As a professional counselor in New Jersey, you may have one or more credentials attached to your name. You can become a licensed associate counselor (LAC) by completing the requisite education and passing a licensing exam, and your title will become licensed professional counselor (LPC) after you have fulfilled your practice requirements. You may also be granted specialist credentials if you pass additional requirements set by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
The information below serves as a guide to New Jersey counseling licensure. If you have any questions or just want to make sure you are on the right path, contact the State of New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Professional Counselor Examiners Committee, or fill out the online contact form.
Counseling Careers in New Jersey
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. and affects approximately 18% of the adult population. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) states that there are an average of 123 suicides per day. Now is the time for those dedicated to helping others and interested in a counseling career to pursue that path. There are several specializations to choose from.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Educational and school counselors help students improve their social and academic skills. Vocational counselors may work in job placement firms helping people find the right career path.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists conduct counseling sessions for individuals, couples, and families using family-centered approaches to therapy. These counselors focus on helping people within their relationships.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors work with individuals who are coping with difficulties from illness, birth defects, diseases, or accidents. They help people become more independent through individual care and activities in treatment centers.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Substance abuse and mental health counselors work in one-on-one and group settings. They help people identify and treat symptoms of mental illness and emotional trauma in order to promote optimum mental health.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors help people tackle challenges and improve their overall mental and emotional well being. They work in individual, group, and community settings, helping people identify and solve life's challenges.
|Occupation||Average Salary in New Jersey|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$72,190|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$74,130|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$57,200|
|Counselors, All Other||$67,230|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
Professionals in closely related fields may be eligible for New Jersey counseling licensure. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) reports that art therapy programs are working to align their standard with those of CACREP and that New Jersey allows qualified art therapists to be licensed.
Education Requirements for Counselors
You will need a master’s or doctorate, and your program should be accredited by CACREP and meet specific curricular requirements.
You should have at least 60 total semester hours in your program, and at least 45 should be in the following core areas, with at least eight of the nine represented:
- Counseling Theory and Practice
- Helping Relationships
- Human Growth and Development (Including Maladaptive Behavior)
- Lifestyle and Career Development
- Groups (Dynamics, Processes, Counseling, and Consulting)
- Appraisal of Individuals
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Research and Evaluation
- The Counseling Profession
CACREP accreditation became a requirement on October 5, 2012; for those who got their education earlier, the expectation is that the program included the word counselor or counseling in the title and that it met specific curricular requirements.
Online Counseling Programs
Earning a counseling degree in an online format is a great option for students who need maximum flexibility with their studies. New Jersey has a few colleges that offer online options for counseling programs, such as Seton Hall University, which offers a 48-credit online master's degree in school counseling. Rutgers University offers a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling with a clinical mental health counseling track. Individuals interested in social work may opt for Rutgers' online master's degree in social work. Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Psychology offers a master's program in clinical psychopharmacology that is mostly distance based. Georgian Court University offers a unique online master’s degree in holistic health studies. Rowan University offers an online bachelor's degree in psychology as well as a master's program in wellness and lifestyle management. Another great option is to choose a regionally accredited program or college in another state that accepts online learners from New Jersey, such as NYU's masters programs in mental health counseling, mental health and wellness, and school counseling.
How Do You Become a Counselor in New Jersey?
To become a licensed counselor in New Jersey, you will use the same application form, whether you're applying for licensure as an associate counselor or professional counselor. Filling out the form is also your first step in getting authorization to take the National Counselor Examination For Licensure and Certification (NCE) licensing exam. There are rules and regulations you'll be held to, and you'll be signing an affidavit that you've read them and understand that you are bound to them.
