How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor in California

Rehabilitation counselors provide aid and resources to people with physical, mental, emotional, and developmental disabilities. They help clients manage and overcome day-to-day challenges associated with their disability as they work toward independence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for rehabilitation counselors to increase 13% from 2016-2026, a rate much faster than the national average for all occupations.

California counselingprofessionals benefit from the state's higher-than-average number of opportunities in the field. According to the BLS, California currently employs the highest number of rehabilitation counselors of any state. Major metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles and San Bernardino, boast some of the highest concentrations of employment for the occupation.

All rehabilitation counselors must hold a license to practice, but required credentials vary by employer and specialization. California's counselor board, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, does not currently grant rehabilitation counseling licenses or officially recognize the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). The Board confers a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) credential.

This guide provides information about how to become a rehabilitation counselor in California. The sections below outline the credentialing process and detail education and experience requirements, application and exam procedures, licensure protocol, and relevant professional resources.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in California

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Education and Experience Requirements

Aspiring rehabilitation counselorsmust meet certain education and experience requirements to obtain certification or licensure. These requirements involve formal higher education, typically at the master's level, and supervised experience in the field. This section outlines requirements for CRC and LPCC candidates.

Education and Coursework

All California counselingprofessionals must hold a master's degree in a relevant discipline. According to the BLS, professionals with higher levels of education typically benefit the most from favorable employment conditions.

LPCC Requirements

LPCC candidates need a master's degree in counseling or psychotherapy, as outlined by the California Business and Professions Code. The master's program should comprise at least 60 credits and must include formal instruction in the following subject areas: counseling theories and techniques, human growth and development, career development, group counseling, clinical assessment, multicultural diversity, diagnostic processes, professional ethics, psychopharmacology, and trauma and crisis counseling.

CRC Requirements

Individuals pursuing CRC licensure through CRCC must hold a master's degree in rehabilitation or clinical counseling from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Candidates with a master's degree from an unaccredited program or in a related field of study can apply, but their master's program must have comprised at least 48 credits, including training in the following content: professional ethics in rehabilitation counseling, clinical assessment, career development, case management, counseling theories and techniques, research methodologies, and medical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities.


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Practicum and Internship

According to the California counselor board, prospective LPCCs must have completed at least 3,000 supervised hours of work experience over the course of 104 weeks. Candidates must complete experience hours in California, under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional.

CRC candidates need at least 600 hours of work experience in the field, supervised by an active CRC with a license in good standing.

Application and Exam Requirements for California Rehabilitation Counselors

After completing all education and practice requirements, LPCC candidates can submit an application for licensure and examination. The application should include a current photograph, verification of supervised hours, pertinent personal information, and a record of education. Applicants must pay a $180 nonrefundable application fee.

The LPCC Process

Prospective LPCCs must pass two exams, the California Law and Ethics Exam and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE). The Law and Ethics Exam assesses California counselingprofessionals' understanding of the state's rules and regulations as they apply to the occupation.

The NCMHCE involves clinical simulations to evaluate competencies necessary for rehabilitation counselors. After passing both exams and completing the application, candidates can petition the Board for an initial license.

The CRC Process

CRC candidates submit an application after satisfying education and practice requirements. The application includes verification of education and supervised hours and a nonrefundable fee. Upon completing the application, candidates can sit for the CRC Exam.

The CRC Exam comprises 175 multiple-choice questions that assess competency across 12 discipline-specific areas. The exam typically takes 210 minutes to complete and is administered several times throughout the year. After a candidate passes the exam, CRCC issues official rehabilitation counselor certification.

Out-of-State Rehabilitation Counselor Candidates

California does not recognize LPCC licensure by endorsement and does not maintain reciprocity agreements with other state licensing boards. The Board handles all out-of-state licensure applications on a case-by-case basis and provides a guide to help out-of-state professionals navigate the process.

All candidates must satisfy the education and practice requirements discussed above. Out-of-state candidates must verify completion of these requirements in their application for licensure and must provide proof of current out-of-state credentials. All applicants must pass the California Law and Ethics Exam and the NCMHCE, if not already completed. The Board reserves the right to request coursework, supervised practice, and exam remediation.

Because CRCC issues national credentials, active CRCs do not need to apply for a new license when moving states.

Rehabilitation Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

The Board requires licensed LPCCs to renew their credentials every two years. Professionals complete continuing education requirements during each period and submit an online application for renewal. Rehabilitation counselors renewing their credentials for the first time need at least 18 hours of approved continuing education. All subsequent renewals require 36 hours.

The Board requires licensed California LPCCs to renew their credential every two years

Licensed CRCs renew their certification every five years. Counselors must have completed 100 hours of approved continuing education or pass an examination. Continuing education hours should include at least 10 hours in professional ethics instruction.

Resources and Organizations for Rehabilitation Counselors in California

California counseling professionals can benefit from the technical resources and field-specific organizations listed below. These tools provide rehabilitation counselors with information about local organizations for clients, recent developments in the discipline, job boards, and professional development resources.

  • American Rehabilitation Counseling Association ARCA supports rehabilitation counseling professionals throughout the country. The association disseminates a regular newsletter, hosts events, and provides industry-specific resources.
  • California Counseling Association CCA is California's premier organization for counseling professionals. The association sponsors continuing education opportunities, hosts events, and provides current information about the field.
  • California Department of Rehabilitation This governmental agency promotes rehabilitation efforts across California. The department employs rehabilitation counselors at all levels and provides employment and independent living services to clients.
  • California Rehabilitation Association This organization supports rehabilitation counselors by hosting regular meetings and sponsoring local events. The association also manages field-specific message boards.
  • California Reinvestment Coalition This nonprofit agency based in San Francisco supports economic development among low-income communities and communities of color. The agency relies on the work of rehabilitation counselors and promotes their employment throughout the state.
  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification CRCC credentials rehabilitation counselors nationwide. The organization also provides information on testing, licensure renewal, and continuing education opportunities. CRCC maintains a comprehensive database of active professionals.
  • International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals This global organization connects counseling professionals and provides career development resources. IARP hosts an annual conference and issues industry-specific publications.
  • National Rehabilitation Association The NRA disseminates an academic journal on rehabilitation counseling. The association supports and advances the efforts of professionals throughout the country. The NRA maintains local chapters, offers job boards, and sponsors local events.
  • The National Council on Rehabilitation Education NCRE supports education and research to improve the quality of services for persons with disabilities. NCRE offers grants and awards, maintains a journal, hosts events, and advocates for policy changes.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services This governmental entity provides rehabilitation services to veterans. The department employs rehabilitation counselors throughout the country and works to improve veterans' holistic wellness.

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