How to Become a Counselor in Maryland

Becoming a licensed and professional counselor in the state of Maryland is relatively straightforward as long as applicants know what to look for and where to look for it. The state has been licensing professional counselors since 1998 and the regulations are meant to be very rigid when it comes to licensure. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is very clear on who can and can't practice as a counselor. In the state bylaws it says that, with the exception of students under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor or a trainee working under the supervision of a licensed counselor, "an individual may not practice, attempt to practice, or offer to practice clinical alcohol and drug counseling, clinical marriage and family therapy, clinical professional art therapy or clinical professional counseling in the State unless licensed by the Board." The licensure process in Maryland may look daunting at first, but for students who have been pursuing a graduate degree in the field and have been taking care to follow all of the steps and meet all the criteria will find the licensing process rather perfunctory.

What Are the Degree Requirements to Become a Counselor in Maryland?

The very first thing to understand as someone interested in becoming a licensed counselor in the state of Maryland is that a bachelor's degree is not going to be enough to qualify for licensure. There are schools that offer bachelor's degree programs in the subject, but those programs are designed more to build a foundation for graduate work than they are designed to help students find work as professional counselors. In fact, all states in the country require that its licensed counselors hold at least a master's degree in the subject and Maryland is no exception.

According to the legal licensing requirements put forth by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, applicants must have either a master's degree from an accredited educational institution with a minimum of 60 graduate semester credit hours or 90 graduate quarter credit hours; or they must have a doctoral degree with a minimum of 90 graduate semester credit hours or 135 graduate credit hours.

Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling 7-8 Years Online or Campus

What Types of Counseling Licenses are Available in Maryland?

The next thing that someone applying for licensure needs to understand is that Maryland licenses two different types of counselors. The state licenses what they call "clinical professional counselors" and they also license "clinical alcohol and drug counselors". Knowing the difference is important because state regulations differ in some aspects for the different professions.

Clinical Drug and Alcohol Counseling License in Maryland

In order to qualify for a license as a clinical alcohol and drug counselor, an applicant must meet a certain set of requirements. Like all counselors in Maryland, the applicant must first be of good moral character (that means they will run a background check on the applicant to make sure they have a clean criminal record) and the applicant must be at least 18 years of age. The applicant must also  shall hold a master’s or doctoral degree in a health and human services counseling field. As mentioned above, the applicant must have completed a certain number of graduate credit hours depending on whether they hold a master's degree (60 graduate credit hours) or a doctoral degree (90 graduate credit hours). Where the two types of licensure divert from one another is that applicants for drug and alcohol counseling licensure must have completed a minimum of 26 credit hours in alcohol and drug counselor training. These credit hours must include classes in the following subjects:

  • Medical aspects of chemical dependency
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Assessment and treatment planning
  • Ethics for alcohol and drug counselors
  • Human development
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Courses pertaining to counselor core functions of screening, intake, orientation, case management, crisis intervention, education and prevention, referral, consultation, reports and record keeping, and special alcohol and drug dependency topics

In addition to the classroom requirements, students looking for licensure as a clinical drug and alcohol counselor must have completed at least three years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised experience in alcohol and drug counseling. Also, two of those years must be completed after the applicant obtains a master’s or doctoral degree. The applicant will also need to have completed training in the following subject areas:  shall provide documentation to the Board evidencing the completion of 60 hours of graduate course work, completed at an accredited college or university approved by the Board that included training in:

  • Personality development
  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy in alcohol and drug disorders

Clinical Professional Counselor Licensing in Maryland

The requirements for licensure as a Clinical Professional Counselor in Maryland are primarily the same as the requirements for licensure as a Clinical Drug and Alcohol Counselor. The applicant must be of good moral character, he/she must be at least 18 years of age and he/she must hold a master's degree or doctoral degree in a professional counseling field. It is important to note the difference here is that clinical professional counselors must have a graduate degree in a counseling field whereas clinical alcohol and drug counselors must have a graduate degree in a health or human services field.

The credit hour requirements are the same no matter what counseling license the applicant is looking for. It is still 60 graduate credit hours for those holding a master's degree applicant and 90 graduate credit hours for those holding a doctoral degree.  must have completed a certain number of graduate credit hours depending on whether they hold a master's degree (60 graduate credit hours) or a doctoral degree (90 graduate credit hours).  The difference is that for a clinical professional counselor, these credit hours must include courses in the following subjects:

  • Counseling techniques
  • Human growth and development and maladaptive behaviors
  • Group dynamics, processing, and counseling
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Research and evaluation
  • Participation in a supervised practicum in professional counseling
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Alcohol and drug counseling

The supervised experience requirements are almost the same except this license requires applicants to have completed 3,000 years of supervised experience, not just 2,000. The subject areas are the same for training and they include:

  • Personality development
  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders
  • Psychopathology

Steps Becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor in Maryland?

Once the applicant or interested party is confident that they have met all of the education and supervised experience requirements. The process for becoming a licensed professional counselor in Maryland can be broken down easily step-by-step. Let's break it down into steps, starting with the education.

  1. Obtain a master's degree or doctoral degree and make sure to meet the credit requirements (60 graduate credits for a master's degree and 90 graduate credits for a doctoral degree). Applicants should also make sure they are obtaining those graduate credits in the necessary subject areas.
  2. Applicants should complete the supervised work experience requirements next. That means applicants looking for licensure as a clinical drug and alcohol counselor must have completed at least three years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised experience and applicants looking for licensure as a professional clinical counselor must have completed at least 3,000 hours of supervised work experience. It is important that applicants remember that two of those years must be completed after the applicant obtains a master’s or doctoral degree.
  3. Applicants should take and achieve a passing score on the National Counselors Examination of the National Board for Certified Counselors and the State Law Test. There are also drug and alcohol related tests that may be required. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene maintains a list. There may also be ethics tests involved in the process that need to be passed as well.
  4. The final step is to actually apply. This will include submitting information for a criminal background check that is required and also filling out all of the required forms, which are different depending on the type of counseling license being pursued. The MDHMH has a list of all the forms required that can be downloaded from its website.

Counselor Career Outlook In Maryland

According to the most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are slightly less than 1,800 professional mental health counselors working in the state of Maryland and the average annual salary for a counselor in Maryland is about $42,180. The DMV metro area is particularly popular and prosperous for mental health counselors. The more senior counselors are able to earn upwards of $80,000 per year while entry-level counselors can expect to make right around $30,000 per year or maybe a little bit more.

Research Additional Psychology Professional Licenses Granted by Maryland:

Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students from Maryland