West Virginia Counseling License Requirements
With impressive growth expected in many of the primary counseling fields in the coming years, West Virginia may be a good place to begin a counseling career. There are currently over 4,000 counselors working in the state across a range of counseling fields with 420 anticipated annual openings, including replacements, through 2026.1-6 Keep in mind that counseling licensure in West Virginia is a detailed and thorough process that can take many years. If you are interested in obtaining a West Virginia counseling license as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or another major type of counseling professional, continue reading this guide to learn more about the steps you will need to take to be successful.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in West Virginia
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in West Virginia
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- West Virginia Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in West Virginia
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in West Virginia
Professional counselors in West Virginia often must be licensed in the state and have a master’s degree in a related area. The licensure process may also require that specific exam and work experience requirements be met.
1. Choose an area of counseling specialization.
In West Virginia, the pathway to counseling licensure will vary based on the area of counseling you’d like to pursue. It is a good idea to choose your area of focus ahead of time as each licensure process has different degree and coursework requirements. Licensure can take many years and your path will need to be planned out in advance.
2. Finish the education required for your counseling practice area.
Most counseling licenses in West Virginia require at least a master’s degree in a related area with specific coursework requirements. Mental health counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field; and school counselors must complete a master’s degree in school guidance, counseling, or a related field. Substance abuse counselors can earn certification with a high school diploma and additional related training, but a master’s degree in a behavioral science field is required for the advanced credential.
3. Earn the license required to practice in West Virginia.
The final step towards a counseling license is to apply for licensure with the body that oversees your area of focus. The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling licenses mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; the West Virginia Department of Education is responsible for school counseling licensure, and the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals issues credentials for alcohol and drug counselors. Continue reading this guide to find out more about the pathways to licensure available in West Virginia.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling is responsible for the licensure process of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). In West Virginia, LPCs use a variety of models of human behavior, such as wellness, preventative, and multicultural, to prevent, assess, and treat disorders, maladaptive behaviors, and emotional stresses; they work with individuals, couples, families, and groups at all stages of the lifespan. If you would like to learn more about a career as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. While the West Virginia Board does not pre-approve counseling degree programs, LPCs must have a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field, such as psychology, from an accredited institution.
1. Apply for LPC licensure and request permission to test.
The first step in the licensure process is to contact the Board to receive an application package and then submit the package to the Board. The application package for LPC licensure is very thorough so be prepared to submit many supporting documents to earn your license, such as two professional references, three personal references, a supervisor contact form, and the transcript review sheet. Once the Board confirms the applicant has met all educational requirements for licensure, they will approve the request to test. The applicant can also request a temporary permit at the same time, which is valid for six months and allows the applicant to start earning supervised work experience while preparing for the exam. The Board’s Credentialing Committee meets approximately every two months to review applications and approve applicants for testing. The application fee is $250 and the temporary permit fee is $50 as of October 2019.
2. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
All applicants must pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). This is a multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge of core counseling competencies, such as assessment, treatment planning, and referral. The NCE handbook provides valuable information on how to register and prepare for the exam. If the applicant has already taken one of these exams, they can request their scores be sent directly to the Board, which can take approximately four weeks to be processed. Applicants who fail the exam on the first attempt may retake the exam within 18 months; after two failed attempts, the applicant will not be permitted to take the exam again without permission from the Board.
3. Receive a provisional license and accrue supervised experience.
After successfully taking the exam, LPC candidates will receive a provisional license from the Board that enables them to gain work experience. Master’s degree applicants must complete 3,000 hours of supervised counseling work experience, while doctoral degree holders must complete 1,500 hours. Up to 600 hours may be credited for work experience completed during a master’s-level practicum or internship. For all applicants, at least half of all hours must be direct client contact and a maximum of 1,500 hours will be credited during a 12-month period. The supervisor must have the Approved Licensed Professional Supervisor (ALPS) credential; a list of ALPS supervisors is available online. More information about supervision can be found in the Board rules.
4. Request and receive your LPC license.
Once you have met all licensure requirements and verified your supervised work experience, the Board will approve your application. You can begin to practice independently once you receive your license in the mail.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in West Virginia
Applications for licensure by endorsement are accepted on a case-by-case basis and the requirements must be equal to or greater than those in West Virginia. Reciprocity applicants must email the Board for the LPC reciprocity application packet when ready to apply. A completed application must include the form, transcripts, exam results, a certified copy of the file in the state of licensure, two professional recommendations, and the application fee. The Board also accepts results from the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) or the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification Exam. The Board may waive the transcript and reference requirements if the applicant has worked as a licensed mental health counselor for five of the past seven years and provides the application form, exam scores, verification of their license, and the fee. The endorsement application fee is $300 as of October 2019.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses are renewed annually by June 30; the renewal fee is $145 (as of October 2019). The Board mails renewal information directly to licensees. All licensees must complete 35 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years, including three hours in ethics training and two hours of veteran mental health training, and submit all attendance or completion certificates with their renewals for the first two biennial cycles. For subsequent renewals, the licensee does not need to send attendance or completion certificates unless they are chosen for a random audit by the Board.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in West Virginia
West Virginia counseling licensure pathways vary depending on the area of counseling practice. In addition to mental health counseling, the state also offers licensure for other major types of counseling professionals: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
To become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in West Virginia, you must apply for a license through the West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling. The Board requires applicants to have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field accredited by CACREP, COAMFTE, or a similar organization. LMFTs in West Virginia use adapted psychotherapeutic and systems theories to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in the context of marriage and family systems by working with couples and families on an individual or group basis. The LMFT licensure process requires candidates to follow these steps:
- Register for a temporary permit, if desired, and request permission to take the exam.
