.
Licensure as a school counselor does not require experience beyond the practicum. LAC licensure may or may not – candidates who have been working in the substance abuse field with a lower level of credentialing may have accumulated the needed experience.
School counselors must have fingerprints processed. (If you are already an educator, though, chances are these will be on file.)
Counselor Credentialing Agencies in Colorado
State Board of Addiction Counselors Examiners (Opens a PDF Document)