Arkansas Counseling License Requirements
There are over 4,500 counselors working in Arkansas as of May 2021, across a range of subspecialties.1-5 There are many steps involved to earn an Arkansas counseling license, such as the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license, and the process can take years. If you would like to pursue a career providing therapeutic services and helping others in a counseling-related field, you should be familiar with the process before you begin. This guide lists the steps and details the requirements for many major types of counseling licensure in Arkansas, along with additional resources and job outlook information.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Arkansas
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Arkansas
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Arkansas Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Arkansas
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Arkansas
Most types of professional counselors in Arkansas are required to have a master’s degree with specific coursework requirements. Various schools in Arkansas offer counseling programs that include this coursework, though it may also be possible to meet these requirements with a degree from out of state. Licensure processes may also require prospective counselors to complete additional experience and testing requirements. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Arkansas, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Choose an area of counseling to pursue.
The first step to becoming a professional counselor is to decide on an area of counseling you’d like to pursue. As the licensure pathways can vary depending on the type of counseling, choosing an area of focus ahead of time will help you meet the requirements as quickly and smoothly as possible.
2. Complete the education required for your counseling practice area.
Most counseling licenses in Arkansas require at least a master’s degree to become licensed. Mental health counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy; and school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or complete an additional post-master’s certificate program. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required for substance abuse counselor credentials.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Arkansas.
The final step is to apply for the correct license once you have earned your degree. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are licensed by the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (ABEC or the Board); school counselors are licensed by the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE); and substance abuse counselors are issued credentials from the Arkansas State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (SBEADAC). Continue reading to learn more about Arkansas counseling licensure processes.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
The Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (ABOEC or the Board) is responsible for mental health counselor licenses, known as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). LPCs apply mental health and psychological principles and psychotherapeutic counseling techniques to address mental health, personal growth and development, and pathology. For more information on mental health counseling careers, see our mental health counselor career guide. Applicants must have a graduate degree that is regionally accredited and focused on counseling that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or meets similar standards.
1. Register as a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC).
The first step to earning licensure is to apply for an associate license, which will allow you to gain supervised work experience. You must complete the online application form and include an upload of the completed core curriculum summary form, and submit the $100 application fee (as of November 2022). Applications are accepted from graduate students in their final semester when accompanied by an unofficial transcript and a confirmation letter from the institution. An official transcript indicating the degree has been conferred is required as soon as possible when available.
2. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam.
At this stage, the Board will give permission for you to take the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam, both organized by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCE is a multiple-choice exam that tests counseling knowledge, such as theories and interventions. A handbook and links to study materials are provided to help you prepare. The Board will send more detailed information about the Arkansas jurisprudence exam directly to applicants.
3. Submit additional supporting documents.
Once you have passed the academic review, you must send a statement of intent, an official transcript, and four letters of recommendation. The Board will also send instructions on how to complete state and federal fingerprint and background checks. These documents must be sent to the Board in one envelope except for the transcript, which must be sent directly from the academic institution.
4. Submit a signed supervision agreement and receive your LAC license.
The final step before obtaining a LAC license is to submit a supervision agreement, an agreement that indicates how clients will be transferred if the applicant can no longer provide services, a prorated issuance fee determined by the Board, and a revised statement of intent (if requested by the Board). Once these items are received by the Board, they can provide you with your license number so that you can begin seeing clients. An official wallet card will be emailed and the wall certificate will be mailed to your address.
5. Accrue supervised experience.
In Arkansas, LACs must complete 3,000 client contact hours (CCHs) or approximately three years of experience. The first 500 hours are completed at Level 1 and the LAC must receive at least one hour of supervision per 10 CCHs during this stage. The supervisor must then submit the supervision reporting form indicating a change in levels. Once the LAC is approved for Level 2, the remaining 2,500 hours must be completed with at least one hour of supervision per 20 CCHs. No indirect hours are credited for Level 1 and no more than 800 hours can be credited for indirect experience at Level 2. The supervisor must be an LPC with approved supervisor status. More information about supervision requirements can be found in the Board’s supervision agreement form.
