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 15,440 counselors working in Missouri in a variety of areas, although educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are the most common.1-5 The projected job market growth through 2026 is promising for all types of counseling in Missouri so now may be an excellent time to start the process of becoming a professional counselor in this north-central 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
- Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CRAADC)
- 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.
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 and the State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists licenses marriage and family therapists. School counseling licensure in Missouri is handled by the Department of Education, while voluntary substance abuse credentials are issued by the Missouri Credentialing Board. 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, which is part of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration. The minimum requirement is a master’s degree in counseling, guidance, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or school psychology. 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 and assessment, 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 one in Missouri, you should 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. 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 by submitting a request through the Committee website.
2. Register as a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (PLPC).
Once you have passed the NCE, 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 August 2019). You will then be required to complete a background check through the Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS) before your provisional license is approved.
3. 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 by a third-party company, i-counseling, and can be taken at any time before applying for LPC licensure. The exam fee is $45 as of August 2019.
4. 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 Board. Supervision must be provided by a Committee-approved supervisor who has been licensed as an LPC, psychologist, or psychiatrist for at least two years.
5. Apply for and receive LPC licensure.
The LPC application form should be sent to the Committee along with the $100 application fee (as of August 2019). You can check whether your materials have been received using the online system. 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.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Missouri
Missouri grants reciprocity to individuals licensed as professional counselors in other states on a case-by-case basis. Applicants submit the LPC application form with proof of current licensure. 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. The Committee is able to waive any exam or educational requirements and grant a license by reciprocity at that time pending the results of a criminal records check. It can take up to six months to receive a decision from the Committee.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
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. A renewal application is sent to the licensee by mail and must be completed and returned with the renewal fee ($50 as of August 2019). 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 Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) in Missouri are licensed by the State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists, 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 a related field from a regionally-accredited institution that includes specific coursework and includes 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 an LMFT:
- Pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) exam.
- Register as a Provisional Marriage and Family Therapist.
- Earn supervised experience.
- Request 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 Education. 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. This type of licensure requires an approved bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and a master’s degree in guidance, counseling, or a related field. The DOE provides a list of pre-approved programs, but if your program is not on this list, it may still be eligible if it meets specific coursework and internship requirements. You can become a school counselor by following these steps:
- Pass the Missouri counselor content assessment.
- Register 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.
Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CRAADC)
The Missouri Credentialing Board, a non-profit organization, issues numerous substance abuse counseling credentials according to International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) standards. There are several main counseling-related credentials, including Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor I and II (MAADCI and MAADCII), Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC), Certified Reciprocal Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CRADC), and Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (CRAADC). 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. The minimum education for the Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor I credential is a high school diploma, while the Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CRAADC) certification requires a master’s degree in a related area with a clinical component. To earn the CRAADC credential, follow these steps:
- Apply for Registered Alcohol Drug Counselor – Provisional (RADC-P) certification.
- Earn supervised experience.
- Take the associated IC&RC exam.
- 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.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Missouri
- Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Reciprocal Prevention Specialist (CRPS)
- Certified Reciprocal Peer Recovery (CRPR)
- Missouri Advanced Prevention Specialist (MAPS)
- Missouri Prevention Specialist (MPS)
- Missouri Recovery Support Specialist (MRSS)
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 15,440 counselors working in Missouri, the majority are employed as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (6,680) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (6,040).1-5 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors and marriage and family therapists earn very similar average salaries ($50,900 and $50,840 respectively).3,2 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors; rehabilitation counselors; and counselors, all other comparable but lower salaries at $38,150, $37,190, and $33,540 respectively.1,4,5
Projects for the Missouri counseling job market are promising with all of the main fields expected to grow at similar or faster rates than national averages. Through 2026, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors have the fastest projected growth rate (29.1%) compared to the national average of 23.2%.6 Counselors, all other and marriage and family therapists have the next fastest projected rates (25.0% and 24.0% compared to 14.2% and 23.4% nationally).6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to experience the greatest number of new positions (960), followed by mental health counselors (840), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (580), and rehabilitation counselors (540).6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||190||$33,540|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||6,680||$50,900|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||320||$50,840|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||6,040||$38,150|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Missouri
- American Counseling Association of Missouri (ACAOM): A professional organization that provides relevant training, newsletters, and legislative information to counselors of all types and holds an annual conference.
- 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): Operating since 1948, this professional association supports the development of the profession through training opportunities, annual community projects, conferences, and professional recognition awards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I complete a mental health counseling degree by distance education?
Missouri has strict requirements when it comes to online and correspondence degree programs. While the Committee 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 Committee 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 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 relationship, 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, but this degree should be in school counseling or a related field, not in education. A list of approved graduate degree programs is available online.
Where are the highest concentration of counseling jobs in Missouri?
Counseling jobs are concentrated in Missouri’s metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Columbia has the second-highest concentration of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor jobs among metropolitan areas in the country (620).3,1 St. Joseph metropolitan area ranks third in the country for overall concentration of rehabilitation counselor jobs (210).4 In nonmetropolitan areas, central Missouri ranks fifth in the nation for employment of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (590) and counselors, all other (110).3,5
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, 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