Becoming a Counselor in Minnesota

In 2012, the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy revised the language in the licensing regulations and make some small changes to the requirements for professional counselors and addictions counselors. However, most things remain the same: It takes a lot of education to become a counselor.

There are two levels of licensing for Minnesota’s professional counselors, but both require a master's. School counseling is licensed by a separate agency but also requires a graduate degree.

A person can be licensed as an addiction counselor (LADC) with only a bachelor's. (It is common for states to certify or license counselors with less education to work in a limited scope with addictions patients.)

CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:

Interested in becoming a counselor? Here are guidelines to get you started.

learning tree

If you are a High School Student or have a diploma / GED in Minnesota:

Step 1:

If you are planning on taking your education to the graduate level, you have a choice of majors at the undergraduate level. Do look ahead to see if there are special programs that interest you; know what prerequisites they ask. You will find a lot of in-state programs, including traditional CACREP-accredited ones and ones with special focuses like art therapy. Learn more about undergraduate counseling and related degree programs here.

A grade point average of 3.0 or higher is an advantage when applying to graduate programs.

A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.

Step 2:

Look for opportunities to gain volunteer or paid experience. The Mental Health Association of Minnesota seeks volunteers and interns to serve as advocates. Hennepin County looks for volunteers to be companions and support persons for individuals with mental illness through its Volunteer and Community Partnership Program.

If you have a family member with mental illness, you can also seek out volunteer opportunities with NAMI Minnesota.

Graduate counseling schools typically ask for three academic or professional references. If you stick with a volunteer position for an extended period of time, your supervisor may be a good reference.

If you have a Bachelor’s Degree:

Step 1:

Find a program that’s right for you and begin the application process early. Interested in working as a school counselor? You may enroll in a program that's board approved or CACREP-accredited. Check out options for master’s in counseling programs here.

Interested in working with the general population? There are a lot of options. Some programs will eventually qualify you for an LPCC license (the highest level) while others are preparation for LPC only. Clinical counselors diagnose and treat mental illness. You won't necessarily be expected to have this to work in some settings -- to work as a college counselor, for example. It can be a big advantage in a mental health setting. According Adler College, Minnesota's LPCs are generally not reimbursable for insurance purposes.

Counselors at both levels must have coursework in the core areas set by the Minnesota Board. Counselors at the clinical level have additional requirements like diagnostic assessment and clinical intervention. The higher level of license requires 24 units of coursework in addition to core requirements.

Step 2:

Complete coursework and clinical requirements. You can expect at least 700 hours of combined practicum and internship in a professional counseling program.

Step 3:

Professional counselors must fulfill a supervised practice requirement. Here LPC and LPCC pathways diverge again. You are eligible for the LPC license after completing 2,000 hours of supervised practice. For the LPCC license, you need 4,000. Experience and supervision must be documented as outlined on the Board site.

*Find more detailed information on counselor licensure in Minnesota here.

Step 4:

The Board currently accepts one exam for the clinical license: the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. Several examinations are accepted for the LPC license. These include the National Counselor Examination and the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination. School counselors are not required to take a licensing exam.

Step 5:

The application process itself can be lengthy process. Allow time to get a passport photo.

Counselor Licensing and Certification Agencies in Minnesota:

Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy

Minnesota Department of Education

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

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