New Jersey Counseling License Requirements
In New Jersey, there are over 23,000 individuals working in the major counseling occupational groups.1-5 Counselors in New Jersey enjoy a good range of job opportunities and excellent competitive salaries. The state does require licensure for many counseling professions, which can include specific educational, work experience, and examination requirements. If you are interested in a counseling career in the Garden State, you will learn about many licensure processes and the projected job market prospects by reading the guide below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in New Jersey
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in New Jersey
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- New Jersey Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in New Jersey
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in New Jersey
New Jersey requires licensure with the state and a master’s degree to provide most types of professional counseling services. There are numerous counseling schools in New Jersey that offer programs meeting these requirements. In some cases, applicants will also need to pass the required exams and accumulate supervised experience. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in New Jersey, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Decide on an area of counseling.
Due to the various types of New Jersey counseling licensure, your path to licensure may need to be planned out many years in advance. Learning about the different types of licensure and which one may be a good fit for you is an important first step in this journey.
2. Earn the required degree for your preferred counseling area.
You will need at least a master’s degree to obtain most types of New Jersey counseling licensure. For Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensure, you will need a master’s degree with at least 45 credits in core counseling areas. You may also want to consider that completing a longer graduate program may shorten the supervised work requirements for this type of licensure. For marriage and family therapy licensure, you will need a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field. For school counseling licensure, you must have a master’s degree that meets certain coursework requirements in school counseling. Two types of substance abuse counseling licensure are available, one which requires at least a high school diploma and another requiring a master’s degree with counseling or substance abuse content.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in New Jersey.
Many common types of New Jersey counseling licensure are issued by the State Board of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy (the Board) and its various sub-committees. While marriage and family therapists are licensed directly by the Board, professional counselors are licensed by the Board’s Licensed Professional Counselors Committee (the Committee) and substance abuse counselors are licensed by the Board’s Alcohol and Drug Counselor Committee (the Committee). School counselors are licensed through a distinctly separate process via the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE). To learn more about the steps to licensure in each of these categories, continue reading below.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
To work as a professional counselor in New Jersey, you must have a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license issued by the Professional Counselor Examiners Committee (the Committee), a sub-committee of the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners. LPCs assess individuals and groups, provide counseling and psychotherapy services, conduct consultations, and provide referrals to help clients make meaningful mental, emotional, and behavioral changes in their lives. For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide. The minimum education requirement in New Jersey is a regionally-accredited master’s degree in counseling of at least 60 semester hours. If the educational program is not Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited, it must be reviewed by the Committee to be substantially equivalent.
1. Register as a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) and request permission to test.
Obtaining a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) license is the first step towards becoming a professional counselor in New Jersey. LACs provide assessment, counseling, and referral services under the supervision of a qualified supervisor. The application form is availablein the online portal and, as of December 2022, the application fee is $75. The Committee also charges a licensing fee, which will vary depending on when during the renewal cycle you submit your application. More information can be found on the Committee website.
2. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
The Committee requires applicants to pass the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Counselor Exam (NCE). Some applicants may have already passed the NCE as part of their graduate degree requirements. If you have already passed the exam, you do not need to take it again. If you have not taken the exam, you will be issued permission by the Board at this stage. Exam preparation materials can be found on the NBCC website.
3. Accrue supervised experience.
Before beginning supervised work experience, the supervisor must submit a Plan of Supervision form to the Committee that outlines the proposed setting, LAC job description, and supervisory credentials. The amount of required supervised experience necessary will depend on your graduate education. If your graduate program was only 60 semester hours, you will need to complete 4,500 hours of approved supervised experience. If you have completed an additional 30 semester hours in counseling, for a total of at least 90 credits, you will need to complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience. Approved supervisors must have an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) certificate or have taken three credits of graduate learning in clinical supervision.
4. Apply for LPC licensure.
The application form for LPC licensure is available in the online portal. You must also have your supervisor(s) submit a documentation of supervised experience form on your behalf. As of December 2022, the fee is $75 to apply plus licensure fees that vary based on when you apply. Documents that may have been submitted as part of the LAC application process, such as transcripts, do not need to be re-sent at this stage.
