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Minnesota Counseling License Requirements

Earning counseling licensure in Minnesota can be a long journey as the state sets specific education and work requirements for each type of counseling license. There are over 17,000 counselors working in the state with most employed in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling.1-5 A Minnesota counseling license can open up many opportunities to work with diverse populations in challenging situations. For example, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) provide mental health and psychotherapeutic counseling services to all age groups. If you’d like to know more about what it takes to develop a Minnesota counseling career, this page summarizes the major types of counseling licensure in the state.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Counselor in Minnesota
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Minnesota
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
School Counselor
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Minnesota Counseling Career and Salary Information
Counseling Associations in Minnesota
Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Counselor in Minnesota

Minnesota requires that prospective counselors complete a related degree that meets the coursework requirements for the practice area pursued. Applicants may also need to meet other work experience and testing requirements.

1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.

The first step towards a career in counseling is to decide which area of counseling you’d like to pursue. The pathways to Minnesota counseling licensure vary and knowing which type of counseling interests you is important because it will help you focus on the correct degree program required for licensure.

2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.

In Minnesota, you will need at least some post-secondary education to begin your career as a counselor. Some types of licensure also require graduate-level education in a related field. For example, mental health counselors must have a master’s degree with an internship component and specific clinical coursework and marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field. School counselors can begin the licensure process with a bachelor’s degree and 24 credits of related graduate study, but a graduate degree is required for full licensure. Substance abuse counselors are not required to have a graduate degree, but a bachelor’s degree with a supervised practicum is required.

3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Minnesota.

The final step is to become licensed by in Minnesota. In Minnesota, licenses for clinical mental health counselors and substance abuse counselors are issued by the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy and licenses for marriage and family therapists are issued by the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy. School counselors are licensed by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. Continue reading to learn more about these licensure processes.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process

The Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy is responsible for issuing licenses to mental health counselors, known as Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs). LPCCs use professional counseling knowledge and skills to diagnose, evaluate, and treat psychosocial and behavioral issues and mental illnesses. The Board also offers LPC licensure, which allows trained counselors to provide psychotherapeutic services except for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide. LPCC applicants in Minnesota must have an accredited graduate degree comprised of at least 48 credits, including a 700-hour internship and clinical coursework in six key areas, including diagnostic assessments and clinical ethics.

1. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).

Prospective LPCCs must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCMHCE is a simulation-based exam designed to test your knowledge of clinical counseling theories and interventions. The NBCC provides a handbook and links to exam prep resources to help you study.

2. Accrue supervised experience.

The Board has strict work experience requirements for LPCC candidates. You must complete 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, including assessments, diagnoses, and interventions of mental illnesses with children and adults. Additionally, 1,800 of the 4,000 hours must be direct client contact and you must receive two hours of supervision for every 40 hours accrued. Supervisors must have the LPCC Supervisor designation from the Board or submit an application and credential verification form to earn approval. Acceptable LPCC supervisors must have four years of experience, including two years of clinical diagnosis and treatment experience, and must complete 45 hours of supervision training.

3. Apply for and receive your LPCC license.

You can begin the application process for LPCC licensure while you complete your supervised experience or after it has been completed. The application form is available online and should be mailed to the Board. At the time of application, you must pay the $150 application fee, the $250 initial licensure fee, and the $33.25 fingerprinting fee (fees current as of September 2019). The Board will send you more information about how to complete the fingerprint background check, which must be completed before your license will be approved.

Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Minnesota

Minnesota accepts and evaluates applications for licensure by reciprocity on a case-by-case basis. The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that the licensure process in the state where they are licensed is equivalent to Minnesota requirements for LPCC licensure. The license held should also have a similar scope of practice to LPCCs in Minnesota, including clinical mental health skills. Reciprocity applicants must submit transcripts, exam scores, and documentation of 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience to be considered.

Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The Board issues renewal notices and forms 45 days prior to expiration. Minnesota has a complex continuing education (CE) system for LPCCs. The first renewal period for an LPCC license is four years. During that time, the licensee must complete 12 credits of related graduate study, up to a maximum of 60 credits, including the graduate degree, and 40 hours of CE. One credit of graduate coursework may be counted as 15 hours of CE during this period up to the 40-hour requirement. Thereafter, the license must be renewed every two years and licensees must complete 40 hours of CE during each renewal cycle. CE activities must be approved by the Board by submitting a request form at least 60 days before the proposed activity.

Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Minnesota

Choosing an area of focus in the counseling profession will determine the steps of your career path. In addition to mental health counseling, some of the other major types of counseling licensure summarized below include licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

Licensed marriage and family therapists are licensed by the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy. LMFT applicants must have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field that is preferably accredited by COAMFTE. If the program is not accredited by COAMFTE, it must meet specific coursework requirements set by the Board. In Minnesota, marriage and family therapy is a specialized form of counseling and LMFTs are licensed to provide psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families for emotional and mental problems affecting interpersonal dynamics, including premarital and marital counseling, divorce counseling, and family therapy. To become a licensed marriage and family therapist, follow these steps:

  • Apply to the Board for permission to take the AMFTRB national exam in marriage and family therapy.
  • Accrue supervised experience.
  • Apply for your LMFT license.
  • Pass the Minnesota marriage and family therapy oral exam.
  • Receive your LMFT license.

To learn more about LMFT careers, visit our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board is responsible for issuing school counselor licenses. Minnesota school counselors work with students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to help promote age-appropriate academic, emotional, and behavioral development, and resiliency skills among students. There are three school counselor licensing tiers (tier two, tier three, and tier four) and tier four is considered a full license. The minimum requirement to begin the licensure process at tier two is a bachelor’s degree and 24 credits of graduate-level study in school counseling, but an accredited graduate degree in school counseling will enable you to apply directly to tier three. If you have a master’s degree that is not in school counseling, you must complete an approved school counselor preparation program before applying. After completing your graduate education, earn tier four school counseling licensure by completing the following steps:

  • Register as a tier three school counselor with the Board.
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Request and receive your tier four school counseling license.

