Counselors in Alaska provide comprehensive mental health solutions to clients on site, and many of them also offer telemedicine services to meet the extensive needs of people living in the often inaccessible areas of Alaska's vast interior. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that nationally, counseling positions will grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026. In Alaska, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects a 9% growth rate for counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists in the same time frame.
This guide offers a complete introduction on how to become a counselor in Alaska, including educational requirements, licensure information, and facts about serving in the mental health field in Alaska.
Counseling Careers in Alaska
Students seeking information about how to become a school counselor or how to become a guidance counselor in Alaska can explore the information below about certification and career management. This guide includes data on subsets of counseling, along with information about how to become a licensed counselor in Alaska.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
As a guidance and vocational counselor, you will work with students to help them identify future career interests. These professionals conduct interviews and aptitude tests with young adults to identify performance strategies for success.Explore Career Information Explore Alaska School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
These therapists help couples and families identify and express the tensions that hurt their relationships. As a marriage and family therapist, you will guide clients through shared trauma or important decisions, connecting them to special resources to improve relational dynamics.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors assist patients to increase their quality of life and independence. They work with clients dealing with temporary issues or lifelong needs by evaluating abilities, developing treatment plans, and locating resources to maintain the client's independence and agency.Explore Career Information Explore Alaska Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
As a substance abuse therapist, you will work one-on-one with patients to establish recovery plans, teach families and friends how to positively support patients in recovery, and work with recovery groups to facilitate community support systems. As a behavioral counselor, you can help patients identify toxic situations or environments exacerbating emotional turmoil and guide them toward the path of recovery.Explore Career Information Explore Alaska Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors help people manage their behavioral disorders, substance addictions, and relationships. These professionals may work in private settings, at hospitals, or in psychiatric treatment facilities. Primarily, mental health counselors create, iterate, and evaluate behavior management treatment plans for their clients. Counselors may also lead group sessions and teach workshops.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Alaska?
The BLS projects that jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors will grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026, about three times the national average for all occupations. Salaries vary slightly among specific counseling professions, but in Alaska, counselor salaries in all areas exceed the U.S. average.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Alaska
Education and Coursework
Students researching how to become a licensed counselor in Alaska will need to complete 60 graduate semester credits in counseling. Most applicants earn these credits through a master's degree in counseling from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university.
Alaska welcomes applications from students who completed coursework online along with those who earned their degrees entirely on campus.
Prospective counselors whose degrees come from schools without national or regional accreditation and/or who hold a graduate degree in a different but related field must complete an education work checklist. Graduate students majoring in a related field like psychology, marital and family therapy, social work, or applied behavioral science must demonstrate coursework equivalent to 60 credits in counseling. In some cases, students with a major other than counseling must earn a post-master's certificate in counseling to meet state requirements. Alternatively, students can complete a doctorate in counseling to supplement a master's in a related field. Alaska welcomes applications from students who completed coursework online along with those who earned their degrees entirely on campus.
These applicants must show coursework in eight of ten different areas defined by the Board of Professional Counselors. These areas include human growth and development; assessment, appraisal, and testing of individuals; and group dynamics, processes, counseling and consulting.
Practicum and Internship
After earning their degrees, applicants must acquire 3,000 or more hours of experience under a board-approved supervisor, including at least 1,000 hours of direct counseling with groups, families, couples, or individuals and 100 hours or more of face-to-face supervision over a period of two years or longer.
Online Counseling Programs in Alaska
Given Alaska's often extreme weather conditions, many state university programs offer online educational opportunities. For example, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in social science with a focus in psychology at the University of Alaska Southeast. You may also continue your education with an online master's degree in educational counseling at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where participants receive training in both educational systems and community involvement.
Online and hybrid programs offer flexibility to counseling students who want to create their own schedules and complete classwork from their home or workplace.
With your master's degree, you may be able to transition directly into the university's postgraduate counseling certification program to prepare for state licensure. You can continue your education even further with specialized occupational endorsements from the University of Alaska Anchorage, such as endorsement in children's behavioral health. Check with your prospective school for other options.