6. Request and receive your LPC license.
Once you have completed the necessary work experience, your supervisor must complete the petition for license change form. The Board will issue a new wallet card for your LPC license.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Endorsement in Arkansas
While Arkansas does not have reciprocity agreements with any other state, it does consider applications for licensure by endorsement from professional counselors who have been licensed for at least three years in another state. Applicants must submit the endorsement application form along with a course summary sheet, statement of intent, four letters of recommendation, and verification of professional licensure through the online applicant portal. Endorsement candidates will also need to complete a background check and have their national exam scores and official transcripts sent directly to the Board. Then, they must pass the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam and pay the new license fee. Once these have been received, the Board will provide a license number so that you can begin counseling services. Applicants who have been licensed for less than three years must apply through the general application process but may request credit for any supervised client contact hours completed out-of-state by obtaining written confirmation from the supervisor via the verification of professional licensure form linked above.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses expire biennially on June 30 and the $150 renewal fee must be paid by May 31. Each licensee must complete a new statement of intent and 24 hours of continuing education, including two hours of ethics training. Documentation must be kept for at least one full renewal cycle in case of an audit by the Board. The Board does not maintain a list of approved providers, but licensees are directed to choose providers with national and state association approval, such as the NBCC.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Arkansas
There are several other major types of professional counseling in Arkansas that require licensure. Below you will find brief information about some of the other licensure and career options for trained counselors, such as licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (ABOEC or the Board) issues licenses for marriage and family therapists. LMFTs assess, treat, and modify individual, couple, or family behaviors using systems theories, interpersonal and intrapersonal theories, and individual and group counseling techniques. The minimum educational requirement is a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy accredited by COAMFTE, CACREP, or a similar standard. To become an LMFT, follow these steps:
- Submit your application through the online applicant portal.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) and the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam.
- Submit additional supporting documents, such as a background check, official transcripts, four letters of recommendation, and a statement of intent.
- Submit a supervision agreement to obtain a LAMFT license.
- Complete 3,000 hours of supervised work experience as an LAMFT.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
In Arkansas, school counselors develop and provide services focused on the career, social, emotional, and academic development of students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The school counselor endorsement can either be added to an existing educator license or be obtained as an initial license through the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). School counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling, education, or in a licensure/endorsement area approved by the Board and a graduate-level program of study in school counseling that has been approved by the ADE Office of Educator Quality. The steps to earning school counselor licensure are:
- Complete a background check and a child maltreatment registry check.
- Pass the Praxis school counselor exam (all applicants) and one of the Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning exams (initial license applicants only).
- Apply for and receive a school counselor license.
To read more about school counselor careers, see our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)
The State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (SBEADAC) issues two credentials for substance abuse counselors in Arkansas, via a two-tier licensure system: the Licensed Associate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LAADAC) and the Licensed Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC). LAADACs must have a bachelor’s degree in health or behavioral sciences or a related field from an accredited school and LADACs must have a master’s degree in health or behavioral sciences or related field from an accredited school. Substance abuse counselors in Arkansas employ counseling theories and methods adapted to alcohol and drug theory and research to assess and treat individuals with alcohol and drug problems, including those with mental illnesses. To earn a substance abuse counseling credential, follow these steps:
- Register as an LAADAC and complete three years (or 6,000 hours) of supervised work experience.
- Complete at least 270 clock hours of approved education in alcoholism or drug abuse counseling subjects, theory, practice, or research.
- Pass a national qualifying written examination prescribed by the Board (for both license types).
