Washington DC Counseling License Requirements
The nation’s capital of Washington DC is home to a bustling, diverse community with over 700,000 people, around 3,500 of whom work in counseling occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1-5 If you are planning on starting a career in counseling in Washington DC, you will need to understand the regulations for licensure and the process you will have to follow to become one. On this page, you will learn the requirements for becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), as well as information about other DC counseling licenses and salary and job outlook information.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Washington DC
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Washington DC
- Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
- School Counselor
- Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Washington DC Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Washington DC
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Washington DC
A Washington DC counselor must earn a master’s degree that is related to the practice area and prepare to meet other specific licensure requirements. There are several counseling schools in Washington DC offering programs that are designed specifically to help graduates meet these licensing requirements. Most licensure processes state that applicants must meet experience and exam requirements to be eligible.
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
As a prospective counselor, you must decide which area of the profession you’d like to pursue. Counseling is a broad field and the steps to licensure will vary depending on your preferred area of focus. The area of counseling specialization will also determine the type of degree, coursework, and experience you will need to earn your license.
2. Earn the degree required for your counseling practice area.
Many of the major types of counseling in Washington DC require a master’s degree for licensure. Mental health counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy; and school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling. Addiction counselors can earn certification with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field that meets coursework requirements.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Washington DC.
The final step towards becoming a professional counselor is to become licensed by the correct body in Washington DC. The Washington DC Board of Professional Counseling issues licenses for mental health counselors and addiction counselors; the Washington DC Board of Marriage and Family Therapy licenses marriage and family therapists; and the Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education is responsible for school counselor credentials. Continue reading our guide to learn more.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
To become a mental health counselor in Washington DC, you must be approved as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) by the Washington DC Board of Professional Counseling. Washington DC LPCs assess, identify, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral conditions that interfere with mental health and wellness; daily tasks may include interviewing and diagnosing mental disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, providing counseling and psychotherapy services, and developing treatment goals. For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide. LPCs in DC must have a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field; a 48-credit degree is acceptable to earn a provisional license but all additional credits must be completed before applying for full LPC licensure. CACREP-accredited counseling programs are preapproved by the Board and other programs must meet coursework requirements.
1. Complete a criminal background check.
The Board requires all prospective counselors to complete fingerprint and background checks before beginning the licensure process. You must first pay the $50 fee online (as of September 2019) and then schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints taken. Ensure you bring government-issued ID with you to verify your identity at the appointment.
2. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
Before applying for licensure, you must pass the National Board for Certified Counselors’ (NBCC) National Counselor Exam (NCE). This multiple-choice exam is administered at Pearson VUE testing centre in Washington DC and across the country. The NCE handbook provides candidates with helpful information about exam content, format, and procedures.
3. Apply for and receive a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) license.
To begin accumulating work experience, you must obtain a provisional license as a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC). The application package and application checklist are available to download from the Board’s website. The LGPC application fee is $230 as of September 2019. LGPC licenses are valid for five years but must be renewed biennially. If your degree program was not accredited by CACREP, you must also submit the practicum/internship documentation form with your application. Applicants can also use the request for supervised practice form to apply for Board approval to begin accruing supervised experience while their application is processed and reviewed.
4. Accrue supervised experience.
The next step in the licensure process is to complete 3,500 hours of supervised work experience and receive at least 200 hours of supervision. One hour of supervision must be completed per 35 hours of work experience and at least 100 hours must be provided on an individual basis. The supervisor must be an LPC, psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker licensed in Washington DC at the time of supervision. More information can be found in the LPC regulations. Upon completion of the required hours, the supervisor must complete the first two pages of the supervised experience form, place them in a sealed envelope, and sign across the back flap; this form must be submitted with the LPC application.
5. Apply for and receive your LPC license.
Once you have met all the requirements outlined in the LPC checklist, you can submit an application package to the Board for LPC licensure. The application fee is $230 as of September 2019. You must continue to practice under supervision until your license is approved.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Endorsement in Washington DC
While Washington DC does not have reciprocity agreements with other states for LPC licensure, applications are accepted for LGPC and LPC licensure by endorsement. Endorsement applicants use the same application package and pay the same application fee as all other candidates ($230 as of September 2019). The LGPC and LPC checklists also include further information for endorsement applicants. To meet the exam requirement, the Board will accept successful results for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselors Exam or the NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam in lieu of the NCE requirement.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses expire on December 31 of even-numbered years and instructions for the online renewal process are posted on the Board’s website before the deadline. Updated fingerprint and background checks must be completed every two years and should be submitted with each renewal. With the exception of the first renewal period, each licensee must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE); four hours must be in professional ethics and six hours must be in trauma counseling. CE can be completed in a range of related topics but must be provided by an approved CE provider. More information about CE requirements can be found in the LPC regulations.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Washington DC
The pathway to a counseling license and a counseling career will vary depending on the area of counseling you’d like to practice. Below you will find additional information on other common counseling licenses in Washington DC: marriage and family therapist, school counselor, and addiction counselor.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
The Washington DC Board of Marriage and Family Therapy issues licenses for Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) in the state. Prospective MFTs must have a 60-credit master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field accredited by COAMFTE. The application package, checklist, and supplemental information form are available to download online. In Washington DC, MFTs use psychotherapy and counseling techniques and methods to help clients with mental, emotional, and behavioral issues impacting interpersonal, marital, or family systems in their lives. The steps to MFT licensure are:
- Complete a fingerprint and criminal background check.
- Pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) exam.
- Earn clinical work experience as an unlicensed MFT under the supervision of an AAMFT-approved supervisor.
- Request and receive your MFT license.
More about licensed marriage and family therapist careers can be found on our LMFT career guide.
School counselors in Washington DC are regulated by the Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. To obtain your school counselor standard credential, you will need a master’s degree in school counseling education that is from an approved licensure program; if the master’s is not from an approved licensure program, it must meet certain coursework requirements. The degree program must also include a 300-hour supervised school-based practicum or internship experience. This internship component can be waived if the degree is CACREP, NCC, or NBCC approved or if you already have two years of full-time teaching experience or one year of school counseling experience. Once you have your master’s in school counseling, to finish the licensure process, you will:
- Pass the necessary exam.
- Pass a criminal background check.
- Apply for and receive your school counselor standard credential.
For more information about a career in school counseling, see our school counselor career guide.
Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC)
The Washington DC Board of Professional Counseling issues credentials for two types of addiction counselors: Certified Addiction Counselor I & II (CAC I & II). Addiction counselors in Washington DC provide counseling services and engage in public education campaigns to help individuals with substance abuse problems and individuals affected by substance abusers. CAC I counselors must have an associate’s degree in a related field, while CAC II applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. The application package and supplemental forms for both credentials are available on the Board website. To become a CAC I or CAC II, the process is:
- Complete a fingerprint and criminal background check.
- Pass the District Jurisprudence Exam.
- Accrue supervised experience as an uncertified addiction counselor.
- Pass the required exam.
- Apply for and receive your credential.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Washington DC
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
- Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)
- Peer Recovery (PR)
To learn more about substance abuse counseling careers, read our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
A degree in counseling can lead to a career working with many different groups experiencing complex mental health and wellness issues. In addition to the major types of counseling licensure described above, other counseling career paths include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Washington DC Counseling Career and Salary Information
Of the estimated 3,620 licensed counselors working in Washington DC, almost half are working in educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling (1,740).3 There are another 820 people working in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling; 760 in rehabilitation counseling; and 300 in “all other counseling.” The BLS reports that in all counseling fields, those working in Washington DC earn some of the highest average salaries in the nation, with those in the educational counseling earning $67,050 and putting the practice in the 75% percentile of all states.1-5
Among the many practice areas in counseling, Washington DC is projected to see double-digit percentage growth through the year 2026.6 The practice area of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling is expected to see the greatest increase in job openings, with 270 positions expected through 2026 (17.6% growth).6 Across all counseling areas, Projection Central estimates that there will be 650 projected jobs available, for a total average growth projected of 19% by 2026, with 110 rehabilitation counseling jobs, 190 mental health jobs, and 40 each in substance abuse and behavioral disorder and “all other counseling.”6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||300||$47,320|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||1,740||$67,050|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||50||$49,750|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||650||$59,850|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Washington DC
- District of Columbia Counseling Association(DCCA): Enhances the counseling profession through advocacy and service by providing counselors opportunities to volunteer and participate in workshops and mentor counseling students.
- District of Columbia Mental Health Counselors Association (DCMHCA): Organization focusing on the professional support and needs of mental health counselors in the District of Columbia.
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree programs are accepted for LPC licensure in Washington DC?
The Board preapproves counseling degree programs accredited by CACREP, but other degree programs are also accepted on a case-by-case basis as long as they meet coursework requirements. Examples of acceptable degree titles include psychology, social work, and human services. The degree must include content from 11 core areas, such as counseling theory and practice, appraisal and assessment, and multicultural counseling. Course descriptions may be requested by the Board to verify course content.
What will happen if I don’t renew my LPC license by the deadline?
Washington DC LPCs have up to 60 days to renew an expired license; applicants must submit proof of continuing education requirements and pay the renewal fee and a late fee determined by the Board. If the late application is accepted by the Board, the licensee will be considered to be retroactively licensed from the date of expiration to the submission of the renewal. After 60 days, the license will be lapsed and can only be renewed with good reason at the discretion of the Board.
What CE activities are acceptable for LPC renewal in Washington DC?
The Board accepts a range of CE activities for license renewal including formal activities and independent learning. Formal activities in behavioral health fields, such as a graduate-level academic course, conference, or seminar are credited on an hour-for-hour basis. These activities may be provided by government health facilities, hospitals, or independent organizations, such as the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT), and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). The Board may also credit independent learning activities at their discretion, including writing academic journal articles, speaking at conferences, or engaging in supervised individual learning.
What are the degree requirements for addiction counselors in Washington DC?
Addiction counselors in Washington DC must have at least an associate’s degree, for CAC I, or a bachelor’s degree, for CAC II, in a related field, such as mental health, criminal justice, or nursing. The degree must include at least three credits in key areas, including signs and symptoms of substance abuse, the recovery process, crisis intervention, and co-occurring disorders. These course requirements can also be completed through a program approved by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) if not completed as part of the degree.
What areas of counseling have the most openings each year in Washington DC?
For counselors in Washington DC, the number of projected openings each year through 2026 varies depending on the area of specialization. The highest number of openings each year are projected for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (200), followed by mental health counselors (130) and rehabilitation counselors (100).6 All other counselors and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are projected to have 30 and 20 annual openings respectively.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.org/Projections/LongTerm