Massachusetts Counseling License Requirements
Counselors of all types call the New England state of Massachusetts their home. Currently, over 30,000 counselors work in the state, with the highest number employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (15,880).1-5 On this page, you can read about how to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), which is the main counseling type in the state, as well as other counseling types, including marriage and family therapist, school counselor, and substance abuse counselor.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Massachusetts
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Massachusetts
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Massachusetts Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Massachusetts
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, all counseling careers require licensure to practice. Most types of counseling jobs require a master’s degree, with the exception of the two lower-level substance abuse counselors (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) II and LADC Assistant), which require only a high school diploma. Numerous schools in Massachusetts offer counseling programs designed to meet these specific requirements. All counselor types require that you gain supervised experience and most require passing a national exam to become licensed. The basic counseling licensure requirements for Massachusetts are as follows:
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
The first step to becoming a counselor in any state should be to decide which type of counseling you want to work in. From school counseling to mental health counseling to substance abuse counseling, there are many different subfields of counseling, which have very different job descriptions and requirements. Find the area of counseling that you are passionate about, then you can proceed to the following steps.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
Once you’ve chosen a target practice area, you are ready to research the requirements and get your degree. As previously mentioned, the degree required for most counseling types in Massachusetts is a master’s degree, but there are exceptions (such as the LADC II and LADC Assistant) that do not require a degree after high school. Give yourself about four years to complete a bachelor’s degree and two years of full-time study to complete your master’s degree.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Massachusetts.
After you have obtained the necessary degree for counseling licensure, it is time to begin the licensure process. For Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), you will need to go through the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions; for Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADCs), you will need to go through the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services’ (BSAS) Alcohol and Drug Counselor Licensing Unit, and for school counselors, you will need to go through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For more details about the licensure process for each of these counselor types, continue reading below.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Licensing Process
The primary counselor type licensed in the state of Massachusetts is the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), who are authorized to render professional services including diagnosis and treatment, counseling and psychotherapy, and applying psychoeducational techniques to individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations, and communities. ou can read more about what professional counselors do on our mental health counselor career guide. The Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions regulates the licensing of LMHCs in Massachusetts. LMHCs are required to hold a 48-semester-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field that includes certain required coursework, a 40-hour pre-master’s clinical experience, and a 240-hour internship. After the educational requirement has been met, applicants should complete the following steps:
1. Accrue post-master’s clinical field experience.
After matriculating their master’s degree, applicants will need to complete at least two years (and less than eight years) of full-time post-master’s degree supervised clinical experience (or 3,360 hours) with direct client contact experience of 960 hours. The experience must include a total of at least 130 hours of supervision including 75 hours of individual supervision.
2. Pass the licensing exam.
All applicants must take and pass the National Clinical Mental Health Examination (NCMHCE). This exam is designed by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and given by Pearson VUE. Study materials and practice exams can be found on the NBCC website. If you do not pass, you may apply to retake the exam after a 90-day waiting period.
3. Complete your application and submit it to the Board.
You can apply for LMHC licensure online on the ePlace Portal. You will need to upload the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Form, a 2×2 passport-size photo, and the NCMHCE Score Report. A paper application can be found on the Board’s website. You should also mail your official transcripts, supervision forms, verifications in a sealed envelope, an official, sealed NCMHCE Score Report if taken in another state, and the Academic Course Form. An application fee of $117 is required with your application as of July 2019.
4. Receive your LMHC license.
After your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed by the Board and you will be granted your license to practice mental health counseling in Massachusetts.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Massachusetts
Massachusetts does offer licensure by reciprocity for those applicants who already hold a license or certification as a mental health counselor or equivalent in another state or jurisdiction. If this applies to you, you must check the “Reciprocal Recognition” box on page two of the application and attach:
- Written proof of your license that is in good standing.
- Written proof that the requirements for the license you hold are equivalent or exceed the Massachusetts standards.
- Written proof that you received a passing score on the NCMHCE exam.
- Written proof that you have been actively practicing full-time counseling in mental health for the past three years.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
LMHC licenses in Massachusetts need to be renewed by December 31 every two years. You can renew your license online on the ePlace Portal. You should receive a license record ID and authorization code from the Board if your license is eligible for renewal, which you will use to record your Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and renew your license. LMHCs are required to accrue 30 credits during the two-year period, which must be given by the two Board-recognized entities: the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MAMHCA) or the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). A renewal fee of $155 is required along with your renewal request.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Massachusetts
Sentence about how the license pathway varies depending on what you want to practice. Add a second sentence that links to the headers of the major types, which will be covered in brief: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions also regulates Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in Massachusetts. In this state, LMFTs are permitted to provide professional mental health services to individuals, family groups, couples, groups, or organizations to resolve emotional conflict, modify perceptions and behavior, and enhance communication and understanding among family members to prevent family and individual crises. LMFTs are required to hold a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field of 60 credit hours or greater and that meets certain coursework requirements. Prospective LMFTs in Massachusetts must:
- Register as a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
- Complete two years of full-time experience (3,360 hours) of post-master’s supervised clinical experience.
