How to Become a Licensed Counselor in South Carolina

How Do I Become a Professional Counselor in South Carolina?

Residents of the Palmetto State who want to become licensed professional counselors in South Carolina know that the state has more to offer than just gorgeous beaches and golf courses. If you enjoy helping people and want to pursue studies in counseling and psychiatry, a career in counseling might be the right move for you.

If you’re interested in becoming a counselor in South Carolina, you have several career options open to you. You could be a counseling or school psychologist, a marriage and family therapist, a rehabilitation counselor or a mental health counselor that helps people who have substance abuse disorders.

To learn about how to start a rewarding and fulfilling career in counseling, including education and training requirements, keep reading.

Educational Requirements to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in South Carolina

Licensed professional counselors in South Carolina are required to have a strong educational background and experience gleaned during on-the-job training and supervised experience. The state also requires a passing score on a board-approved examination. See the table below for more detailed information on educational requirements for a degree in counseling.

Counseling Educational Track
Education RequirementsEducation LengthAvailable Programs
Undergraduate WorkEarn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling4 YearsOnline or Campus
Graduate WorkEarn a Master's Degree in Counseling5-6 YearsOnline or Campus
PHD or Doctoral WorkEarn a Doctorate in Counseling7-8 YearsOnline or Campus

The first step to take to become a counselor is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field like psychology or counseling. Then, you’ll want to apply to get a master’s degree in counseling, human services, mental health and wellness, or a similar degree program. Before you apply, you’ll want to make sure the school you’re interested in attending is accredited through the CACREP, which accredits master’s and doctorate degree programs in counseling throughout the U.S.

A master’s program typically takes around two years to complete, and there are several factors beyond accreditation to consider when you’re choosing a school, such as its tuition rates and proximity to you, which can affect the overall ROI of your education.

In South Carolina, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) are required to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE), a 200-item multiple-choice examination to assess a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Apply for the online exam here. Another option is to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), which is an exam focused on simulations that are designed to ascertain a candidate’s range of competencies.

South Carolina requires at least 1,500 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed professional approved by the board. At least 1,350 of those hours should be working directly with patients with at least 150 of hours under direct supervision with a professional counselor and 100 of those supervision hours should be one-on-one contact rather than group supervision.

Which Type of Counselor Will You Become?

Like medical doctors and physician assistants, a professional counselor will want to choose a specialty. A few career options include a school/academic counselor, rehabilitation counselor, substance abuse and mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist. Also consider what environment you’d like to work in – a hospital, private practice, school, etc.

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education disorders and developmental disorders to address student learning and behavioral problems; design and implement performance plans and evaluate performances; and counsel students and families. They tend to work at schools, health practitioner offices and outpatient care centers. They earn the most in Santa Rosa, California, with an annual average salary of $136,390, which is significantly higher than the average salary of $68,040 per year in South Carolina.

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors help students develop academic and social skills to succeed in life. They also help people develop vocational skills and counsel individuals and groups. Counselors typically have a master’s degree and the median annual salary was $57,040 in 2019. They typically work in primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities and for vocational and educational support services organizations.

Rehabilitation Counselors help people who have physical, mental, developmental and emotional disabilities and they work in community rehab centers, senior citizen centers and for youth guidance groups. Demand for rehab counselors is expected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029, and the median annual salary in the U.S. was $35,950 in 2019.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors provide treatment and help patients who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, behavioral disorders and typically are required to have a master’s degree. They work in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, hospitals and residential mental health facilities. States that have the highest employment levels include California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York and Florida.

Counseling Career Outlook and Salaries in South Carolina

Projected growth for counselors in the U.S. is 10% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. And the job outlook for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists nationally is more than 20% projected growth from 2019-29.

The median household income in South Carolina for 2015-19 was $53,199, which is lower than the national median household income of $62,843 for the same period but considering the potential need and projected growth for counselors nationwide, highly educated counselors in South Carolina should earn a higher salary than the statewide median.

Here are the salaries for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists; Educational, Guidance and Career Counselors and Advisors; Rehabilitation Counselors; and Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors in South Carolina, according to 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists:

Bottom 10%: $30,680

Annual Mean Salary: $68,040

Top 10%: $101,230

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors:

Bottom 10%: $31,790

Annual Mean Salary: $54,280

Top 10%: $81,930

Rehabilitation Counselors:

Bottom 10%: $23,730

Annual Mean Salary: $36,870

Top 10%: $53,950

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors:

Bottom 10%: $21,690

Annual Mean Salary: $41,620

Top 10%: $71,210

(Salary and job growth data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019 for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists; Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors; Marriage and Family Therapists; Rehabilitation Counselors; Substance Abuse, behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors; and Counselors, All Others. Figures represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)

Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students from South Carolina

Additional Resources for South Carolina Applicants: