How to Become a Counselor in Pennsylvania

State of Pennsylvania

As in many other states, licensed counselors in Pennsylvania are known as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs is the Pennsylvania Counseling Association, a local branch of the American Counseling Association whose mission is to “serve and represent Pennsylvania’s professional counselors by providing leadership and professional development.”

Licensure for LPCs in Pennsylvania is managed by the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors, a division of the Pennsylvania Department of State. Licensure requirements for counselors in Pennsylvania, 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 as well as scholarships and loan repayment programs available to aspiring LPCs in the state.

Counselor Education in Pennsylvania

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Licensure as a professional counselor in Pennsylvania requires the completion of a 60 semester-hour graduate degree in counseling or a closely related field from an accredited educational institution.

Appropriate degree programs will include at least two semester hours of coursework in each of the following content areas:

  1. Human growth and development
  2. Social and cultural foundations
  3. Helping relationships
  4. Group work
  5. Career and lifestyle development
  6. Appraisal
  7. Research and program evaluation
  8. Professional orientation
  9. Clinical instruction

Internship Requirements

In addition to the coursework listed above, LPC licensure in Pennsylvania also requires the completion of a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship, in that order. This is a distinct requirement from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in Pennsylvania.

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Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Pennsylvania requires aspiring LPCs to complete a number of hours of supervision in relation to their degree. Master’s degree-holders must complete 3,000 hours of supervision, while those with doctoral degrees must obtain a minimum of 2,400 — at least 1,200 post degree.

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Examinations

LPC licensure in Pennsylvania requires a passing score on an examination. The two most common tests are the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, and the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam, both of which are detailed below. The following exams are also accepted by Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors:

  • Art Therapy Credentials Board Certification Examination
  • Certification Board for Music Therapists Certification Examination
  • NorthAmerican Association of Master’s in Psychology Practice Examination
  • Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination
  • Examination for Master Addictions Counselors

National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE)

The NCE is a 200-question, multiple-choice examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. It assess knowledge, skills and abilities in effective counseling services.

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Exam

The CRC Exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions across 10 subjects underlying rehabilitation counseling. One portion of the exam tests knowledge regarding counseling, while the other pertains to rehabilitation and disability issues. It is administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

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LPC Licensure Fees

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

LPC Application and License Issuance: $45

LPC Biennial License Renewal: $95

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LPC License Renewal

LPC licenses in Pennsylvania expire biennially. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and the completion of continuing education.

Continuing Education

Pennsylvania LPCs are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) during each two-year renewal period. At least three CE hours must focus on ethical issues, and a maximum of 20 hours may be obtained through home study. Hours over the required 30 may not be carried over to next period.

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Additional Information

For Counselors Licensed in Other States

The Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors 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 meet Pennsylvania’s requirements for licensure,m provide a letter from their originating licensing board verifying licensure, and provide proof of a passing score on an equivalent examination.

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Average Counselor Salary in Pennsylvania

The following types of counselors in Pennsylvania can expect to earn the respective average hourly and average annual wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Average Counselor Salary in Pennsylvania
Type of Counselor Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $20.62 $42,890
Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors $28.42 $59,110
Marriage and Family Therapists $23.07 $47,890
Mental Health Counselors $20.91 $43,480
Rehabilitation Counselors $18.09 $37,620
All Other Counselors $23.62 $49,120

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Pennsylvania Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to aspiring LPCs in Pennsylvania:

American Addiction Centers’ Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship Program

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $2,500 to $5,000
  • Description: American Addiction Centers offers three scholarships providing financial assistance to full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate school students pursuing careers in behavior health and addiction-related studies, including counseling.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Between $30,000 and $50,000
  • Description: Pennsylvania LPCs 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-time service. A half-time service commitment option is also available.

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To be Decided by School
  • 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 (amongst other health professions).

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*Licensure information including requirements, salaries, renewals, and fees were retrieved as of May 2017. Information may have changed since, check with the state's board of licensing for more information.