Alabama Counseling License Requirements
In the southern state of Alabama there are close to 6,800 people employed as various types of professional counselors, with the highest number working as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (3,770).1-5 In Alabama, you must become licensed to practice most types of counseling via boards such as the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling, and the application process typically involves obtaining a master’s degree, gaining supervised experience, and passing an exam. Continue reading for more information about the licensure of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) and other types of counselors in Alabama.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Alabama
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Alabama
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Alabama Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Alabama
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Alabama
Alabama requires most professional counselors to be licensed before practicing. Licensure usually starts with a master’s degree in counseling at a regionally-accredited college or university. There are many accredited schools in Alabama that offer counseling programs. This educational requirement is typically followed by a certain number of hours of professional supervised experience. After these requirements have been fulfilled and the national test has been passed, applicants can complete the rest of the licensure process.
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
Since there are many different types of counseling within the field, the first step to becoming a counselor in Alabama should be to decide which area you would like to focus on. It is helpful to consider whether you prefer working with a certain type of clientele (e.g., students, mentally ill people, or couples) or if you want to address certain issues with your counseling work (e.g., relationship problems, mental health issues, addictions). Once you have a more solid idea of the type of counselor you want to be, you can move on to the next step of earning your degree.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
Most types of licensure in Alabama require a master’s degree in counseling, but you should research the type of licensure you are targeting so that you understand the degree requirements for that area of counseling. In Alabama, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), and school counselors are required to complete a master’s degree in counseling to become licensed. There is currently no certification required for substance abuse counselors working independently in Alabama, though most are licensed as LPCs or licensed social workers (LSWs), designations that usually require a master’s degree in a related field.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Alabama.
Once you have your master’s degree in professional counseling, you can submit your application to the Board, get permission to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), gain the necessary experience, and finally, receive your counselor license to practice in Alabama. The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling licenses ALCs and LPCs, while the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy oversees marriage and family counseling licenses, the Alabama State Department of Education oversees school counselors, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health governs substance abuse counselors in the state.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
To become a professional counselor in Alabama, you must complete a graduate degree in counseling from an accredited school of at least 48 semester hours, with coursework in specific content areas such as counseling theory, helping relationship, lifestyle and career development, social/multicultural foundations, and group dynamics. For more on what an LPC does, read our professional counselor career guide. You will first need to become an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) before you can begin accruing the supervised experience required to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling oversees the licensure process in the state. In Alabama, LPCs can render professional counseling services privately to individuals, groups, organizations, corporations, institutions, government agencies, or the general public.
1. Apply to become an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC).
The first step to becoming an LPC in Alabama is to apply to become an ALC after you have completed your required graduate degree in counseling. Along with the ALC Application, you must include official transcripts of graduate coursework and a Proposed Plan of Supervision. Once the Proposed Plan of Supervision has been approved, the ALC license will be issued and a fee of $150 (as of July 2019) will be due to the Board.
2. Accrue supervised experience.
Once you have been approved to become an ALC, you will be able to begin accruing the 3,000 supervised hours of experience needed to become a full LPC. At least 100 hours are required annually and 50 of those should be face-to-face, direct supervision. 2,250 hours should be direct counseling services with individuals, couples, families, or groups and the remaining 750 hours can be indirect counseling services such as administration and documentation. For every 15 graduate hours in counseling obtained beyond the master’s degree, applicants can subtract 1,000 hours of experience and the allocation of the remaining hours will be altered. The supervision must be performed by the LPC identified on the Proposed Plan of Supervision.
3. Pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
Once you have submitted your application to become an ALC and proven that the academic requirement has been met, the Board will authorize your registration for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) and notify you of the required associated payment ($120 in July 2019). An NCE Handbook is available to prepare you for the 200-question multiple-choice exam that assesses your knowledge of various counseling content areas. The test can be taken before, during, or after accruing the supervised experience.
4. Petition the Board in writing to be reviewed for licensure as an LPC.
After the supervised experience has been completed and the NCE has been passed, applicants will petition the Board in writing to be reviewed for full licensure. The application fee is $200 as of July 2019.
5. Receive your LPC license.
Once all of the above requirements have been met, the Board will approve you for LPC licensure and you will be able to practice counseling in Alabama.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Endorsement in Alabama
While Alabama does not have reciprocity agreements with any other states, you can apply for licensure by endorsement if you are already licensed to practice counseling in another state. Licensure by endorsement in Alabama is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The key element the Board looks at is the issuance date of the original license held by the applicant. Your date of issuance is matched to one of the three Alabama Equivalency Categories so that the terms of your original license can be compared to Alabama rules that were in place during that time. If the Board deems your license equivalent to the Alabama rules of that time, then your original license is eligible for endorsement. Otherwise, you will need to apply as a regular applicant. The application fee is $200 as of July 2019.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
LPCs must renew their licenses every two years, and the initial LPC license will expire on July 31 of the renewal year. Renewal notices are mailed to the licensee as a courtesy and a renewal fee of $300 (as of July 2019) is due for each renewal period. Each renewal period, a minimum of 40 hours of formal professional and continued education experience must be completed, with a minimum of six clock hours in ethical concerns. The LPC should keep documentation of all CE hours earned for at least three years. To renew your ALC license, you must complete 10 formal contact clock hours of professional continuing education experience, a minimum of two of which should be in ethical concerns for practice, assessment, supervision, or research in counseling. The renewal fee for ALC licensure is $150 as of July 2019.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Alabama
In addition to licensed professional counselors, people interested in practicing counseling in Alabama may be interested in other types of jobs such as licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors. The pathways for these counseling careers in Alabama are detailed below.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy oversees the licensure of LMFTs in the state of Alabama. LMFTs in the state are authorized to provide therapy including individual, group, couple, sexual, family, divorce therapy, and psychotherapy. LMFTs are required to have a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy from a regionally accredited institute. In addition to meeting the educational requirement to become an LMFT, you must:
- Submit your application to the Board to become a Marriage and Family Therapy Associate (MFT Associate). (You may submit your application before or after you have completed the educational requirement.)
