Colorado Counseling License Requirements
Professional counselors in Colorado work across a range of fields and enjoy an excellent projected job outlook in the coming years. There are 15,130 counselors working in Colorado, including Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) who provide mental health counseling services.1-5 If you are looking for a career where you can make a difference and help others, this page summarizes some of the popular types of counseling licensure in Colorado that may interest you. You will also find other useful information to help you obtain a Colorado counseling license, such as educational requirements, professional organizations in the state, and salary information.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Colorado
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Colorado
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Colorado Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Colorado
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Colorado
In Colorado, most professional counselors earn a master’s degree and complete other requirements to earn the desired type of license. There are various counseling schools in Colorado from which to choose to meet these requirements. Out-of-state programs may also satisfy Colorado’s requirements. Each licensure process is different but may include passing counseling exams and gaining clinical work and supervision experience.
1. Focus on an area of counseling to pursue.
There are many different types of counseling, including mental health, school counseling, and family therapy. Each pathway to licensure has different steps and can take years to complete. Your first step should be making an education and work plan based on the type of counseling you’d like to practice.
2. Complete the education required for your preferred counseling area.
To become a professional counselor in Colorado, you will likely need at least a master’s degree in a related field. Mental health counselors must have a master’s degree in mental health counseling or a related field; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field; and school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling. Substance abuse counselors providing clinical services must have a behavioral health graduate degree, although other levels of certification are offered to applicants with a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has several boards that issue the many types of counseling licenses. The State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners issue mental health counseling licenses; the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners issues marriage and family therapy licenses; and the State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners licenses substance abuse counselors. School counselor licenses are issued by the Colorado Department of Education. Continue reading to learn more about the licensure processes in Colorado.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
The Colorado State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners issues licenses to mental health counselors in Colorado, also known as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). In Colorado, LPCs provide assessment and intervention services to individuals, groups, and families using psychotherapy, cognitive, and behavioral theories and strategies. For more about what professional counselors do, see our mental health counselor career guide. LPC applicants must complete a graduate degree in counseling that is either accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), or deemed to be equivalent by the Center for Credential and Education (CCE), and complete other work and exam requirements.
1. Register as a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (LPCC).
The first step of the licensure process is to submit an application for a temporary license to the Board using the online portal. This temporary license is valid for four years, allowing applicants to accrue the necessary experience required for full licensure. The fee as of September 2019 is $40.
2. Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence exam.
The Colorado jurisprudence exam is an open-book, multiple-choice test that ensures applicants are knowledgeable about relevant mental health rules and regulations in the state. The exam costs $20 (as of September 2019) per attempt. If you do not successfully pass the exam on the first try, you will be provided with feedback on your score and you can try again after waiting 10 days. The Board provides an online handbook to help you prepare.
3. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
You will also need to pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCE is a multiple choice exam that tests knowledge and understanding of counseling theories and services. The NBCC provides links to online study resources that can help you prepare. You must request that the NBCC send your scores directly to the Board for consideration.
4. Accrue supervised experience.
Once you receive your temporary license, you can provide counseling services under the supervision of a mental health professional who has been licensed for two years. The supervisor must be an LPC, LMFT, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or Licensed Psychologist with relevant experience and expertise in the type of services provided. Master’s degree holders must accrue 2,000 hours of clinical experience and 100 hours of supervision in at least a two-year period, while doctoral degree holders must accrue at least 1,000 hours of work experience acquired in not less than one year.
5. Apply for and receive your LPC license.
Once you have met all the requirements, you should apply online for your LPC license. You will be able to print your new license online as soon as one day after you receive your approval notice. Wallet-sized license cards are not required or provided but are available to purchase online if you’d like a hard copy.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Endorsement in Colorado
While Colorado does not have any reciprocity agreements in place with other states, it does accept applications for licensure by endorsement from applicants who have a license in another state or country that has comparable requirements to Colorado LPC licensure requirements. You must arrange to have copies of all licenses held, graduate transcripts, and related exam scores to the Board when you submit your application online. You must also attest that you have accumulated the necessary supervised experience or that you have been actively practicing as a counselor for at least two years. The application fee for licensure by endorsement is $70 as of September 2019.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses are valid for two years, expiring on August 31 of odd-numbered years. Licenses can be renewed online six weeks prior to the expiration date at a cost of $70 (as of September 2019). In order to renew, licensees must complete 40 hours of professional development activities (PDA), develop learning goals and a learning plan, and complete a professional self-assessment. A list of approved PDAs is available online. PDA documentation should be kept in case the Board conducts an audit after the renewal period.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Colorado
Keep in mind that the pathway to counseling licensure will depend on the type of counseling you’d like to practice. In addition to mental health counseling, there are other types of counseling licensure available in Colorado. Below you will find information on licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Colorado LMFTs use relational and family systems theories to assess, evaluate, diagnose, and intervene in individual and interpersonal issues, such as emotional challenges, marital problems, and behavioral dysfunctions. Licences are issued by the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners and the application fee is $70 as of September 2019. A COAMFTE-accredited graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or an equivalent field is required for licensure. After completing your degree, follow these steps to earn licensure as an LMFT:
- Register as a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate (MFTC).
- Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence exam and earn supervised experience.
- Apply for LMFT licensure and permission to take the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) examination.
- Receive your LMFT license.
To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
The Colorado Department of Education issues special services licenses to school counselors. In Colorado, school counselors are able to work with all age groups, from early years to 21 years of age to provide age-appropriate academic, personal, and behavioral support for academic achievement. The Department requires a graduate degree in school counseling and completion of an approved school counseling preparation program. As some degree programs are also approved as preparation programs, it is possible to meet these two requirements simultaneously. According to new rules, the program should be accredited by CACREP, but non-accredited programs may still be accepted if the application is submitted by June 30, 2021. The program must include at least 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of supervised internship. Follow these steps to earn a school counseling license in Colorado:
- Submit fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
- Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam.
