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Mental Health Counselor Certification and Education Programs

Read details about the certification process for mental health counselors. Find out what type of education is needed and what the options are for continuing education. Also get employment outlook and salary information.

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Essential Information

The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. grants the credential of National Certified Counselor (NCC). The organization is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. To be eligible for the National Certified Counselor credential, individuals must hold at least a master's degree with a concentration in counseling. National counselor certification is generally voluntary and differs from state licensing. Individuals may seek certification for a variety of counseling specialties such as rehabilitation counselor or mental health counselor. Individuals must have two years or more of supervised practical counseling experience. In addition, applicants must also hold state licensure to practice counseling.

A passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification is required to receive certification. Those pursuing the credential of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor must complete the NCC credential first, or pursue both certifications simultaneously. While certification is typically voluntary, it may increase employment prospects.

Education Programs

Individuals may engage in preparatory education programs to prepare for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification exam. Program offerings include independent study, online practice tests, Web scenario simulators, workshop videos, study manuals and audio books. Mental health counselors typically possess a master's degree or Ph.D. prior to seeking national certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the job outlook for mental health counselors to grow as the demand for the service they provide increases. Jobs in the field are projected to increase by 36% from 2010-2020. The median annual salary for mental health counselors was $40,080, with a middle range of $31,720 to $51,750, in 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Upon receiving the National Certified Counselor credential, individuals may pursue specialty certification for National Certified School Counselor and Master Addictions Counselor. Every five years, counselors must complete 100 credit hours of continuing education or retake and pass an exam to maintain certification. Other agencies, such as the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, offer certification for specialty areas. Popular specialty career options for counselors are marriage and family therapist, educational counselor, substance abuse counselor, vocational counselor and school counselor.

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