Missouri Counseling License Requirements
If you are interested in a professional counseling career, this guide reviews the main type of Missouri counseling license, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), as well as other popular counseling licenses, and the steps to take to pursue professional counseling as a career. There are 14,230 counselors working in Missouri in a variety of areas (as of May 2021), although educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are the most common.1-5 With over 1,800 new counseling positions projected in Missouri through 2030, now may be an excellent time to start the process of becoming a professional counselor in this midwestern state.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Missouri
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Missouri
- Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Missouri Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Missouri
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Missouri
Professional counselors in Missouri must be licensed by the state to practice. The steps to each type of licensure vary but can include meeting education, exam, and work experience requirements. There are numerous counseling schools in Missouri that offer programs meeting the state’s specific education requirements. The general process for licensure in Missouri is outlined below. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Missouri, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Choose an area of counseling to pursue.
There are many different types of counseling that involve working with different populations or in specific areas. Learning more about these areas first will help you choose a specialization and make a plan to meet the licensure requirements.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
Most types of Missouri counseling licensure require post-secondary education and post-degree work experience. The requirement for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is a master’s degree in a related field with a practicum or internship. School counselors are required to have a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Licensure is not required to work in substance abuse counseling in Missouri, though it can be advantageous. There are a number of different substance abuse counseling credentials available that require a high school diploma to a clinical master’s degree.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Missouri.
The Missouri Division of Professional Registration has several committees that oversee professional licensure in the state. The Committee for Professional Counselors licenses mental health counselors (the Committee) and the State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists (the State Committee) licenses marriage and family therapists. School counseling licensure in Missouri is handled by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), while voluntary substance abuse credentials are issued by the Missouri Credentialing Board (MCB). Continue reading this guide to learn more about these licenses and the licensure processes.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
To become a mental health counselor in Missouri, you must apply for a license through the Committee for Professional Counselors (the Committee), which is part of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration. The Committee evaluates applications and issues provisional, full, and supervisor licenses in professional counseling in the state. The minimum requirement to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Missouri is a master’s degree in counseling, guidance, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or school psychology with a minimum of 48 semester hours. While the Committee does not provide a list of approved programs, they require the degree to have at least three credits in 10 core areas, including counseling theory, appraisal of individuals, and professional orientation. A six-credit supervised practicum or internship is also required as part of the degree requirements. Professional counselors help clients achieve better intrapersonal or interpersonal relationships using counseling assessments, techniques, and interventions for social, emotional, and behavioral issues. You can read more about what professional counselors do on our mental health counselor career guide. To become an LPC in Missouri, follow these steps:
1. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is a multiple-choice exam administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) to test knowledge of counseling theory and techniques. The NBCC provides a handbook to help applicants prepare for the exam. A passing score is required before you can apply for a provisional license. Prospective applicants can register to take the NCE at any time once their graduate degree is complete and a copy of their transcript has been sent to the Committee. A request to take the NCE can be submitted through the Committee website.
2. Register for supervision and as a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (PLPC).
Once you have passed the NCE, you will need to retain a qualified supervisor and location to gain your supervised experience. You will also need to pass a background check through the Missouri Automated Criminal History System (MACHS). Then you can apply for a provisional license by submitting the application form and a supervised work plan in collaboration with your proposed supervisor. The fee to register your work plan is $75 (as of December 2022). A checklist for receiving your provisional license can be found on the Board’s website.
3. Complete two hours of suicide prevention training.
Applicants must complete two hours of suicide prevention training and provide a training certificate or similar documentation with their application package.
4. Pass the Missouri Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Examination.
The Missouri Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Examination is an untimed, open-book jurisprudence exam that ensures prospective counselors are knowledgeable about relevant state laws, ethical standards, and regulations. The exam is administered online, and can be taken at any time before applying for LPC licensure. The exam fee is $75 as of December 2022.
5. Accrue supervised experience.
Your supervision plan must be approved before work experience can be accrued. Applicants with a master’s degree must complete 3,000 supervised hours, including 1,200 hours of direct client contact, over a period of at least 24 months and no more than five years. Doctoral degree holders who completed a clinical internship as part of their studies may be exempt from some of these requirements as determined by the Committee. Supervision must be provided by a Committee-approved supervisor who has been licensed as an LPC, psychologist, or psychiatrist for at least two years.
6. Apply for and receive LPC licensure.
The LPC application form should be sent to the Committee along with the $100 application fee (as of December 2022). The Committee provides an application checklist to ensure you understand and complete all the necessary steps. After submitting your application form, you will receive a postcard in the mail with login details for the online system to check if you have any outstanding application materials. Your login details will no longer be valid once all necessary documents have been received. Complete applications must be received 30 days before a Committee meeting to be eligible for review. This means it can take up to 60 days for your application to be reviewed by the Committee. The results will be mailed to you within three weeks.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensure by Reciprocity or Endorsement in Missouri
Missouri grants reciprocity to individuals who have been licensed as professional counselors in other states for at least one full year on a case-by-case basis. Applicants submit the Licensure by Reciprocity application form with proof of current licensure. You can use the reciprocity checklist to familiarize yourself with the requirements. The Committee will review the application package and the licensing requirements of the other state to ensure the standards are equal to or greater than the equivalent license in Missouri. Applicants must pass the Missouri Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Examination, complete two hours of suicide prevention training, and submit a current background check completed through the Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS). If the Committee approves your application, you will receive your LPC license.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses expire on June 30 of odd-numbered years. Renewals must be completed online or by paper application every two years. Licensees must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE), including at least 20 hours of formal training activities and two hours of suicide prevention training. The renewal fee is $50 (as of December 2022). The Committee provides examples of acceptable activities and approved providers, but does not provide exhaustive lists. CE documentation should be kept for two full renewal cycles in case the Committee conducts an audit.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Missouri
Counseling licensure pathways vary depending on the type of licensure you seek. In addition to mental health counseling, other popular types of counseling licensure in Missouri include: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Licensed Marital and Family Therapists (LMFTs) in Missouri are licensed by the State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists (the State Committee), which is part of the Division of Professional Regulation. LMFTs provide counseling and psychotherapeutic services to individuals, couples, and families experiencing challenging emotional, behavioral, or interpersonal issues. The minimum education for licensure is a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely-related field from a regionally-accredited institution comprised of at least 45 semester hours. It must include specific coursework and a marriage and family therapy practicum of at least 500 hours. Online and correspondence degree programs are not accepted. After you have completed your degree, follow these steps to become a Missouri LMFT:
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Submit a supervision plan and register as a Provisional Marriage and Family Therapist (PLMFT).
- Earn 3,000 hours of supervised experience, including at least 1,500 hours of direct client contact, in no less than two years.
- Complete the application and receive your LMFT license.
Find more about this type of counseling career on our LMFT career guide.
School counselor licenses are issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) under the Student Services areas. School counselors work with students, teachers, parents, and administrators to design and deliver guidance programs that help students achieve their academic, social, and career potential. School counselors may work with any age group and should be knowledgeable about the types of issues faced at different developmental stages. Applicants must meet the state requirements for becoming a teacher, including the completion of an approved teacher preparation program or doctoral degree as well as passing scores on the required exams relevant to their subject area. The school counselor certification then requires a master’s degree in guidance, school counseling, or a related field from the DESE list of pre-approved programs. If your program is not on this list, it may still be eligible if it includes at least 42 semester credits and meets specific coursework requirements and includes a 300–hour internship. You can become a school counselor by following these steps:
- Pass the Missouri counselor content assessment.
- Submit the online application for an Initial Student Services (ISS) certificate.
- Complete a fingerprint and background check.
- Receive your ISS.
To learn more about school counseling carers, visit our school counseling career guide.
Substance Abuse Counselor
The Missouri Credentialing Board (MCB) issues numerous substance abuse counseling credentials according to International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) standards. Missouri substance abuse counselors provide counseling, outreach, and education to clients struggling with substance abuse issues and addictions. This can include assessing clients, creating treatment plans, and providing holistic case management support. There are several counseling-related credentials, including Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor I and II (MAADCI and MAADCII), Registered Alcohol Drug Counselor – Provisional (RADC-P), Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC), Certified Reciprocal Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CRADC), and Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (CRAADC).
The minimum education for the MAADCI, MAADCII, CADC, and CRADC credentials is a high school diploma. However, applicants with a high school diploma must apply for the MAADCI or MAADCII credentials first to earn the supervised experience necessary for further qualifications. If you have an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, this will reduce the number of work experience hours needed to qualify for a credential. The RADC-P credential requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree and is valid for one non-renewable two-year term. It enables qualified individuals to work in state-approved treatment facilities while completing the supervised practicum requirements for a CADC, CRADC, or CRAADC certification. The CRAADC certification requires a master’s degree in a related area with a clinical component as this credential allows for more specialized clinical assessment and treatment. To earn an alcohol and drug counselor credential, follow these steps:
- Complete the required number of related work experience hours, if applicable (up to 160 hours for MAADCI; up to 2,000 hours for MAADCII; 1,000-4,000 hours for CADC; 2,000-6,000 hours for CRADC; and 2,000 hours for CRAADC).
