Becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) is a noble calling and one that’s needed now more than ever. Whether you want to help people with mental health, trauma and abuse, behavioral, or other issues, the rewards of a career in counseling are many. But before you enroll in a degree program to prepare for licensing, it is important to understand that there is not a one-size-fits-all path to becoming a professional counselor.
General Requirements for Becoming a Counselor
Much like a medical doctor, professional counselors in almost every state are required by law to hold licensure or certification to practice legally. This is primarily to mitigate risk for the patient or client, as well as to protect the counselor from liability. Laws surrounding licensure are set as minimum standards in the areas of education, examination and experience. For example, licensed professional counselors are required to obtain a master’s degree in counseling, with some requiring specific coursework.
Those wishing to become counselors must also complete a specified number of supervised hours and pass comprehensive exams. The tests recognized by most states include the National Counselor Examination (NCE), National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRCE), and Examination of Clinical Counselor Practice (ECCP), depending on which type of counseling is being pursued. The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) administers the National Counselor Examination (NCE), the exam which Kansas requires for licensure.
Once licensed, the LPC will be required to earn continuing education credits to retain their credentials. They will also be required to conduct themselves according to a code of ethics, such as the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, to maintain the highest standards in the profession.
State Requirements for Becoming a Counselor
Perhaps the most important thing to know when choosing a master’s degree program for counseling is that not all programs meet the requirements for all states. It is imperative that you research the requirements outlined for your state to ensure that you choose a program that will be recognized when applying to the state board for licensure or certification. Most states have a minimum requirement of 60 semester hours of graduate study,
Becoming a Counselor in Kansas – License Requirements
If you live in Kansas, or plan to practice in Kansas, the state requirements1 for becoming an LPC or licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) are similar to other states but specific enough to warrant close adherence.
A minimum of a master’s degree in counseling and a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours from an accredited school are required for securing a counseling license in Kansas as an LPC or LCPC.
Kansas is unique in that it allows half of the (MAC) degree courses to be completed online, which can be a huge benefit to working adults who want to become a licensed professional counselor. Ottawa University’s MAC takes advantage of that allowance to give students a leg up when completing the degree.
Professional counselor applicants must complete 4,000 hours of supervised experience within two years, with at least 1,500 of those being client facing hours and 100 hours having clinical supervision (50 as individual supervision).
To earn a counseling license in Kansas, applicants must pass the NCE exam to become credentialed as an LPC and pass the NCMHCE exam to become licensed as an LCPC.
Kansas Tiered Approach
Once you have met the above educational qualifications, application must be made to the Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board (BSRB), which issues licenses for Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors. Kansas is a state that takes a transitional approach to counseling licensure, so before becoming an LCPC, you must first become licensed as an LPC2 and work under the supervision of an LCPC, who alone can independently diagnose and treat mental disorders.
Upon receipt of your application, the Board will keep it on file for up to six weeks and review it. They will then notify you of your eligibility to take the National Counselor Examination to become a LPC. Once you’ve passed the exam, you will begin to accrue the 4,000 hours of supervised experience.
Upon completion of the 4,000 hours of supervised experience, LPCs may then apply for licensure as an LCPC. Prior to making application, however, they must have completed 15 credit hours of graduate-level training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and a graduate-level supervised clinical practicum. These can be done as part of the master’s degree program or in addition to it. The BSRB will then notify applicants of their eligibility to take the NCMHCE exam, issuing the license to practice independently in Kansas upon passing.
Every two years, LCPCs must complete 30 hours of documented, approved continuing education and apply to have their licenses renewed.
Choosing a Counseling Program
Ottawa University’s Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) degree program includes 39 credit hours of core classes, 15 credit hours of concentration/elective courses and nine credit hours of field placement experience that will prepare students to apply for licensure. The field-placement component is completed in eight terms, for a total of 900 client contact hours. During the field experience portion of the program, students work in a community behavioral health agency or other mental health organization for approximately 15-20 hours per week to gain hands-on experience.
The MAC program curriculum is designed to meet the educational requirements for counselor licensure in the states of Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin, though it is the responsibility of the student to contact their state’s licensure or certification authority to assure that the degree meets their state’s requirements.
OU also offers post-master’s Certificates of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS), which are reserved for professionals who have received a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.
Graduate students pursuing the Master of Arts in Counseling degree have the opportunity to gain deeper knowledge in a specialty area by completing 15 hours in a concentration area. They can tailor their MAC degree with one of the following counseling specialties:
• Expressive Arts Therapy
• Treatment of Trauma Abuse & Deprivation
Career Outlook for Kansas Counselors
There are currently approximately 3,400 counselors3 employed in the state of Kansas in various counseling roles, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for LPCs in Kansas in 2022 was $52,600.
By the year 2026, Kansas is projected to add a total of 470 new counseling jobs, with substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling projected to see the fastest growth (14.7%), or an average of 140 job openings each year. It’s worth noting, however, that the location quotient6 for counseling in Kansas is .4 to .8, meaning there is room for growth in the field to match the national average of counselors for the state’s population.
Related Fields: School Counseling & Addiction Counseling
It is important to note that becoming a licensed professional counselor is distinct from becoming a school counselor or a substance abuse counselor, which have a different set of requirements and standards for licensing. Ottawa University has programs to prepare students for each of these careers, as well: the Master of Arts in Education – School Counseling and the Master of Science in Addiction Counseling.
Ready to start on your personal pathway to becoming a counselor? Our enrollment advisors are here to help you chart the course – call us today!