- Pass the AMFTRB national examination.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
To read more about what an LMFT does, read our LMFT career guide.
School counselors in Massachusetts are licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. To become a school counselor, you need to have a Massachusetts teaching license and have substantial experience. You must also hold a master’s degree in counseling. Before gaining your full professional license, you will need to procure an initial license first. The process for becoming a school counselor is:
- Gain Subject Matter Knowledge outline in the Subject Matter Knowledge Guidelines.
- Complete a practicum of 450 hours in an educational setting.
- Take and pass the Communication and Literacy Skills test.
- Get your Initial License and begin working.
- Gain three years of employment as a school counselor.
- Complete either 60 credit hours of graduate coursework in school counseling (may be counted from your master’s degree) or gain certification from the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the National Board for School Counseling (NBSC).
- Apply for and receive your Professional License in School Counseling.
If you would like to learn more about school counselors, see our school counselor career guide.
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)
The Bureau of Substance Addiction Services’ (BSAS) Alcohol and Drug Counselor Licensing Unit regulates the licensure of alcohol and drug counselors in the state. There are three levels of counselors in substance abuse: LADC I, LADC II, and LADC Assistant, all with varying requirements, with the LADC I being the most stringent. The LADC I should have a master’s degree in behavioral sciences with at least 18 graduate semester hours in counseling or a related subject. An LADC II and LADC Assistant can become licensed with a high school diploma and experience, but their scope of work is limited. An LADC I is the only license that allows counselors to work independently in private practice and be reimbursed by a third party. To become an LADC I, you will also need to:
- Complete 270 hours of alcohol and drug education hours through either an approved Addiction Education Program or an accredited college or university.
- Accrue at least 6,000 hours of supervised work experience in alcohol and drug abuse treatment, intervention, and prevention.
- Complete a practicum of 300 hours in supervised substance abuse counseling.
- Take and pass the IC&RC exam.
- Receive your LADC license.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Massachusetts
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Co-occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP)
- Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional – Diplomate (CCDP-D)
- Certified Addictions Recovery Coach (CARC)
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC II)
- Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
To learn more about this career, read our substance abuse counselor career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
In addition to the counseling careers mentioned above, there are many other careers related to counseling that you might be interested in pursuing. For more information about each, click on the link below.
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Massachusetts Counseling Career and Salary Information
Massachusetts has the second-highest concentration and fourth-highest employment level of rehabilitation counselors (6,310) in the US.4 It has the second-highest concentration and third-highest employment level of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (15,880), which includes LMHCs.1 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors in Massachusetts have the third-highest average salary in the nation, earning an average of $69,570 per year.3
The employment projections for counselors in Massachusetts are positive, with the highest projected rate of growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors with 17.6% growth predicted between 2016 and 2026, which is positive but still below the national projected growth rate for this category of 23.2%.3
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||160||$47,680|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||8,050||$69,570|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||580||$57,020|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||15,880||$47,880|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association, Inc. (MaMHCA): Provides members with an online newsletter, continuing education opportunities, and an annual conference.
- Massachusetts School Counselors Association (MASCA): An organization that aims to promote, improve, and expand school and guidance counseling in Massachusetts
- New England Association for Family and Systemic Therapy (NEAFAST): Resrouce for family and systemic therapists in northeastern states including Massachusetts, advancing the profession through advocacy, networking, and educational opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you become a counselor without a college degree in Massachusetts?
Like most states, Massachusetts requires a degree (typically a graduate degree) for most types of counseling. The two lower-level addiction counselor types (LADC II and LADC Assistant) require a high school diploma plus experience requirements, but that is the exception. To become a full LADC I (able to practice without supervision) you need a master’s degree.
How much do Massachusetts counselors make?
Counselors in Massachusetts earn different amounts based on a variety of factors, including proximity to a city and years of experience. On average, counselors in the state (among the five main types identified by the BLS) earn $53,476 per year.1-5
How long does it take to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Massachusetts?
LMFTs in Massachusetts need a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling to become licensed, which takes approximately two years to complete. Then, they need to accrue two years of supervised experience, take the national exam, and complete the application process to become licensed. So if you get your bachelor’s degree in four years, a master’s in two, and accrue the post-master’s experience, you should expect to spend approximately eight years getting licensed.
Do you need to be a teacher to become a school counselor?
Yes, in Massachusetts, as in most other states, school counselor licensure is an endorsement for teachers, so you will first need to become certified as a teacher.
What is the typical guidance counselor salary in Massachusetts?
The BLS categorizes guidance counselors with educational, school, and vocational counselors.3 The average salary for this group in Massachusetts is $69,570 per year, which is higher than the national average of $60,160.3
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.com/Projections/LongTerm