About 1.5 million of Wisconsin's residents live in rural areas — according to U.S. News and World Report, these residents have an increased risk for mental illnesses like depression. Furthermore, 70% of the state's young farmers report anxiety symptoms and 60% report depression symptoms. Some hospitals expanded their mental health wards to accommodate the growing need for these services, but the state still needs more counselors. This guide covers how to become a counselor in Wisconsin, including the types of counseling jobs available, Wisconsin's education and licensure requirements, and some helpful counseling resources.
Counseling Careers in Wisconsin
Counseling licensure leads to several career options in Wisconsin. Professionals may work in schools, hospitals, private practices, or rehabilitation centers. While some counselors help a variety of patients, others specialize in areas like substance abuse. Below, readers can learn about the different types of counseling jobs and discover resources to further explore each option.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
School, guidance, and educational counselors often work in school systems with children. They create educational programs to promote well-being, connect students to social services, and help learners identify their educational strengths. Vocational counselors work with people of all ages to identify possible career paths that suit their clients' interests.Explore Career Information Explore Wisconsin School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
These counselors specialize in helping individuals, couples, and families struggling with relationship and familial challenges. They may treat groups and couples together or individual clients struggling with family issues.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with emotional, developmental, physical, and/or mental disabilities live and work independently. They often find employment in hospitals alongside rehabilitation teams.Explore Career Information Explore Wisconsin Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These specialized therapists help patients struggling with addictions to substances and behaviors. They may work in addiction recovery facilities, private practices, nonprofit organizations, or hospitals.Explore Career Information Explore Wisconsin Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
These counselors work with many different types of mental health patients. Some may specialize in specific types of treatments, disorders, or demographics, such as trauma-informed care, eating disorders, or LGBTQ clients. Others open their practices to all patients.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Wisconsin?
The table below details the salary ranges for several types of counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles this data and combines substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors for analysis purposes. Readers can compare median salaries in Wisconsin to national wages.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Wisconsin
Education and Coursework
The Wisconsin counselor board provides credentials for licensed professional counselors (LPCs). While candidates may possess a bachelor's degree in any subject, they must hold a 60-credit master's degree in counseling or psychology.
Learners must also take at least one course in clinical mental health diagnosis and treatment planning or rehabilitation counseling diagnosis and treatment planning
LPC candidates should choose graduate programs that include counseling theory classes that cover several approaches to therapy. Furthermore, qualifying programs include at least three semester credits (or four quarter credits) in each of the following subjects: human growth and development, professional counseling orientation, social and cultural foundations, research and evaluation, lifestyle and career development, helping relationships, assessment and testing, and group dynamics processing.
The Wisconsin counseling board also requires candidates to complete a few classes that vary based on an individual's specialization. Learners must also take at least one course in clinical mental health diagnosis and treatment planning or rehabilitation counseling diagnosis and treatment planning. Finally, LPC candidates must take at least one class in any of the following disciplines: crisis trauma and counseling; abnormal behavior and psychology; family, partnership, and couples counseling; or addictions counseling.
Practicum and Internship
LPC candidates must complete practica and internships during their graduate programs. The practicum must be worth at least three semester credits and consist of 100 clock hours. Internships must be at least six semester credits and 600 clock hours, including 240 hours of supervised, face-to-face time with clients.
Online Counseling Programs in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin counseling board maintains a list of pre-approved counseling programs, which includes some schools that offer online options. Students can attend online universities outside of the Badger State, but the Wisconsin counseling board must review and approve transcripts before granting provisional licenses. For example, Divine Mercy University offers an online master's in counseling that accepts applicants with a bachelor's degree in any area.
Although some programs offer courses entirely online, all LPC candidates must complete in-person practica. Online programs typically allow learners to complete these requirements near their homes at approved facilities.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin
The state's Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) manages Wisconsin's counseling licensure process. Once candidates earn graduate degrees in counseling, they must complete supervised counseling hours with training licenses. Applicants with master's degrees need at least 3,000 hours, while those with doctoral degrees need 1,000 hours.
After completing these hours, candidates can apply for temporary licenses that allow them to practice as fully licensed professionals until they pass their national exams. Once they pass the exam that corresponds to the type of counseling they wish to do, professionals can apply for full counseling licensure.
Out-of-state Counselor Candidates
Candidates with current counseling licenses in other states may apply for reciprocity in Wisconsin. Such applicants must come from states that require training and education that is similar to DSPS requirements. The department requires all candidates to submit the same application, regardless of whether they are applying for reciprocity or for first-time counseling licensure.
The DSPS may ask out-of-state candidates to provide transcripts with class descriptions, proof of supervised internship hours, and information related to their previous state's licensure requirements. Reciprocity candidates must also pass the state's jurisprudence exam, which covers the Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Wisconsin
Wisconsin counseling licenses expire on February 28 of odd-numbered years. To renew their credentials, professionals must earn 30 hours of continuing education credit during each renewal cycle. Four credits in each cycle must come from courses that cover professional boundaries and ethics. The remaining 26 hours can come from courses offered by approved providers, as long as the classes pertain to an individual's focus area.
The DSPS approves many continuing education providers, including accredited universities, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association, the American Counseling Association, and the Association of Social Work Boards.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Wisconsin
- Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification Rehabilitation counselors can earn certifications and credit for renewal through this online continuing education provider. Course topics include ethics, case management, sexuality in people with disabilities, and vocational rehabilitation. Candidates can also earn a clinical military counselor certificate. Members save money on each online course.
- National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling NAADAC provides continuing education credit through webinars, journal articles, in-person seminars, conferences, and independent study. Substance abuse counselors may also earn credentials, such as the national certificate in tobacco treatment and conflict resolution in recovery certificate. NAADAC members enjoy access to free continuing education.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison This public university provides continuing education in areas such as ethics and professional boundaries, aging and long-term care, human services, mediation and conflict resolution, and substance abuse disorders. Professionals can choose between online and on-campus courses. The American Psychological Association approves the school's continuing education courses.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board This agency licenses counselors in Wisconsin. The board provides information on the licensure process, including renewal and continuing education requirements.
- Wisconsin Counseling Association The state affiliate of the American Counseling Association, this organization provides networking and professional development opportunities, a professional journal, and continuing education units.
- Mental Health America of Wisconsin This nonprofit organization helps counselors find prevention services, mental health resources, and care options for people dealing with mental health disorders.
- Wisconsin School Counselor Association Designed to support school counselors in Wisconsin, the association offers awards and scholarships for counseling students. The association also provides professional resources for working school counselors. Members can attend conferences, summits, and academies throughout the year.
- Wisconsin Association for College Admission Counseling This association provides professional resources, workshops, and events for counselors who specialize in college admissions. The organization also offers an annual conference and a scholarship for students.
- American Counseling Association ACA hosts an annual conference, networking events, continuing education resources, and counseling publications. It also provides counselor licensure guidelines and a career center for job seekers.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Marriage and family therapists benefit from the resources offered by this professional organization, including training resources, educational materials, and networking opportunities. The association also publishes research, shares job resources, and compiles licensing board information.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association Mental health counselors can connect with colleagues and build their professional knowledge through this association. The organization offers professional standards information, continuing education resources, and publications. Members can also access career support.