In the application, you will answer questions about professional fitness, health conditions, and student loan and child support status. The application will also include a course worksheet where you show which of your courses meet particular standards. You’ll need to include a passport-quality photo and an official transcript. The application will include a box to check if you need to request a transcript and have it sent separately. Next, you’ll need to have your affidavit notarized, and there is a nonrefundable $75 fee with your application. The licensing fee is currently $250 for professional counselors and $180 for those with associate status. However, if you make your initial application in the second year of the two-year cycle, you will only be charged half that.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
New Jersey considers clinical mental health counseling a specialty designation that can be added to your state credential. This status is accomplished in part by earning certification through the NBCC. Once you pass your NCE exam and earn your licensed associate counselor (LAC) designation, you can work toward your LPC and LCPC. Supervised experience is required, which will be addressed below. New Jersey also stipulates that you have 60 graduate semester hours and pass the NCMHCE exam.
The NBCC notes that certification as a national certified counselor (NCC) is a prerequisite, but assuming you’ve met the requirements, you can apply for both at the same time.
Other Specialty Certifications
The New Jersey board recognizes specialty certifications that are granted through the NBCC and may add specialty designations to the state credential. Professional counselors are not to advertise themselves as specialists or use the specialty credentials in their titles unless the board determines they have met the requirements. In additional to mental health, specialties include gerontology, addictions, career, and school counseling.
Counselors must pay certain fees to the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners to become licensed in the state. There is a flat fee to submit an application, while licensure fees are due when the applicant receives notification of approval. Counselor licensure in NJ lasts for two years. As such, the licensure fee varies depending on when the applicant submits their application -- either in the first year or second year of the biennial period. There is a late fee associated with not renewing a license within two years as well as a reinstatement fee.
|Initial License Fee: LPC during the first year of the biennial period||$250|
|Initial License Fee: LPC during the second year of the biennial period||$125|
|Initial License Fee: LAC during the first year of the biennial period||$180|
|Initial License Fee: LAC during the second year of the biennial period||$90|
|LPC Renewal Fee||$250|
|LAC Renewal Fee||$180|
|Late Renewal Fee||$100|
|Reinstatement Fee||$150 plus the biennial fees due since the license lapsed|
|Certification of Licensure||$40|
Source: NJ Consumer Affairs
The Licensing Exam
In order to be licensed at the associate level, you'll need to take the NCE. If you're currently a student in a qualifying program, you can take the exam before you graduate. Otherwise, you'll need to apply to the New Jersey board for permission to take the exam. You’ll turn in your application, and if you meet all requirements for licensure accept the exam requirement, the board will authorize you.
Once you get your authorization, you'll send your signed registration form, along with the $275 fee, to the National Board for Certified Counselors.
It will take about a month for the NBCC to process your registration form. Once you’ve received their confirmation, you'll schedule an exam by visiting the Pearson VUE website or by phone. You may elect to take the exam in Atlantic City, Jersey City, Lyndhurst, Princeton, Somerset, or at any of approximately 460 other testing sites around the nation. The exam takes about three hours and is available during the first two full weeks of the month.
Supervised Practice Requirement
You will need to work under supervision until you have acquired the requisite hour for a professional license, and the number of hours depends on your education level. With a master’s, you’ll need 4,500 hours. If you have 30 additional hours of counseling coursework beyond a master’s, 3,000 hours will be sufficient. You may get up to a year of credit for work that you did before you got your degree. Practicums and internship experiences may be counted if they exceeded what you needed to meet your educational requirements.
Your clinical supervisor will probably be a different person than your administrative supervisor, as the board has identified the employer-employee relationship as a potential conflict of interest. Your supervisor will either act as a co-counselor or observe you, live or through audio taped or videotaped sessions. Supervisors will problem solve with you and offer feedback, and may respond to case studies that you create or engage in counseling role plays.
New regulations went into effect October 5, 2011. From this point on, it's expected that supervisors will have a credential in supervising or have completed at least three graduate credits in clinical supervision.
You may take up to six years competing supervision requirements and will need to maintain documentation of your supervised experience. During your time as an LAC, you may not engage in independent practice or receive fees directly from clients.
