Hawaii Counseling License Requirements
Over 3,300 counselors across the five major counseling areas currently practice in the state of Hawaii as of May 2021.1-5 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 counseling licensure.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Hawaii
- Mental Health Counselor (MHC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Hawaii
- Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
- 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. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Hawaii, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
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 (MHCs), marriage and family therapists (MFTs), and school counselors must all have a master’s degree in an area related to the specialty. Substance abuse counselors can gain certification 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 (DCCA) licenses MHCs and MFTs; the Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD) licenses CSACs; and the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) 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 the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). 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 have completed a practicum or internship that includes at least 300 hours of supervised client contact. 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 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 November 2022.
3. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
After a complete application is reviewed, DCCA 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 any 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 content outline for further details. Candidates must take the test within six months of receiving instructions from NBCC to avoid delays; DCAA 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 DCCA. 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 DCAA 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 DCAA to meet this requirement.
Counselor License 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 DCCA’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.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCAA) issues licenses to Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs). In Hawaii, MFTs apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques to assist individuals, couples, and families achieve healthier and more satisfying social relationships. 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 the completion of a one-year practicum with 300 supervised client contact hours. Postgraduate experience of 1,000 hours of marriage and family therapy experience as well as 200 hours of clinical supervision over the course of at least two years is also required.The education, exam, and experience requirements are waived for individuals with current clinical memberships in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). If you do not currently have a clinical membership with the AAMFT, follow these steps to become an MFT in Hawaii:
- Accrue postgraduate experience of 1,000 hours of marriage and family therapy experience as well as 200 hours of clinical supervision over the course of at least two years.
- Apply forMFT licensure and permission to take the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Receive your MFT license and begin practicing in Hawaii.
To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapists and what they do, visit our LMFT career guide.
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, have five years of full-time experience and earn a National Board Certification, be designated a teacher leader or master teacher by the Hawaii Department of Education, or complete at least 30 credits of additional graduate-level related coursework before applying.
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 (ADAD) issues the credential 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 required for CSAC certification is a high school diploma or equivalent along with additional substance abuse- and HIV/STD-specific coursework, but the supervised work experience required is decreased for applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. 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 the supervised experience you need with your level of education (6,000 hours with a high school diploma or 4,000 hours with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health or substance use disorders (SUD)).
- Apply for certification and permission to take the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam.
- Request and receive your CSAC credential.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Hawaii
In addition to the CSAC credential, the ADAD offers related credentials that qualify certificate holders to practice in other areas of the field. Among these credentials are:
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Substance Abuse Program Administrator (CSAPA)
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
All counseling fields in Hawaii, with the exception of rehabilitation counselors, report an annual salary higher than the national average.1-5 The majority of counselors in Hawaii are employed in educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling, with 2,160 counselors practicing in these areas and earning an average annual salary of $68,560 as of May 2021.3 Another high-earning counseling field in Hawaii, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is marriage and family therapy. These counselors earn an average of $62,440 annually compared to the national average of $59,660.2
Not only do counselors in Hawaii enjoy high average salaries, but educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors; substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors; and marriage and family therapists are expected to see double-digit growth in Hawaii by 2030, according to Projections Central.6 The area of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling is projected to see the most dramatic increase of 25%, adding 250 new jobs over that 10-year period.6 Marriage and family therapist jobs are expected to increase by 40 new positions, equating to a 20% growth.6 Both of these practice areas are expected to outpace the average national growth by 2030.6 Hawaii is expected to add around 500 new counseling positions through 2030 according to these long term projections.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||150||$55,860|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||2,160||$68,560|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||70||$62,440|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||950||$61,410|
Counseling Associations in Hawaii
- Hawaii Counselors Association (HCA): Focused on promoting professional counseling in Hawaii through sharing best practices and relating basic practice standards.
- Hawaiian Islands Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (HIAMFT): Support the professional interests of MFTs through training and networking while promoting a relationship-centered approach to mental and behavioral health to the public.
- Hawaii School Counselors Association (HSCA): Committed to furthering professional development for school counselors through regular events and providing access to resources on relevant issues in the field.
- Hawai’i Association for Addiction Professionals (HAAP): HAAP is the Hawaiian chapter of the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) which provides education, clinical training and certification.
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 orientation and 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 healthcare 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 about 350 counseling openings each year through 2030.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling is projected to have more annual openings than all other reported fields at 180.6 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling is expected to have 130 annual openings during this period, followed by marriage and family therapists and all other counselors, at 20 openings each.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 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm