South Carolina Counseling License Requirements
For prospective professional counselors in the South, South Carolina may be an attractive choice as it has a positive job outlook in the coming years. At least 7,640 counseling professionals work in the major occupational groups, although data is not available for all groups.1-5 To earn counseling licensure in South Carolina, you should be familiar with how the state issues licenses for various types of counseling as well as the education, exam, and work experience requirements. This guide discusses how to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and other South Carolina counseling license pathways.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in South Carolina
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in South Carolina
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Certified Addictions Counselor (CAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- South Carolina Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in South Carolina
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in South Carolina
South Carolina requires that most types of professional counselors in the state have a valid license and a master’s degree in an area related to the practice area pursued. Many schools in South Carolina offer counseling programs to meet the state’s specific education requirements, though out-of-state programs may meet requirements in whole or in part. Prospective counselors should also be prepared to meet supervised work experience and exam requirements.
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
First, you should decide on an area of counseling and a specific counseling license you’d like to pursue. The steps to licensure will vary depending on the type of counseling as each has different steps and educational requirements. Deciding on a specific area ahead of time will help you earn your counseling license as quickly and efficiently as possible.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
With the exception of substance abuse counseling, all the major types of counseling licensure in South Carolina require a graduate degree. Mental health counselors must have a 48-credit graduate degree with specified coursework and practicum requirements; marriage and family therapists must have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field; and school counselors must complete an approved graduate degree in school counseling. Substance abuse counselors can apply for voluntary certifications with a bachelor’s degree in a human service field.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in South Carolina.
After finishing the required degree, you can apply for licensure from the board that oversees your area of counseling. The South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors, and Psycho-Educational Specialists handles licensure for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, while the South Carolina Department of Education administers educator certificates to school counselors. The South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors offers voluntary certifications for substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) are licensed by the South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors, and Psycho-Educational Specialists. In South Carolina, LPCs can provide individual, family, and group therapy, including marital counseling, play therapy, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and behavioral modification counseling based on the areas in which they have appropriate training. If you would like to learn more about a career as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. The South Carolina Board does not provide a list of approved programs but applicants must have a 48-credit graduate degree from an accredited institution in counseling or a related field with at least three credits in eight coursework areas, including human growth and development, appraisal of individuals, and at least 100 hours of supervised practicum. An additional 600-hour supervised internship and coursework in psychopathology is necessary if seeking to provide assessment and treatment of mental health disorder services.
1. Register as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA).
The first step in acquiring LPC licensure is to apply for a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) license, also known as an intern license. In South Carolina, the Board has commissioned the Centre for Credentialing and Education (CCE) to conduct an educational review of each applicant’s file to assess whether they meet basic education and exam requirements. The application package is available online and the application and education review fee is $170 (as of September 2019) payable to CCE. You must also send a clinical supervision plan outlining how you will meet the supervised practice requirements as an LPCA.
2. Pass one of the required exams.
Once your application has been reviewed by CCE, you will be sent registration details to take one of the required exams if you have not already done so. Both the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are acceptable. Handbooks and links to study materials are available on the NBCC website. The exams are administered at Pearson Vue testing centers across the country, normally during the first two weeks of each month. As of September 2019, the fee to take the exam is $275.
3. Receive your LPCA license.
It can take up to six weeks for your exam results to be sent to CCE from NBCC. Once CCE has approved your completed application, the results of the review will be sent to the Board for final approval. It can take up to six weeks for the Board to make a decision about your license and results will be sent by mail. Once you are approved for the LPCA license, you must pay the license fee ($150 as of September 2019) and you will then receive your license card in the mail. This license will be valid for two years.
4. Accrue supervised experience.
You can begin to accrue supervised experience hours once your LPCA license has been approved. You must complete at least 1,500 hours of supervised direct client counseling in not less than two years. At least 120 hours of supervision must be provided by an approved LPC supervisor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other Board-approved supervisor. Supervisors must be licensed in South Carolina and have five years of recent and continuous clinical experience. Further details and the application form are available online. Once you have completed the required experience, you will need to submit the Confirmation of Clinical Supervision form to the Board.
