Massachusetts Counseling License Requirements
As of May 2021, over 31,000 counselors work in Massachusetts, with the highest number employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (17,020).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 and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADCs and CADCs)
- 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, which require only a high school diploma. Numerous schools in Massachusetts offer counseling programs designed to meet these specific requirements. All counselor types require 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, as there are many different subfields of counseling that have very different job descriptions and requirements. Once you have narrowed down your field of interest, 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 in substance abuse counseling that do not require a postsecondary degree. Give yourself about four years to complete a bachelor’s degree and two to three 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 (the Board); 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 of the Department of Public Health (the Department); for Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs), you will need to go through the Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (MBSACC); and for school counselors, you will need to go through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 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). LMHCs 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. You 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 (the Board) regulates the licensing of LMHCs in Massachusetts. LMHCs are required to hold a 60-semester-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field that includes certain required coursework, a 100-hour practicum, and a post-practicum internship of at least 600 hours. 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 postgraduate supervised clinical experience (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. NCMHCE preparation guides are available for purchase 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 printable guide can be found on the Board’s website. You should also mail your official transcripts, supervision forms, and 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 November 2022.
4. Receive your LMHC license.
After your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed by the Board for completeness and accuracy. Once any additional requirements have been met, the Board will grant your license to practice mental health counseling in Massachusetts.
LMHC Licensure by Reciprocity in Massachusetts
Massachusetts does offer licensure by reciprocity for 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 to 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 License 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 hours (CEs) and renew your license. LMHCs are required to accrue 30 hours of coursework during the two-year period, which must be approved by one of the two Board-recognized entities: the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MAMHCA) or the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). One-time participation in domestic and sexual violence training is also required. A renewal fee of $155 is required along with your renewal request.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Massachusetts
The path to licensure varies depending on the type of counseling practice you choose. Massachusetts also offers licensure in other counseling fields such as licensed marriage and family therapy, school counseling, and substance abuse disorder counseling.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions (the Board) also regulates Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) 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), if desired.
- Complete two years of full-time experience (3,360 hours) of postgraduate supervised clinical experience, which must include at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact and 200 hours of supervision.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- 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 (DESE). School counseling falls under the category of professional support personnel licenses; an Initial License (PreK-grade 8) and a Professional License (grades 5-12) are offered. To become a school counselor, you need to have a master’s degree in counseling. You will need to procure an initial license before gaining your full professional license. The process for becoming a school counselor is:
- Gain the Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) outlined in the Subject Matter Knowledge Guidelines.
- Complete a practicum of 450 hours in an educational setting, if not already completed as part of your master’s program.
- Take and pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) Communication and Literacy Skills Test (CLST).
- Apply for 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 and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADCs and CADCs)
The Bureau of Substance Addiction Services’ Alcohol and Drug Counselor Licensing Unit of the Department of Public Health (the Department) regulates the licensure of alcohol and drug counselors in the state and the Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (MBSACC), the Massachusetts chapter of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), regulates the certification of alcohol and drug counselors. Both licensure and certification are accepted in Massachusetts to recognize specialty training in addiction. Each group offers three levels of counselors in substance abuse. The Department offers LADC Assistant, LADC II, and LADC I, all with varying requirements, with the LADC I being the most stringent. 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 candidate must have a master’s or doctoral degree in behavioral sciences with at least 18 graduate semester hours in counseling or a related subject. 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 a licensed drug and alcohol counselor in Massachusetts, you will also need to:
- Complete a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education in each of the following subject areas: assessment; counseling; case management; client, family, and community education; and professional responsibility/ethics for LADC Assistant licensure.
- Complete alcohol and drug education hours through either an approved Addiction Education Program or an accredited college or university (270 for LADC Is and LADC IIs and 50 hours for LADC Assistants).
- Complete 300 hours of supervised practical training for LADC I and II.
- Accrue required supervised work experience (2,000 hours for LADC Assistant and 6,000 hours for LADC I and II, unless an LADC II candidate has a bachelor’s degree, which lowers the requirement to 4,000 hours).
- Take and pass the required IC&RC exam.
- Receive your alcohol and drug counselor license.
The MBSACC offers three levels of certification for prospective counselors: the Certified Alcoholism Counselor (CAC), the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC II). Similar to the licenses offered by the Department, the CAC and CADC require a high school diploma to become certified, while the CADC-II requires a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field. To become certified by the MBSACC, you must:
- Accrue the required work experience providing drug and alcohol counseling services under clinical supervision (4,000 hours for the CAC credential, a minimum of 4,000 hours depending on education level for the CADC credential, or 2,000 hours for the CADC II credential).
- Complete required continuing education training in substance abuse (CAC: 180 clock hours; CADC: 300 clock hours).
- Complete supervision requirements (220 hours for CAC, a minimum of 100 hours depending on education level for CDAC, or 300 hours for CDAC II).
- Pass the required IC&RC exam (the International Examination for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (ADC) for the CAC and CADC credentials or the International Examination for Advanced Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (AADC) for the CADC II credential.
- Receive your alcohol and drug counselor credential.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Massachusetts
Additionally, the MBSACC offers voluntary credentials that offer specialized training for people who already hold licenses or certificates. These credentials will increase your ability to provide quality services and include:
- MBSACC Certified Addictions Recovery Coach (CARC)
- MBSACC Certified Co-occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP)
- MBSACC Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
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
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Massachusetts has the highest concentration and fourth-highest employment level of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (17,020) in the US, which includes LMHCs.1 It has the second-highest employment level (5,280) and the fourth-highest concentration of rehabilitation counselors.4 Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Massachusetts have the third-highest average salary in the nation, earning an average of $75,660 per year.3
According to Projections Central, the employment projections for counselors in Massachusetts are positive, with the highest projected rate of growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors with 21.8% growth predicted between 2020 and 2030, which is slightly behind national projected growth rate for this category of 22.9%. Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are expected to have the second-highest growth at 14.5%, which is above the projected national rate of 11.5%.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||200||$56,720|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||8,590||$75,660|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||880||$53,940|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||17,020||$55,160|
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): Resource for family and systemic therapists in northeastern states including Massachusetts, advancing the profession through advocacy, networking, and educational opportunities.
- Massachusetts Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, Inc. (MAADAC): The Massachusetts chapter of the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) which is dedicated to the needs and advancement of addiction professionals.
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), as well as the two lower-level addiction counselor credentials (CAC and CADC), require a high school diploma plus experience requirements; however, becoming a CADC II or an independently practicing LADC I requires 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 $58,736 per year.1-5 Some mental health professionals earn additional income through private practice, consulting work, or other supplementary activities.
How long does it take to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) 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 Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination, 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 earning licensure.
What is the typical guidance counselor salary in Massachusetts?
The BLS categorizes guidance counselors with educational, school, and career counselors and advisors. The average salary for this group in Massachusetts is $75,660 per year, which is higher than the national average of $63,090.3
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