Arkansas Counseling License Requirements
There are over 4,000 counselors working in Arkansas across a range of subspecialities.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.
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. Entry-level substance abuse counseling professionals, such as Substance Abuse Technicians, are not required to have a college degree, but a bachelor’s or master’s degree is required for more advanced 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; school counselors are licensed by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education; and substance abuse counselors are issued credentials from the Arkansas State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. 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) 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 focused on counseling either accredited by CACREP or that 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 send the application form, the course summary form, and the $200 application fee (as of September 2019). 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 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 jurisprudence exam is a new requirement for applicants and the Board sends more detailed information about this exam directly to applicants.
3. Submit additional supporting documents.
Once the applicant has passed the academic review, they 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. Attend an oral exam and interview with the Board.
The Board will contact applicants via email to schedule an oral exam once all documents from previous steps are received, including exam scores and background check results. Applicants will find out the results of the oral exam and interview either on the same day or the following week. If the applicant does not pass, the Board will provide feedback to help them improve and allow them to attempt again at the next Board meeting, usually held the following month.
5. Submit a supervision agreement and receive your LAC license.
The final step before obtaining a LAC license is to submit a supervision agreement, a C2h agreement that indicates how clients will be transferred if the applicant can no longer provide services, and a prorated issuance fee determined by the Board. A wallet card will be mailed in approximately two weeks.
6. 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 petition to change levels form. Once the LAC is approved for Level 2, 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; the Board follows the Center for Credentialing and Education standards for supervisors. More information about supervision requirements can be found in the Board’s rules and regulations.
7. 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 all other supporting documentation, such as the course summary sheet and statement of intent. Endorsement candidates will also need to complete a background check and have exam scores and a transcript sent directly to the Board. Then, they must pass the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam and an oral interview. 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.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses expire biennially on June 30 and the $150 renewal fee must be paid by May 31. Renewal instructions are provided online. Each licensee must complete a new statement of intent and 24 hours of continuing education, including three hours of ethics training. A maximum of six hours can be attributed to reading or reviewing journal articles and up to three hours can be completed online. 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 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 a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT) application for academic review.
- Pass the AMFTRB national exam and the Arkansas Jurisprudence Exam.
- Submit additional supporting documents, such as a background check and official transcripts.
- Attend an oral exam and interview with the Board.
- Submit a supervision agreement to obtain a LAMFT license.
- Complete supervised work experience.
- 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 Division of Elementary and Secondary Education. School counselors must have at least a master’s degree; if the degree is not in school counseling, an approved school counseling certificate program must be completed. 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 three credentials for substance abuse counselors in Arkansas: Certified Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Technician (CADAT), Licensed Associate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LAADAC), and Licensed Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC). CADATs must have a high school diploma; LAADACs must have a bachelor’s degree in health or behavioral sciences, and LADACs must have a master’s degree in health or behavioral sciences. 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:
- Complete alcoholism and drug abuse training and supervised work experience.
- Pass the required Board exam.
- Request and receive your substance abuse counseling credential.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Arkansas
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
- Associate Preventionist (AP)
- Certified Prevention Consultant (CPC)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Clinical Supervisor (CS)
- Counselor In Training (CIT)
- Peer In Training (PIT)
- Peer Recovery (PR)
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
Of the 4,360 counselors working in Arkansas, most are employed as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (2,010) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (1,660).1-5 The highest earning counseling category is educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors ($53,950), followed by substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors ($52,110).3,1 On the lower end of the salary range, counselors, all other earn $37,660, while rehabilitation counselors earn $35,460.5,4
The fastest-growing counseling practice area through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is mental health counseling (29.4% compared to 23.1% nationally).6 This is followed by marriage and family therapy (25.0% vs 23.4 nationally), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling (24.3% vs 23.2% nationally), and rehabilitation counseling (23.8% vs 12.7% nationally).6 The number of new jobs during this period ranges from 20 for both counselors, all other and marriage and family therapists to 250 for mental health counselors and 280 for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors.6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||80||$37,660|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||2,010||$53,950|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||40||$48,610|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,660||$52,110|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
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 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, school, and vocational counselors (2,010) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (1,660).3,1 Based on projections through 2026 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these areas are likely to remain the largest subspecialties of counseling in Arkansas as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor jobs are projected to increase by 280, mental health counselor positions are projected to increase by 250, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor positions are projected to increase by 180.6 Comparatively, all other categories are projected to grow by 140 positions combined.6
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