- Request and receive your substance abuse counseling credential.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Arkansas
- Arkansas Substance Abuse Certification Board (ASACB): Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Arkansas Peer Specialist Program (APSP): Advanced Peer Recovery Specialist (APR)
- ASACB: Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
- Center for Addiction Studies and Research (CASR): Associate Preventionist (AP)
- CASR: Certified Prevention Consultant (CPC)
- CASR: Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- ASACB: Clinical Supervisor (CS)
- APSP: Core Peer Recovery Specialist (PR)
- ASACB: Counselor In Training (CIT)
- APSP: Peer Recovery Peer Supervisor (PRPS)
Read more about this counseling career pathway on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Counseling is a broad field with many subdisciplines. In addition to the major types summarized above, you can use a degree in counseling to pursue different professional counseling careers, including:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Arkansas Counseling Career and Salary Information
As of May 2021, of the approximately 4,520 counselors working in Arkansas, most are employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (2,060) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (2,100).1-5 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest-earning counseling category is educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (averaging $54,860), followed by substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (averaging $48,320).1,3 On the lower end of the salary range, “all other” counselors earn an average of $39,650, while rehabilitation counselors earn an average of $37,800 per year.4,5
The fastest-growing counseling practice area in Arkansas through 2030, according to Projections Central, is projected to be substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (26.9% growth compared to 22.9% nationally).6 This is followed by marriage and family therapy (20% growth versus 16.3% nationally), and rehabilitation counseling (18.2% growth versus 10.4% nationally).6 The number of new jobs during this period ranges from 20 for both “all other” counselors and marriage and family therapists, to 230 for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors and 500 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||70||$39,650|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||2,060||$54,860|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||N.Av.||N.Av.|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||2,100||$48,320|
Counseling Associations in Arkansas
- Arkansas Association for Play Therapy (ArAPT): An independent organization that advocates for the discipline of play therapy and connects mental health professionals who incorporate play therapy into their professional practice.
- Arkansas Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (AAADAC): Statewide professional organization that hosts workshops, professional learning, and networking events for alcohol and drug abuse counselors.
- Arkansas Counseling Association (ArCA): A professional organization that provides members with continuing education and training opportunities, conferences, and other networking opportunities.
- Arkansas School Counselor Association (ArSCA): This branch organization of the National School Counseling Association has numerous regional associations and organizes recognition awards and an annual conference.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I complete coursework requirements online?
The Board accepts coursework completed through distance or online methods as long as it meets the general coursework standards listed on the course summary form. Applicants must indicate whether a course was taken via traditional or online methods. Typically, a practicum or internship can only be completed through traditional, face-to-face methods.
Can I apply for both LPC and LMFT licensure?
If you meet the requirements for both licenses, you can apply for both and the Board will issue a combined certificate indicating your qualifications. You must keep both licenses up-to-date by paying the reduced, combined licensure renewal fee indicated by the Board. You will also be required to complete 24 hours of continuing education, including three hours of ethics training with the remaining hours split between both professions.
Can I specialize in a certain type of counseling?
The Board recognizes numerous optional specializations relevant to LPCs and LMFTs, including career counseling, hypnotherapy, and technology-assisted counseling. Arkansas uses the highest level of national standards available to evaluate applicants for these specializations. For example, to apply for recognition of hypnotherapy skills, a licensee must meet the certification standards set by the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. More information about specializations is available on the Board’s website.
Can I receive any credit towards my license for additional graduate coursework?
The Board can credit up to two years of the required work experience for additional graduate-level counseling coursework at a rate of 30 semester credits per 1,000 hours up to a maximum of 2,000 hours. All applicants must complete at least 1,000 hours of post-degree work experience. The coursework is applied to work experience hours using an 80/20 rule whereby 80% of the credits are applied to direct client hours and 20% of the credits are applied to indirect client hours.
What are the largest practice areas of counseling in Arkansas?
Currently, over 80% of all counselors in Arkansas are employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (2,060) or substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (2,100).1,3 Based on projections through 2030 from Projections Central, these areas are likely to remain the largest subspecialties of counseling in Arkansas as educational, guidance, and career counselor and advisor jobs are projected to add 230 new jobs and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor positions are projected to add 500 new jobs.6 Comparatively, all other categories are projected to grow by 160 new positions combined.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, May 2021 Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm