School Counselor Certification in Alabama

Alabama school counselors are certified by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). School counseling is classified as an instructional support area with certificates issued as ‘P-12’; this means they are valid at all elementary and secondary grade levels.

Certification is based on graduate education, examination, and (in many cases) experience. There are several pathways. The traditional pathway requires educator experience while the ‘CACREP’ pathway does not. There are some differences in testing requirements between the two pathways. Both, however, result in a professional level certificate.

Experienced out-of-state school counselors may use other pathways, including National Board Certification.

In some cases, individuals who have not met all requirements will be issued preliminary or special alternative certificates.

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Traditional Pathway to Professional Certification: Educational Requirements

The traditional pathway is to complete a school counseling program that is state-approved but not necessarily accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Individuals who complete non-CACREP programs need two years of education experience to receive their professional certificates. Both teaching and instructional support experience can be credited. An out-of-state school counselor might qualify based on school counseling experience.

Alabama-based school counseling programs are governed by Alabama code. Non-CACREP programs will only admit educators.

Individuals who complete approved programs at the master’s level (and meet other certification requirements) will receive Class A professional educator certificates. Those who complete advanced school counseling programs can receive Class AA professional educator certificates. Class AA signifies six years of post-secondary education; the Department of Education notes that the program often culminates in the awarding of an educational specialist degree.

CACREP Pathway: Educational Requirements

Students may meet educational requirements by doing both of the following: 1) earning master's degrees from regionally accredited institutions and 2) completing CACREP-accredited school counseling programs. (A CACREP-accredited school counseling program may be completed in conjunction with a master's degree or afterward).

Alabama will allow prospective school counselors who do not hold teaching certification to enroll in CACREP-accredited programs. The school counseling student will need to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0.

The license will be issued at the master's level.

Information about the CACREP pathway is found in Rule 290-3-2-.20 (

Examination Requirements

Traditional Pathway: Individuals who apply by the traditional pathway will take the assessments required under the Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program (AETCP). There are two components: basic skills and subject-area knowledge.

The basic skills test utilizes three assessments from the ACT WorkKeys System: reading for information, applied mathematics, and writing. Candidates must score at at least Level 5 in reading, Level 3 in writing, and Level 4 in applied mathematics. Individuals with questions about basic skills requirements may call (334) 242-9983.

The subject-area assessment is the Professional School Counselor Examination, offered by Educational Testing Service as part of the Praxis II series. The assessment is computer-administered and is available at sites throughout the nation during monthly testing windows. Candidates who test within Alabama can expect their scores to be reported to ALSDE; others will need to enter the test code. Alabama will accept a score of 151. Candidates will find candidate handbooks on the ETS website. They can also find summaries of requirements for each Alabama pathway (

CACREP Pathway: Students following the CACREP pathway will take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) in addition to the assessments required under the Alabama Prospective Teacher Testing Program.

The NCE is an examination of general professional counseling knowledge. Students in CACREP-accredited counseling programs are often registered for the examination during their final terms. The assessment is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Candidate handbooks are available on the NBCC website (

Special Alternative Certificates and Preliminary Certificates

A Special Alternative Certificate (SAC) can put an individual in a school counseling position before all requirements are completed. The counselor may be an educator who has enrolled in a state-approved school counseling program or an individual who has been admitted to a CACREP-accredited Alabama program. An individual using the CACREP approach will need to have passed basic skills assessments. The credential may be issued up to three times for a total of three years. Information is found in Rule 290-3-2-.14.

A professional who earned a master's degree in a counseling specialty other than school counseling can be issued a Preliminary Certificate if he or she is licensed as a counselor at the associate or professional level by a state counseling board. An individual who earned a degree in school counseling would receive the SAC only if he or she did not qualify under any other route.

The SAC is issued for one academic year and may be issued up to three times during a four year period.

A Preliminary Certificate Through Exception is issued only at the request of a superintendent.

Out-of-State School Counselors

Professionals who are currently licensed or certified in other states can be certified through reciprocity, but will need to meet some state-specific requirements.

The Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program reports that, effective September 1, 2013, the basic skills assessments are no longer required of professionals applying for professional educator certificates based on reciprocity of certificate or experience.

ETS lists the school counselor examination as a requirement. ETS recommends that applicants wait to have their eligibility determined by the Teacher Certification Section before registering.

Board Certified School Counselors

Applicants who hold National Board Certification will receive certificates at the level that corresponds with their highest degree; this may be A or AA. The NBPTS approach is described in Rule 290-3-2-.19.

Criminal Background Check Process

Alabama educators must clear fingerprint-based background checks. The approved vendor is Cogent 3M. In-state applicants will have their fingerprints captured electronically. There are over 25 Alabama locations; Cogent 3M has provided a list ( Applicants must register beforehand. They may register online through the Cogent 3M website ( or call 866-989-9316; online registration is preferred. In-state applicants should be prepared to pay a $49.65 fee.

Out-of-state applicants may have their fingerprints made using the traditional (inked) method. They will, however, need to send their fingerprint cards to Cogent 3M for processing. They are directed to register online before mailing the cards. They will need to include the registration number with their submission. Applicants who choose this method will pay$57.65. Although only one card is required, Cogent recommends that out-of-state applicants have two made; this is because fingerprint submissions are sometimes rejected.

The Application Process

Applications are available on the ALSDE website ( The ‘publications’ section is designed for search by individual form.

’Form KRP’ is used by individuals who complete CACREP-accredited programs; these applicants will also need ‘Supplement KR1’.

Form NAL is utilized by individuals who complete State-approved programs; these applicants will also need Supplement NA1.

There is a $30 application fee for applicants utilizing either pathway.

These, and other, application forms are described in ‘SUPP. NO. 14-1 290-3-2-.35’. Applicants can also find descriptions of required application materials by searching the publications section by certification pathway.

Additional Information

School counselor credentialing information can be found on the "Teacher Certification" section of the Alabama Department of Education ( Teacher Certification can be reached at (334) 353-8567.

The Alabama School Counselor Association is an additional professional resource (

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