As a professional counselor in Nebraska, you can hold multiple licenses and several titles. You can gain licensure as a mental health practitioner or as an independent mental health practitioner depending on your training and qualifications. As an independent mental health practitioner, you can benefit from an expanded scope of practice, allowing you to diagnose and treat major mental disorders without needing to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Although it does not necessarily take longer to become an independent practitioner, this position requires aspiring counselors to complete more stringent training requirements.
Counseling Careers in Nebraska
While the average growth for all occupations in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026 is projected to be 7%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many counseling occupations will grow more than three times as quickly. Students who want to help people get through troubling times while enjoying ample job security can choose from several rewarding counseling specializations. Graduates can go on to counsel families, individuals suffering from addiction, patients with mental disorders, or students. Each of these specialties features its own counselor requirements, and students should thoroughly research the rules for Nebraska counseling licensure in their desired field.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: These counselors work in schools of all levels to ensure emotional wellness and help students achieve their academic and career goals. They may also help identify academic and/or financial resources for struggling students.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: These professionals help couples and families navigate through complicated and emotional relationships. They often work in private practice settings.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Many patients find physical and emotional rehabilitation difficult, and rehab counselors help these struggling individuals cope with the hardships of rehabilitation.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These counselors help people who struggle with addiction, behavioral disorders, mental illness, or a combination of these problems.
- Counselors, All Other: In addition to the aforementioned positions, counselors can also specialize in areas like trauma, eating disorders, and pediatric counseling where they often work in clinical settings.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Nebraska|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$59,160|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$48,030|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$49,610|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
Nebraska’s rules and regulations allow for the licensing of therapists who held degrees and experiences in related fields, as long as they meet licensing standards. For example, Nebraska art therapists can gain licensure as counselors.
Mental Health Practitioner Certifications
As a mental health practitioner, you can seek additional certification as a professional counselor by becoming a licensed mental health practitioner-certified professional counselor or a licensed independent mental health practitioner-certified professional counselor. Additionally, students still in the process of fulfilling their basic licensure requirements hold the provisional licensed mental health practitioner credential.
Certification does not necessarily expand your scope of duty, but it does indicate that you took coursework related to professional counseling (as opposed to some other mental health discipline). It also gives you an additional title that you can use to represent yourself to the public. If you hold both a license as a mental health professional and certification as a counselor you can refer to yourself as a licensed professional counselor.
The following information provides a guide that details the licensure and certification process for different types of counseling professions. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services - Division of Public Health Licensure Unit by phone at (402) 471-2115.
Education Requirements for Counselors
In order to earn any of the aforementioned licenses, you need to earn a graduate degree. The state board approves professional counseling programs that either hold accreditation from CACREP or hold school-level accreditation from a regional accrediting body and meet core curriculum requirements.
If your counseling program fails to hold accreditation from CACREP, you need to document your coursework when you apply for licensure. All students must complete the following courses to qualify for mental health practitioner licensing in Nebraska:
- Theories and techniques of human behavior intervention
- Professional ethics and orientation
- Assessment techniques for mental health practice
- Human growth and development
- Research and evaluation
You also need to document your practicum and/or internship experiences. If you completed your practicum before Sept. 1, 1995, you need to document that the program was approved. If you finished this experience on or after Sept. 1, 1995, you need to show that it included at least 300 hours of client contact and that at least 150 of these hours occurred face-to-face in a work setting.
Educational Requirements: Mental Health Practitioner/Professional Counselor
If you want the professional counselor certification added to your license, you need to provide evidence of additional counseling-related coursework, which can be done by completing the following classes:
- Counseling practicum
- Counseling theory
You also need to complete coursework in at least five of the areas listed below:
- Human growth and development
- Social and cultural foundations
- The helping relationships
- Group dynamics, processing, and consulting
- Lifestyle and career development
- Individual appraisal
- Research and evaluation
- Professional orientation
You only need to document these courses on your course worksheet if your program was in a field other than counseling or if the program failed to hold the proper accreditation.
Online Counseling Programs in Nebraska
Online learning can help busy students fit coursework into their schedules. Many schools offer asynchronous programming, which means distance learners can watch lectures and take tests at their convenience. This may be particularly helpful for degree candidates who need to continue working while attending school. However, counseling programs do require some in-person components, and students should either choose nearby schools or ensure that they can complete these requirements near their homes. In addition to increased flexibility, online programs often cost less than on-campus options, especially if a school offers online learners in-state tuition. Nebraska students who want to become counselors can choose from multiple online options.
Bellevue University’s master of science in clinical counseling program is fully accredited and allows students to study online or on campus. The program consists of 60 credit hours, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship. Creighton University’s master of science in school counseling and preventive mental health program also holds accreditation and offers learners the chance to graduate online within two years. This option also includes a 600-hour internship. Additionally, students who want to become school counselors can earn an MSE at Wayne State College, which features a combination of online and in-person classes.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Nebraska?
Before you can earn a license, you need to be at least 19 years of age, hold citizenship or resident status, and meet education requirements. At this point, you can apply for a provisional license. To do this, you must submit your official transcripts. If you earned your degree from an unaccredited institution, you need to provide additional evidence that your coursework met curricular standards.
You also need to fill out an application attesting to your character and professional fitness and pay the required fee. These materials should be mailed to the following address:
PO Box 94986
Lincoln, NE 68509-4986
You may fill the forms out electronically, but you should submit your application packet in the mail.
Requirements for Independent Mental Health Practitioner/Professional Counselor
In most cases, you need to graduate from a CACREP-accredited program to earn an independent license. If your program was not yet accredited by CACREP when you graduated, but achieved accreditation within four years of your graduation date, the board will accept your diploma. Additionally, if the board determines that a particular unaccredited program meets standards equivalent to those set by CACREP, degrees from that program will also be accepted.
