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Arizona Counseling License Requirements

Arizona offers excellent job prospects and competitive salaries for prospective counseling professionals. Currently, 16,510 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.

1. Decide on an area of counseling to pursue.

There are many different types of counseling and you may need a specific type of licensure 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. Substance abuse counselors can earn licensure with at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, although full, independent licensure does require 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 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. 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, such as psychotherapy, career counseling, and mental health assessment and diagnosis, with all age groups. 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 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 LPC resource guide.

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 online and the fee is $250 (as of August 2019). The Board’s LAC resource guide provides more information about LAC requirements.

2. Accrue supervised experience.

Applicants must complete at least 3,200 hours of supervised work experience over a period of not less than 24 months. At least half must be direct client contact and not less than 100 hours of clinical supervision must be provided. Supervisors must be active LPCs or related mental health professionals with at least two years of experience and must meet clinical supervision training requirements. A supervision agreement must be submitted to the Board outlining the supervisor’s credentials and the working arrangement before hours can be accrued towards licensure. More information on supervision can be found in the Board’s LPC resource guide.

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 is available online and the initial application fee is $250 (as of August 2019). Your application package will consist of many forms, including personal information, verification of clinical supervision, and employment history. A self-query through the National Practitioner Data Bank is also required and can be completed online. 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. You can also apply for a temporary license at this time, which may enable you to work while you complete the exam requirement.

4. Pass one of the required exams.

Arizona accepts scores from three different exams, although only one is required for licensure. Both the National Counselor Examination (NCE) exam and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are accepted. Exam prep materials are available online. Results from the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification are also accepted, and a practice test is available online.

5. Receive your LPCC license.

After your exam scores have been received by the Board, your application will be fully reviewed at an upcoming Board meeting. The Board meets approximately once per month. Before final approval, you will be required to pay an additional $100 issuance fee (as of August 2019). Decisions will be sent by mail to the address on file.

Professional Counselor 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 three years. All endorsement applicants must have a master’s degree in a related field, complete the Arizona Statutes/Regulations Tutorial, and submit an application package with a National Practitioner Data Bank self-query. The application and resource guide are available online. Applicants can also apply for a temporary license while awaiting review of their file.

Counselor Licensing 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 August 2019, the renewal fee is $325. At least 30 credit hours of continuing education (CE) is required for renewal. All renewal applicants must complete the Arizona Statutes/Regulations Tutorial, which counts as three hours of CE. Additionally, three credits of ethics training and three credits cultural competency are required. The Board does not provide a list of approved CE providers, but acceptable options are outlined in the Board rules.

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. LMFTs assess and provide psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families using social, emotional, behavioral, and family systems theories. The application is available online. 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 an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT).
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • 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.

School Counselor

Arizona school counselors are trained to assist K-12 students in the areas of academic development, career development, and social-emotional development. The Arizona Department of Education issues school counseling certifications and offers various pathways to certification. The requirements include a master’s degree and completion of counseling-related program, including content in mental health counseling, social and emotional development, and academic advising. Become a school counselor via these steps:

  • Apply for an Arizona Department of Public Safety Fingerprint Clearance Card.
  • Submit an application package to the DOE.
  • 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 licensure 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 stage has different education and work experience requirements, but the minimum education required to earn licensure is an associate’s degree. The highest level of licensure, Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor, requires a master’s degree with coursework in substance abuse theory and intervention and a 300-hour practicum. LISAC licensure also requires a successful score in the IC&RC Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam, an Association of Addiction Professionals exam at Level II or above, or the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Master Addictions Counselors exam. The path to becoming a LISAC is:

  • Register as a LASAC and earn supervised experience.
  • Apply for LISAC licensure and permission to test.
  • Pass one of the required exams.
  • Receive your LISAC 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 16,510 professionals working in counseling fields in Arizona with almost half employed as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors.1-5 Arizona has the fifth highest state employment level for marriage and family therapists (1,410) and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale has the eighth highest employment level in this category and the seventh-highest metropolitan area for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors of metropolitan areas in the country.2,3 In terms of salaries, educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors earn the highest average salary ($53,980), followed by marriage and family therapists ($48,390) and counselors, all other ($47,000). Although the average salary for Arizona marriage and family therapists is lower than the national average ($54,150), those working in the Prescott metropolitan area are the ninth highest paid in the country, earning an average of $70,100 annually.2

Arizona is projected to experience impressive growth in counseling professions through 2026 well above national averages. The fastest growth is projected for marriage and family therapists (42.3% versus 23.4% nationally), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (41.3% versus 23.2% nationally), and mental health counselors (36.7% and 23.1% nationally). The greatest numbers of new jobs are projected for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (1,310), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (1,040), and marriage and family therapists (660).6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other370$47,000
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors7,870$53,980
Marriage and Family Therapists1,410$48,390
Rehabilitation Counselors1,790$33,870
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors5,070$42,310

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in Arizona

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 does outline examples in the Board rules, such as national or state professional associations, regionally-accredited post-secondary institutions, and local social service agencies. Every renewal cycle, licensees must complete three hours in health ethics or law, three hours of cultural competency training, and the online 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 Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT), and Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC), and Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC)?

Each type of substance abuse counseling licensure in Arizona has different educational requirements. The minimum requirement for the first stage, Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT), is an associate’s degree that is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) or that includes coursework in the seven core areas, such as psychopharmacology, models of treatment, and group work. The minimum requirement for LASAC licensure is a bachelor’s degree with related coursework and LISACs must have at least a master’s degree with related coursework and a practicum. 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 (DOE) does not require teaching experience prior to certification. Applicants have a choice of meeting the DOE’s work experience requirements by completing a counseling practicum in a school setting through an accredited institution, providing verification of two years of school counseling experience gained in a different state, or providing verification of three years of teaching experience in Arizona or another state.

What are the fastest growing areas of counseling in Arizona?

According to Projections Central, marriage and family therapists and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will experience the fastest growth rates through 2026 (42.3% and 41.3% respectively).6 This could result in 2,220 new jobs in marriage and family therapy and 3,560 new jobs in substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling.6 Although educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling has the lowest projected growth rate among the major counseling groups (17.3%), this could result in 8,870 new jobs because it accounts for a larger segment of the job market overall.6

References:
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.com/Projections/LongTerm