- Complete ethics training (three hours for MAADCI, MAADCII, and RADC-P; six hours for CADC, CRADC, and CRAADC).
- Apply for a MAADCI, MAADCII, or RADC-P license.
- Earn 300 hours of supervised experience.
- Take the associated International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) exam, if required (Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) for CADC and CRADC; or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) exam for CRAADC).
- Request and receive your credential in the mail.
Read more about substance abuse counselors and what they do on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Missouri
In addition, the Missouri Credentialing Board (MCB) offers other complementary credentials related to alcohol and drug counseling. Completing additional credentials is not required but can improve your counseling skills and give you an edge when looking for jobs in the state.
- Certified Reciprocal Prevention Specialist (CRPS)
- Missouri Advanced Prevention Specialist (MAPS)
- Missouri Prevention Specialist (MPS)
Other Professional Counseling Careers
A counseling degree opens the door to many career pathways. In addition to the popular Missouri counseling licenses mentioned above, you may want to consider other counseling careers, such as:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Missouri Counseling Career and Salary Information
Of the 14,230 counselors working in Missouri as of May 2021, over half are employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (7,610), followed by substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (4,220).1-5 The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not provide data on the “counselors, all other” category.5 Average annual salaries for counseling professionals in Missouri are fairly similar across areas of practice and range from $43,270 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors to $51,540 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors.1-5
According to Projections Central, Missouri is expected to have lower-than-average growth rates for counseling careers compared to national averages through 2030.6 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors have the fastest projected growth rate (13.8%) compared to other types of counseling jobs during this period resulting in 740 new jobs. Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to have the highest number of new jobs (780) despite a lower overall growth rate (7.4%)6 Rehabilitation counseling positions are also projected to grow by 200 or 8.6% through 2030.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||N.Av.||$44,740|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||7,610||$51,540|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||380||$47,930|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||4,220||$43,270|
Counseling Associations in Missouri
- Missouri Addiction Counselors’ Association (MACA): A membership organization that offers conference, training, and continuing education opportunities for individuals with addictions-related credentials.
- Missouri Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (MOAMFT): A group of marriage and family therapy professionals who seek to reduce the stigma surrounding therapy and connect individuals with qualified therapists.
- Missouri Mental Health Counselors Association (MMHCA): An organization for clinical and mental health counselors that shares information about upcoming events and advocates for the advancement of the profession.
- Missouri School Counselor Association (MSCA): A professional association that organizes training opportunities, annual community projects, conferences, and professional recognition awards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I complete a mental health counseling degree by distance education and become a licensed counselor in Missouri?
Missouri has strict requirements when it comes to online and correspondence degree programs. While the Board prefers degree programs that enable the participants to interact face-to-face, it does recognize that students may choose to complete online and correspondence programs for many reasons. The Board accepts any online or distance program specifically in mental health counseling or rehabilitation counseling that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
What type of coursework should I take to become a mental health counselor in Missouri?
You must have a graduate degree in counseling or a related field comprised of at least 48 semester hours to become a mental health counselor in Missouri. The degree must have at least three credits in 10 core areas: counseling theory, human growth and development, helping relationships, social and cultural foundations, career development, appraisal of individuals, group dynamics, research methods, professional orientation, and diagnosis. It must also include at least six credits of a supervised practicum or internship to gain practical experience.
Do I need an education degree to become a school counselor?
Missouri sets educational requirements for prospective school counselors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. To become a school counselor, you must complete either an approved bachelor’s degree in education or an approved alternative state program leading to educator licensure. You must then complete a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. A list of approved graduate degree programs is available online.
Where are most counseling jobs located in Missouri?
Many counseling jobs in Missouri are concentrated in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Almost half of all educational, guidance, and career counselor and advisor jobs in Missouri are located in the St. Louis metropolitan area (3,460 of 7,610 jobs).3 In addition, 1,890 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs, 770 rehabilitation counselor jobs, 250 marriage and family counselor jobs, and 40 other counseling jobs are located there.1-5
Is reciprocity available for substance abuse counselors?
Because Missouri uses internationally-recognized IC&RC standards for substance abuse counseling credentials, it is often possible to have a Missouri credential recognized in another state and vice versa. Substance abuse counselors moving to Missouri should request a reciprocity application from their home credentialing association. Generally, no additional requirements are required to transfer credentials into Missouri. If you move out of the state, you can transfer your credential if your new state is a member of the IC&RC and utilizes the same credentialing process. Additional requirements may be enforced by the new state.
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