What is the Fastest Way to Become a Licensed Counselor in the USA?

What is the Fastest Way to Become a Licensed Counselor in the USA?

So, you’ve decided to pursue counseling as a profession. Welcome aboard! It’s going to be a long journey, but trust us, it’ll be worth it.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to rush the process. For you to become a licensed counselor, you’ll need two degrees and licensure. The duration of your programs and experience requirement may vary, but the overall process takes at least 7 years.

Don’t let that intimidate you! Obtaining your license to practice counseling is no different than specializing in another profession of your choice. It takes years of education and experience to excel in reaching that level, but once you make it, you’ll have several career options to choose from. Here’s what the process looks like.

Undergraduate Degree

Your journey to becoming a licensed counselor begins in college when you pursue a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, this should be in a field of psychology or have you major in the field as this will give you the basic educational background of the subject. However, you can still pursue your dream of becoming a counselor if you minor in psychology.

An undergraduate degree takes at least four years to complete. During this time, you should also try to gain as much experience you can get by attending workshops & conferences, doing volunteer work and internships, and looking for research opportunities.  This will help you on your quest to enter this profession.

Graduate Degree

If only becoming a licensed counselor was as simple as graduating college with a bachelor’s degree! Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Holding just an undergraduate alone isn’t enough to qualify you as a licensed practitioner; there’s still a long way to go.

The next thing you need to do is get your master’s degree. You can choose from a number of programs related to counseling for this. This will further prepare you for clinical practice and enable you to specialize in a particular form of counseling. Your master’s program will focus on various counseling theories and practice including but not limited to family counseling, marriage counseling, substance abuse therapy, cultural diversity, counseling ethics, and treatment techniques.

graduate degree

Along with your graduate agree, you’ll also have to complete an internship related to your specialty. This is critical in boosting your observation skills and active listening skills.


Once you’ve obtained your master’s degree as well, there’s one more exam you need to take in order to become a licensed counselor. You’ll also have to fulfill the experience requirement under the supervision of a licensed therapist or practitioner. This varies among states but typically ranges between 1500 and 4000 hours of clinical exposure and experience. The hours are also spread over a specified number of weeks.

Many states employ NBCC-administered exams for licensure. This typically includes the National Counselor Exam (NCE). Once you clear this exam, you have an authorized license to practice counseling in your state.

E Care Behavioral Health Institute provides CEU’s for mental health professionals and counselors, through live webinars and recorded webinars. We also help with the NCE exam prep. Browse through our collection of webinars and courses to get started!