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Licensed Professional Counselor Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for licensed professional counselors. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Licensed Professional Counselor?

You can explore a variety of fields in the licensed professional counseling arena. In all of these, you would be called upon to work with clients in need of some type of mental health care. This help can come from working in a clinic, hospital or private practice. You'd have to keep excellent patient records working as counselors, educators, case managers or therapists. Patients could need help with such issues and problems as drugs and alcohol, marriage and family, school and youth, or aging.

Licensed professional counselors work in a wide variety of areas offering counseling to individuals, families and/or groups. Their goal is to help the client with a specific issue, such as career, schooling, or substance use problems, or to improve the client's general functioning, mental health, and quality of life. See the table below for more information:

Degree RequiredMaster's degree
Education Field of StudyCounseling (specific courses vary with specialty)
Key ResponsibilitiesInteract with and counsel individual and groups of clients around a variety of issues; perform psychological and other assessments; maintain records; collaborate with other professionals; prepare and execute treatment plans and monitor progress
Licensure or CertificationRequired; varies by state and by specialization
Job Growth (2018-2028)22% for all types of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors*
Median Salary (2019)$47,077**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Does Being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Entail?

As an LPC, you could choose to specialize in a number of areas, including marriage and family therapy, school counseling, vocational counseling, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling and behavioral disorder counseling. No matter which path you chose, your primary duty would be helping patients to uncover issues in their past or present, overcome those issues and find ways to lead healthier, happier lives. You might work with individuals, families or groups, providing them the opportunity to share stories and concerns in a safe, trusted environment.

What Are The Requirements?

With numerous specialties in the field, you'll find various requirements for LPC jobs. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obtaining a master's degree is generally required (www.bls.gov). Most master's programs in counseling require 48-60 credit hours, including courses in human development, professional ethics, multicultural counseling and psychological assessment. You'll also explore counseling and research techniques, in addition to completing a number of classes in your chosen specialty. As a counseling master's candidate, you'll typically gain real-world experience through practicums and one or more internships.

To practice as an LPC, you'll also need to earn licensure or certification, the requirements for which vary by state and specialization. In addition to a master's degree, typical requirements include 3,000 hours of supervised practice beyond your schooling, as well as passage of a state-recognized exam to prove your proficiency in counseling theory and application. You'll also need to know and adhere to ethical codes and standards. To maintain your licensure or certification, you'll likely have to complete continuing education courses.

What Are My Certification Options?

LPCs also might choose to seek professional certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), which offers the National Certified Counselor credential, as well as a handful of specialty certifications. Obtaining NBCC certification is voluntary, but it could make you more marketable in your job search or lead to an advanced position.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, employment opportunities for all types of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors combined were expected to grow much faster than average, with a 22% increase in jobs forecast between 2018 and 2028. However, growth was projected to vary by specialization.

Counselors' salaries also differ by specialization. According to 2018 wage information from the BLS, the median annual salary was $50,090 for marriage and family therapists; $56,310 for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors; $44,630 for substance abuse, and behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors; and $35,630 for rehabilitation counselors.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a bachelor's degree, related careers could include becoming health educator and community health worker, social and community service manager, or substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. Health educators teach health wellness to local community groups or in school settings. Social and community service managers will organize local community social service programs. Substance abuse counselors advise a variety of addicts from drugs to alcohol. Behavioral disorder counselors may work with such behavioral problems as eating disorders or anger management.