Becoming a Counselor in Montana
You will need a master's degree to work as either a school counselor or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Montana.
Your goal as an undergraduate (besides good grades) is to get enough experience that you feel confident that the profession is right for you – and that you are able to convince the admission committee.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
High School Student or Hold a Diploma/GED:
Choose any major you’re interested in, but do look ahead to see what your counseling prerequisites will be. You may be expected to have coursework in human development and statistics. Montana State University notes that psychology and education are common pre-counseling majors but that a wide variety of majors are acceptable. Learn more about undergraduate programs for counseling here.
You will have an easier time getting admitted to graduate school if you maintain a 3.0 or better.
Make sure you've got a good sense of what counseling is about and what strengths you have to offer. Schools typically ask you to write about your formative experiences in an application essay. It's a good idea to seek volunteer or paid experience in the field. Mental Health America of Montana has a list of mental health service organizations on their website.
Begin the application process. You will need to get reference letters from professors and/ or supervisors from employment or volunteer experience.
If you Currently Hold a Bachelor’s Degree:
If you plan to become a clinical professional counselor, you should enroll in a 60 semester hour program that is housed in a regionally accredited institution. Learn more about Master’s in Counseling programs here.
If you are interested in school counseling, you should enroll in a K-12 master's program that includes a 600 hour internship experience. School counselors are not subject to the 60 semester hour minimum, but some candidates choose to do the extra hours so they can simultaneously achieve LCPC status -- this means taking additional classes like mental health diagnosis and mental health methods. A clinical practicum will also be required. Subjects like human development and career development are common to CACREP-accredited counseling programs whether they are in mental health or guidance counseling.
As a prospective LCPC, you have a 3,000 hour work experience requirement. You may begin fulfilling the requirement while you're still a student. You can count university-coordinated work experiences as well as the required practicum and internship.
You may want to join the Montana Counseling Association or the Montana School Counselor Association at this stage. Professional membership is not a requirement for licensure, but it can help you make a smooth transition into the professional world.
If you are seeking the LCPC credential, you will need to accrue at least 1,500 hours of experience post-degree. 1,000 of these hours must be face-to-face in a clinical setting. Hours earned in a school setting can count toward the total requirement, but they will not meet your clinical requirement.
Volunteer experience can count toward your total if you receive clinical supervision that meets standards set by the Board.
You will also need to take a licensing exam before you can be granted LCPC status. You may opt for the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The latter is a mental health specialty counseling exam.
If you are seeking school counseling credentialing only, you will not be required to take a licensing exam.
Licensure through either agency requires a background check. The clinical license also requires nomination letters. You can find application materials on the site of your respective board.