5. Complete security checks and receive your license.
The Committee advises that the longest stage of the licensure process can be applying for fingerprint and background checks. Instructions on how to complete these checks are mailed to applicants once their initial applications have been reviewed and approved. Your license will not be issued until the security checks are completed. Once you have passed the security checks, your license will be mailed to you by the Committee. You can only begin to identify yourself and work as an LPC once you receive your license.
LPC Licensure by Reciprocity in New Jersey
New Jersey offers licensure by reciprocity to candidates who meet New Jersey counseling licensure standards in graduate education, work experience, and exam scores. Applicants use the general LPC application, checking the “Licensure by Reciprocity” option and including a current resume. The licensing body in the state where you are already licensed will need to send a verification form that includes proof of exam scores and supervised experience and your graduate institution will need to send official transcripts. As of December 2022, the fee is $75 plus applicable licensing fees that vary based on when in the renewal cycle you apply.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
LAC and LPC licenses expire on November 30 of even-numbered years. The Committee mails notifications to renew 60 days before the deadline, but it is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure the renewal is completed on time. Renewals can be completed online by following the instructions sent by the Committee. Excluding the first renewal cycle, licensees must complete 40 continuing education hours each renewal period, including five hours in ethics and three hours in social and cultural competency. Continuing education hours can be completed online if desired and up to 10 hours can be carried over to the next renewal period. A list of approved CEU providers can be found in the Committee’s Administrative Code.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in New Jersey
There are several other types of professional counseling that have different pathways to licensure. Below you will find more information about some of these other common types of New Jersey counseling licensure: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Marriage and family therapists in New Jersey are licensed by the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners (the Board). New Jersey considers marriage and family therapy to be a specialized area of therapy and allows LMFTs to provide counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and groups in areas such as premarital counseling, pre- and post-divorce counseling, and family therapy. Prospective applicants must be at least 21 years old and have at least a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, social work, or a related field from a regionally-accredited institution. If the program is in a related field, the applicant must submit documentation that proves the program consisted of adequate related coursework. The LMFT licensure process requires applicants to:
- Apply through the portal as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) and submit official transcripts, a criminal background check, and clinical supervision plan.
- Complete three years (4,500 hours) of full-time counseling experience (two years (3,000 hours) in marriage and family therapy and one year (1,500 hours) in counseling).
- Apply online through the portal for LMFT licensure.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Submit your initial licensing fee and receive your license.
Keep planning your career as a licensed marriage and family therapist by reading our LMFT career guide.
School counselors in New Jersey have a wide scope of practice that includes assisting students with academic issues and providing counseling services to school staff, students, and parents related to academic, social, and personal issues. Certification of school counselors is handled by the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) as Educational Services Personnel. To be eligible, applicants must have at least a master’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution with 48 graduate semester hour credits in specified areas, such as counseling theory, psychology, and statistics. The program must also include at least six credits of supervised counseling practicum completed in a school. No exams are required for certification. The steps to school counseling certification in New Jersey are as follows:
- Complete a master’s degree program from a regionally-accredited college or university.
- Submit an application and official transcripts.
- Receive your School Counselor Standard Certificate.
For more information about school counselor careers, review our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)
To work as a substance abuse counselor in New Jersey, you must obtain a license from the Alcohol and Drug Counselor Committee (the Committee), which is a sub-committee of the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners. Licenses are available for Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs) and Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LCADCs) . The minimum educational requirement for the CADC is a high school diploma or equivalent, while a LCADC license requires a master’s degree in counseling or a related area with at least 18 credits in counseling or substance abuse from an accredited institution. Both types of counselors are allowed to provide services in 12 core areas, including screening, counseling, and consultation; however, only LCADCs may provide clinical and diagnostic services and CADCs must always work under the supervision of an approved supervisor. To become an LCADC, follow these steps:
- Register as an ADC Intern, start your application, and submit a Plan of Supervision.
- Accrue two years (3,000 hours) of supervised work experience within five consecutive years, including at least 300 hours of supervised practical training in drug and alcohol counseling.
- Complete 270 hours of alcohol and drug education (university courses would be counted towards this requirement).
- Attend 30 alcohol and drug abuse self-help meetings.
- Apply for CADC or LCADC licensure by updating your application with documentation of all requirements and passing a criminal history background check (CHBC).
- Pass the oral and written examinations through the New Jersey Addiction Professionals Certification Board (NJAPCB).
