Becoming a Counselor in Virginia
In Virginia, you need a master's degree to be licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor, substance abuse counselor, or school counselor. LPCs and substance abuse counselors are credentialed by the Virginia Board of Counseling, school counselors by the Board of Education.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
It’s not too early to get started! Here are some tips.
If you are a High School Student or hold your diploma/GED in Virginia:
You should have some experience in human services, at least in a volunteer capacity. You might look into Mental Health America of Virginia or the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Virginia. You could also opt to help adults develop basic English literacy skills through the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. You may find more opportunities on your city’s web page or through your school.
Your undergraduate degree can be any area. You might opt for a human services major if you plan on getting a lot of paid experience before going on to graduate school. An undergraduate Psychology degree is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling as well. Substance abuse counseling positions in agency settings may go to individuals with less than a master's degree. Organizations may prefer candidates with a bachelor's in psychology or social work (as well as field specific training). Learn more about your undergraduate counseling program options here.
Rehabilitation positions could be another option. Virginia requires a baccalaureate for certification as a rehabilitation professional.
Whatever you select, strive for a GPA of 3.0 or higher. This may be especially important in the last 60 semester hours of your program.
If you currently hold a 4-year Degree:
Ready for graduate school? There are many program options, including some that will prepare you for dual licensing.
Request application materials well in advance. You may have the option of completing a few courses before formal admission -- this depends on the policies of the particular institution.
If you are interested in professional counseling, enroll in a program that is accredited by CACREP or CORE or that meets all Virginia's specific coursework requirements. You must have 600 hours of internship within your program.
Substance abuse graduate counseling programs must also be 60 semester hours. Many of the required competencies are similar to those required for the professional counseling license. The Virginia Board requires 12 hours of coursework in areas specific to substance abuse counseling. Your program must include at least 600 hours of internship, at least 450 in substance abuse.
Interested in school counseling? Your school counseling program must include practicum experiences of at least 100 hours each in Prek-6 and 7-12 settings.
You will have the option of becoming a student member of organizations like the Virginia Counselors Association or the Virginia Association of Clinical Counselors. On the VACC site, you can find resources like links to supervisors and mentors.
If you do your degree in substance abuse counseling or professional counseling, you will need to meet supervised work experience requirements after earning your master’s. You will be providing counseling services and drawing a paycheck, but you will be classified as a resident.
You will have a clinical supervisor who oversees your work, consults with you at regular intervals, and provides documentation to the Board. Once you have made arrangements, you will register your supervision with the Board. (At this time, you will submit documents like transcripts and internship verification.)
You will need a total of 4,000 hours of supervised experience, but you may count internship hours that you completed as part of your degree program. If your program was accredited by CACREP or CORE, up to 900 may be counted. Otherwise, up to 600 may be counted.
If you are a school counselor, and you don't have experience as a teacher, you will begin work under a provisional license.