The Maryland Department of Health found here, Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists –henceforth referred to as the State Board– issues two professional counselor licenses: the Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) and the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
The LGPC license allows you to engage in the practice of clinical counseling under supervision while you work to complete the supervised experience requirement to become licensed as an LCPC. Once you become an LCPC you can engage in the practice of professional clinical counseling independently, which includes:
- Diagnosis and treatment of emotional or mental conditions
- Prevention of psychological problems
- Treatment of individuals and groups
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Maryland
Becoming licensed as either an LGPC or LCPC requires completion of the following:
- Earning a qualifying graduate degree that includes an acceptable supervised field experience
- Passing the Maryland Law Assessment exam
- Passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE), which is sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Before any license application will be processed you must complete a criminal history background check, even if you’ve submitted one for a previous license
LGPC Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor
- Fulfill the education requirement. This is a graduate degree that meets specific curriculum requirements and includes a qualifying supervised field experience.
- Take the Maryland Law and Assessment exam, and include your Certificate of Completion with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for LGPC licensure to the State Board, including a $200 application fee. Once the State Board determines your application is complete, it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to test.
- Register for the NBCC for its National Counselor Examination (NCE). Once the State Board receives notification that you’ve passed, it will notify you that you’re eligible for licensure. At this point you pay a $150 licensing fee and the State Board will issue your LGPC license.
- As an LGPC you’re qualified to earn supervised experience that fulfills the LCPC supervised experience requirement. Once you’ve found a qualified supervisor you can fill out a Contract for Supervision and start accruing hours of supervised experience.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
- Be an LGPC, including having met the LGPC education requirement.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. The amount of supervised experience you must complete depends on the level of your graduate education:
If you have a master’s degree then you need at least three years and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Two of these years and 2,000 of these hours must take place after you’ve earned your master’s degree and be under a board-approved supervisor.
If you have a doctoral degree then you need at least two years and 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. One of these years must take place after you’ve earned your doctoral degree and be under a board-approved supervisor.
- Obtain three professional references from people who can attest to your counseling skills. Professional Reference Assessment forms are contained within the LCPC application. Have your references return their reference forms to you in a sealed envelope, and include these with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for LCPC licensure to the State Board. Include a $350 fee, a copy of your passing NCE exam scores, and a new Certificate of Completion of a Maryland Law and Assessment exam.
- Once the State Board approves your application it will issue your LCPC license.
Gaining supervisor status:
As an LCPC you can opt to become qualified as a supervisor for LGPCs. To do this you’ll need to have two years of clinical practice experience as an LCPC and meet one of the following:
- Three semester credits of graduate-level coursework in counseling supervision
- 18 hours of continuing education in counseling supervision
- Have earned the NBCC’s Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) credential
Once you qualify you can submit a Supervisor Approval Form to the State Board, including a $200 fee.
Renewing Your License
The LGPC and LCPC license expire after two years from the date they’re issued. The State Board mails out renewal reminders, and you can renew by submitting a paper renewal form you can print off from the State Board website plus a $301 fee. To be eligible for renewal you need to complete 40 hours of continuing education for each renewal cycle. You can find the renewal form for the LGPC license here.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Maryland?
It takes six years to complete the minimum education requirement to become licensed as an LGPC or LCPC: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and two additional years to graduate from a master’s program. At that point you can become an LGPC. From there it takes three more years of supervised experience to qualify for the LCPC license; a nine-year total investment. Finally, you can become an LCPC Supervisor with two years of experience beyond that.
If you’re currently licensed as an out-of-state LCPC you can apply based on your out-of-state qualifications by submitting this application to the Maryland State Board along with a $250 application fee and $150 licensing fee. To be eligible for licensure via this route, your state’s licensing requirements need to be substantially similar to Maryland’s. You’ll still need to take the Maryland Law and Assessment exam.
Practicums and Internships
As part of fulfilling the education requirement, the graduate degree you earn must include a supervised field experience that’s at least three semester credits and includes at least 125 hours of face-to-face client counseling. This experience can be in the form of an internship, practicum, externship, or clinical case conference.
If your supervised field experience included qualifying supervised clinical experience you can apply up to 1,000 of these hours towards fulfilling the LCPC license’s experience requirement.
You need to pass two exams to qualify for either the LGPC or LCPC licenses. One is sponsored by a national organization and the other is sponsored locally.
