Arizona Counseling License Requirements
Arizona offers excellent job prospects and competitive salaries for prospective counseling professionals. As of May 2021, 16,770 individuals work as counselors in the state.1-5 To become a licensed counselor, you will need to meet strict licensure requirements for all the main counseling categories, such as Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and school counselor. Below you will find details on these types of counseling licensure, including education and work requirements, application forms, and exam information. We have also included information on the state job market and some professional resources.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Arizona
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Arizona
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Arizona Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Arizona
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Arizona
To become a professional counselor in Arizona, you will need to earn a degree and meet other licensing requirements. There are numerous counseling programs in Arizona that will meet state education requirements. A license is necessary to work in all of the main categories of the profession described in this guide. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Arizona, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Decide on an area of counseling to pursue.
There are many different types of counseling and you may need a specific license to provide related counseling services. Researching the common types of professional counseling and licensure processes will help you make the right education and work choices early on.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your chosen area of counseling.
All types of common counseling licensure in Arizona require a degree. Professional counseling, marriage and family therapy, and school counseling require a master’s degree with specific coursework in related areas. Certain positions within substance abuse counseling require a minimum of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to earn licensure, although becoming a licensed independent substance abuse counselor requires a master’s degree with coursework in substance abuse theory and counseling.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Arizona.
After earning your degree, apply for licensure with the correct state board or department to begin your counseling career. The Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners licenses professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and substance abuse counselors, while the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) certifies school counselors. To learn more, continue reading the steps to licensure below.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
Professional counselors are licensed by the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (the Board). Those with the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license enjoy a broad scope of practice as they are able to provide a range of techniques and services to all age groups, such as psychotherapy, career counseling, and mental health assessment and diagnosis. Read more about what an LPC does on our mental health counselor career page. A 60-credit graduate degree in a counseling-related area with coursework in eight core areas and a 700-hour practicum is required. A list of acceptable programs is available online but accreditation should be verified directly with the institution. If the program is not accredited by CACREP or CORE, you will need to fill out the curriculum form as part of the application to outline how your program meets the coursework requirements. More information about coursework requirements can be found in the Board’s LAC application.
1. Register as a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC).
First, obtain a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) license to begin accruing work experience. LACs provide counseling services but must always work under the direct supervision of qualified supervisors. The application is available on the Board’s website and the fee is $250 (as of October 2022).
2. Accrue supervised experience.
Applicants must complete at least 1,600 direct client hours involving the use of psychotherapy in addition to at least 100 hours of clinical supervision over a period of at least 24 months. Supervisors must be active LPCs or related mental health professionals with at least two years of experience and must meet clinical supervision training requirements. More information on supervision can be found in the Board rules. Your supervisor will need to verify your supervised work experience and clinical supervision using the forms provided on the Board’s website.
3. Apply for LPC licensure and permission to test.
Once you have completed the required work experience, you can submit your application package to the Board. The LPC application for applicants with an associate license is available online and the initial application fee is $250 (as of October 2022) plus $40 for fingerprint processing. Your application package will consist of a copy of your driver’s license, a complete set of fingerprints, a sealed official transcript, verification of all professional credentials, employment history, and a fingerprint clearance card. A self-query through the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is also required and can be completed online. The verifications of supervised work experience and clinical supervision hours, along with job descriptions, should be included in a sealed envelope.
The review process can take approximately 30 days once all necessary materials are received. Once your application is approved, you will be able to register for an exam. If eligible, you can also apply for a temporary license at this time for $50, which may enable you to work while you complete the exam requirement.
4. Pass one of three exams.
Arizona accepts scores from three different exams, although only one is required for licensure. Both the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are accepted. Exam prep materials for both the NCE and the NCMHCE are available online. Results from the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Examination offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) are also accepted for licensure, and a practice test is available online.
5. Receive your LPC license.
After your exam scores have been received by the Board, your application will be fully reviewed at an upcoming Board meeting, which takes place approximately once per month. Decisions will be sent by mail to the address on file.
LPC Licensure by Endorsement in Arizona
Arizona does not offer licensure by reciprocity, but licensure by endorsement is possible if you have been licensed in another state for at least one year with proof of Arizona residency or for at least three years without proof of residency. All endorsement applicants must have a master’s degree in a related field, complete the Arizona Statutes/Regulations Tutorial, and submit an application package including an NPDB self-query, a complete set of fingerprints, a copy of a driver’s license, verification of all professional credentials, and a sealed official transcript of your graduate degree. The application and resource guide are available online and cost $250 plus $40 for fingerprint processing. Applicants can also apply for a temporary license while awaiting review of their file.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses must be renewed every two years and can be renewed online or by submitting a paper application. As of October 2022, the renewal fee is $325. At least 30 credit hours of continuing education units (CEUs) are required for renewal. All renewal applicants must complete the Arizona Statutes/Regulations Tutorial, which counts as three hours of CEUs. Additionally, three credits of behavioral health ethics or mental health law training as well as three credits of cultural competency and diversity are required. The Board does not provide a list of approved CE providers, but more information can be found in the Board rules. You can download and save the Continuing Education Tracker to help you keep track of your hours.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Arizona
In addition to LPC licensure, there are many other types of counseling licensure available in Arizona. Learn more about other counseling career pathways below including licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
In Arizona, marriage and family therapists are licensed by the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (the Board). LMFTs assess and provide psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families using social, emotional, behavioral, and family systems theories. A master’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution that is also accredited by COAMFTE or includes coursework in six core counseling areas is required. Become an LMFT by following these steps:
- Register as a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT).
- Earn at least 300 client-contact hours provided under direct supervision by a licensed marriage and family therapist.
- Apply for LMFT licensure and permission to take the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) Marital and Family Therapy exam.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
More LMFT career information can be found on our LMFT career guide.
