How to Become a Licensed Counselor in Pennsylvania
How Do I Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania?
If you feel compelled to pursue a career that involves helping others and improving their quality of life, you’ll feel right at home as a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania.
Whether you have aspirations of focusing your career in counseling on a specific population like geriatrics, pediatrics, couples, etc. or on a specific mental health topic like suicide prevention, domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc., you’ll feel good knowing that Pennsylvania is among the top states in the nation for its employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. In fact, as of May 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranked PA third in the nation, behind only California and New York, with 20,680 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs.
Learning how to become a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania starts with understanding the education, experience, and exam requirements for licensure set forth by the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania?
The first step to becoming a licensed counselor in Pennsylvania is to complete a master’s or doctoral program that consists of 60 semester hours and includes study in:
- Human growth and development
- Social and cultural foundations
- Helping relationships
- Group work
- Career and lifestyle development
- Research and program evaluation
- Professional orientation
- Clinical instruction - must include a practicum of at least 100 clock hours and a supervised internship of at least 600 clock hours
|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|
The degree should be in counseling or in a field related to the field of professional counseling, such as:
- Social work
- Art therapy
- Dance/movement therapy
- Drama therapy
- Music therapy
- Human services
- Counseling education
- Child development and family studies
Many graduate programs in counseling are now offered in a hybrid and/or online format to provide an unprecedented degree of convenience and flexibility for busy, working professionals or those with geographical limitations. Learn more about online master’s degrees in counseling.
What Are the Supervised Education Requirements to Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania?
The amount of supervised experience you will need to gain is dependent upon the degree you hold.
If you’re qualifying for licensure with a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field, you’ll need to complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of clinical experience under the guidance of a Board-approved supervisor. If you’re qualifying for licensure with a doctoral degree in counseling or a closely related field, you’ll need to complete a minimum of 2,400 hours of clinical experience under the guidance of a Board-approved supervisor.
At least one half of the total experience requirements must be in one or more of the following areas:
- Other therapeutic interventions
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
What Are the Examination Requirements to Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania?
You must take and pass a Board-approved national examination to earn licensure as a professional counselor in Pennsylvania. The Board recognizes the following exams as meeting the exam requirement for licensure:
- National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
- Registered Art Therapist (ATR) exam administered by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB)
- Music Therapy Board Certification (MT-BC) exam administered by the Certified Board for Music Therapists
- Practice exam of psychological knowledge administered by the North American Association of Master’s in Psychology
- The Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination (AAODA) administered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Inc.
- Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
Once you pass a Board-approved exam and satisfy the Board’s supervised experience requirements, you’ll be eligible for licensure as a Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania.
Counseling Career Outlook In Pennsylvania
Between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs for Pennsylvania substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to increase by 19%. During this time, the Department of Labor expects to see about 2,770 annual job openings for these professionals due to a combination of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.
As of May 2022, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Pennsylvania earned a median salary of $46,630. If you’re relatively new to the field, you can expect to earn about $38,420 in Pennsylvania, which represents the 25th percentile. Once you’ve established yourself in the field and have gained considerable experience, you can expect to earn a salary that’s about $78,140, which represents the 90th percentile here.
Rehabilitation counselors, who provide counseling services that help individuals with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities live independently, earned a median salary of $35,870 in Pennsylvania as of May 2022. The top earners (90th percentile) among these professionals was $68,620 during this time.
All other counselors in Pennsylvania earned a median salary of $60,010 as of May 2022 and a top (90th percentile) of about $76,590.
Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students from Pennsylvania
Additional Resources for Pennsylvania Applicants
As you learn more about how to become a counselor in Pennsylvania, you may also be interested in learning about similar professions and their earning power in the Keystone State:
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Pennsylvania, who must hold a PhD or PsyD, earned a median salary of $73,130 as of May 2020. At the top of the pay scale, these mental health professionals earned about $106,050 during this time. Learn how to become a psychologist in Pennsylvania.
Marriage and family therapists in Pennsylvania, who are master’s educated and state licensed to practice, earned a median salary of $55,110 as of May 2020, while those at the top of the pay scale (90th percentile) earned about $79,360 during this time. Learn how to become a marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET (a website sponsored by the US Department of Labor) job market trends and salary figures for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and counselors (all other) are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2023.