Hawaii Counseling License Requirements

The chain of islands that make up the “Aloha State” of Hawaii is admired by all those who experience them, from tourists to residents. To support and serve the diverse population of the Hawaiian Islands, there are some 2,570 counselors currently practicing.1-5 If you are looking to work as a counselor in Hawaii, you will want to know how to obtain a license through the correct state licensing body. This page will guide you through the process to become a Mental Health Counselor (MHC) in Hawaii as well as other options for licenses in counseling.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Counselor in Hawaii
Mental Health Counselor (MHC) Licensing Process
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Hawaii
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
School Counselor
Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Hawaii Counseling Career and Salary Information
Counseling Associations in Hawaii
Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Counselor in Hawaii

Hawaiian counselors are typically required to have a master’s degree that meets the requirements for the counseling practice area. Counseling schools in Hawaii offer programs specifically designed to meet state licensure standards, though out-of-state programs may also satisfy the requirements. Some licenses may also require prospective counselors to meet experience and testing requirements.

1. Pick an area of counseling to pursue.

To become a counselor in Hawaii, you will need to choose an area of counseling to pursue. Each licensure pathway has different steps and knowing the type of counseling you want to practice will help you meet the requirements as quickly as possible. Licensure can often take years so this step will ensure you do not waste any time during the process by going down the wrong path.

2. Earn the degree required for your area of counseling specialization.

Most types of counseling licensure in Hawaii require a graduate degree in a related area with specific coursework requirements. Mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and school counselors must all have a master’s degree in an area related to the specialty. Substance abuse counselors can earn a credential with a high school diploma.

3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Hawaii.

Once you have met the educational requirements, you can begin the licensure process by applying to the correct licensing body. The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs licenses mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; the Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division licenses substance abuse counselors; and the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board is responsible for school counseling licenses. Keep reading this guide to learn more about Hawaii counseling licensure and pathways.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (MHC) Licensing Process

In Hawaii, Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) are licensed by theHawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Hawaiian MHCs use counseling, human development, and system theories to prevent, assess, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; they may work with individuals or with families and groups depending on the nature of the issue. If you would like to learn more about a career as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. To be eligible for MHC licensure in Hawaii, applicants must have at least a 48-credit master’s degree in a counseling-related field with specific coursework and at least 300 hours of practicum or internship. To become an MHC, follow these steps:

1. Accrue supervised experience.

Prospective counselors must complete 3,000 hours of supervised mental health counseling work experience and receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. The hours must be accrued in between two and four years. The supervisor must be a licensed mental health counselor, psychologist, clinical social worker, advanced practice registered mental health nurse, psychiatrist, or marriage and family therapist. More information about supervision requirements can be found in the Board rules.

2. Apply for MHC licensure and permission to test.

Once the supervised work experience hours are complete, prospective counselors can apply for permission to test. The application form for licensure in Hawaii is thorough and includes coursework documentation, verification of practicum experience, and verification of post-degree work experience completed by the supervisor. The application fee is $60 as of October 2019.

3. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).

After a complete application is reviewed, the Department will provide permission to test. Candidates for licensure must pass the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Counselor Examination (NCE). The NCE is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam that can be taken at many Pearson VUE centers across the country, including one location in Honolulu. The exam consists of 200 questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Test takers can refer to the NCE handbook for further details. Candidates must take the test within six months of receiving instructions from NBCC to avoid delays; the Department requires candidates to attempt the exam within two years or the application may be closed.

4. Receive your MHC license.

Once you have passed the exam, the NBCC will send your exam results directly to the Department. A licensing fee will be due once your application is complete and approved; fees vary and are listed in the application form. You must wait until your payment is accepted by the Department and you receive your license to begin practicing.

Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Hawaii

Hawaii does not have any formal licensure by reciprocity agreements and applicants licensed in other states must meet the rules and regulations in Hawaii. Applicants use the general application form for licensure but can also submit verifications of other state counseling licenses with the application package. Applicants who have already passed the NCE can instruct NBCC to send the exam results directly to the Department to meet this requirement.

Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Licenses expire on June 30 and must be renewed every three years. Renewals can be completed online through the My PVL portal. Licenses that are not renewed on time must be renewed within one year by contacting the Department’s Licensing Branch directly. Counselors cannot provide counseling services with an expired license. There are no continuing education requirements for renewal in Hawaii.

Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Hawaii

In addition to mental health counseling, there are many other types of counseling licensure available to prospective counselors in Hawaii. Licensure requirements will vary depending on the area, but some of the other major types include marriage and family therapy, school counseling, and substance abuse counseling.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs issues licenses to Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs). MFTs must have a graduate degree from an accredited institution in marriage and family therapy or a related field with significant coursework in marriage and family therapy. The degree program must include a 300-hour practicum completed during a one-year period. The education, exam, and experience requirements are waived for individuals with current clinical memberships in the AAMFT. If you do not currently have a clinical membership for the AAMFT, follow these steps to become an MFT in Hawaii:

  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Apply for MFT licensure and permission to take the AMFTRB National Marriage and Family Therapy (NMFT) exam.
  • Pass the NMFT exam.
  • Receive your MFT license.