Read more about opportunities in this field on our school counseling career guide.

Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)

The Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy is responsible for issuing licenses for substance abuse counselors, known in Minnesota as the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) credential. There are two pathways to licensure, known as the standard method and the supervision method. Both pathways have the same minimum required education, which is a bachelor’s degree with at least 18 credits in drug and alcohol counseling and an 880-hour supervised practicum. The application form can be found online. In Minnesota, LADCs work in a variety of settings, including treatment facilities, correctional facilities, and hospitals, to assess, evaluate, and modify addictive behaviors related to alcohol and drug abuse. To earn a LADC license, follow these steps:

  • Pass the required exam and earn supervised experience if required.
  • Apply for your LADC license.
  • Complete a fingerprint background check.
  • Receive your LADC license.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Minnesota

  • Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Reciprocal – Minnesota (AADCR-MN)
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor – Minnesota (ADC-MN)
  • Alcohol & Drug Counselor Reciprocal – Minnesota (ADCR-MN)
  • Certified Clinical Supervisor Reciprocal (CCSR)
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional Reciprocal (CCJPR)
  • Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
  • Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Approved Supervisor (CPRSAP)
  • Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Reciprocal (CPRSR)
  • Certified Prevention Professional (CPP)
  • Certified Prevention Professional Advanced (CPPA)
  • Certified Prevention Professional Reciprocal (CPPR)

More information about what substance abuse counselors do can be found on our substance abuse counseling career guide.

Other Professional Counseling Careers

In addition to the major fields listed above, there are many other ways to develop a professional counseling career. Some examples of other types of career pathways include:

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

Minnesota Counseling Career and Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 17,610 counselors in Minnesota with the majority working as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (7,500) and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (4,790).1-5 Average annual salaries range from $41,400 for rehabilitation counselors, which is above the $39,930 national average, to $58,360 for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors.4,3 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors also earn above the national average ($49,280 compared to $47,920 nationally).1

The job market outlook for counseling positions in Minnesota varies depending on the area of counseling. Marriage and family therapists are projected to see the fastest growth through 2026 at 19.6%, followed by counselors, all other (11.4%) and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (6.7%), although not all projections were reported.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors were projected to increase by 280 new jobs total through 2026, with 470 annual openings per year, including replacements.6 Although rehabilitation counselor positions were projected to decrease overall through 2026 (-5.3%), there may still be 370 openings each year in this area.6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other560$47,440
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors4,790$58,360
Marriage and Family Therapists1,040$57,770
Rehabilitation Counselors3,720$41,100
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors7,500$49,280

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in Minnesota

  • Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT): A non-profit organization that promotes the marriage and family therapy profession through public education and advocacy and connects practitioners through networking events, professional development, and issue-specific committees.
  • Minnesota Counseling Association (MnCA): MnCA connects all types of counselors in the state to advocate for the profession and share best practices through conferences and training.
  • Minnesota School Counselors Association (MSCA): A professional organization for school counselors that work with students of all ages, MSCA holds an annual conference and organizes regional divisions to support school counselors from all Minnesota school boards.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of clinical coursework do I need to take for LPCC licensure?

LPCC candidates must complete specific clinical coursework in order to be eligible for licensure, including six credits in each of diagnostic assessments and evidence-based clinical interventions and three credits in each of clinical treatment planning, evaluation of interventions, clinical ethics, and cultural diversity. Details of these courses must be included with your application and you must submit all course syllabi so the Board can verify that your education meets the clinical coursework requirements.

What do substance abuse counselors do in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, licensed alcohol and drug counselors (LADCs) are expected to be proficient in 12 core areas to be licensed. Some of these core skills include conducting initial screenings to determine if a client is eligible for services, assessing client strengths, weaknesses, and needs with regards to substance abuse, creating treatment plans that identify short- and long-term goals, providing appropriate counseling services to the client, responding to crisis situations when the client is in distress, and making appropriate referrals when the client’s needs are outside the scope of their expertise.

Are there counseling careers without a degree in Minnesota?

All the major types of counseling licensure summarized on this page require a degree, and some require a graduate degree with specific coursework. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists must have a graduate degree in a related field, preferably from an accredited program. Substance abuse counselors must have a bachelor’s degree. For school counseling licensure, a bachelor’s degree is necessary and although you can begin the licensure process with a minimum of 24 credits of school counseling graduate education, ultimately you must complete a graduate degree to achieve full licensure.

Do I need to apply for an LPC license before I can become an LPCC?

It is not necessary to apply for the LPC license if you meet the requirements for LPCC, nor is it necessary to progress to the LPCC license if you are an LPC in good standing. Individuals who are already licensed as LPCs are able to apply for LPCC licensure through the conversion application once they meet the requirements, including a related master’s or doctoral degree, 24 credits of clinical assessment and counseling, a passing score on the NCMHCE exam, and 4,000 hours of supervised clinical work experience.

Where can I find a counseling job in Minnesota?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, counselors work in many areas of the state. The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area, which is partially located in Minnesota, ranks sixth in the country for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (5,050 employed) and rehabilitation counselors (2,300 employed).1,4 Southeast Minnesota ranks highly in second place among nonmetropolitan areas for marriage and family therapists (60 employed).2 Minnesota also ranks fifth in the country for the concentration of rehabilitation counseling jobs (3,720) with the Mankato-North Mankato metropolitan area ranking ninth overall (150 employed).4

References:
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