How to Become a Licensed Counselor in Virginia

How Do I Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia?

Compassionate men and women with a desire to improve lives and be of help to others would make excellent counselors. These professionals deal with a variety of different issues but with every specialty, the goal is to help clients overcome difficulties and live better, healthier lives. The state of Virginia has a rapidly growing counseling industry; the Virginia Workforce Connection predicts that employment in the counseling and social services sector will grow by almost 14% through 2030. Counselors in Virginia are offered pay that is comparable to the national average, and a long list of opportunities to help better the lives of others.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Counselor in Virginia?

A great counselor is one who can pull on a wide range of experiences and knowledge in order to best help his or her clients. In order to accumulate these experiences, future counselors need a great educational and training background. For this reason, the state of Virginia requires individuals to obtain a high-quality education as well as some supervised work experience. In addition to this, you will need to pass an examination approved by the Virginia Board of Counseling.

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

The first step to becoming a counselor is to complete either a master’s or doctoral level program in counseling that is accredited by either the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The program must meet the additional requirements of the state of Virginia, including having a sequence of academic study with the expressed intent to prepare counselors as documented by the institution, having an identifiable counselor training facility and having clear authority and primary responsibility for the core and specialty areas. An internship during your educational training can count toward your supervised experience requirements, so it’s a good idea to find a program offering one.

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What Are the Supervised Experience Requirements t0 Become a Counselor in Virginia?

It’s important to get a good plan together for your supervised experience, including the location it will take place, the supervisor who will be overseeing you, and any other relevant details. This should be submitted to the Virginia Board of Counseling, along with the required fee. Once this supervisory plan has been approved by the board, you may begin accumulating experience requirements.

Virginia Law (Chapter 35 of Title 54.1 of The Code of Virginia) requires you to complete 4,000 hours of supervised experience. Half of these hours should be what are called “direct client counseling,” meaning that you should be working directly with clients. In addition to that, 200 hours should be under direct supervision and you should also gather at least 100 hours of individual clinical supervision. No more than half of the “direct supervision” time should be spent in a group setting.

What Are the Examination Requirements to Become a Counselor in Virginia?

The board accepts passing scores from the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) which is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). This test is considered the industry standard nationwide and it is used for the purpose of testing general counseling knowledge. It consists of 200 multiple choice questions, and you will receive your score within four to five weeks of taking the exam.

Note: For more information on how to become a counselor in Virginia, please see the Virginia Board of Counseling.

Counseling Career Outlook In Virginia

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May of 2022, the state of Virginia employed 13,850 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and 2,010 rehabilitation counselors. Their annual median wages ranged from $46,250 to $50,460, which is very competitive when comparing with national averages. Salaries tend to be higher in more populated areas of Virginia and can also be dependent upon experience level.

Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students from Virginia

Additional Resources for Virginia Applicants:

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Virginia Workforce Connection job market trends and salary figures for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and rehabilitation counselors are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2023.