The Georgia Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists, referred to hereafter as the State Board, issues the Associate Professional Counselor (APC) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credentials.
As an LPC you can engage in the full scope of practice for licensed professional counselors in Georgia. The APC credential allows you to gain hours of qualifying directed experience under supervision that you can use to apply for full LPC licensure.
Once you’ve met additional credential and experience requirements as an LPC you can also qualify to supervise APCs who are training to become LPCs.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in GA
The general steps towards earning an APC credential and subsequent LPC license involve:
Throughout the application process you can check the status of your application online.
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Associate Professional Counselor (APC)
- Fulfill the education requirement. This means earning a master’s degree in Counseling or an applied psychology subject. Your degree must include an internship or practicum that’s at least 600 hours. Have your school’s registrar send your official transcripts to the State Board in a signed sealed envelope when you apply for the APC credential.
- You’ll need to obtain two references from teachers or supervisors who are familiar with your experience in counseling. Have your references fill out Form D. Include these with your APC application.
- As an APC you can accrue hours of directed experience under supervision to qualify for full licensure as an LPC. To begin this process you’ll need to find a supervisor, and have them fill out their portion of a Post-Master’s Directed Experience Under Supervision Contract Affidavit that you will submit with your APC application.
- Submit an APC application to the State Board, including a $100 application fee. Once the State Board approves your application it will notify you and the NBCC that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the NBCC for one of its exams. Once the State Board is notified that you’ve passed your exam it will issue your APC credential. Either of the following NBCC exams are qualifying:
National Counselor Examination (NCE)
National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
- Accrue hours of directed experience under supervision to qualify for the LPC license. You’ll need to renew your APC credential every two years. From the time your APC credential is issued you have five years to complete the LPC requirement for directed experience under supervision and become licensed as an LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the requirement for post-master’s directed experience under supervision in professional counseling. This involves two components: directed experience, and supervision. One year of direct experience means at least 1,000 hours of experience accrued over 12 months. One year of supervision means a total of 30 hours of supervision over 12 months. Once you’ve completed your period of directed experience under supervision, your supervisor will submit the following verification forms to the State Board: Form C to verify your work experience, and Form E to verify your supervision. The total hours you must accrue to fulfill the requirement for directed experience under supervision depend on your level of education:
If you have a master’s degree in Counseling or an applied psychology field, then you need three years of directed experience under supervision. At least two of these years must be provided by a qualified LPC.
If you have a degree that’s designated as a “specialist degree” by your school, then you need two years of directed experience under supervision. At least one of these years must be provided by a qualified LPC.
If you have a doctoral degree in Counseling or an applied psychology field, then you need either one year of directed experience under supervision including at least half-a-year that’s provided by an LPC, or you need to have completed a one-year supervised counseling internship that’s part of your doctoral degree which is at least 750 hours.
- Obtain two references from teachers or supervisors who are familiar with your experience in counseling. Have your references fill out Form G and include these with your LPC application.
- Submit an application for LPC licensure and a $100 application fee to the State Board. Once this is approved the State Board will issue your LPC license.
Becoming a qualified supervisor:
As an LPC you can supervise APCs who are fulfilling the LPC licensure requirement for post-master’s directed experience under supervision. To become a qualifying supervisor you need to meet a post-licensure experience requirement, the amount of which depends on your level of education. You need three years of experience if you hold a master’s degree, two years if you hold a specialist degree, and one year if you hold a doctoral degree. You must also obtain one of the following credentials, or be specially approved by the State Board based on your exceptional experience:
Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) from the NBCC
Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor (CPCS) from the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia (LPCAGA)
Required Education and Degrees
To qualify for the APC credential and subsequent LPC license, you need a master’s degree in Counseling or in an area of applied psychology. Your degree program must include a practicum or internship. Programs that are accredited by the following agencies set the standard for what fulfills the education requirement for APC and LPC licensure:
- Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); there are currently 15 CACREP-accredited schools in Georgia
- Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE); there are currently two CORE-accredited schools in Georgia
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You can also earn your graduate degree from a non-CACREP or Core-accredited program, however it must still be from a program that’s accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). If you go this route, your program must be substantially similar in content to a CACREP or CORE-accredited program. This means your program must cover the following core-content areas:
- Human growth and development
- Diversity or multicultural counseling
- Counseling skills or techniques
- Group counseling and group psychotherapy
- Career and lifestyle development
- Assessment and appraisal of individuals
- Research evaluation and methods
- Professional ethics and orientation
If you want specialist education or doctoral education to count towards reducing your required hours of directed experience under supervision to become an LPC, it still must adhere to the CACREP or CORE, and CHEA guidelines specified above.