5. Request and receive your LPC license.
After completing the required supervised experience, you will be eligible to upgrade your LPCA license to a full LPC license. The Board will review your application and send the results by mail. At that time, you will need to pay a prorated activation fee before the Board will mail your license to you. Once approved, you can also print copies of your license using the online portal.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Endorsement in South Carolina
In South Carolina, non-residents are allowed to practice up to five days per month and thirty days per year if they are licensed in their home state. Individuals who wish to practice above this limit must apply for licensure through the Board. Licensure by endorsement is available to an applicant who has an active license in another state and meets the requirements for LPC licensure in South Carolina, including degree, coursework, and supervision. Prospective applicants should follow the Board’s instructions to apply for licensure by endorsement. The application and education review fee is $170 as of September 2019. Applications are approved on a case-by-case basis.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses expire on August 31 of odd-numbered years. Updated renewal application forms are made available on the Board website closer to the renewal date. As of September 2019, the renewal fee is $150. Late renewals are subject to an additional $50 fee until November 30 at which time a lapsed license fee of $300 is required (fees as of September 2019). Each licensee must complete at least 40 hours of continuing education (CE) during each renewal period with the exception of LPCAs. A minimum of 25 CE hours must be completed through formal activities. Examples of approved activities can be found in the CE FAQ document.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the counseling licensure steps will vary according to the type of counseling you wish to practice. In addition to mental health counseling, other major areas of counseling are discussed below, including: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors, and Psycho-Educational Specialists issues licenses for marriage and family therapists and the application package is available online. The minimum educational requirement for LMFTs is a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field from an accredited school. The degree must include at least 48 credits, including three credits in five specified coursework areas and a 300-hour supervised practicum. South Carolina LMFTs provide counseling services to individuals, couples, and families, on an individual basis or in groups, to address social, emotional, mental, and behavioral issues in the context of marriage and family systems. The LMFT licensure process in South Carolina requires candidates to:
- Send your Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (LMFT/A) license application package to the CCE.
- Take the National Marital and Family Therapy Examination administered by the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC).
- Send the license fee and receive your LMFT/A license from the Board.
- Accrue supervised experience.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
To learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
In South Carolina, school counselors are able to work with students in public and private schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade providing academic, emotional, and career support. They also ensure positive learning environments and school cultures and develop programs to help students become school leaders. The South Carolina Department of Education issues educator certificates for school counselors and the processing fee is $105 (as of September 2019). The minimum educational requirement is an approved graduate degree in school counseling. To earn a school counseling license, you must follow these steps:
- Submit an application for initial registration and certification.
- Complete a fingerprint and criminal background check.
- Pass the Praxis Pre-Professional Skills Test, the Teaching and Learning test, and the Professional School Counselor exam.
- Earn supervised experience.
- Request and receive your school counseling license.
Read more about school counselors and what they do on our school counseling career guide.
Certified Addictions Counselor (CAC)
The South Carolina Board does not offer a specific substance abuse counselor license as LPCs are allowed to provide alcohol and drug abuse counseling as part of their scope of practice. However, it is also possible to develop a career as a substance abuse counselor without LPC licensure and the South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (SCAADAC) offers voluntary certifications according to national guidelines. Two certifications are available for Certified Addictions Counselor I and II (CAC I and CAC II) and the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in human services. CAC I applicants must have 270 hours of coursework in the core areas, while CAC II applicants must have 450 hours of related coursework. The application fee is $175 for SCAADAC members and $225 for non-members (as of September 2019). In South Carolina, CACs provide counseling services to individuals with a substance abuse issue or at risk of developing a substance abuse issue or to those negatively affected by substance abuse using relevant counseling models and interventions. To become a CAC I or a CAC II, follow these steps:
- Earn supervised experience (4,000 hours for CAC I or 8,000 hours for CAC II).