- Submit the Permission to Sit for the Marriage and Family Therapy Examination form (the form is part of the application).
- Accrue the required supervised experience.
- Submit your LMFT application to the Board and receive your LMFT license.
For more information about LMFT careers, see the LMFT career guide.
School counselors in Alabama are licensed educators who hold a master’s degree in school counseling and address the academic, career, social, and emotional needs of their students. Since school counseling is considered an extension of education, these types of counselors are required to become teachers first and are licensed by the Alabama State Department of Education. Licensure as a school counselor involves attending a master’s-level educator preparation program in school counseling first, but there are a variety of pathways to becoming a counselor. Depending on the pathway chosen, applicants will complete some or all of the following general steps:
- Request an Interim Employment Certificate (IEC) or Provisional Certificate in School Counseling if desired.
- Submit an application to the Department of Education.
- Receive your school counseling certification.
To learn more about the path to becoming a school counselor, visit our school counseling career guide.
Substance Abuse Counselor
The department that oversees substance abuse counselors in Alabama is the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Substance abuse counselors practicing independently are ordinarily licensed as clinical social workers (LCSWs) or LPCs in Alabama. Agencies, or substance abuse community providers, in Alabama recognize three designations for substance abuse counselors employed: Qualified Substance Abuse Provider I (QSAP I), Qualified Substance Abuse Provider II (QSAP II), and Qualified Substance Abuse Provider III (QSAP III), but these titles are not required unless you are working for such an agency. Broadly, to become a substance abuse counselor in Alabama, you will need to:
- Become an LPC or LSW in the state, if you wish to practice independently; or
- Be hired as a QSAP by a qualifying agency, and
- Gain the clinical work experience necessary for the QSAP level desired, and
- Pass the qualifying exam by one of the accrediting bodies listed above and obtain certification.
More information about substance abuse counseling careers can be found in our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Alabama
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
- Associate Addiction Professional (AAP)
- Associate Prevention Specialist (APS)
- Certified Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Abuse Professional (CAADAP)
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Prevention Manager (CPM)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS)
Other Professional Counseling Careers
You may be interested in another type of counseling not listed above. Other counseling career paths and related careers may include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Alabama Counseling Career and Salary Information
In Alabama, 6,770 total professional counselors are employed in the five major categories of counseling identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1-5 Over half of these are employed in the educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors category.3 Those in the “all other counselors” category earn the highest salaries in Alabama, at nearly $60,000 per year, followed closely by educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors, who earn over $53,000 per year.5,3
The job outlook for counselors in Alabama is largely positive, with projections similar to national ones, though projections for Alabama were only reported for three of the five main counseling career types.6 The highest growth projected is for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (which Projections Central separates from mental health counselors), with 21.6% job growth expected in the next 10 years, close to the 23.2% projected nationally.6 Jobs for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are also projected to grow at a rate of 10.9%, which is close to the national average (12.6%) for this category.6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||110||$59,150|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||3,770||$53,420|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||240||$40,540|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,600||$42,640|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Alabama
- Alabama Counseling Association: The state branch of the American Counseling Association and a professional organization for all types of counselors in the state.
- Alabama School Counselor Association: Professional association promoting excellence in school counseling programs across Alabama schools by providing professional learning opportunities, advocacy, leadership, and collaboration.
- Alabama Marriage and Family Therapists: Alabama chapter of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) for student, clinical, and associate members in the state that provides news, licensure information, and more.
- Alabama Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association: Certifies drug and alcohol counselors in the state and provides information on education and advocacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a licensed professional counselor in Alabama?
The process to become a licensed counselor in Alabama varies based on the speed at which you complete the necessary steps. Most candidates will spend four years getting a bachelor’s degree, one or two years of graduate study, and an additional one to two years accumulating supervised experience, taking the exam, and completing the application steps.
How much do Alabama counselors make?
The salaries for Alabama counselors vary by many factors including the type of counselor, employer type, and location. The average salary for counselors of all types in the state is $47,766 per year.1-5
Can I become a counselor in Alabama without a degree?
It is unlikely. Most counselor types in Alabama require a graduate degree in counseling or a related area. Even if you aim to work for an Alabama substance abuse agency as a QSAP, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
Do I have to take an exam to be a licensed professional counselor in Alabama?
Yes, after you apply to become an ALC in Alabama, you will be authorized by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). A passing score on this test is required to become an LPC.
Do I have to have experience to become an LPC in Alabama?
Yes, before you can become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Alabama state law requires you to gain at least 3,000 hours of experience supervised by an LPC. During this time, you will be classified as an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC).
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm