Prospective licensed professional counselors (LPCs) in Colorado can expect many job opportunities and competitive salaries. To receive a counseling license in Colorado, applicants must hold an accredited master's degree, complete 700 hours of supervised fieldwork, and pass the National Counselor Examination and a jurisprudence exam.
This guide covers how to become a counselor in Colorado, including the types of counseling careers available, potential salaries, education requirements, and the counseling licensure process. It also offers a list of additional resources for people learning how to become a mental health counselor in Colorado.
Counseling Careers in Colorado
When considering Colorado counseling opportunities, students should research the different types of counseling jobs available. The following section describes potential LPC counseling careers in Colorado, including marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and mental health counselors.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
Educational and guidance counselors offer children and young adults one-on-one guidance as they navigate adolescence and select potential career paths. Vocational counselors assist clients of all ages in finding appropriate employment.Explore Career Information Explore Colorado School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families overcome relationship and familial challenges, share experiences or trauma, and create coping strategies.Explore Career Information
These counselors help individuals with mental, behavioral, physical, and emotional disorders to live and work independently. They evaluate clients' strengths and constraints, and help them develop behavioral skills and coping mechanisms.Explore Career Information Explore Colorado Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help patients identify and overcome dysfunctional behaviors and thought patterns. They develop treatment plans and help patients develop positive habits and coping mechanisms.Explore Career Information Explore Colorado Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors work with patients to improve their emotional and behavioral well-being. They may work with all populations or specialize in specific populations, such as adolescents or the LGBTQ community.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Colorado?
The table below outlines salaries in Colorado and the United States for various LPC occupations. School, guidance, vocational, and educational counselors make less in Colorado than in the U.S. overall; however, marriage and family therapists and rehabilitation counselors in Colorado make a higher median salary than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines wage data for substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Colorado
Education and Coursework
Prospective counselors should learn about the education requirements when looking into becoming a licensed counselor in Colorado. Counselors in Colorado do not need to meet specific undergraduate degree requirements. The state's Mental Health Practice Act requires all prospective licensed counselors to hold a master's or doctoral degree in counseling from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Counselors in Colorado do not need to meet specific undergraduate degree requirements
Alternatively, applicants can hold a master's degree from an equivalent program at a regionally accredited college. Equivalent programs must include a practicum or internship and at least 60 credits of coursework for degrees earned after August 31, 2014 or 48 credits for degrees predating August 31, 2014. All Colorado LPCs must complete a post-degree internship as part of their education. They must also pass the National Counselor Exam.
Marriage and family therapists in Colorado can apply for a marriage and family therapist (MFT) license through the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners. MFT applicants need a master's degree and 1,500 hours of supervised professional experience. They also need a passing score on the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board exam.
Practicum and Internship
To receive a license, Colorado LPCs must complete 2,000 hours of post-master's counseling practice under board supervision within two years. Individuals with a Ph.D. need to complete 1,000 hours of postdoctoral counseling practice within one year. Prospective LPCs also need 100 hours of supervision, with at least 70 hours in person. Marriage and family therapists need 1,500 hours of supervised experience.
Online Counseling Programs in Colorado
Students can pursue online counseling programs at all educational levels in Colorado. For example, students can begin their counseling career by earning an online bachelor's degree in psychology at Colorado State University before earning a master's degree from Colorado Christian University. Students interested in a teaching or psychology career can earn an online Ph.D. at the University of Northern Colorado.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Colorado
The Colorado State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners licenses counselors in the state. Colorado offers two licenses: licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed professional counselor candidate (LPCC). LPCs must meet education, experience, and exam requirements. The temporary LPCC is for counselors on the LPC licensure track who still need to complete the National Counselor Exam and post-degree experience and supervision requirements.
Education requirements include a master's degree in counseling from a CACREP-accredited program or regionally accredited university. Candidates must complete 2,000 hours of post-master's counseling practice within two years. Individuals with a Ph.D. in counseling must complete 1,000 hours within one year. Prospective LPCs must also pass the National Counselor Exam and the Colorado jurisprudence exam.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
Colorado classifies individuals who hold a counseling license in another state but who want to work in Colorado as out-of-state candidates. Colorado endorses out-of-state candidates for licensure if they meet the state's requirements.
Out-of-state candidates must be at least 21 and hold a valid state professional counselor license in good standing, with no history of restriction. They also need two years of post-master's or one year of post-doctoral supervised professional counseling practice and a passing score on Colorado's jurisprudence exam.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Colorado
Colorado counseling licenses remain valid for four years. LPCs can renew their license online. All LPC licenses in Colorado expire on August 31st of odd-numbered years. LPCs can view their license expiration date by logging on to their online account through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs. LPCs can apply for renewal starting six weeks prior to their license expiration date.
Colorado LPCs must complete 40 professional development hours every two years to qualify for renewal. They can complete no more than 20 hours in one type of professional development activity or category.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Colorado
- Continuing Education for Counselors, American Counseling Association Students can take 12 free online course credits each year through ACA, or obtain credits by participating in the yearly ACA expo and sharing research with colleagues. The ACA's professional development center lets members develop career specializations and build a nationwide network.
- Colorado Association of Addiction Counselors Counselors can earn up to 90 free online continuing education credits through the Association for Addiction Professionals' webinar series. The CAAP also offers exam practice tools, regional meetings, and publications that keep members current on the latest professional regulations.
- Continuing Education, Commission on Rehabilitation Rehabilitation counselors can use the CRCC to access ongoing education and certification opportunities. Along with the ethics class required for certification, the eUniversity offers specialized and refresher courses on subjects such as disability inclusion, assistive technology, and principles of case management.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Colorado
- Minority Fellowship Program This fellowship supports master's and doctoral students who intend to work with minority communities. Training programs and mentorships prepare recipients to provide behavioral and mental health services to underserved populations.
- Colorado Department of Labor Employment Colorado's Department of Labor Employment works in conjunction with the State Independent Living Council to share job openings related to vocational rehabilitation, disability awareness, and similar fields.
- Illuminate Colorado Combining four established social service organizations, Illuminate Colorado promotes healthy childhood development through family therapy, advocacy, and community support. This association works to address systemic drug abuse, alcoholism, and sexual abuse issues statewide.
- Rise Above Colorado Developed by the Colorado Meth Project, this organization works on the frontlines of drug addiction. Rise Above Colorado seeks volunteers to counsel students, monitor drug addiction in high schools, and spread awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine.
- AAMFT Foundation The AAMFT brings together clinicians, researchers, and educators to share current research and improve marriage and family counseling standards. Dedicated to helping underserved communities, the foundation's Minority Fellowship program strives to increase cultural competence among mental health practitioners.
- American Counseling Association This organization seeks to advance professional counseling standards and increase accessibility to therapy nationwide. Members receive access to grant, scholarship, and continuing education opportunities.
- Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies DORA regulates and maintains quality standards for numerous professions throughout Colorado, including counseling. Counselors can renew their license, explore career opportunities, and receive counseling regulatory notices through the DORA website.