Counseling Licensing Requirements in North Carolina
North Carolina counseling licensure is offered at multiple levels. After you finish your education and examination requirements and submit the necessary paperwork, you will be credentialed as a licensed professional counselor associate (LPCA).
When you complete your supervised practice requirement and the applicable jurisprudence exam, you will move up to licensed professional counselor (LPC) status.
You may choose to do additional training to become a licensed professional counselor supervisor, or LPCS. This allows you to provide guidance to other counselors who are beginning their careers.
The detailed information below is a guide to the requirements for licensure as an LPC or LPAC in North Carolina. If you’d like to make sure you are on the right path or have questions, contact the North Carolina Board of Professional Counselors.
Counseling Careers in North Carolina
Across the country and within North Carolina, licensed counselors have strong job prospects. According to the state's Department of Commerce, North Carolina needs nearly 1,900 new educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors by 2024. Similarly, the state anticipates the need for more than 1,700 mental health counselors, more than 1,000 rehabilitation counselors, and more than 800 new substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in the same period. In addition to a wealth of employment opportunities, working as a licensed counselor in North Carolina also offers the deep personal fulfillment that comes with serving those in need.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors provide social, academic, and career support to their students and clients. Most of these counselors work in an educational or nonprofit setting. In addition to providing individual counseling to students, they may also meet with parents, teachers, and potential employers.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists help individuals and families cope with problems in their lives. They may offer one-on-one counseling or group therapy. Many of these therapists work in private practice.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help their clients overcome the physical and psychological effects of their disabilities. They often work for community health centers or government agencies. Some specialize in serving specific populations, such as the elderly or veterans.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Counselors in this area offer counsel and care to individuals struggling with a variety of issues and disorders. To better serve their clients, these counselors often seek out advanced training in working with particular groups, such as individuals with alcoholism or those suffering from depression and anxiety.
- Counselors, All Other: Licensed counselors can use their expertise in mental and behavioral health in many settings. For example, they may work at a nonprofit organization helping refugee populations deal with the trauma they experienced in their former countries, or they may offer support to former inmates as they transition back into society.
|Occupation||Average Salary in North Carolina|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$49,550|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$56,010|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,050|
|Counselors, All Other||$51,600|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
North Carolina’s laws and regulations allow for the licensure of professionals in closely related fields. The American Art Therapy Association reports that art therapists are eligible. The NBCC notes that dance/movement therapy is an official counseling specialty and that practitioners are eligible in most states.
Education Requirements for Counselors
All licenses require education at the master’s level or higher. You will need to demonstrate three semester hours (or five quarter hours) in each of the following content areas:
- Counseling Theories and Techniques
- Orientation to the Professional Counseling Profession
- Group Work
- Career, Lifestyle, and Vocational Development
- Human Growth and Development
- Lifestyle and Development
You will also need a practicum and internship. You must document at least three semester hours of each. You will need a total of at least 300 hours of supervised experience and 17 hours of supervision. You are to be supervised, at minimum, one hour for every 40 hours of experience.
The minimum length of your master’s program depends on when you enroll. If you enroll before July 1, 2013, you must have at least 54 semester hours of coursework (or the equivalent). If you enter later, the requirement is 60 semester hours.
Those who enrolled in programs before 2009 will need to document only 48 semester hours. Learn more about selecting a master's in counseling program here.
Online Counseling Programs in North Carolina
Online counseling programs provide a flexible and affordable way to continue your education. In asynchronous online programs, you can take classes entirely on your own schedule and from anywhere with an internet connection. In some cases, online offerings cost less than than residential programs. Beyond potential savings in tuition, you also do not need to pay for room and board or certain fees associated with campus activities when earning your degree online.
Through the University of North Carolina online system, you can earn a bachelor's in psychology, a master's and a certificate in rehabilitation counseling, and a certificate in substance abuse counseling. Many smaller private universities also offer degree and certificate programs in the field of professional counseling.
Another benefit of online education lies in your ability to enroll in programs across the country. In many cases, you can even qualify for the equivalent of in-state tuition no matter where you live. Before choosing a school, make sure to understand the full breadth of your options, as well as the challenges that come with learning at a distance.
How Do You Become a Counselor in North Carolina?
