Understanding Board Certification and Licensure

Board CertificationState License
What is it?

NBCC’s certification is a voluntary credential representing to members of the public and potential employers that the counselor has met national standards set by the counseling profession. The flagship certification offered by NBCC is the National Certified Counselor (NCC), and it is the largest national certification in the world.

State licensure is permission from a particular state government to practice counselor or identify oneself as a licensed counselor. Some states have a single license and some have a two-tiered system. Laws differ from state to state.

What is it called?

NBCC offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) and three specialty certifications in addictions, clinical mental health and school counseling.

Licensure titles differ due to the different laws. The most common titles are: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Issued by each state regulatory board.

What is its purpose?

Board certification helps potential clients and members of the public recognize professionals who have voluntarily met standards set by the counseling profession. It provides a mechanism for employers and members of the public to have concerns reviewed.

Licensure is designed to legally define who can use the title of a licensed counselor and/or who can provide counseling services in a particular state.

What are the requirements?

In order to earn board certification, counselors must complete a master’s degree or higher in counseling with a major study in counseling.  They must complete 3,000 hours of counseling experience and 100 hours of supervision both over a two-year post-master’s time period unless they graduate from a CACREP -accredited program.

The requirements vary in accordance with different state laws. All require a master’s degree, a number of counseling experience hours and a period of supervision.

What is the associated exam(s)?

NCCs must pass either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Those with specialty certifications must pass exams specific to their specialty.

State licensure boards use one or both of NBCC’s examinations - the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

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