Florida Counseling License Requirements
In Florida, almost 36,000 individuals were employed as counselors as of May 2021, with over three-quarters working as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors or as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.1-5 Learn how to become a counselor and the different processes for counseling licensure in Florida below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Florida
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Florida
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professional (MCAP)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Florida Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Florida
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Florida
Counselors in Florida are required to be licensed according to the rules set by various boards. Most types of counselor licensure require a master’s degree and significant clinical training during an approved internship as well as supervised postgraduate experience. There are numerous counseling schools in Florida that offer programs designed to meet these specific requirements and prepare students for the Florida licensure process. Other steps may include passing required examinations or completing relevant coursework. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Florida, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
Spend some time researching different types of counseling career paths to find the best fit for you. Requirements will vary depending on the type of counselor you’d like to become and can take years to complete. Knowing which area of counseling you are interested in and the necessary steps required to earn licensure is the best place to start.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
Most counseling careers require at least a master’s degree in a related field for licensure. Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are required to have a master’s degree with coursework in specific areas. A prospective school counselor must have an approved master’s degree that covers topics relevant to guidance counseling and student welfare. The Florida Certification Board (FCB) offers three substance abuse counselor certifications that require a minimum of a high school diploma all the way up to a relevant master’s degree, depending on the type of licensure.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Florida.
The Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (the Board) issues licenses for both Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), while the Florida State Department of Education (DOE) issues school counseling certification as part of teacher certification. The Florida Certification Board (FCB) handles certification for Certified Addiction Counselors (CACs), Certified Addiction Professionals (CAPs), and Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professionals (MLCAPs). You will likely be required to send your transcripts, proof of relevant coursework, exam results, and application fee to the correct board or department to obtain counseling licensure in Florida.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Licensing Process
LMHC licenses are issued by the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (the Board) after successful completion of education and work requirements. Applicants must complete at least a master’s degree, which must either be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) that includes at least 60 semester hours of clinical instruction, including a course in human sexuality and a course in substance abuse. A master’s degree not accredited by CACREP may be accepted if it includes specific coursework and at least 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practicum. In Florida, LMHCs help individuals improve their overall mental health, behavioral health, and emotional health using a variety of psychological methods and treatments. This type of work can be done for a prolonged period of time throughout the individual’s life or in crisis situations when immediate assessment and treatment are required. For more about what professional counselors do, read our mental health counselor career guide. To become an LMHC in Florida, follow the steps below.
1. Register as a Mental Health Counselor Intern.
First, apply online to become a registered mental health counselor intern, which will allow you to begin the required clinical internship. You will need to submit your transcripts and a letter from a Board-approved supervisor agreeing to supervise you. As of November 2022, it costs $150 to apply.
2. Accrue supervised experience.
You must complete at least two years of post-master’s supervised experience under the supervision of a qualified supervisor. You must complete 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy with clients, receive at least 100 hours of supervision over a period of at least 100 weeks, and receive one hour of supervision biweekly. Only Board-approved qualified supervisors can supervise registered mental health counselor interns and sign off on the Verification of Clinical Experience form. A list of Board-approved supervisors is available online through the Florida Health Care Practitioner Data Portal.
3. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE).
All applicants must pass the NCMHCE (developed by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)) and submit their results to the Board. Study guides are available for purchase online to help you prepare. This exam tests professional knowledge through various clinical simulations. It costs $195 to apply for the exam (as of April 2023) and the candidate can register to take the exam approximately four weeks after the application is submitted.
4. Complete additional courses required by the Board.
The successful completion of three professional courses through Board-approved providers, as listed on CE Broker, is required for all LMHC applicants. The Florida laws and rules course (eight clock hours) teaches students about state laws and professional situations and must be completed before submitting your licensure application. The HIV/AIDS course (three clock hours) can also be completed before you submit your application, or you can submit a notarized affidavit assuring the Board you will complete this requirement within six months of application. Similarly, the domestic violence course (two clock hours) can be completed within six months of applying, although an affidavit is not required as part of the application package.
