Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a licensed clinical professional counselor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor?

A counselor is a mental health professional who helps clients deal with a wide range of psychological, behavioral and emotional problems by providing therapy and offering advice on coping skills. In this field, it is possible to specialize in substance abuse/behavioral disorders, mental health counseling, rehabilitation and marriage/family therapy. All clinical counseling professionals must be licensed in order to practice.

The following chart gives you an overview on entering this field.

Degree Required Master's degree
Training Required 2,000 to 4,000 hours supervised clinical experience
Education Field of Study Psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy, social work or related field
Licensure and/or Certification All states require licensed professional counselors to be licensed
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19%* (all mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists)
Median Salary (2015) $43,190* (all mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Schooling Will I Need?

The education process for you will really begin as an undergraduate at a 4-year university. Here, you can major in psychology, education, sociology, social work, human services and/or premedical programs. You may also wish to take courses in the aforementioned fields you don't major in. It's a good idea to ask your university's career advisor about state and local volunteer opportunities and about future education tracks specific to the state in which you want to practice.

Next, you will need to enter a graduate program in counseling. You'll have the opportunity to specialize in any of the various requisite subfields of study, such as family, group, couple, gerontological or child counseling; mental health, sexual health, career and rehabilitation issues; and professional orientation, diagnosis, psychotherapy and counseling theory outlooks. For example, the state of Illinois requires at least 48 credit hours and at least three of them in each of its 13 different subfields, according to the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association (www.imhca.org).

Combined with credit hours, you'll then need to spend significant time as a supervised counselor, often about two years. Finally, you'll need to pass national and state exams to be able to officially call yourself a nationally certified counselor and a licensed clinical professional counselor.

However, many LCPCs work toward attaining multiple licenses. Certification for Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADC), Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling (Ph.D.) are all common additional credentials seen after the names of practicing LCPCs.

What Career Options Would I Have?

Once licensed, your options as a LCPC are vast. You could work at a hospital or nursing home, providing care for dementia and Alzheimer's sufferers and their families. You could offer your services to prisoners in a correctional facility suffering from depression or anger management issues. You could even do a mix of all of these things or specialize in a few (adding others from the possible fields discussed above) in your own private practice.

In all cases, the success of your practice will be determined by establishing strong personal connections, continuing efforts to maintain and add additional credentials and upholding the rigorous ethical creed of an LCPC. These strengths of character, skill and résumé will greatly enhance your possible movement towards a higher wage, a lasting reputation and an upper management position.

What About Job Outlook and Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 19% increase for all mental health counseling and marriage and family therapist jobs from 2014 to 2024 and 22%, 20%, 15% and 9% increases for substance abuse/behavioral disorder counselors, mental health counselors, marriage/family therapists, and rehabilitation counselors, respectively (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the respective median annual wages for these positions were $39,980, $41,880, $48,600 and $34,390 as of May of 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As an alternative career, you could become a school and career counselor. These professionals often provide advice to high school students on course selection, college applications and career possibilities. They need a master's degree and a license in order to practice. Another related option is a job as a social worker. Social workers meet with community members to assess their needs and help them gain access to resources they need, like medical care and food assistance. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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