A sub-board of the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners, the Professional Counselor Examiners Committee (PCEC) issues the main credential you need to practice professional counseling throughout New Jersey: the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
Before you can become fully licensed as an LPC you need to become a Licensed Associate Counselor. This allows you to engage in professional counseling under supervision until you acquire enough experience to qualify for full LPC licensure.
As an LPC you can independently engage in counseling activities like:
- Research activities
- Assessments and appraisals
- Counseling interventions, including developmental, facilitative, and preventative
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in New Jersey
Becoming an LAC and subsequently becoming fully licensed as an LPC is a process that involves these steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling, and have your school send your official transcripts to the PCEC
- Pass the NCE exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Complete a period of counseling work experience under supervision as an LAC
- Apply for an LPC license
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Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC)
- Fulfill the education requirement with a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling.
- Locate a supervisor. As an LAC you can accrue hours to fulfill the LPC supervised experience requirement. Once you’ve found a supervisor you’ll need to fill out a Proposed Plan of Counseling Supervision and submit this with your application for LAC licensure to the PCEC.
- Create an online MyLicense account with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. When you’ve done this you can submit an application for LAC licensure through your MyLicense account, along with a $75 application fee. Once the PCEC approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to take its exam.
- Register with the NBCC for its National Counselor Examination (NCE). Once you pass this the PCEC will issue your LAC license after you’ve paid a $180 licensing fee and passed a criminal background check.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is two years (3,000 hours) of supervised professional counseling experience in a professional setting obtained as an LAC. Once you’ve achieved this, which you must do within six years, your supervisor will send a Documentation of Supervised Counseling Experience form to the PCEC. In addition to the two years as an LAC, you must complete one of the following: 1.) One additional year (1,500 hours) of supervised professional counseling experience. This can be completed prior to earning a master’s degree, and it can include experience gained in practicums and internships. 2.) 30 semester credits completed at the graduate-level that are clearly related to counseling, such as credits that are part of a doctoral program in Counseling. These must be in addition to the 60 credits you used to fulfill the education requirement.
- Apply for LPC licensure through your online MyLicense account. Include a $75 application fee. Once the PCEC approves your application it will issue your LPC license after you’ve passed a criminal background check and paid a $250 licensing fee.
Becoming a qualified supervisor:
As an LPC you can supervise LACs by becoming a qualified supervisor. To qualify for this you must have held a clinical license to provide mental health counseling services, such as an LPC, for at least two years and 3,000 hours, and meet one of the following:
- Earn a clinical supervisor certificate from the NBCC
- Earn a clinical supervisor certificate from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
- Complete three graduate semester credits in clinical supervision from a regionally accredited school
Renewing Your License
LAC and LPC licenses expire every two years, on November 30th of even-numbered years. You can renew online through your MyLicense account. The fee is $180 for LACs and $250 for LPCs. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 continuing education units each renewal period. Associate Counselors are exempt from this requirement for the first renewal.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in New Jersey?
You can expect to invest at least six years into earning the education you need to qualify for LAC and subsequently LPC licensure. It takes approximately four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and an additional two years to complete a qualifying master’s degree in Counseling. You can complete the supervised experience you need to become fully licensed as an LPC in between two and three additional years. This makes the total investment to become an LPC at least eight years, and two years beyond that to earn a qualified supervisor status.
If you’ve been licensed as the equivalent of an LPC in another state for at least three years and 4,500 hours you can apply for LPC licensure in New Jersey via endorsement. Your out-of-state licensure requirements must have included passing either the NCE or NCMHCE from the NBCC, and education requirements that are identical to or more stringent than New Jersey’s. Follow the step-by-step application process detailed above and indicate that you’re applying via endorsement. Additionally the PCEC needs to receive the following:
- Official verification of your license from your state’s Board of Counseling, including your NBCC test scores and verification of supervised counseling experience
- Your official transcripts from your school
- Your current resume or curriculum vitae
Practicums and Internships
Although practicums and internships are not explicitly a requirement for LAC or LPC licensure in New Jersey, these are often included in graduate counselor education programs, especially those that are CACREP-accredited. In addition to providing you with valuable hands-on experience, you can also apply hours of supervised counseling experience towards fulfilling the LPC’s supervised experience requirement. To qualify, your practicum or internship courses must be offered in addition to courses that fulfill key didactic skill requirements.
To fulfill the exam requirement to become an LAC and subsequently fully licensed as an LPC, you must pass the National Board for Certified Counselors’ (NBCC) National Counselor Examination (NCE).
