Counseling Licensing Requirements in South Carolina

There are two South Carolina counseling licensure levels. By completing educational and examination requirements, you can become a licensed professional counselor intern (LPC/I). After you fulfill a supervised practice application, you will be eligible for licensure as a licensed professional counselor (LPC).

Applicants must submit application materials to South Carolina's contracted credential review agency. When it's time to transfer from intern to professional status, you will apply directly to the South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psycho-Educational Specialists.

The information below is intended to guide you through the counselor licensure process in South Carolina. If at any point you have questions about South Carolina counseling licensure or want to make sure you are on the correct path, call the South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psycho-Educational Specialists. Questions or correspondence regarding application materials must be in writing.

Capella University offers three online master's programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP): clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and school counseling.

Northwestern's top-12 ranked, CACREP-accredited online MA in counseling program offers both full- and part-time options that allow you to earn a degree on your own schedule. GRE scores are not required for this program.

Counseling Careers in South Carolina

School and career counselor positions are projected to increase by 13% from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On top of that, the BLS projects the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor positions to jump by 23% from 2016 to 2026. A career in counseling fits anyone who desires to make a real, impactful difference in people's lives. Counselors help people at any stage of life.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Counselors who work in schools guide students in finding success in their education and futures. They help students identify their strengths and weakness and advise students on how to improve their weaknesses and leverage their strengths into possible careers.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: These counseling professionals help couples and families determine whether mental or emotional disorders disrupt their relationships. The therapists then can aid those marriages and family systems by encouraging the people involved to confront those disorders.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors assist people who have suffered from trauma, illness, or injury. They guide their patients in getting back on their feet and in coping with returning to their jobs, homes, families, and social lives.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Counselors who work with people suffering from substance abuse, behavioral disorders, or mental health problems counsel their patients by coming up with diagnoses and providing treatment plans.
  • Counselors, All Other: Other counselors help people in several various capacities. Some counselors might guide people through their grief, help clients cope with extreme stress, or establish cognitive behavioral treatment plans.
Occupation Average Salary in South Carolina
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $52,790
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,430
Rehabilitation Counselors $29,900
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $39,910

Source: BLS

Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors

Professionals in closely related fields can be licensed under certain circumstances. The American Art Therapy Association reports that South Carolina art therapists are eligible if they meet educational requirements and use art therapy as a counseling technique.

Education Requirements for Counselors

You will need a graduate degree of at least 48 semester hours. Your program should be primarily counseling in nature. Your school must be accredited by a regional accrediting body or by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. There are many resources for counseling students. You will need to have three semester hours, or 4.5 quarter hours, in each of the following content areas:

  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • The Helping Relationship
  • Group Dynamics, Processing and Counseling
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Appraisal of Individuals
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Professional Orientation
  • Psychopathology
  • Diagnostics of Psychopathology

You will also need to do a supervised practicum of at least 150 hours; this must be done for academic credit. If you plan to treat serious mental disorders, you should have an additional 600-hour internship. Your practicum should also address the treatment of serious mental disorders.

Antioch University offers an online MA in clinical mental health counseling program that is CACREP-accredited and offers specializations in substance abuse and addictions counseling and counseling military service personnel and their families. Antioch is a private, nonprofit university. This program is not available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, or ND.

If you have not met all the coursework requirements, you are allowed to make them up through additional graduate coursework.

Online Counseling Programs in South Carolina

Online counseling degrees serve as a potential alternative to traditional, on-campus programs for several different reasons. If students work a full-time job or must dedicate time to other commitments, they might need the flexibility of fitting in classes or study time at their convenience. People who prefer the independence of self-paced studying may prefer online degrees as well. Other students may prefer to enroll in accelerated courses so they can finish their degrees quicker.

Counseling programs differ depending on the specialization and the level of education. Students may earn certificates, master's degrees, or doctoral degrees. Schools in South Carolina also offer programs for education counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and rehabilitation counseling.

However, if students want to earn their degrees online, they may need to look outside of South Carolina to its neighbor, North Carolina. Winston-Salem State University offers an online master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. This program requires students to complete 60 credit hours in courses such as aural rehabilitation and crisis counseling. Students can also complete certificates in counseling online. East Carolina University offers a year-long online certificate program in substance abuse counseling.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in South Carolina

  • South Carolina Association of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services: South Carolina's Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation recognizes this professional organization as providing continuing education opportunities to aspiring counselors. Students may earn credits by enrolling in independent study courses, nearly 150 different webinars, face-to-face seminars, and certificate programs.
  • South Carolina Counseling Association: Another professional association approved for continuing education, the South Carolina Counseling Association offers students several options to build up their contact credit hours. Counseling students may participate in workshops, conferences, trainings, and seminars. The organization's online continuing education program allows students to learn at a flexible pace.
  • American Counseling Association: Members of the American Counseling Association may enroll in webinars and continuing education courses to complete their required credit hours. Courses cover many types of subject matter, including ethics, starting a private practice, and traumatic stress in marginalized groups.

How Do You Become a Counselor in South Carolina?

You will send your initial application to the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) whether you are a candidate for intern status or an out-of-state professional seeking licensure by endorsement.

You may download the Application and Educational Review Form and other required materials from the CCE website.

If you are applying as an intern, you will need to submit a clinical supervision plan. You will fill out the top portion and your supervisor will complete it.

You will need to pay the CCE's fee. You will need a notarized affidavit attesting to the veracity of your application. You must have your educational institution send official transcripts to the CCE.

Once the CCE has tentatively approved your qualifications, your file will be sent to the South Carolina board for final review. It will take the CCE approximately six weeks to review your materials. If you have not already taken the licensing exam, this will add to the timeline.

Transfer of Status

When you have finished your supervision requirements and are ready for the higher license, you will need to get confirmation forms and logs of hours from each supervisor. You will send a transfer request form directly to the board.

Licensing Fees

Before South Carolina counselors can receive their licenses, they must pay their fees. Prices vary depending on the type of license. A licensed marriage and family therapist application fee, for instance, costs more than the application for a psycho-educational specialist fee. Applicants must pay application fees on top of the licensure fees. Counselors must also renew their license every two years, which costs another $100 to $150. If a counselor is out of practice, but wants to return to the field, he or she must pay a $300 reinstatement fee. Applicants ought to send the fees along with their applications. Practicing counselors pay their renewal fees when they receive a reminder from the state in the mail.

Request Type Fee
Application Fee (Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) $170
Application Fee (Licensed Psycho-Educational Specialist) $130
Application Fee (Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Supervisor) $100
Licensed Professional Counselor $150
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist $150
Licensed Psycho-Educational Specialist $150
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Supervisor $100
Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor $100
Renewal/Reinstatement Fee (Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Psycho-Educational Specialist) $150
Renewal/Reinstatement Fee (Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Supervisor) $100
Reinstatement Fee $300
License Verification to Another State Board $5

Source: South Carolina LLR

The Licensing Exam

You will need to take either the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. Both are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

South Carolina contracts with the CCE (an affiliate of the NBCC) for educational review. You will submit your application materials to the CCE and, once they've approved your education, you will receive a registration form in the mail.

You will send the signed registration form, along with a $170 fee, to CCE. You are advised to do so at least 30 days before your preferred test date.

You will need to wait to receive confirmation from the NBCC before you schedule your exam. You will be allowed to test at any of the computer-based testing centers. Tests are administered six days a week for two weeks out of each month. South Carolina has three testing centers: Columbia, Greenville, and North Charleston.

If you have previously taken and passed either exam, you may submit a photocopy of your score report. If you do not have documentation, you will need to contact the NBCC Examination Department to have your scores verified.

Supervised Practice Requirement

You will need to attain at least 1,500 hours of clinical experience while working under supervision.

Additionally, you will need to have 150 hours of direct supervision by a professional counselor that meets South Carolina's supervision standards.

At least 100 of your supervision hours must be individual, as opposed to small group. During your supervision sessions, you will share information about your individual clients and the treatment you are providing. Your supervisor may also make observations and conduct co-therapy sessions.

While your board-approved clinical supervisor will need to be a professional counselor, your on-site supervisor does not have to be.

Normally the supervision requirement is completed in two years, but you may apply for an extension.

Out of State Counselor Candidates

As an out of state applicant, you will be expected to have comparable education and post-master supervised experience. You may apply by endorsement if you have an active license elsewhere. To be eligible for endorsement, you will need to maintain active status elsewhere while pursuing South Carolina licensure.

In addition to your application and educational form, you will need to submit a log of your supervised experience hours. You will need to document your supervisor's license information; this you can get from your state board. You will need to get your supervised experience verified, which can be done in two ways: by individually contacting each supervisor, or by contacting the state board where the information is on file.

If your verified hours fall short of South Carolina's requirements, you will be licensed as an intern until you fulfill the rest of your practice obligation. As a South Carolina counseling intern, you are allowed to work in private practice. You are not required to have an on-site supervisor, but you are required to have a readily available clinical supervisor who provides oversight and guidance.

If you completed supervision hours in another jurisdiction but did not actually hold a license there, you will need to complete supervised hours in South Carolina. However, you may wish to have the supervision verified and added to your South Carolina file.

You will fill out the top portion of the license verification form and submit it to your licensing agency along with any required fee. If you have already taken one of the qualifying exams through the NBCC, you may submit a photocopied score report. If you got your education in another country, you will need to have it evaluated by a third party agency that specializes in international degree reviews. You may opt for any of the following: Educational Credential Evaluators, World Education Services, or American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Offices.

Resources for Counselors

  • Continuing Education Guidelines: Aspiring counselors who desire more detailed information on on continuing education in South Carolina can find everything they need through the Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Psycho-Educational Specialists.
  • South Carolina Counselors' Board FAQs: The Board also provides a list of frequently asked questions. The questions cover topics such as licensure requirements on moving from another state, internship qualifications, and national examinations.
  • South Carolina Counseling Forum: A research journal specifically for counselors based in the Palmetto State, the South Carolina Counseling Forum keeps professionals in the state up to date on the latest research. Counselors can subscribe to learn about topics such as treating suicidal patients or advocating for special education students.
  • Code of Ethics & Board Policies: South Carolina obligates licensed professional counselors to work in accordance with a strict Code of Ethics. If counselors feel unsure about certain ethical situation, they can find the code -- as well as the Board of Examiners' policies -- on the state's LLR website.
  • Mental Health America of South Carolina: An affiliate of the nationwide Mental Health America association, MHASC operates as a mental health advocacy organization. It provides its members with several resources for professional development and continuing education.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • South Carolina Counseling Association: The South Carolina Counseling Association functions as a state-chartered organization within the American Counseling Association. The SCCA hosts several events throughout the year in addition to its annual conference, including professional development courses and training for different types of certification. The organization publishes a newsletter and stocks a small online bookstore.
  • South Carolina Association of Licensed Professional Counselors: A chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, the South Carolina Association of Licensed and Professional Counselors aims to educate and advocate for counselors in the state. The association organizes professional lectures and educational workshops for counselors across South Carolina.
  • Palmetto State School Counselor Association: Specifically for counselors for work in schools, the Palmetto State School Counselor Association intends to connect educational counselors and help them with professional growth. The organization, which operates as the South Carolina chapter of the American School Counselor Association, hosts conferences and workshops throughout the year. Members also advocate for education counselors' interests at the state and national legislative levels.
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