To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapists and what they do, visit our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

The Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) is responsible for school counselor licenses. There are numerous pathways to licensure and the Board offers provisional, standard, and advanced licenses depending on the applicant’s education and experience. The minimum education is a state-approved educator preparation program in school counseling, which is generally a master’s degree in school counseling, or a master’s degree in a counseling-related field. Hawaii school counselors assist students with academic, career, personal, and social development by developing and delivering developmentally- and age-appropriate programs and guidance services. Applicants with school counseling experience may be eligible to progress to the standard or advanced license immediately, but if you do not have any teaching or school counseling experience, the school counseling licensure process will require you to:

  • Meet the basic skills requirement by passing the Praxis Basic Skills Test, if not completed as part of degree requirements.
  • Meet the content knowledge requirement by passing the Praxis School Counselor Exam, if not completed as part of degree requirements.
  • Pass the professional fitness assessment.
  • Apply for and receive a Provisional License.
  • Earn three years of full-time experience and receive a Standard License.
  • If you desire an Advanced License, earn a National Board Certification, a teacher leader or master teacher designation by the Hawaii Department of Education, or complete at least 30 credits of additional graduate-level related coursework.
  • Earn five years of full-time experience within the previous eight years.
  • Request and receive your Advanced License.

More information about school counselor career pathways can be found on our school counseling career guide.

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)

The Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division issues credentials for Certified Substance Abuse Counselors (CSAC). In Hawaii, CSACs use adapted counseling methods and techniques to assist individuals in the recovery process and must be proficient in twelve core areas, such as screening, intake, assessment, case management, counseling, and client education. The minimum education for CSAC certification is a high school diploma, but MHCs are also able to apply for the CSAC credential and provide substance abuse counseling within their scope of practice. If you are not already an MHC, you can earn the CSAC credential by following these steps:

  • Complete additional alcohol and drug abuse education, if required.
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Apply for certification and permission to take the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam.
  • Request and receive your CSAC credential.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Hawaii

  • Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)
  • Certified Substance Abuse Program Administrator (CSAPA)
  • Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist (HCPS)

Read about substance abuse counseling careers on our substance abuse counseling career guide.

Other Professional Counseling Careers

Professional counselors work in a variety of settings and with diverse populations. Other career paths available to those with counseling education and training include:

  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Gambling Counselor
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Youth Counselor
  • Guidance Counselor
  • Pastoral Counselor
  • Recreational Therapist

Hawaii Counseling Career and Salary Information

Almost all counseling fields in Hawaii report an annual salary higher than that of the national average.1-5 Marriage and family therapists in Hawaii earn the highest annual salary of any state, with 90 counselors currently working in the field and earning an average annual salary of $79,660.2 The majority of counselors in Hawaii are employed in educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling, with 1,580 counselors practicing in these areas and earning an average annual salary of $59,110.3 Another high-earning field according to the BLS is the category of “all other counseling” in Hawaii. These counselors earn an average of $56,530 annually compared to the national average of $47,740.5

Not only do counselors in Hawaii enjoy high average salaries, but all practice areas of counseling are expected to see double-digit growth in Hawaii by 2026.6 Mental health counseling is projected to see the most dramatic increase of 25.8%, adding 80 new jobs over that 10-year period.6 Substance abuse and behavioral counseling is expected to increase by 100 new positions equating to a 24.4% growth.6 Both of these practice areas are expected to outpace the average national growth by 2026.6 Hawaii is expected to add around 390 new counseling positions through 2026 according to these long term projections.6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other100$56,530
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors1,580$59,110
Marriage and Family Therapists90$79,660
Rehabilitation Counselors190$43,340
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors610$54,550

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in Hawaii

Frequently Asked Questions

What coursework is required for mental health counselors in Hawaii?

Prospective mental health counselors must complete a 48-credit graduate degree in counseling or a related field with coursework in nine core areas: human growth and development; social and cultural foundations; counseling theories and applications; group theory and practice; career and lifestyle development; appraisal of human behavior; tests and measurements; research and program evaluation; and professional ethics. The degree must also include at least six credits of practicum or internship that provide the student with at least 300 hours of client contact. Applicants must submit a coursework documentation form to show all core areas have been met.

How long do I have to complete the requirements for mental health counseling licensure?

The Department will consider your application abandoned if you do not make any efforts to meet the remaining requirements for two consecutive years. This can include failing to take the NCE exam, or failing to submit requested documents, such as course descriptions or verifications of previous licenses held. Applicants are advised to inform the Department of their progress of the licensure steps every year even if they have not yet completed the remaining requirements; this will prevent the applicant from having to submit a new application package and fee in the future.

What are the supervision requirements for marriage and family therapists in Hawaii?

Before earning an MFT license, applicants must complete 1,000 hours of direct client contact providing marriage and family therapy and receive 200 hours of clinical supervision in not less than two years. The supervisor must be a licensed MFT with an active license in good standing during the two years prior to beginning supervision or a licensed mental health professional who has also held a clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) during the two years prior to and throughout the supervision period.

How can MHCs earn substance abuse counseling certification?

The Hawaii Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division offers a specific pathway to substance abuse counseling certification for MHCs. Applicants must complete 180 hours of substance abuse or related counseling training including six hours in confidentiality, HIV/AIDS-related to substance abuse, and substance abuse ethics each. Furthermore, at least 1,000 hours of clinical work experience in alcohol and drug abuse counseling must be completed under the supervision of a CSAC or a licensed health care professional with at least one year of experience treating substance use disorders. MHC applicants can then submit an application and request permission to take the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam before earning the credential. Further details can be found in the application package.

What counseling areas will have the most annual openings in Hawaii?

Data from Projections Central suggests that there will be 340 counseling openings each year through 2026, including replacement jobs.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to have more annual openings than all other reported fields combined at 200.6 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors may have 60 annual openings during this period, followed by mental health counselors (40), rehabilitation counselors (30), and all other counselors (10).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