Online and hybrid programs offer flexibility to counseling students who want to create their own schedules and complete classwork from their home or workplace. Online asynchronous programs allow you to enroll in classes, access course materials, and submit assignments and exams at your own pace. Similarly, hybrid programs combine the benefits of online learning with periodic, synchronized online classes, lectures, meetings, and workshops to foster a cohort community and general group engagement. When searching for programs, consider which of the various educational formats available best fit your needs.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Alaska
The State of Alaska's Board of Professional Counselors governs the process of how to become a counselor in Alaska. Applicants may receive licensure through credentials or through examination. Licensure by credentials requires the applicant to hold a license in another state; 60 graduate credits in counseling; and 40 continuing education units, three of which must be in ethics.
Prospective counselors seeking licensure through examination need 60 graduate credits in counseling, at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience, a clean criminal background check, and a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification.
Out-of-State Counselor Candidates
LPCs who hold credentials in another state may transfer their licenses into Alaska provided those credentials fall within certain guidelines. Therapists whose educational and professional backgrounds meet or exceed those required by Alaska may receive their license after filing minimal paperwork and submitting a $200 application fee.
For candidates licensed after July 1, 2000, minimum requirements include successfully completing 60 acceptable graduate credits in counseling. Out-of-state counselors do not need to retake their exams, but they must submit criminal background documents, license verification, and information about whether the license came through endorsement or reciprocity.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Alaska
Alaska counseling licenses expire on October 31 of odd-numbered years. Alaska recognizes no grace period, so the day after a license lapses, counselors can no longer practice in the field. To renew their counseling licensure, therapists must submit an application and a $250 renewal fee. Renewal applicants should make sure any child support and student loans are paid up. They must also complete 20-40 contact hours of continuing education as determined by the Alaska counselor board. Licenses that have lapsed for less than five years can get reinstated with proof of completed continuing education requirements.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Alaska
- NetCE Continuing Education NetCE offers courses certified by the Approved Continuing Education board for professional counselors. Courses provided include behavioral addictions, borderline personality disorders, and mindful clinical practice. Additionally, NetCE provides ethics courses required for license renewal.
- Occupational Endorsement Certificates Various universities also offer online continuing education opportunities for counselors, including occupational endorsement certification. The University of Alaska-Anchorage provides a 12-credit certification in children's behavioral health, through which students learn about social skill development, effects of trauma, and behavioral support for children and young adults.
- Alaska Department of Health Training and Conferences Professionals can participate in an intensive training workshop, conference, or presentation series for credit through the Alaska Department of Health. You can receive credit while networking with potential employers and colleagues and sharing your research with other interested professionals.
Resources and Organizations for Counselors in Alaska
- Division of Behavioral Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services This resource connects professionals and students of behavioral health all over the state. The page provides links to conferences, workshops, ongoing educational opportunities, and current events in the field.
- AAMFT Minority Fellowships Program Provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, this resource expands access to mental health facilities and treatment in minority communities. This program offers fellowships, training opportunities, and networking opportunities.
- GCI Suicide Prevention Grant, Anchorage Community Foundation Suicide has become a serious problem in Alaska. Administered by the ACF, this granting body specifically addresses suicide prevention by supporting individuals and group organizations devoted to this key public health issue.
- Arctic Slope Community Foundation Dedicated to bringing communities of the Arctic Slope together, this foundation helps fund outreach programs in the arts, education, and healthcare services.
- Behavioral Health Aide, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Focused on bettering healthcare for Alaska natives, this consortium brings together village-based professionals and young colleagues to administer and maintain certification levels in tribal health.
- Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, Inc This group helps connect mental health professionals locally, offering access to child and adult services and employment listings in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas.
- Alaska School Counselor Association This networking community brings school counselors together from all over the state. Discussion forums and regional groups offer safe spaces to communicate professional issues or quandaries, fostering group awareness of current issues. Additionally, this association meets once each year for a statewide conference, giving members a chance to present current research and local trends to interested colleagues.
- Prevent Connect Oriented around community outreach and awareness, Prevent Connect promotes awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. Open dialogue about serious local issues effectively increases community awareness and empowers victims to share their stories. The yearly Prevent Connect web conference educates counselors nationwide on current issues regarding family health.