- Pay the application fees and receive your license.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in New Jersey
In addition to the two credentials offered by the Committee, the New Jersey Addiction Professionals Certification Board, Inc. (NJAPCB) also offers several credentials that, while not required to practice drug and alcohol counseling, will further demonstrate your expertise in these specialized fields and could improve your employment prospects.
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Recovery Support Practitioner (CRSP)
- Criminal Justice Counselor (CJC)
More details about substance abuse counselor careers can be found in our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
A career in counseling can also include working with other populations or working in other settings. In addition to the careers above, you may also be interested in the following professional counseling pathways:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
New Jersey Counseling Career and Salary Information
As of May 2021, there are over 23,000 counselors working across many areas of counseling in New Jersey, with more than 75% working as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (10,710) or educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (6,700).1,3 Counselors in the state report higher than average salaries in many areas of specialization. New Jersey is the highest paying for “all other” counselors ($82,020 average).5 It is also the second-highest paying state for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors ($76,040 average), rehabilitation counselors ($71,570 average), and marriage and family therapists ($81,330 average), and the fifth-highest paying state for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors ($63,430 average).1-4
Salaries are also comparatively high in metropolitan areas. The state capital of Trenton ranks first in the country for “all other” counselor salaries ($92,930 average) and fifth for marriage and family therapist salaries ($83,940 average).2,5 Atlantic City-Hammonton ranks second for rehabilitation counselor salaries ($73,140 average) and tenth among marriage and family therapist salaries ($78,120 average).2,4
New Jersey is expected to see growth among nearly all counselor positions through 2030. The fastest growth (and highest number of new positions) is expected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (21.9% growth and an estimated 2,340 new positions through 2030) and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (9.3% and an estimated 690 new positions).6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||1,270||$82,020|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||6,700||$76,040|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||4,120||$81,330|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||10,710||$63,430|
Counseling Associations in New Jersey
- New Jersey Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (NJAMFT): Statewide organization advocating for marriage and family therapists and providing training and professional networking opportunities.
- New Jersey Addiction Professionals Association (NJAPA): A branch organization of the Association for Addictions Professionals (NAADAC) that advocates for addiction professionals and increases awareness of substance abuse and addiction issues in New Jersey.
- New Jersey Counseling Association (NJCA): The state association of the American Counseling Association representing the needs and interests of counselors of all types in New Jersey.
- New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA): A professional organization that shares resources, holds two conferences per year, and advocates for the profession in the community and with the government.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there counseling careers without a degree in New Jersey?
Most professional counseling licenses in New Jersey require at least a master’s degree with the exception of the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) license. This license requires a minimum of a high school diploma but does require applicants to complete substantial additional work experience and training requirements.
What is the difference between LPC and LMFT licensure in New Jersey?
LPC and LMFT licenses allow counselors to provide different services. While both groups can provide services to individuals, LMFTs are more likely to also work with couples, groups, and families. New Jersey considers marriage and family therapy to be a specialized area of therapy dealing with specific life stages, such as premarital counseling, pre- and post-divorce counseling, and family crises. LPCs will likely encounter a more diverse range of client issues.
Does New Jersey offer professional counseling licensure by reciprocity?
Yes, New Jersey offers LPC counseling licensure by reciprocity to applicants who are licensed in other states and who meet the New Jersey counseling licensure requirements set forth by the Committee. To apply for licensure by reciprocity, you will need to provide verification of your existing license directly from the other state, proof of your education and work experience, and your exam scores. As of December 2022, the application fee is $75 plus additional licensure costs that may vary.
Why are there two types of substance abuse counseling licensure in New Jersey?
The two types of New Jersey counseling licensure for substance abuse are Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC). To become a CADC, you only need a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. For the LCADC, you need a master’s degree with at least 18 credits in counseling or substance abuse. CADCs and LCADCs can perform many of the same functions, but LCADCs are afforded clinical and diagnostic abilities. Additionally, LCADCs can work independently and towards supervisory privileges while CADCs must always work under approved supervision.
What salary can I earn as a counselor in New Jersey?
Reported salaries among counselors in New Jersey are high compared to national averages. The lowest reported average salary is for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors ($63,430); however, this is well above the national average of $53,490.1 “All other” counselors report the highest average salary ($82,020), which is well above the national average of $49,730.5 Salaries are also comparatively high for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors ($76,040) compared to the national average ($63,090), making New Jersey the second-highest paying state in the country in this category.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