Minnesota Counseling License Requirements
There are over 17,100 counselors working in Minnesota as of May 2021, 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 degree that meets the coursework requirements for the practice area pursued. Many Minnesota counseling programs are available that meet these requirements, though degrees from out-of-state schools may also be sufficient. Depending on the license pursued, applicants may also need to meet other work experience and testing requirements. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Minnesota, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
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 to practice, 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 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 (BBHT or the Board) and licenses for marriage and family therapists are issued by the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy (the Board). School counselors are licensed by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB). Continue reading to learn more about these licensure processes.
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
The Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy (BBHT or the Board) 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 Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensure, which allows trained counselors to provide psychotherapeutic services except for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Some applicants become licensed as LPCs and later convert their license to an LPCC after accruing additional supervised hours, but that is not required. You can also apply for LPC or LPCC licensure with a Licensed Psychologist (LP) license. Both LPC and LPCC applicants in Minnesota must have an accredited master’s or doctoral degree of at least 48 credits in counseling or a related field from a CACREP- or CHEA-accredited institution that includes at least 700 hours of supervised field experience.
For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide.
1. Accrue supervised experience.
You must complete 4,000 hours of post-master’s 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 (for a total of 200 hours). Supervisors must have the LPCC supervisor designation from the Board. 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.
2. 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.
3. Apply for your LPCC license.
You can begin the application process for LPCC licensure while you are accruing 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 $400 application fee and the $33.25 fingerprinting fee (as of December 2022). 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. Along with your application, you must submit transcripts and verification form(s) for your completed supervised experience.
4. Receive your LPCC license.
Once your application and supplemental materials have been received and reviewed by BBHT, your license will be issued.
LPCC 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 an application, transcripts, verification of licenses held, and a criminal background check.
Counselor License 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 60 credit hours of graduate study and/or 40 hours of CE, depending on whether or not the licensee had already completed 60 hours of graduate study upon receipt of their license. If they have not yet completed 60 hours, one credit of graduate coursework may be counted as 15 hours of CE during this initial four-year renewal 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. Renewals are completed online.
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 (the Board). LMFT applicants must have a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). If the program is not accredited by COAMFTE, it must meet equivalency 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:
- Submit an initial application for national examination including official transcripts, and a criminal background check.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Complete a Licensed Assistant Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT) license application provided by the Board in order to earn your supervised experience.
- Accrue 4,000 hours of postgraduate supervised experience, including at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact and 200 hours of direct supervision.
- Submit a final application for your LMFT license.
- Pass the Minnesota written state licensure exam.
- Receive your LMFT license.
To learn more about LMFT careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB or the 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 1 is not available for school counselors) and Tier 4 is considered a full license.
The minimum educational requirement to begin the licensure process at Tier 2 is holding a bachelor’s degree and being enrolled in an accredited school counselor program. You can also qualify for a Tier 2 license with a master’s degree in counseling. The most common way to get start the process to licensure after you have completed a bachelor’s degree and are enrolled in an approved school counselor program and, you will complete the following steps:
- Complete at least 24 credit hours of school counseling coursework and get hired.
- The hiring district must request a Tier 2 school counselor license from the Board and affirm that the candidate will participate in an evaluation.
- Apply for and receive a Tier 2 school counselor license.
- Get a master’s degree from a regionally-accredited school and complete a state-approved or Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Services (CACREP)-approved school counselor preparation program.
- Apply for and receive a Tier 3 school counselor license.
- Complete three or more years of employment as a school counselor in Minnesota (without being placed on an improvement plan).
- Apply for and receive a Tier 4 school counselor 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 (BBHT or the Board) is responsible for issuing licenses for substance abuse counselors, known in Minnesota as the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) credential. There are two main 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 semester hours in specific drug and alcohol counseling coursework and an 880-hour supervised practicum. 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 one of the required comprehensive exams (International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Alcohol and Drug Counselor or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam or National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) Level Two exam) or pass a written and oral exam.
- (Optional) If the exam you pass is not comprehensive (rare, as all of the above qualify as comprehensive exams), you must also earn 2,000 hours of supervised experience.
- Apply for your LADC license. Official transcripts and exam scores must be submitted along with your application.
- Complete a Criminal Background Check (CBC).
- Receive your LADC license within two to three weeks when your background check has cleared.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Minnesota
While not required to practice substance abuse counseling in Minnesota, the Minnesota Certification Board offers several certifications to alcohol and drug counseling professionals that will demonstrate your expertise and experience in specialized areas, potentially improving your job prospects and earning potential.
- Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
- Certified Prevention Professional (CPP)
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 (BLS), as of May 2021, there are 17,190 counselors in Minnesota with the majority working as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (7,610) and educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (3,880).1-5 Average annual salaries range from $46,600 for rehabilitation counselors, which is above the $44,740 national average, to $68,660 for marriage and family therapists.2,4
The job market outlook for counseling positions in Minnesota varies depending on the area of counseling. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor roles are projected to see the fastest growth through 2030 at 22.9%, followed by marriage and family therapists (15.4%), educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (8.5%), and “all other” counselors (6.1%).6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors were projected to increase by 370 new jobs total through 2030, with 450 average annual openings per year, including replacements.6 Although rehabilitation counselor positions were only projected to increase by 5.8%, there is still estimated to be 350 openings on average each year in this area.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||360||$51,040|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||3,880||$59,200|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||2,310||$68,660|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||7,610||$53,210|
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 Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH): Professional organization for substance abuse counselors that provides trainings, hosts conferences and public policy forums, and offers networking opportunities.
- 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 regard 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 a Tier 3 or Tier 4 license.
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 (BLS), counselors work in many areas of the state. The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area, which is partially located in Minnesota, ranks eighth in the country for employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (4,9305,080 employed) and ninth for rehabilitation counselors (1,560 employed).1,4 Northwest Minnesota ranks highly in first place among nonmetropolitan areas for marriage and family therapists (140 employed), followed by Southeast Minnesota (120 employed).2
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