- Pass the AMFTRB Marriage and Family Therapy Exam.
- Request a provisional license.
- Earn supervised experience.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
To discover more about licensed marriage and family therapist career pathways, visit our LMFT career guide.
West Virginia school counselors are certified by the West Virginia Department of Education with a specialist certificate. School counselors work in educational settings with students from early childhood through twelfth grade. To become a school counselor in West Virginia, you need to either complete a school counselor preparation program or a master’s degree or higher in counseling. If you have completed a school counselor preparation program, you can request your School Counselor Education Specialist Endorsement without completing any further steps. If you have a graduate degree in counseling, you will need to:
- Pass the Praxis exam in school counseling.
- Complete one year of supervised experience under a mentor school counselor.
- Request your School Counselor Education Specialist Endorsement.
If you would like to read more about the school counseling profession, see our school counselor career guide.
Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
The West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVCBAPP) offers two certifications for prospective substance abuse counselors: Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) and Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC). The steps to earn certification are the same for both credentials and are based on the applicant’s highest level of education and work experience. ADCs must have at least a high school diploma, although an accredited degree can reduce work experience requirements, while AADCs must have a master’s degree in a behavioral science field. West Virginia substance abuse counselors must be proficient in numerous core competencies, such as assessment, treatment planning, counseling for addiction-related disorders, and professional ethics; the AADC credential signifies the highest level of competency in this field. To earn an alcohol and drug counselor credential, follow these steps:
- Complete 300 hours of alcohol and drug education and training, if not completed as part of degree requirements.
- Accrue supervised experience.
- Pass the required IC&RC exam (the Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for ADC applicants and the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for AADC applicants).
- Request and receive your ADC certification.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in West Virginia
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Prevention Specialist I (CPS I)
- Certified Prevention Specialist II (CPS II)
- Peer Recovery (PR) Certification
More details about substance abuse counseling career pathways can be found on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Counseling is a diverse field and you may specialize in a variety of areas. Other types of counseling career pathways can include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
West Virginia Counseling Career and Salary Information
While average counseling salaries in West Virginia tend to be less than national averages, the state still employs many counselors, according to the BLS.1-5 The majority of West Virginia’s counselors are working in two practice areas: substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (1,380 counselors) and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling (1,330 counselors).1,3 West Virginia ranks third for the highest concentration of “all other counselors,” with 300 people employed.5 The state also ranks fourth nationally for the highest concentration of marriage and family therapists, with 350 counselors employed in this area.2
Long term projections for counseling jobs in West Virginia are very positive. According to Projections Central, by 2026 there will be close to 650 new counseling jobs in the state in all areas.6 The high-density area of marriage and family therapy is expected to increase by 20.5% (90 new jobs).6 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and mental health counselors are expected to grow by 19.7% and 21% respectively (130 new jobs each).6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||300||$30,040|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||1,330||$44,730|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||350||$43,460|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,380||$39,950|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in West Virginia
- West Virginia Counseling Association (WVCA): Focuses on improving residents’ access to counseling services and quality of life through counseling education and promotion of the counseling profession.
- West Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors Association (WVLPCA): Working to promote the development of counseling professionals through networking opportunities, advocacy, and licensure information.
- West Virginia School Counselors Association (WVSCA): Supports professional school counselors by representing and advocating for the profession with legislatures and the public to ultimately improve school counseling programs and student outcomes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the coursework requirements for West Virginia LPC licensure?
An aspiring LPC must have a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field. The Board also sets strict coursework requirements, including for degree electives. Degrees must include coursework in 12 core areas, such as counseling techniques, individual appraisal, and group dynamics, plus three credits of practicum and three credits of internship. Electives must cover topics such as human sexuality, crisis intervention, and rehabilitation counseling. Applicants can use the transcript evaluation form to determine whether their degree meets the Board’s standards.
Can West Virginia counselors provide online counseling?
According to the Board, any counselor or marriage and family therapist who provides services to a West Virginia resident, including those via online or other technologically-mediated methods, must be licensed in West Virginia even if they reside in another state. West Virginia LPCs and LMFTs using online methods to provide services must ensure they follow the same ethics and confidentiality standards and continually evaluate the use of online methods in their practice using up-to-date research and guidelines. LPCs and LMFTs are advised to check the licensing requirements in any state where clients may reside if they are providing online services. Further information is available online.
Does West Virginia offer licensure by reciprocity for alcohol and drug counselors?
The alcohol and drug counselor standards in West Virginia are based on international standards set by the IC&RC, therefore it is possible for alcohol and drug counselors licensed in other states to apply for West Virginia licensure by reciprocity. Successful applicants can maintain their license in both jurisdictions; the reciprocity application fee is $150 as of October 2019. West Virginia alcohol and drug counselors seeking licensure in other states should contact the equivalent licensing body directly for more information.
How many openings will there be for West Virginia counselors each year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 420 annual openings in West Virginia for counselors through 2026.6 The greatest number of openings is projected for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (180), followed by rehabilitation counselors (110).6 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling, mental health counseling, and marriage and family therapy positions may also have 90, 80, and 60 annual openings, respectively.6
What continuing education (CE) activities are accepted for LPC license renewal in West Virginia?
Licensees must complete 35 hours of CE every two years, with three hours in ethics and two hours in veterans mental health; the Board accepts a variety of CE activities for license renewal. Graduate-level courses taken at accredited institutions are credited at a rate of 15 CE hours per semester credit or 10 CE hours per quarter credit. The Board also accepts credit for publishing in a peer-reviewed journal or book, attending CE activities required by the employer, and presenting to professional audiences. More information can be found in the Board rules.
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