Renewing Your APC and LPC Credentials
The APC and LPC credentials expire every two years on September 30th of even-numbered years. To be eligible to renew you must attest to completing 35 hours of continuing education each renewal period. The renewal fee is $100.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Georgia?
To qualify for either the APC or LPC credential you need a master’s degree in Counseling or in an applied psychology field. That’s an investment of six years into education – four years for a bachelor’s degree and at least two years for a master’s degree. Once you have a master’s degree you’ll need to invest three additional years into obtaining qualifying directed experience under supervision to become licensed as an LPC, marking a total post-high-school investment of nine years.
If you’re a licensed LPC in another state that has requirements for education, directed experience under supervision, and exam scores that are similar to Georgia’s, then the Georgia State Board can issue you an LPC license based on reciprocity. You can apply using this application and the application fee is $100. Have your out-of-state Board of Professional Counseling verify your license for the Georgia State Board using this form.
Practicums and Internships
The master’s degree you use to fulfill the APC and subsequent LPC education requirement must include a practicum or internship in counseling or applied psychology that’s at least 600 hours.
One of the ways you can fulfill the requirement for post-master’s directed experience under supervision in professional counseling is with a doctoral degree that includes a one-year supervised counseling internship that’s at least 750 hours.
To qualify for the APC credential and subsequently licensure as an LPC you must pass either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), both of which are sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
As an in-state applicant the State Board will notify the NBCC that you’re qualified to test once it has approved your APC application. At this point you can register for your exam of choice.
Both exams are computer based. The NCE is a more basic multiple-choice test. The NCMHCE uses a series of clinical scenarios to probe your knowledge and evaluate your responses. Both tests are administered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), which manages the online ProCounselor portal you use to register for your exam. You can learn more about these exams from the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reported the following average annual salary figures for these professions, specifically for Georgia:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $57,800
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $58,840
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $40,570
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $47,050
- Counselors, all others – $47,820
- Occupational Therapists – $85,310
- Therapists, all other – $59,440
Types of Counseling Careers
According to the US Department of labor the professionals listed in the careers above total 20,360. Proportionally they’re employed as follows:
- 47% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 27% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 15% are Occupational Therapists
- 7% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 3% are Counselors, all others
- 1% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 1% are Therapists, all others
Learn More About:
Licensed Professional Counselors Association (LPCA) of Georgia – This professional organization exists specifically for the benefit of LPCs. It provides options for continuing education, networking opportunities, and also credentialing. The LPCA of Georgia issues a credential –the Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor (CPCS)– that you can use to qualify to become a LPC supervisor for APCs.
American Counseling Association (ACA) of Georgia – This not-for-profit organization advances the cause of professional counselors and students in training from all walks of life throughout Georgia. It offers a range of professional development events including those related to addiction, trauma, marginality and privilege, and much more.
Georgia School Counselor Association (GSCA) – While school counselors are busy promoting student success, the GSCA is busy promoting Georgia school counselors. This non-profit association was founded in 1949 and is as strong as ever today in affirming its belief that all people have value and deserve dignity and respect.
Georgia Addiction Counselors Association (GACA) – This non-profit organization is proud to serve as a voice for its more than 650 members, including some of the state’s top addiction professionals. It strives to be as effective as possible in its goals, which currently include making major advancements in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Georgia College Counseling Association (GCCA) – This membership organization is made up of mostly psychologists and professional counselors who provide career, educational, and personal counseling to faculty and students at the state’s institutions of higher learning. It provides crisis intervention network support, hosts an annual conference, sponsors regional workshops, and much more.
Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities – Perhaps the best-known state-level agency for LMCs throughout Georgia, this department is responsible for five hospitals, manages transitional housing resources, and provides services to forensic experts and law enforcement. It has sub-departments devoted to mental health, substance abuse, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and deaf services.
Georgia Department of Community Health – This is an important resource that provides state-initiated services throughout local communities. It connects households with services they need, especially those for children and rural-based populations. One of its most important functions is linking healthcare services with those who need it most.
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Georgia Behavioral Services – This organization provides treatments addressing a wide range of issues including drug and alcohol addictions, marriage and family challenges, medication services, and mental health issues for children, adolescents, and adults. It also provides court-ordered mental health services for topics like anger management and DUI evaluations.
Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals – A member of LifeStance Health, this organization provides assessment and treatment services for a wide range of issues and populations. It does this from more than 25 locations with a team numbering over 150 highly trained providers. Included in its services is state-of-the-art transcranial magnetic stimulation. To-date it has served nearly one million clients.
Georgia Health Services Network – This healthcare provider is a primary resource for veterans and those receiving Medicaid. It’s especially valuable for vulnerable populations like the elderly and disabled. It’s involved with hundreds of personal care homes throughout the state as well as linking mental health services with those who need them most.