How to Become a Counselor in Tennessee

Counselors in Tennessee who have obtained their licensure are known as licensed professional counselors (LPCs)—although those who have continued their education and further developed their clinical skills can also obtain licensure as a licensed professional counselor with mental health service provider designation (LPC/MHSP). The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs is the Tennessee Counseling Association, a branch of the American Counseling Association whose mission is to “promote the development of all counseling professionals, advance the counseling profession under a unified association, and to use the profession of counseling to promote the well-being, respect for diversity, and human dignity of all Tennesseans.”

Licensure for Tennessee LPCs is managed by the state Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Pastoral Therapists, a division of the Tennessee Department of Health. Licensure requirements for counselors in Tennessee, including education, supervision, examination, fees, renewal and “licensure by reciprocity,” are examined in further detail below, along with salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, scholarship opportunities and loan repayment programs available to LPCs in the state.

Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University


Master of Arts in Counseling

Earn a CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling online from top-9 ranked1 Northwestern University.

1U.S. News & World Report: 2022 Best National University Rankings 

  • CACREP Accredited
  • Earn your MA in Counseling from Northwestern in as few as 18 months
  • Accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks available

New York University

NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development


Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance

Learn more about NYU Steinhardt’s online MA degree that prepares you to become a school counselor in as few as 18 months. Graduates can pursue certification and employment in pre-K–12 schools. Bachelor’s req.

  • Complete in as few as 18 months.
  • Pursue school counselor certification.
  • Study bilingual school counseling (optional). 
  • GRE scores are not required. 

University of Southern California (USC)

USC Rossier School of Education


Master of Education in School Counseling

The University of Southern California Rossier School of Education offers a Master of Education in School Counseling online for aspiring K-12 school counselors. The program can be completed in less than two years and there is no GRE requirement.

  • No GRE required 
  • Prepares you for school counseling credential 
  • Bachelor’s degree required


Counselor Education in Tennessee

Licensure as a professional counselor in Tennessee (PDF, 394 KB) requires the completion of a master’s degree in counseling from a program accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or a similar accrediting body.

Appropriate degree programs will include 60 graduate hours of coursework with instruction in each of the following core content areas:

  1. Theories of human behavior, learning, and personality
  2. Abnormal behavior
  3. Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
  4. Evaluation and appraisal procedures
  5. Group dynamics, theories, and techniques
  6. Counseling techniques
  7. Multicultural counseling
  8. Ethics
  9. Research
  10. Clinical Practicum or Internship

In addition to this coursework, individuals pursuing licensure with a mental health designation are also required to take coursework on the use of the DSM and treatment and treatment planning.

Internship Requirements

Tennessee LPC licensure requires the completion of a supervised field experience, either in the form of a practicum or an internship. Either must be at least 500 hours long, with at least 300 hours in a mental health or community agency setting. It must also be supervised by an individual with, at minimum, a master’s degree in counseling, social work, psychology or psychiatry.

This practicum/internship requirement is distinct from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in Tennessee.

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Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Tennessee requires aspiring LPCs to complete two years of supervision with at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact and a minimum of 50 hours of consultation from an approved supervisor.

Applicants seeking licensure with mental health service provider (PDF, 394 KB) designation (LPC/MHSP) must complete 3,000 hours of clinical supervised experience with half relating to direct face-to-face client contact.

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Tennessee LPC licensure requires a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, a 200-question, multiple-choice examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. It assesses knowledge, skills and abilities in effective counseling services.

A passing score on the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam (PDF, 403 KB) is also required. Upon board approval and successful completion of the National Counselor Examination (NCE), applicants must achieve a passing score on this exam reviewing Tennessee law and the current American Counseling Association Code of Ethics.

For individuals pursuing professional licensure as a counselor with mental health service provider designation (LPC/MHSP), a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is required in addition to the NCE and the jurisprudence exam. The NCMHCE tests knowledge of assessment, diagnosis, counseling, psychotherapy, administration, consultation and supervision. It consists of 10 clinical mental health counseling cases and assesses clinical problem-solving ability by testing identification, analysis and treatment. It is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

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LPC Licensure Fees

Tennessee LPCs can expect to pay the following fees for their license application, renewal and examination:

LPC Application: $200

LPC Biennial License Renewal: $115

Mental Health Service Provider Upgrade Application: $75

Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam Fee (PDF, 403 KB): $100

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LPC License Renewal

Tennessee LPC licenses expire biennially on the last day of the month of the licensee’s birthday. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and the completion of continuing education. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement during their first renewal period.

Continuing Education

LPCs in Tennessee are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years. Individuals who received their license during their first year do not have to pursue continuing education hours. Three of these hours must focus on professional ethics or state codes, rules and regulations. Acceptable CE activities consist of graduate-level coursework from nationally or regionally accredited institutions of higher education and attendance at educational events sponsored or approved by national, state, regional or local professional associations. Multimedia courses may also be used to accrue CE hours although they should only account for a maximum of 10 hours during each renewal period.

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Additional Information

For Counselors Licensed in Other States

The Tennessee Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Pastoral Therapists has an alternative route to licensure for counselors who have already obtained their licenses in other states. This process is called “licensure by reciprocity.” Out-of-state applicants must hold a current license as a professional counselor or equivalent that is in good standing from a state whose board is in reciprocity agreement with Tennessee, and they must pass the Tennessee Jurisprudence Examination.

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Mean Counselor Salary in Tennessee

The following types of Tennessee counselors can expect to earn these mean hourly and annual wages, according to May 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Type of CounselorsAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Wage
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors
Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors
Rehabilitation Counselors
All Other Counselors

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Tennessee Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to Tennessee LPCs and LPC/MHSPs:

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To be decided
  • Description: Applicant must be working or planning to work directly with children; be pursuing graduate-level studies for one year in fields that address the special needs of children and youth, such as counseling; be a U.S. citizen and permanent resident of a state with a Junior Auxiliary Chapter, such as Tennessee; and be planning to attend a U.S. college or university for full- or part-time study.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Description: This award from the American Psychological Foundation is available to multiple full-time graduate students in good standing at an accredited university who have demonstrated a commitment to stigma issues.
  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Between $25,000 and $100,000
  • Description: LPCs and LPC/MHSPs in Tennessee are eligible to apply for loan repayment assistance in exchange for working in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) at a site approved by the National Health Service Corps. Funding is tied to HPSA score and is in exchange for two years of full- or half-time service.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To be decided
  • Description: The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program provides funds to schools, which in turn offer scholarships to full-time, financially needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are studying professional counseling, among other health professions.

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*Licensure information, including requirements, renewals, scholarships and fees, was retrieved as of May 2022. Information may have changed since; check with the state’s board of licensing for more information.

Last Updated: May 2022