Click here for the LPCA, LPC and the LPCS application forms and additional information. There are certain supplemental materials you must submit when you initially apply to the board, whatever the level of licensing.
You must have validation of your academic credentials on file. Contact your educational institution and arrange to have transcripts sent directly to the board.
You also need licensing exam results on file, unless it’s your first application and you are requesting authorization to test.
You need a professional disclosure statement. This provides essential information for your clients. Your professional disclosure statement will change as you move into different stages of your career. The board also needs confirmation that you took the jurisprudence exam at the appropriate level.
Some supplementary materials are needed only at certain levels. If you are applying at the associate level, you need a supervisory plan.
If you are applying at the professional level, you need to document that you have satisfied supervision requirements.
If you are applying to be a supervisor, you need to verify that you met the additional educational requirements.
You must include an application fee with your materials. The fee is $200 for each of the three levels and a $38 background check fee is also assessed.
If you haven’t yet met all the educational requirements, the board will send you a letter explaining what you need to do. If you fail to fill out the application fully, the board will return it to you.
Once the board receives all necessary materials, they will put you on the meeting agenda and do a final review. An applicant may be issued candidate for licensure pending status if the official transcripts, score report, and/or disclosure statement is missing; the candidate can be approved pending receipt of documents.
Notifications come by mail. The board requests that you not call to ask about your application status. You will; however, be assigned a login number at the early stages of the process. Your status can be monitored online.
Additional Requirements for LPCS Status
LPCS status is available to experienced professional counselors and you must document that you meet experience requirements.
You also need training in clinical supervision: three semester hours of academic coursework or 45 hours of continuing education.
You will submit a professional disclosure statement pertaining to supervision and take the appropriate jurisprudence exam.
The North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors (NCBLPC) oversees counselor licensure in the state and assesses fees to help fund this work. Neither application nor renewal fees vary based on the type of counseling license you hope to receive or renew. However, if you do not submit your request for renewal by June 30 of the year your license expires, the state will assess an additional $75 late fee.
|Criminal Background Check Fee||$38|
|License Renewal Fee||$200|
|Late Renewal Fee||$75|
|Proof of License Fee||$5|
The Licensing Exam
You can choose from three licensing exams. You may take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) through the National Board for Certified Counselors. The NCE is a general certification/licensing exam for professional counselors; the NCMHCE is often used as a specialty exam for mental health counselors.
You may also opt for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination, which is administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
You must submit an application and supplemental materials to the board to be authorized to test. If the initial screening indicates that you meet the requirements, you will be sent registration materials.
You are allowed to retake the licensing exam once by paying the required fees. If you do not pass on the second attempt, the board will deny your licensure. You may; however, reapply at a later date.
You must take one additional test before you move up to a new credentialing status: the jurisprudence exam, which allows students to take it as many times as they need to earn a passing score. There are three different versions: one for each level of licensing. The exam is based on the North Carolina briefs.
The exam costs $45 and you can complete it online. You must take it within six months of your application.
You must print out a certificate to show that you have met this obligation.
Supervised Practice Requirement
To move up to professional status, you must fulfill a supervised practice requirement of 3,000 hours. The board allows you to determine how quickly you will fulfill your obligation, but you must stay within certain parameters. You must put in at least eight hours a week but no more than 40.
2,000 hours of your credited experience must be direct client contact hours. The North Carolina Board of Professional Counselors defines direct counseling as live contact with individual, families, and groups. This may include appraisal as well as therapeutic activities.
You will have an approved clinical supervisor who guides your professional development. They will carry out activities like observations and co-therapy sessions and meet with you to discuss your progress. You need 100 hours of clinical supervision over the course of your supervised work experience. You need to receive at least one hour of clinical supervision for every 40 hours of practice.
At least 75 of your supervision hours must be individual, as opposed to small group. You may count hours as individual if there is one other supervisee present.
Individual sessions must be live and interactive, but you and your supervisor are allowed to use real-time video. Group sessions may include up to 12 supervisees, but sessions must be at least an hour and a half in length.
Your clinical supervisor will be a professional counselor or other mental health professional who has had training in supervision and met other requirements set by the board. Approved supervisors may be psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists who are certified in psychiatric care.
You will submit a supervision contract before you begin practice. If you have more than one supervisor or practice at more than one setting, you will need additional contracts.
