Becoming a Counselor in Washington DC

In the District of Columbia, school counselors are credentialed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Other counselors, referred to as professional counselors, are licensed by the Board of Professional Counseling. Both require education at the master’s level.

CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:

Think you might want to enter the profession? Here are some tips.


If you are a High School Student or hold a diploma/GED in DC:

Step 1:

Look ahead to see graduate school requirements. There may be specific prerequisites. Some programs require you to have a degree in a related field like psychology, social work, or education. This is more likely to occur with very specialized, competitive programs. Most programs do leave the choice of major open. Learn more about choosing an undergraduate counseling degree here.

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

Your undergraduate major is especially important if you are going into school counseling. The District of Columbia has an experience requirement for school counselors, though part of the requirement may be met through related experiences outside classroom teaching.

Step 2:

You’ll want to get at least a little experience in the field regardless of which branch of counseling you go into. You can search for volunteer opportunities on the site of HandsOn Greater DC Cares.

You currently have your Bachelor’s degree:

Step 1:

Begin preparing for the application process. You may be asked to write one or more essays. Letters of recommendation are a standard requirement. You may also be required to take the MAT or GRE.

It is possible to earn a pre-master's counseling certificate if you aren’t quite ready to apply to the master’s program.

Step 2:

Apply to an accredited master's degree program that fulfills state requirements. The Board requires professional counselors to have 60 total semester hours of graduate work; this must include a practicum or internship and coursework in ten mandated content areas.

The most traditional way to meet this requirement is to enroll in a 60 semester hour mental health counseling program. However, the Board may, at its discretion, accept coursework in psychology, creative arts therapy, or other human and behavioral science fields. Programs in rehabilitation counseling are often shorter than 60 semester hours, but may be applied to license requirements.

There are quite a few options in the greater DC metropolitan region. One school in DC even has a counseling program that includes a specific focus on deaf and hearing impaired populations.

If you are a prospective school counselor, you will enroll in an accredited program that includes at least 300 hours of practicum. If your program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), you can be assured of meeting experience requirements. Programs for school counselors are typically 48 semester hours, though some may be longer.

Step 3:

Licensure as a professional counselor requires a period of supervised work. You may begin once you've completed master's degree requirements. (If you're still enrolled as a student in a doctoral or other post-master program, that's fine.)

You will accrue 3,500 hours over a two to five year time period. (In some instances, the Board may extend the time period.)

You will need to meet supervision requirements set by the Board. Your supervisor will need to rate you at least satisfactory.

Step 4:

You will need to take a licensing examination to be credentialed as a professional counselor. Typically, DC counselors take the National Counselor Examination. The Commission for Certified Rehabilitation Counselors’ certification examination is also accepted. So is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, but counselors don’t generally take it before the NCC unless they are applying for licensure in a jurisdiction where it has been adopted as the licensing exam.

* Explore more detailed Counselor licensure information for the District of Columbia here.

Counselor Licensing & Certification Agencies in DC:

Board of Professional Counseling

Office of the State Superintendent of Education – School Service Personnel

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

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