Arizona school counselors are trained to assist PreK-12 students in the areas of academic development, career development, and social-emotional development. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) issues a Standard Professional School Counselor, PreK-12 Certificate and offers various pathways to certification. The requirements include the completion of at least a master’s degree and a counseling-related program (e.g., guidance counseling, social work, psychology, or academic advising).
The possession of a valid behavioral health license with counseling-related coursework will also qualify you, as will a valid, comparable school counselor license from another state. In addition to the education requirements, you will need to complete a supervised practicum or accrue experience as a school counselor or a teacher. Generally, you can become a school counselor via these steps:
- Apply for an Arizona Department of Public Safety Fingerprint Clearance Card.
- Complete a supervised counseling practicum from an accredited institution, gain two years of full-time experience as a school counselor, or gain three years of full-time teaching experience.
- Submit an application package to the ADE.
- Receive your school counseling certificate.
Learn more about school counselors and what they do on our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC)
There are three types of substance abuse counseling licenses issued by the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners: Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT), Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC), and Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC). Each type has different education and corresponding work experience requirements, but the minimum education required to earn licensure is an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) or the equivalent. The highest level of license, the LISAC, requires a master’s degree or higher from a NASAC-accredited program or the equivalent. Substance abuse counselor licensure also requires a successful score on one of the exams from the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), NAADAC, the Association of Addiction Professionals, or the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The path to becoming a substance abuse counselor in Arizona is, in general:
- Submit your initial application to the Board.
- Complete the required supervised work experience and clinical supervision (none for LSATs if the applicant has a qualifying associate degree, 1,600 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of clinical supervision for LASACs, and 3,200 hours of supervised work experience within at least two years for LISACs).
- Apply for permission to test.
- Pass one of the required exams (the IC&RC or NAADAC for LSATs and the IC&RC, NAADAC, or NBCC for LASACs/LISACs).
- Receive your substance abuse counseling license.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Arizona
- Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC)
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADAC)
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
More information about substance abuse counselors is available in our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
A counseling degree can also be used to work with other groups or in other creative ways. Some examples of different counseling careers are:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Arizona Counseling Career and Salary Information
There are 16,770 professionals working in counseling fields in Arizona with almost half employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors.1-5 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale has the ninth-highest employment level educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors of any metropolitan area in the country.3 In terms of salaries, marriage and family therapists working in Arizona have the highest average salary ($58,360), followed by educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors ($54,280), and “all other” counselors ($49,830).
Arizona is expected to experience impressive growth well above national averages in counseling professions through 2030. The fastest growth is projected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (54.2% versus 22.9% nationally) and marriage and family therapists (39.2% versus 16.3% nationally).2 The greatest numbers of new jobs are projected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (3,710), educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (1,720), and rehabilitation counselors (940).6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||260||$49,830|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||7,980||$54,280|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||460||$58,360|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||3,030||$43,720|
Counseling Associations in Arizona
- Arizona Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AzAMFT): The state division of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, which provides professional training, licensure information, and networking.
- Arizona Counselors Association (AZCA): A professional organization for all types of counselors in Arizona with separate sub-committees for geographic regions in the state, supervisors, and LGBT counselors.
- Arizona School Counselors Association (AzSCA): A professional development organization that offers workshops, training opportunities, and an annual conference to share research and best practices in the profession.
- Arizona Association of Addiction Professionals (AAAP): A state affiliate of NAADAC, the National Association for Addiction Professionals that provides networking opportunities, education, clinical training, and certification to its members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a degree to become a professional counselor in Arizona?
All of the main types of Arizona counseling licensure reviewed in this guide require a post-secondary degree and most require a master’s degree. It is possible to earn a license as a substance abuse counselor that will allow you to provide counseling services under approved supervision with only an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Are there professional counseling continuing education requirements in Arizona?
The Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners requires LPCs to complete 30 credit hours of continuing education for every two-year renewal period. The Board does not provide a list of approved providers but it does outline examples in its code, such as national or state professional associations, regionally-accredited postsecondary institutions, and local social service agencies. Every renewal cycle, licensees must complete three hours in behavioral health ethics, mental health law, or cultural competency and diversity, and three hours of the Arizona Statutes/Regulations Tutorial. Examples of approved activities include attending a board meeting, presenting at a conference, and taking a course.
What are the differences between a Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT), a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC), and a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC)?
Each type of substance abuse counseling licensure in Arizona has different educational requirements. The minimum requirement for the LSAT is an associate’s degree in a program that is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) or the equivalent. The minimum requirement for LASAC licensure is a bachelor’s degree in a program accredited by NASAC or the equivalent. LISACs must have at least a master’s degree in a program accredited by NASAC or the equivalent that includes a supervised practicum. Supervised experience is also required for the LASAC and LISAC credentials, 1,600 for LASACs and 3,200 for LISACs. LSATs and LASACs can only work under the supervision of an approved counseling professional.
Is teaching experience required to become a school counselor in Arizona?
While there are work experience requirements, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) does not require teaching experience prior to certification. Applicants have a choice of meeting the ADE’s work experience requirements by completing a supervised counseling practicum in a school setting through an accredited institution, two years of school counseling experience, or three years of teaching experience.
What are the fastest-growing areas of counseling in Arizona?
According to Projections Central, Arizona substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and marriage and family therapists are expected to experience the fastest growth rates through 2030 (54.2% and 39.2%, respectively).6 This could result in 3,710 new jobs in substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling and 400 new jobs in marriage and family therapy.6 Rehabilitation counselors, “all other” counselors, and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors jobs in the state are also expected to experience faster-than-normal growth, with 36.7%, 25%, and 21.2% change, respectively, expected through 2030.6
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 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, May 2021 Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, May 2021 All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm