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What are the licensing requirements after I complete my Master’s in Counseling?

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Counseling is a college major relating to psychology, and before you can work as a counselor, you must first complete an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field. Graduate programs teach you the skills that you need to work as a trained counselor. You will work with patients in clinical settings, spend time practicing sessions with classmates and work on a thesis project. Only after completing those steps can you seek out a license to practice in your state. “What are the licensing requirements after I complete my Master’s in Counseling?” is a question that many students ask before or after starting a graduate program. The answer to that question depends on your state.

National Certification Exam

Many states require that you complete the National Certification Exam before obtaining a license to work as a counselor. This exam is similar to the tests given to those in law school and those who want to practice law. The examination covers a wide range of questions relating to the subjects you studied in school. It asks you ethical questions, questions about how you would handle different situations and simple questions about psychology. Only after passing the test can you receive a license.

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Credit Hours

Every class that you take in graduate school is worth a specific number of credit hours. Most graduate classes are worth five or more credit hours, while an undergraduate course is worth three credit hours. Some states ask that you complete a set number of credit hours before applying for your license. According to, Alabama requires that students have a Master’s degree and completed at least 48 credit hours of study in the subject. Alaska requirements include a Master’s degree and at least 60 credit hours of work in the field of psychology.

Internship or Working Hours

Some states ask that you have a Master’s degree and a certain number of hours working in the field. Florida requires that all applicants have a minimum of 1,500 hours working with patients and that at least 100 of those hours occurred under close supervision. You can gain those hours as you complete an internship in the field or through practical coursework in graduate school. Montana asks that you have 3,000 hours of experience and that 1,500 of those hours take place under supervision. Other states have different requirements, but most states ask that you have at least 1,500 hours of experience working in the field.


Depending on the field that you choose, you might face other requirements as well. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, those who want to work as a school counselor must apply for a license through a different department than those hoping to work as a private counselor. You also need to keep in mind that most states require a background check, fingerprint check and criminal background check, which you need to pay for yourself. The University of Kentucky College of Education offers more information on the requirements that each state has regarding counseling license applicants.

Working as a counselor helps you change the lives of others. Before you begin working in the field, you must have a license in your state. While the requirements vary by state, you generally need a certain number of credit hours and working hours in the counseling field.