If you graduated from an accredited program, your supervised practice requirement consists of 3,000 hours - the same as the requirement for a mental health practitioner. At least half of these 3,000 hours must be spent working with patients who suffer from a major mental disorder.
If your program did not meet accreditation standards, you can still earn the independent license, but you must spend an extended period of time working with clients who suffer from major mental illness (while under the supervision of a qualified professional). You need to work for at least 10 years and accrue at least 7,000 hours of work experience. Additionally, at least half of these hours must be spent working with patients classified as having a major mental disorder. You may count years spent while provisionally licensed as well as those earned after achieving mental practitioner status. You can collect sworn statements from your employers and supervisors to document this experience.
In addition to tuition and school-related costs, individuals seeking Nebraska counseling licensure must pay several associated fees. Learning about these fees ahead of time can help degree candidates maneuver through the process more easily. The exact type and level of fees a candidate must pay depend on the type of license they want and their counseling specialization. The fees listed below represent some of the costs that professionals must pay while meeting counseling requirements in Nebraska.
|Denied or Withdrawn Application||$25|
|Renewal of License||Varies depending on the type of license|
|Late Renewal Fee, 30 Days||$25 plus the renewal fee|
|Late Renewal Fee, 30 Days to One Year||$35 plus the renewal fee|
|Late Renewal Fee, Over One Year||$75 plus the renewal fee|
|Testing Fees||~$100, varies depending on the test|
|Initial Licensure||~$125-$175, depending on the type of license|
Source: Nebraska DHHS
The Licensing Exam
Individuals must successfully pass a licensing exam in order to apply for any counseling license above the provisional level. You can opt to sit for either the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination; the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers both of these tests.
To receive authorization to sit for a test, you must submit Attachment F, which is a request to take an examination. You must indicate which exam you plan to take, and you can submit your request at any point after you earn your master’s degree.
After roughly 10 working days, you should receive an approval letter from the state board. You should send this letter to NBCC along with your registration form and the payment. When you receive your eligibility confirmation from NBCC, which can take up to a month, you may schedule your exam. NBCC contracts with Pearson VUE to conduct computerized testing. You can visit www.pearsonvue.com to register. Pearson VUE offers testing sessions for two weeks each month. Nebraska residents can find testing sites in Lincoln, North Platte, and Omaha.
Supervised Practice Requirement
You hold the provisional licensed mental health practitioner license until you accrue at least 3,000 hours of experience working under supervision. At least 1,500 of these hours must be direct client contact hours. Your supervisor can be a mental health practitioner, independent mental health practitioner, psychologist, or physician. If you work with a physician, they need to provide documentation related to their specialized training or board certification in mental health. You should also include a supervision plan with your application. Your provisional license lasts for five years.
Out-of-State Counselor Candidates
Professionals who hold or held a license in another jurisdiction in a health or environmental field who wish to become licensed in Nebraska must submit certification proving their credential(s).
If you held an active license in another jurisdiction for at least a year, you may apply to receive a license by reciprocity. This entails filling out an application that contains a verification form that you need to send to your previous licensing agency. It also includes a practicum/internship form that should be filled out by your previous supervisor or the internship director at your school. (If you completed your practicum experience before Sept. 1, 1995, the latter does not apply.)
The application form also asks whether you practiced in Nebraska prior to licensing. The state may assess a fine of $10 per day, up to $1,000 (and/or other penalties), for unlicensed practice.
License Maintenance and Renewal
As a counselor, you need to renew your Nebraska credentials every two years (on even-numbered years). During each renewal cycle, you must complete at least 32 hours of continuing education (CE), and at least two of these must be in ethics. You do not need to earn separate CE units to maintain your mental health license or your associated counseling certification. Counseling CE hours may also be applied to maintain your primary license.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Nebraska
- At Health: At Health offers busy counselors the opportunity to earn CE credits online. Professionals can take APA-approved courses in areas such as ethics in the digital world, suicide assessment, ADHD treatments, and treating teen girls.
- NetCE: Another online resource, NetCE provides many CE options for professionals. Individuals can fulfill their ethics requirements and learn about subjects like mindfulness. The site also allows users to filter courses based on whether they fulfil CE requirements for Nebraska counselors.
- The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska: The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha offers in-person CE courses on a variety of subjects related to behavioral health.
Resources for Counselors
- The Nebraska Department of Education: Students who want to work in school environments should visit the website of Nebraska’s Department of Education for up-to-date policy information and news related to school counseling. The department also offers listservs for networking.
- American Counseling Association: This national organization offers CE opportunities, news, podcasts, and webinars. Members receive access to award-winning publications and can receive help advancing their careers.
- Nebraska Association of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Co-Addiction Professionals: Like the national organization, this state-based chapter supports addiction professionals by providing CE workshops, certification, and advocacy.
- Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services: Through this department’s website, students and counselors can find information about licensure, counseling news, and regulations.
- American Rehabilitation Counseling Association: Both students and professionals can join this organization. ARCA helps its members by hosting annual conferences and providing newsletters, scholarships, and professional tools.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- Nebraska Counseling Association: This statewide organization awards scholarships to students who demonstrate academic excellence. It also hosts an annual conference and promotes the counseling and mental health profession. The NCA boasts six different districts, connecting members with local peers.
- Nebraska School Counselor Association: A local division of the American School Counselor Association, this organization provides the state’s school counselors with opportunities for professional growth. Members enjoy access to informative newsletters, local workshops, networking opportunities, scholarships, and an annual conference.
- Nebraska Psychological Association: This organization helps its members promote emotional wellness through the science of psychology. NPA provides members with relevant legislative news, a peer consultation network, and networking opportunities.