How to Become a Licensed Counselor in Arizona
How Do I Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Arizona?
Men and women who feel a calling to help others improve the quality of their lives may be well suited for a career in counseling. Whether you’re counseling individuals, families or groups or overseeing prevention or support programs, a career as a licensed counselor means opportunities in large hospital systems, residential treatment facilities, governmental agencies like the VA, schools, and private practices, just to name a few.
In the state of Arizona, there is great demand for highly qualified counselors in the coming years. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs in the state is expected to grow by 41.1% - far outpacing the national projected growth rate of 25% for this profession (between 2019 and 2029).
During this ten-year period ending in 2028, Arizona should see about 490 annual job openings among licensed counselors due to a combination of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.
Before pursuing a career as a counselor, you’ll want to familiarize with the education and licensing requirements set forth by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners.
Education Requirements to Become a Counselor in Arizona
Before you can apply to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Arizona, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree or higher in a counseling program that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Some of the courses within an accredited counseling program include:
- Ethical practice
- Social and cultural diversity
- Human growth and development
- Career development
- Helping relationship (counseling theories and models)
- Group work (principles of group dynamics, group leadership styles)
- Qualitative and quantitative research methods
It must also include a practicum of at least 700 hours in a professional setting, of which at least 240 hours must include direct client contact.
Many graduate programs in counseling are now offered in a hybrid and/or online format to accommodate busy, working professionals and those with geographical limitations. If your professional and personal responsibilities make attending on-campus courses or downright impossible, you may want to explore the benefits of completing an online master’s degree in counseling.
Note: More on the state’s program requirements can be found in Title 4, Chapter 6, Article 5 of the Arizona Administrative Code.
|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|
Supervised Professional Practice Requirements
After meeting the education requirements, you’ll apply to become a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) and begin working toward your LPC license by completing the required supervised experience.
During your time as an LAC, you’ll need to complete at least 3,200 hours of supervised work experience in professional counseling within a minimum of 24 months. This experience requirement must include at least 1,600 hours of direct client contact involving the use of psychotherapy and within that 1,600 hours, no more than 400 can be in psychoeducation. All experience must be supervised by a licensed and Board-approved clinical social worker, professional counselor, independent substance abuse counselor, or independent marriage and family therapist.
Examination Requirements to Become a Counselor in Arizona
Once you’ve satisfied the required experience as an LAC, you’ll apply with the Board to become an LPC in Arizona and pay the $250 application fee. Once the Board has approved your application, you’ll be eligible to take one of the three counselor exams recognized by the Board:
- National Counselor Examination (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors
- Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRC) exam administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Becoming a Counselor in Arizona
Once you pass one of three national exams, you’ll earn your license to practice as an LPC in Arizona. You will need to renew your license every two years at which time you’ll need to have completed at least 30 clock hours of approved continuing education and pay a $325 license fee to maintain your license.
Salary and Occupation Information for Counselors in Arizona
As of May 2020, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Arizona earned a median salary of $56,500, beating out the national median salary of $47,660 for this profession by nearly $10,000.
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Arizona who are fairly new to the profession can expect to earn about $37,240 (25th percentile), while those with significant experience in the field can expect to earn about $57,930 - $70,380 (75th – 90th percentile).
Arizona’s rehabilitation counselors, who work with clients with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities overcome challenges to live independently, earned a median salary of $34,940 as of May 2020, while rehab counselors at the top of their profession (90th percentile) earned about $46,670. All other types of counselors in Arizona earned a median salary of $41,120 as of May 2020, while those in the 90th percentile earned about $62,310.
Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students from Arizona
Additional Resources for Arizona Applicants
As you explore the many possible careers in counseling in Arizona, such as child/pediatric counseling, domestic violence counseling, grief counseling, and much, much more, you may also want to take a look at similar professions and their state licensure requirements:
- Arizona Psychologist Licensing
- Arizona Marriage and Family Therapist Licensing
- Arizona Social Worker Licensing
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and counselors, all other. Figures represent state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2021.
State job growth projections for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and mental health counselors sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored O*Net database (2018-2028).