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 18,270 counselors working in Colorado as of May 2021, 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 (ACD)
- 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. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Colorado, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
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 master’s degree in behavioral health, although other levels of certification are offered to applicants with a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree.
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 issues 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 (the Board) 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 master’s or doctoral degree in professional 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 application fee for an LPCC license as of November 2022 is $40. You will need to upload an official transcript, answer criminal history screening questions, and complete the Healthcare Professions Profile as part of your application. A checklist of necessary items for the application can be found on the Board’s website. Note that candidates who are interested in working solely for a Residential Child Care Facility (RCF) and meet all requirements for licensure can skip this step and apply to be a Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor (LPP).
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 November 2022) 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 LPCC license, you can begin providing counseling services under the supervision of a mental health professional who has been licensed for at least 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 at least two years of clinical experience, while doctoral degree holders must accrue at least one year of supervised post-doctoral practice in licensed professional counseling. Both master’s and doctoral degree-holders must have at least 2,000 hours of practice in counseling which includes 100 hours of supervision and at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face direct client contact under supervision.
5. Apply for your LPC license.
Once you have met all the requirements, you should apply online for your LPC license. You will need to pay a $70 application fee (as of November 2022), upload post-degree experience and supervision verification forms for each supervisor, upload your passing jurisprudence exam report, and provide your NCE scores. An LPC application checklist can be found on the Board’s website.
6. Receive 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 November 2022.
Counselor License 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 November 2022). In order to renew, licensees must demonstrate Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) by completing 40 hours of professional development activities (PDA), developing learning goals and a learning plan, and completing a professional practice survey and 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. A manual outlining CPC guidelines is available on the Board’s website.
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. Licenses are issued by the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners (the Board) and the application fee is $70 as of November 2022. A COAMFTE-accredited master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or an equivalent field that includes a practicum or internship 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) and gain at least two years of post-master’s or one year of postdoctoral supervised practice in the field.
- Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.
- Apply for LMFT licensure and permission to take the Marital and Family Therapy National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Receive your LMFT license.
To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) issues Initial Special Services licenses to prospective 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 CDE requires a master’s degree or higher in school counseling. The program should be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). 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 exam for professional school counselors.
- Submit your application for a special services license.
Read more about this pathway on our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD)
The Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners (the Board) issues the Certified Addiction Technician (CAT), the Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS), and the Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD) license to individuals who wish to practice substance abuse counseling in the state. Substance abuse counselors in Colorado use adapted counseling theories and techniques to help individuals and groups address addictive behaviors and understand the impacts of these behaviors. CATs and CASs may provide addiction counseling services under supervision only. CATs must have a high school diploma, CASs must have a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral health field or the equivalent, and ACDs must have a clinical master’s or doctoral degree in behavioral health or a related area to qualify. Additional required coursework for each level can be found in the Handbook for Addiction Counselors. To become an addiction counselor in Colorado, follow these steps:
- Take the Advanced Professional and Ethical Practice course, if required (not required for CASs).
- If applying for CAS or ACD, register with the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) before beginning the supervised work experience in the next step.
- Accrue at least 1,000 hours in at least six months for the CAT, 2,000 hours in at least 12 months for the CAS, or 3,000 hours of work experience for the ACD.
- Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence exam.
- Apply for licensure and permission to take the NCAC I exam (for CATs), the National Certified Addiction Counselor (for NCAC) II exam (CASs), or the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) exam (for ACDs).
- Request and receive your substance abuse counselor license.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Colorado
In addition to the credentials offered by the Board, the following organizations offer optional credentials in the field for people who may or may not be licensed or certified counselors.
- Colorado Mental Wellness Network (CMWN): Offers the Peer Support Professional (PSP) credential.
- Colorado Providers Association (COPA): Offers the Colorado Peer and Family Specialist (CPFS) and the Colorado Certified Prevention Specialist (CCPS) credentials.
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, 1,8270 individuals work in counseling fields with over half employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (10,100).1-5 Counselor salaries range from $48,060 for rehabilitation counselors to $73,040 for marriage and family therapists, which makes Colorado the third-highest paying state in this category.2,4. The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area is the sixth-highest paying area for “all other” counselors.5
All the major types of counseling fields are projected to experience above-average growth through 2030, according to Projections Central.6 Marriage and family therapist positions are projected to grow at the fastest rate (38.4% compared to 16.3% nationally), which will result in about 330 new jobs in the state through 2030.6 Rehabilitation counselor positions have the lowest projected growth rate among counseling fields in the state, but still promising (22% compared to 10.4% nationally), and this could still result in 330 new positions. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and educational, guidance, and vocational counselors are projected to grow by 35.7% and 22.5% compared to 22.9% and 11.5% respectively, which could result in 3,230 new jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs and 1,280 new jobs for marriage and family therapists.6 These projections suggest the Colorado counselor job market may offer many opportunities for advancement in the years to come.
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||310||$59,590|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Career Counselors||5,560||$59,010|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||1,130||$73,040|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||10,100||$57,900|
Counseling Associations in Colorado
- Colorado Association of Addiction Professionals (CAAP): Also known as the Society of Addiction Professionals of Colorado (SACC), seeks excellence in the field through education, training, and advocacy, in order to help those struggling with substance misuse, addictive behavior disorders, and/or co-occurring mental health and physical health disorders.
- 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 will 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 three different certifications and licenses for substance abuse counselors in Colorado, including Certified Addiction Technician (CAT), Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD). The minimum educational requirements vary from a high school diploma for CATs to a behavioral health bachelor’s degree for CASs to a clinical behavioral health graduate degree for ACDs. These certifications also have work experience requirements. CATs must complete 1,000 hours; CASs must complete 2,000 hours; and ACDs must complete 3,000 hours of clinically-supervised addiction work experience.
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.
What is the job outlook for counselors in Colorado?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the major counseling fields are projected to experience impressive growth in Colorado, above national averages through 2030.6 The fastest growth is projected for marriage and family therapists at 38.4%, which could result in 330 new jobs and 120 annual openings on average.6 Following close behind, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs are expected to grow by 35.7% in the state, with 3,230 new jobs and 1,260 average annual job openings expected during that time .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