This is a multiple-choice computer-based test that you’ll have three hours and forty-five minutes to complete. You can read more about it in the NCE Handbook.
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Once the PCEC approves your application for LAC licensure it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to register for the NCE exam. You do this through the online ProCounselor portal, which is managed by the NBCC’s partner organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
Required Education and Degrees
The most direct way to fulfill the education requirement for licensure as an LAC and subsequently as an LPC is to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Counseling that’s at least 60 semester credits from a school that’s accredited by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The program must be designed to prepare you for the professional practice of counseling.
Right now in New Jersey there are 12 schools offering 26 graduate programs that are CACREP-accredited. These include:
- 25 master’s-level programs
- 18 MA programs
- Four M.Ed programs
- Three MS programs
- One PhD program
You can also fulfill the education requirement by earning a graduate degree that meets the above qualifications except for being CACREP-accredited. To qualify via this alternate route the program must be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
45 of the program’s 60 credits must be distributed in at least eight of the following key didactic counseling skill areas:
- Counseling theory and practice
- Helping relationship
- Human growth and development and maladaptive behavior
- Career and lifestyle development
- Group dynamics, processes, consulting, and counseling
- Appraisal of individuals
- Cultural and social foundations
- Evaluation and research
- Counseling profession
If you’re lacking education you can make it up by taking additional qualifying graduate-level courses.
When it comes to the highest average annual salaries in the nation, New Jersey consistently ranks among the top-five best states, including in all the career categories listed below. It ranks first for Rehabilitation Counselors and Counselors-all other. It ranks second for Marriage and Family Therapists and Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors. This is according to a 2020 report from the US Department of Labor, which reveals the following about average annual salaries among different New Jersey counseling careers:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $73,160
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $75,930
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $65,540
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $60,120
- Counselors, all others – $68,090
- Occupational Therapists – $96,820
Types of Counseling Careers
From the counseling career categories listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 28,670 employed professionals in New Jersey. Of those:
- 35% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 24% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 18% are Occupational Therapists
- 15% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 4% are Counselors, all others
- 3% are Rehabilitation Counselors
New Jersey Counseling Association (NJCA) – A mentor program, classified job ads, and annual conferences and workshops are just some of the benefits members of the NJCA enjoy. Divisions within this organization are devoted to important topics in the counseling field, including multicultural counseling, creativity in counseling, adult development and aging, and spiritual, ethical, and religious values in counseling.
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) – Hosting events, presentations, and practice groups, this organization is also proud of its numerous partnerships and councils that address topics like healthcare and education. It can look back on nearly 70 years of improvements and contributions it’s made to this field, and look forward to the positive directions its leadership is providing for the benefit of local communities across the state.
Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) – This non-profit organization strives to enact its vision of helping children and adults overcome substance use and mental health disorders. It has working groups devoted to shaping legislation, improving peer services, bolstering community education and support groups, and much more.
New Jersey Community College Counselors’ Association – Providing valuable forums for discussions and sponsoring a series of counselor recognition awards, this association is also an approved provider of continuing education. It’s been a strong advocate of professional counseling since 1982.
New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA) – Hosting events and professional networking opportunities is one advantage the NJSCA brings to the counseling community. It’s also a strong advocate for maximizing the positive opportunities students experience as they develop, and for encouraging excellence in the school counseling profession.
New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services – This is one of the most important state agencies for those suffering from substance abuse or mental and behavioral health disorders. Under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Human Services, this is perhaps the state-level actor most familiar to LACs and LPCs.
New Community Corporation – Focusing on residents of inner cities, Newark-based NCC provides resources for vital aspects of life including housing, emergency food, and financial services. Its Family Services Bureau offers clients counseling services for individuals, couples, and families focusing on issues like domestic violence, parenting, and anger management.
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True Care – With locations in Paterson, Newark, and Elizabeth, this community-based organization provides mental health services for children, teens, and adults. It offers clinical services, outpatient programs, telehealth, and behavior assessments.
Jersey City Medical Center – Providing essential medical services for over a century since 1882, the 15-acre medical campus housing this healthcare provider includes a group of professionals who are dedicated to treating child and adolescent behavioral health issues. This includes in-patient evaluations, outpatient services, and partial hospitalization.
CarePoint Health – Based in Hoboken and including three area hospitals, this healthcare provider is dedicated to ensuring all residents can live the healthiest lives possible. It provides behavioral health services among the care it offers, tailored to population groups like children, adolescents, adults, families, and crisis survivors.