The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). This is a multiple-choice computer-based test that’s administered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). The CCE manages the online ProCounselor portal that you use to register for the NCE once you’ve gained approval from the Maryland State Board. You can find detailed information about this exam in the NCE Handbook.
The Maryland Law Assessment exam covers the laws and regulations relating to practice within a health occupation and specifically professional counseling. You can take this exam online at any time by registering for it here. It’s a no-fail, no-score test comprised of 36 questions. Once you take this exam you can print off a Certificate of Completion. Make sure to include this with your application for licensure.
Required Education and Degrees
To qualify for the LGPC or LCPC license you must earn a graduate degree from a school that’s in this directory of accredited institutions, maintained by the US Department of Education. If it’s a master’s degree it must be at least 60 semester credits, and if it’s a doctoral degree it must include at least 90 graduate semester credits.
Furthermore the program must include three semester credits covering each of the following topics:
- Human growth and personality development
- Cultural and social foundations of counseling
- Counseling techniques
- Counseling theory
- Group dynamics, processing, and counseling
- Career and lifestyle development
- Evaluation and research
- Legal, professional, and ethical responsibilities
- Family and marriage therapy
- Drug and alcohol counseling
- Psychopathology and diagnosis
- Psychotherapy and treatment of mental and emotional disorders
You can find detailed information about meeting these course content requirements here. Your program must also include a qualifying supervised field experience.
Maryland offers some of the best average annual salaries for counselors in the nation. Of all the states, it offers the third-highest average salary for educational, guidance, and career counselors according to the US Department of Labor. In 2020 that department reported the following average yearly salaries for each of these career tracks, specifically for Maryland:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $70,380
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $48,280
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $41,310
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $49,550
- Counselors, all others – $41,760
- Occupational Therapists – $87,670
- Therapists, all other – $61,010
Types of Counseling Careers
The US Department of Labor reports a total of 19,150 professionals working throughout Maryland in the careers listed above. Of those:
- 30% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 26% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 17% are Occupational Therapists
- 11% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 8% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 5% are Therapists, all others
- 3% are Counselors, all others
Maryland Counseling Association (MCA) – The MCA serves as the go-to hub for counselors from all areas of practice and focus. It serves as an umbrella for state associations devoted to aspects like multicultural counseling, spiritual and religious values in counseling, social justice, career development, and more.
Maryland School Counselor Association (MSCA) – A chartered local affiliate of its national parent organization for more than half a century, the MSCA has proven experience in improving this profession and by extension improving the education experience for students and their families throughout the state.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors of Maryland (LCPCM) – Focusing specifically on LCPCs throughout the state, members enjoy access to privileged networking services, classified job ads, and the latest updates on legislative developments. Membership is available for students, LCPC retirees, LGPCs, and LCPCs.
Maryland Association of Addiction Professionals (MAAP) – This local representative of its national affiliate has its ear to the ground for activities and committee appointments regarding issues that are most relevant for addiction professionals from many different professional backgrounds.
Maryland Association of Behavioral Health Authorities (MABHA) – This non-profit organization is made up of the state’s core service agencies, local behavioral health authorities, and local addiction authorities. Founded in 1997, its primary goal is that all residents would have access to a quality behavioral health system that optimizes wellness and recovery.
Maryland Department of Health – This state agency is one of the most direct links between government programs or services and those in greatest need. It contains sub-administrations that are devoted to issues like public health, developmental disabilities, and behavioral health.
Behavioral Health System Baltimore – Being the region’s leading expert in in advancing wellness and behavioral health means this organization has innovative approaches to addressing issues like treatment, recovery, early intervention, and prevention for those who are dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.
Baltimore City Health Department – Providing vital resources for Baltimore’s most vulnerable populations, programs with this municipal agency address issues like aging, chronic disease prevention, environmental health, youth trauma, substance abuse, and mental health.
BK Behavioral Health Center – With offices located in Lanham and Baltimore, this company offers community-based services for children, couples, individuals, and adults. With the understanding that not everything can be best solved in an office, in addition to in-house sessions, counselors also visit clients in their homes to maximize psychosocial learning.
University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus – With a history that spans well over 100 years and a 170-bed capacity, this healthcare provider specializes in dozens of health services, one of which is mental and behavioral health. It accepts clients of all ages and in all stages of treatment need. Therapies include occupational/recreational, crisis revolution therapy, substance abuse and addiction management for patients with dual diagnoses, and cognitive-dialectical behavior therapy.