5. Apply for and receive your LMHC license.
When you have completed the requirements and are ready to apply for LMHC licensure, you can submit your official transcripts, Verification of Clinical Experience form, exam results, course results, and affidavit (if required), along with the $180 fee (as of November 2022) to the Board for review. It can take up to 30 days for the Board to process your application once complete and an additional seven days to receive your license in the mail.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Florida
Florida does not have reciprocity agreements for counselor licensure. All applicants must meet the general state requirements in order to earn full LMHC licensure. However, the state does offer a provisional license option for applicants who have already completed two years of post-master’s clinical training but do not meet other licensure requirements (such as master’s level coursework or passing the national exam. The provisional license allows the applicant to practice with supervision for up to two years. As of October 2022, the provisional license fee is $100. You must contact the Board directly to obtain a copy of the provisional license application form.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
LMHC licenses are valid for two years from April 1 to March 31 of odd-numbered years. With the exception of the first renewal cycle, licensees are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) including at least three hours of training in ethics or telehealth and two hours in medical errors. CE must be logged using the CE Broker website, even if the training was not completed online. Licenses can be renewed online or by mail but CE requirements must be entered into CE Broker in order to renew a license online. The Board notifies licensees approximately 90 days prior to expiration via mail.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Florida
Florida counseling careers have different educational and training requirements. Below you will find information on some common types of counseling pathways, including licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
In Florida, LMFTs work with individuals, couples, and families to evaluate and treat psychological challenges impacting relationships, intimacy, and sexuality. LMFTs are able to use different types of interventions to achieve this, such as psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and behavioral therapy. LMFTs are licensed by the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling and, similarly to LMHCs, must complete an internship before achieving full licensure. Before applying for the LMFT internship, applicants must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely-related area with specified coursework and at least 180 hours of direct client contact in a clinical practicum setting. LMFT licensure can be earned by following these steps:
- Register as an Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and submit a letter from a qualified supervisor.
- Earn two years of post-master’s supervised experience, consisting of 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy with clients across a minimum of 100 weeks, with at least 100 hours of supervision (at a minimum of one hour of supervision every two weeks).
- Pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) Examination in Marital and Family Therapy.
- Complete courses in Florida laws and rules, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence.
- Apply for LMFT licensure and receive your license.
To learn more about career paths as an LMFT, visit our LMFT career guide.
In Florida, school counseling is an extension of teacher education, so certification is overseen by the State of Florida Department of Education (DOE).In Florida, school counselors provide age-appropriate academic and career guidance to students from prekindergarten to twelfth grade. There are two pathways to becoming certified as a school counselor in Florida. The first requires at least a master’s degree in guidance and counseling or school counseling that includes a minimum of 600 supervised clock hours serving children in a pre-K-12 school setting. The second plan requires at least a master’s degree in counseling (other than guidance or school counseling), a minimum of 600 supervised clock hours serving school-aged children and their families, and at least nine semester hours in several areas related to school counseling. Note that, once employed, candidates following the second plan must request that their employing school district verify that their work will be supervised by an appropriately-licensed school counselor during the first two years of employment. Other testing and coursework requirements may be necessary depending on your educational background and are determined when you submit your application package to the DOE. If you are already employed as a teacher in a school in Florida, simply request to add the school counselor endorsement to your Florida educator certification. If you are not already employed as a teacher in Florida, you must complete the following steps:
- Submit an application package to the DOE.
- Secure employment at a state-approved school in Florida and receive your Florida Temporary Certificate.
- Pass the required state exams, including the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) School Counseling PK-12 test, and others if you are not a certified teacher
- Receive your Professional Certificate and school counselor certification.
Read more about school counselor jobs in our school counseling career guide.
Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professional (MCAP)
The Florida Certification Board (FCB) is the only recognized agency for those wishing to work as substance abuse counselors. Their three-tier system offers a clear path of career progression as each tier offers a wider scope of practice and more professional responsibility; however, progression is not mandatory. The first tier is Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC). CACs can engage in evaluation, treatment planning, and case management, but must always work under clinical supervision. The minimum education required is a high school diploma. The next tier is Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), which requires a bachelor’s degree in a related area. At this level, you are able to work independently as an addiction professional. Finally, the Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professional (MCAP) tier is reserved for professionals with at least a master’s degree. MCAPs are able to make substance use disorder diagnoses. To become any of these addictions professionals in Florida, you must follow these steps:
- Complete the required content-specific training (350 clock hours for all tiers) and submit the FCB Training Verification Form along with supporting documentation to the FCB.