- Submit your application to SCAADAC.
- Pass the National Certified Addictions Counselor written exam (Level I for CAC I or Level II for CAC II).
- Pass the SCAADAC oral exam.
- Receive your license.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in South Carolina
- Clinical Counselor Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Senior Prevention Specialist (CSPS)
Read more about substance abuse counselors on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Professional counseling is a broad field with many subdisciplines. You may be interested in other types of counseling careers in addition to the major types described above, such as:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
South Carolina Counseling Career and Salary Information
There are approximately 7,640 counselors in South Carolina with most working as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (4,870), although data is not available for the counselors, all other category.1-5 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors account for 1,760 positions followed by rehabilitation counselors (910) and marriage and family therapists (100).1,4,2 Average annual counselor salaries range from $32,720 for rehabilitation counselors to $38,410 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and $52,890 for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors, although data for all categories is not available.4,1,3
Job prospects for professional counselors in South Carolina are positive with many projections above national averages.6 Marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors projected to experience the fastest reported growth through 2026 at 33.3% compared to 23.4% nationally and 26.7% compared to 23.1% nationally.6 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors have the third-highest growth rate at 20.0%, which is slightly below the national average (23.2%).6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor positions are projected to increase the most during this time period (710), followed by mental health counselors (240), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (180), and rehabilitation counselors (100).6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||—||—|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||4,870||$52,890|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||100||—|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,760||$38,410|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in South Carolina
- Palmetto State School Counselor Association (PSSCA): The South Carolina branch of the American School Counselor Association, this organization supports school counselors from all school boards through various committees, awards, and events.
- South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (SCAADAC): A professional organization that assists membership with certification and provides professional development and job search resources.
- South Carolina Counselor Association (SCCA: Founded in 1964, this state organization connects counselors of all types through continuing education opportunities, conferences, and advocacy initiatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
What coursework should I take to become a counselor in South Carolina?
Most professional counseling licenses in South Carolina set coursework requirements for graduate-level study. For the LPC license, you must complete at least 48 credits in total with a minimum of three credits in eight specified areas: human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, the helping relationship, group dynamics, processing, and counseling, lifestyle and career development, appraisal of individuals, research and evaluation, professional orientation. Detailed descriptions of each required area can be found on the Board website. A 100-hour practicum is also required or a 600-hour supervised internship and three credits in each of psychopathology and the diagnosis of psychopathology if you plan to provide assessment and treatment services for serious disorders.
Can I diagnose and treat mental health disorders as an LPC in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the scope of practice for LPCs is determined by the individual’s supervised practicum experience and education. While all LPC applicants must complete a 100-hour practicum as part of the graduate degree, those who wish to diagnose and treat mental health disorders must also complete at least 600 hours of supervised clinical internship to develop competency in this area. Three credits in each of psychopathology and diagnosis of psychopathology must also be taken at the graduate level.
How can I find a supervisor for my clinical experience in South Carolina?
Supervised clinical experience is an important part of the licensure process. Supervisors must be licensed in South Carolina for the work experience hours to be counted by the Board, so it is important to ensure your supervisor is properly approved. The Board provides lists online of approved LPC and LMFT supervisors. If you have a proposed supervisor in mind, but he or she is not already approved by the Board, they can submit an application if they meet Board requirements.
Are there counseling careers without a degree in South Carolina?
All of the major types of counseling careers listed in this guide require at least a bachelor’s degree for licensure. Substance abuse counselors require a bachelor’s degree in a human service field, while mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and school counselors all require a graduate degree in a related field. Each licensure pathway also has its own specific coursework requirements.
How many annual openings will there be for counselors in South Carolina?
Projections suggest the average annual openings for counselors in South Carolina depend on the area of practice. Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to have the highest average annual openings through 2026 with 610 new job openings.6 This is more than all other reported areas combined. Mental health counselors are projected to have 130 openings per year, including replacements, followed by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor positions (120), and rehabilitation counselors positions (80).6
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