- Submit your application for a special services license.
Read more about this pathway on our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
The Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners issues Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) licenses to individuals with a clinical graduate degree who meet the experience requirements. Three other credentials are also available. The Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I), Certified Addiction Counselor II (CAC II), and Certified Addiction Counselor III (CAC III) have more limited scopes of responsibility compared to LACs and require a high school diploma (CAC I and II) or a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health science (CAC III) along with related experience. LACs use adapted counseling theories and techniques to help individuals and groups address addictive behaviors and understand the impacts of these behaviors. To become an LAC in Colorado, follow these steps:
- Complete required substance abuse training in ethics, evidence-based practice, and clinical supervision.
- Accrue the required work experience.
- Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence exam.
- Apply for LAC licensure and permission to take the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) Master Addictions Counselor exam.
- Request and receive your LAC license.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Colorado
- Colorado Certified Prevention Specialist (CCPS)
- Peer Support Specialist (PSS)
Read more about substance abuse counselors and what they do on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
There are many other career options for counseling degree holders. You may also be interested in pursuing a career in one of the following areas of counseling:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Colorado Counseling Career and Salary Information
In Colorado, 15,130 individuals work in counseling fields with over half employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (7,770).1-51,2 Colorado is also the fourth highest-paying state for rehabilitation counselors who earn an average salary of $52,620 and rehabilitation counselors working in the eastern and southern Colorado nonmetropolitan area earn even more, with an average salary of $55,500.4
All the major types of counseling fields are projected to experience above-average growth through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.6 Mental health counselor positions are projected to grow at the fastest rate (33.5% compared to 23.1% nationally), which will result in the highest number of new jobs in the state (1,910).6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor positions have the lowest projected growth rate among counseling fields in the state (23.1% compared to 12.6% nationally), but this could still result in 1,010 new positions. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and marriage and family therapists are projected to grow by 32.9% and 32.8% compared to 23.2% and 23.4% respectively, which could result in 560 substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor jobs and 210 marriage and family therapist jobs.6 These projections suggest the Colorado counselor job market may offer many opportunities for advancement in the years to come.
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||280||$55,730|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||4,680||$53,090|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||750||$74,900|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||7,770||$48,490|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Colorado
- Colorado Association for Psychotherapists (CAP): An association that represents the interests of all professions providing psychotherapy services in Colorado, such as counselors, through public education and legislative advocacy campaigns.
- Colorado Counseling Association (CCA): A branch of the American Counseling Association, this group supports individuals working in counseling-related fields through advocacy and annual events.
- Colorado School Counselor Association (CSCA): A professional organization with over 1,500 members that provides job postings, professional development opportunities, and an annual conference for networking and sharing best practices.
Frequently Asked Questions
I did not complete a CACREP-accredited program. Can I still become a counselor in Colorado?
Colorado prefers candidates complete CACREP-accredited programs, but if you have completed a different program, you can apply for an education review from a third-party organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), which is authorized to complete reviews on the state’s behalf. This review will determine if your education is equivalent to a CACREP program. If you are approved, CCE to submit an approval letter to the Board on your behalf. If you are not approved, you will not be eligible for licensure in Colorado. If you have not completed a CACREP-accredited program, the Board must have your CCE approval letter before you can proceed with the application process.
What are the minimum requirements for substance abuse counselors in Colorado?
The Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners issues four different certifications and licenses for substance abuse counselors in Colorado, including Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I), Certified Addiction Counselor II (CAC II), Certified Addiction Counselor III (CAC III), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC). The minimum educational requirements vary from a high school diploma for CAC I and CAC II, to a behavioral health bachelor’s degree for CAC III and a clinical behavioral health graduate degree for LAC. These certifications also have work experience requirements. CAC Is must complete 1,000 hours; CAC IIs must complete 3,000 hours; and CAC IIIs and LACs must complete 5,000 hours.
What do Colorado marriage and family therapists do?
In Colorado, marriage and family therapists enjoy a broad scope of practice. They work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to address both individual and group dynamics. Some common job tasks include conducting assessments and psychotherapeutic tests, diagnosing emotional issues, creating treatment plans, providing counseling both individually and in group settings, and consulting and making referrals to other specialists. They are also able to provide substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling within their area of expertise.
Can I work as a school counselor in Colorado with an LPC license?
The Colorado Department of Education offers an alternative pathway to school counselor licensure for individuals who have graduate degrees in mental health counseling rather than school counseling, are already licensed as LPCs in Colorado, and have three years of counseling experience. The Department can issue an interim license valid for one year that allows an LPC to work as a school counselor while completing an approved school counselor preparation program and taking the Praxis school counselor exam. The interim license cannot be renewed. Once all requirements have been met, the individual can submit an application for full licensure.
What is the job outlook for counselors in Colorado?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the major counseling fields are projected to experience impressive growth above national averages through 2026.6 The fastest growth and biggest increase in jobs is projected for mental health counselors (33.5% compared to 23.1% nationally), which could result in 1,910 new jobs and 860 annual openings on average.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are also projected to experience an increase of 1,010 positions and 590 openings annually. Other impressive growth rates include substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (32.9% compared to 23.2% nationally), marriage and family therapists (32.8% compared to 23.4% nationally), and rehabilitation counselors (27.5% compared to 12.7% nationally), which could result in 560, 210, and 500 new jobs respectively.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