Requirements for Out-of-State Candidates
If you've been actively practicing for the past three years, you may apply for licensure by endorsement. You will be expected to demonstrate 4,500 hours of work experience over a three- to six-year period, and you should be registered with the National Credentials Registry.
The board must see that you have either graduated from a CACREP-accredited program or from a program that included counselor or counseling in the title, as well as three semester hours, or four quarter hours, in each of the following:
- Human Growth and Development
- Psychopathology Diagnosis and Treatment
- Counseling Theories and Practice
- Human Sexuality
- Group Theories and Practice
- Career and Lifestyle Assessment
- Individual Evaluation and Assessment
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Research and Program Development
- Substance Abuse
- Counseling in Community Settings
- Ethical, Legal, and Professional Standards
Your program should include at least 60 total semester hours, and you will be expected to have passed either the NCE or the NCMHCE.
License Maintenance and Renewal
Your license will need to be renewed biennially. As an LPC, 40 contact hours of continuing education will need to be completed each renewal period, with the exception of the first one. If you're licensed as an LAC for two or more terms, you'll have a continuing education requirement as well.
If you have a specialty permit, you'll need to meet the NBCC's continuing education requirements. You may apply the same hours toward meeting requirements set by the New Jersey board.
Continuing Education Opportunities
- Clinical Supervision Workshop Series: Located in Flemington, the Advanced Counselor Training offers an NBCC-approved education opportunity for licensed professional counselors in the state. The workshop series gives participants the opportunity to obtain their approved clinical supervisor certification. This training covers the function of a clinical supervisor; methods and techniques for clinical supervision; and the cultural, legal, and ethical issues surrounding the role.
- Ethics for Counselors: This NBCC-approved course looks at ethical issues and human rights issues in an evolving sociocultural context. Starting with a historical background on the topic, the course takes participants through the common definitions of values and morality, while diving deeper into ethical principles, dilemmas, and decision-making models.
- EMDR Therapy -- Treating Anxiety: This intermediate-to-advanced course is designed for counselors with some experience using EMDR, a psychotherapy approach to treating anxiety-related conditions such as phobias and panic disorder. The goal of this four-credit course is to help counselors understand the standard procedures and protocols for using EMDR therapy. Participants learn how to create individualized treatment plans.
Resources for Counselors
- NetCE: NetCE is a nationally accredited online provider of NBCC-approved continuing education courses for counselors. The mission of NetCE is to challenge professionals to enhance their level of expertise and improve the overall quality of healthcare delivery.
- Rutgers UBHC Center for Continuing Education: Rutgers' CCE provides high-quality programs, continuing education activities, professional contact hours, and training and research resources to behavioral health professionals, such as professional counselors.
- Little Hands Family Services: An NBCC-approved continuing education provider, LHFS offers several continuing education services for counseling professionals. LHFS is therapist-owned and operated and offers many resources and services to help people heal from life's challenges.
- American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama: ASGPP is a membership organization for professionals in psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociometry. The group offers continuing education opportunities through seminars, workshops, and other events, all of which are approved by the NAADAC, NBCC, and NRCGP.
- Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis: ACAP offers online and on-campus continuing education classes as well as graduate, post-graduate, and certificate classes for mental health counselors.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy: The State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners oversees New Jersey's licensed marriage and family therapists. The purpose of the board is to enhance the health and welfare of residents by regulating the practice of counseling and therapy, as well as protecting against unprofessional conduct.
- National Board for Certified Counselors: The NBCC is a nonprofit, independent organization that serves as the credentialing body for counselors. With a goal of advancing the counseling profession and enhancing mental health worldwide, the NBCC ensures high standards of practice through ethical guidelines, education, examination, and supervision. The organization provides many resources for counselors, including continuing education opportunities, newsletters, and a directory of therapists.
- New Jersey Counseling Association: The New Jersey branch of the American Counseling Association, NJCA, is dedicated to improving the counseling profession through channels such as communication, education, networking opportunities, and state legislation. Members participate in workshops, continuing education opportunities, board meetings, and other events.