Your progress will be reported quarterly. You will continue to work under supervision until you are issued a license at the higher level.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
If you have been licensed elsewhere, you will need to have your licensing agency verify your license; the verification must be sent straight to the board.
Experienced out-of-state counselors can apply by endorsement. Active practice may be accepted in lieu of documentation of supervised practice. The minimum is 2,500 hours during the prior ten years. Educational requirements are different for counselors who were educated in the distant past. Those who enrolled in programs before July 1, 2009, need only 48 semester hours. Those who enrolled in qualifying master’s programs before July 1, 1994, are exempt from the usual academic requirements. The board may accept other examinations equivalent to the NCE, NCMHCE, or CRCC.
License Maintenance and Renewal
You must renew your license every two years. During this time, you must complete 40 contact hours of continuing education. If you have LPCS status, then you'll need 50. The additional 10 must relate to counseling supervision.
You must retake the jurisprudence exam during each renewal cycle. The board updates it at least once every two years to make sure that it reflects current standards. The jurisprudence exam is worth five hours of continuing education and meets your ethics requirement.
In addition to providing evidence of continuing education, you must attest that you have maintained ethics standards. You must provide evidence of continuing education if audited.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in North Carolina
- American Counseling Association: ACA provides state-authorized continuing education credits to licensed counselors in North Carolina. Counselors can earn credits by taking online courses, participating in webinars, or reading and responding to journal articles, policy briefs, and book chapters. Counselors can explore subjects such as working with the elderly or serving as an expert witness.
- Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification: Authorized by North Carolina to certify continuing education providers, CRCC has approved more than 100 training programs across the country. Counselors can choose from online and in-person courses on professional ethics, substance abuse diagnosis and treatment, aging, alcoholism, burn management, human trafficking, and hearing loss.
- National Board for Certified Counselors: Licensed counselors in North Carolina can earn continuing education credit for pursuing board certification in counseling or a specialty certification in an area like school counseling. Certification coursework covers subjects such as counseling for trauma or violence, substance abuse counseling, human sexuality counseling, and clinical counseling for special populations.
Resources for Counselors
- North Carolina Counseling Association: As the state branch of the American Counseling Association, NCCA represents the interests of professional counselors working in North Carolina. It advocates for legislation and policies that benefit its membership, publishes a quarterly newsletter and a scholarly journal, and hosts an an annual conference. Its website also features a job bank.
- North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors: NCBLPC oversees licensure of all professional counselors in the state. It also allows consumers in the state to verify that their provider has received a state license and check to see if NCBLPC has disciplined that provider for violations of state law or the profession's code of conduct.
- North Carolina School Counselor Association: NCSCA works to promote excellence in the profession of school counseling and support the academic development of all students in the state. In addition to events and professional development resources, NCSCA offers a grant and scholarship program as well as an emerging leaders program meant to recognize exemplary young professionals in the field.
- North Carolina Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: NCAMFT serves licensed mental health professionals working in the area of marriage and family therapy. It provides online continuing education opportunities, organizes an annual conference, and maintains a job board on its website. The association also helps counselors navigate the unique licensure requirements of the North Carolina Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure Board.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness - North Carolina Chapter: NAMI-NC raises awareness about mental health issues and provides support to individuals and families affected by mental illness. The alliance offers training programs in areas like group facilitation, youth suicide prevention, and home-based care. It also hosts a statewide conference and local events.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- American Counseling Association: Established in 1952, ACA boasts the largest membership of any professional counseling association in the country. In addition to advocating for legislation and policies on behalf of its members, ACA provides a wealth of online professional development and continuing education resources. It also organizes an annual conference and numerous state-level chapter events. Its website features a career center and information for counseling students and new professionals.
- American School Counselor Association: ASCA serves professional school counselors and their students. It hosts an annual conference, webinars, and local workshops to help its members sharpen their skills and earn continuing education credits. It also publishes a bimonthly magazine and a quarterly journal covering the latest scholarship in the field of school counseling. Members can also access tools and resources designed for counseling practitioners.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association: AMHCA works to enhance the profession of mental health counseling through advocacy and education. Licensed counselors can earn continuing education credits through the association's webinars and home-study courses. The association also conducts and publishes new research, hosts a job board, and offers a code of ethics to help guide the professional practice of its membership and others working in the field of mental health counseling.