- Gain related work experience and on-the-job supervision required for your target license. (CACs need at least 6,000 hours of related work experience and 300 hours of supervision; CAPs need at least 6,000 hours of work experience and 300 hours of supervision; and MCAPs need 4,000 hours of related work experience and 200 hours of supervision.)
- Submit an application portfolio to the Florida Certification Board (FCB).
- Take and pass the FCB exam relevant to your type of application (CAC, CAP, or MCAP).
- Receive your FCB certification.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Florida
In addition to the three credentials listed above, the Florida Certification Board (FCB) offers other related credentials to substance abuse professionals who would like to increase their knowledge and hiring potential. Some examples of specialized credentials offered by FCB that might help you in your career are:
- Certified Prevention Professional (CPP)
- Certified Recovery Peer Specialist (CRPS)
- Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS)
Learn more about what it takes to become a substance abuse counselor in our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Counseling is a broad field that can open up many other career pathways. You may also choose to use your skills in other ways. For more examples, check out these related roles:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Florida Counseling Career and Salary Information
There are 35,890 counselors currently working in Florida in many different types of counselor jobs.1-5 Florida is home to the fourth-highest number of educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (15,830) as well as all other counselors (1,240), and also the fifth-highest number of marriage and family therapists (2,240) in the country.2,3,5
According to the data available on Projections Central, during the 2020 to 2030 period, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are projected to experience the highest overall growth rate at 27.5%, resulting in 4,590 new jobs and 2,200 average annual openings.6 While counselor jobs in the “all other” category are expected to experience lower percentage growth during the same time (24.1%), this will still result in 4,220 new jobs with 430 average annual openings.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling jobs are expected to see growth of 17.2% while rehabilitation counseling jobs are expected to see 8.7% growth.6
|Average Annual Salary1-5
|Counselors, All Other
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors
|Marriage and Family Therapists
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Counseling Associations in Florida
- Florida Counseling Association (FCA): A state-wide organization for all types of counseling professionals to promote the benefits of counseling and mental wellness in society.
- Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA): A professional organization that promotes positive mental health across the state and provides webinars and other professional development opportunities for mental health counselors.
- Florida School Counselor Association (FSCA): An advocacy and networking organization for Floridian school counselors with numerous chapters across the state, including Dade County (Miami), Palm Beach, and Sarasota.
- Florida Association of Addiction Professionals (FLAAP): Serves addiction counselors, educators, and other healthcare professionals who specialize in addiction prevention, intervention, treatment, and continuing care.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I receive an extension to complete my LMHC application in Florida?
Florida does not offer extensions for LMHC applications. All necessary documents must be received within one year of the application being opened or else a new application will be required. There are also no extensions granted for probationary licensure applicants. All requirements must be met within two years or the probationary license will expire and a new application will be required.
Do I need the Board’s approval to take the required exam?
You do not need to contact the Board prior to registering for or taking the NCMHCE Exam for LMHC licensure. You can register for the exam by directly contacting the Center for Credentialing & Education. For LMFT licensure, you do need the Board’s approval to take the FMT Exam, which is often provided in the LMFT Intern approval letter. If it is not provided in the letter, you will need to contact the Board for approval prior to scheduling your exam.
Can I use clinical experience from my master’s degree or previous work experience to count towards my LMHC or LMFT internship?
No, you cannot use previous education or work experience towards the post-master’s clinical internship requirements. Clinical internship experience can only be accrued after your LMHC or LMFT Intern application has been approved, you have received your assigned license number, and you are working under the supervision of a Board-approved clinical supervisor.
Do I need a master’s degree to become a counselor in Florida?
All the counselor career pathways mentioned above require a master’s degree except for the Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) and the Certified Addiction Professional (CAP). You can become a CAC with a minimum of a high school diploma and 6,000 hours of related work experience, although completing a degree does reduce the required work experience hours. For example, applicants with an associate’s degree only need to complete 5,000 hours before they are eligible to apply. CAP licensure requires at least a bachelor’s degree.
What is the job outlook for counselors in Florida?
The job outlook for counselors in Florida is promising. All types of counseling careers are expected to grow above the national average through 2030 except for rehabilitation counselors, which are slightly below the national average (8.7% versus 10.4% nationally).6 Projections from 2020 through 2030 suggest that the highest number of new positions will be available for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (4,590) as well as the highest number of average annual openings (2,200). The second-highest number of new positions are projected for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (3,490) with 2,370 average annual openings across the state.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