Florida Counseling License Requirements

Obtaining a Florida counseling license is mandatory and licenses are issued by various authorities. For example, the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling issues licenses for both Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs). In Florida, over 36,000 individuals were employed as counselors as of May 2018 with over three quarters working as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors or 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 (MLCAP)
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. 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.

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. It is best to know the area of counseling you are interested in and what it takes to get there before you get started.

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 offers three substance abuse counselor licenses 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 issues licenses for both Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), while the Florida State Department of Education issues school counseling certification as part of teacher certification. The Florida Certification Board handles licensure for Certified Addiction Counselors, Certified Addiction Professionals, and Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professionals. 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 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) or include coursework from 12 content areas and at least 1,000 hours of clinical internship. 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 is 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 Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Intern.

First, apply to the Board to become an LMHC Intern. This initial step 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 July 2019, it costs $150 to apply.

2. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE).

All applicants must pass the NCMHCE and submit their results to the Board. Study guides are available online to help you prepare. This exam tests professional knowledge through various clinical simulations.

3. Pass the Florida Laws and Rules course, HIV/AIDS course, and Domestic Violence course.

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 teaches students about state laws and professional situations and must be completed before submitting your licensure application. The HIV/AIDS course can also be completed before you submit your application or else you can submit a notarized affidavit assuring the Board you will complete this requirement within six months of application. Similarly, the domestic violence course can be completed within six months of applying, although an affidavit is not required as part of the application package.

4. Accrue supervised experience.

Only Board-approved Qualified Supervisors can supervise LMHC 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. You must complete at least 1,500 hours of clinical internship and receive at least 100 hours of supervision over a period of at least 100 weeks and at least bi-weekly.

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 transcripts, Verification of Clinical Experience form, exam results, course results, and affidavit (if required) 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 aspects of Florida’s licensure requirements. The provisional license allows the applicant to practice with supervision for up to two years. As of July 2019, the provisional license fee is $100. You must contact the Board directly to obtain a copy of the provisional license application form.

Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

LMHC licenses are valid for two years from April 1-March 31 of odd 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. Continuing education 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 expiry 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. The degree must include coursework in nine core areas and at least 180 hours of direct client contact in a clinical practicum setting. LMFT Interns must then complete at least two years (1,500 hours) of clinical internship and receive at least 100 hours of clinical supervision.

LMFT licensure can be earned by following these steps:

  • Register as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Intern and earn supervised experience.
  • Apply to the Board for approval (if required) and pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards National Marriage and Family Therapy Exam (MFT Exam).
  • Complete a Florida Laws and Rules course, an HIV/AIDS course, and a domestic violence course.
  • Apply for LMFT licensure and receive your LMFT license.

To learn more about career paths as an LMFT, visit our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

In Florida, school counseling is an extension of teacher education and therefore school counselor certification is overseen by the State of Florida Department of Education (DOE). If you are interested in becoming a school counselor, you must already be certified as a teacher or complete these requirements at the same time you work towards school counselor certification. In Florida, school counselors provide age-appropriate academic and career guidance to students of all ages up to twelfth grade. The process of becoming a school counselor includes becoming certified as a teacher. You must then complete a master’s degree in counselor education with at least three credit hours of school counseling practicum or meet the minimum guidance counseling coursework and practicum requirements as part of a master’s degree in another field. 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.
  • If necessary, complete any outstanding requirements and send documentation to the DOE.
  • Pass the required exams.
  • Secure employment at a state-approved school in Florida and receive your Florida Temporary Certificate.
  • Submit fingerprints to the DOE.
  • Receive your school counselor certification.

Read more about school counselor jobs in our school counseling career guide.

Certified Addiction Professional

The Florida Certification Board oversees a three-tier system for those wishing to work as a substance abuse counselor. This 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 with various combinations of further education and training necessary. The next tier is Certified Addiction Professional (CAP). At this level, you are able to work independently as an addictions professional. You must have a bachelor’s degree in a related area and at least 6,000 hours of related work experience among other requirements. Finally, the Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professional (MLCAP) tier is reserved for professionals with at least a master’s degree, along with other requirements, such as the completion of 4,000 hours of professional addiction-related work experience. MLCAPs are able to make substance use disorder diagnoses. To become any of these addictions professionals in Florida, you must follow these steps:

  • Gain related work experience and on-the-job supervision required for your target license.
  • Submit an application portfolio to the Florida Certification Board (FBC).
  • Take and pass the FBC exam relevant to your type of application (CAC, CAP, or MLCAP).
  • Receive your FBC certification.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Florida

  • Certified Prevention Professional (CPP)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Certified Recovery Peer Specialist (CRPS)
  • Certified Recovery Residence Administrator (CRRA)
  • Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS)
  • 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 36,170 counselors currently working in Florida in many different types of counselor jobs.1-5 Florida is home to the third-highest number of Marriage and Family Therapists (2,810) and Counselors, All Others (2,530) and the fourth-highest number of Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors (16,340) in the country.2,3,5 The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach metropolitan area specifically offers many job opportunities for prospective counselors. It is ranked fifth in the country for Counselors, All Others jobs (790), sixth for Marriage and Family Therapist jobs (1,020), seventh for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor jobs (4,580), and tenth for Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselor jobs (5,000).1-3,5

During the 2016-2026 period, marriage and family therapists are projected to experience the highest overall growth rate at 32.6%, resulting in 1,100 new jobs and 510 average annual openings.6 While educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor jobs are expected to experience lower percentage growth during the same time (18.1%), this will still result in the largest increase amongst counselor jobs across Florida at 2,160 with 1,550 average annual openings.6 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor, mental health counselor, and counselors, all other, and rehabilitation Counselor jobs are also projected to increase by 1,400 (28.7%), 1,270 (28.6%), and 610 (22.3%), and 530 (16.9%) respectively.6 This suggests a promising job outlook for individuals looking to pursue a career in Florida in some of the most sought-after areas of counseling.

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other2,530$40,550
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors16,340$50,350
Marriage and Family Therapists2,810$50,680
Rehabilitation Counselors2,720$37,790
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors11,770$44,140

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in Florida

  • Florida Counseling Association: 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: 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: An advocacy and networking organization for Floridian school counselors with numerous chapters across the state, including Dade County (Miami), Palm Beach, and Sarasota.

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 with the exception of 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 with all types of counseling careers expected to grow above the national average through 2026.6 Projections from 2016-2026 suggest that the highest number of new positions will be available for Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors (2,160) as well as the highest number of average annual openings (1,550). The second-highest number of new positions are projected for Marriage and Family Therapists (1,100) with 510 average annual openings across the state.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.org/Projections/LongTerm