How to Become a Counselor in Virginia

State of Virginia

As in many other states, counselors in Virginia who have completed 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 Licensed Professional Counselors-Mental Health (LPC-MHs). The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs and LPC-MHs is the Virginia Counselors Association, a local branch of the American Counseling Association whose mission is to “provide best counseling practices that enhance human development and functioning throughout the lifespan and promote public confidence in the counseling profession.”

Licensure for Virginia LPCs and LPC-MHs is managed by the state Board of Counseling, a division of the Virginia Department of Health Professions. Licensure requirements for counselors in Virginia, including education, supervision, examination, fees, renewal, and “licensure by endorsement,” 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 LPCs in the state.

Counselor Education in Virginia

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Licensure as a professional counselor in Virginia requires the completion of a graduate degree program from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting agency.

Coursework

Appropriate degree programs should be at least 60 semester hours of graduate study in the following core coursework with a minimum of three semester hours in each:

  1. Professional counseling identity, function, and ethics
  2. Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
  3. Counseling and psychotherapy techniques
  4. Human growth and development
  5. Group counseling and psychotherapy, theories and techniques
  6. Career counseling and development, theories and techniques
  7. Appraisal, evaluation, and diagnostic procedures
  8. Abnormal behavior and psychopathology
  9. Multicultural counseling, theories and techniques
  10. Research
  11. Diagnosis and treatment of addictive disorders
  12. Marriage and family systems theory
  13. Supervised internship

Internship Requirements

In addition to the coursework listed above, Virginia LPC licensure also requires the completion of a 600 hour supervised internship, with at least 240 hours of direct client contact. This requirement is distinct from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in Virginia.

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Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Virginia requires LPCs to complete 3,400 hours of supervision, with at least 2,000 hours of direct client contact and a minimum of 200 hours of face-to-face direction from an approved supervisor at a rate of at least one hour of direction for every 40 hours of practice.

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Examinations

After board approval, applicants for a professional counselor licensure in Virginia requires a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE), which 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

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

Application for Supervision: $60

LPC License Application: $175

LPC Annual License Renewal: $105

LPC License Renewal Penalty: $35

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LPC License Renewal

Virginia LPC licenses expire annually on June 30 of each year. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and the completion of continuing education.

Continuing Education

LPCs in Virginia are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) during each one-year renewal period. At least two of these hours must focus on professional ethics, standards of practice, or laws governing behavioral science professions in Virginia.

CE hours may be earned through formal activities, such as graduate academic courses and workshops, seminars, conferences and classes offered by federal, state, or local government agencies or licensed health facilities and hospitals. They may also be obtained through publication, presentations, program development, dissertation , clinical supervision/consultation, leadership, and practice-related programs.

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Additional Information

For Counselors Licensed in Other States

The Virginia Board of Counseling has an alternative route to licensure for counselors who have already obtained their licenses in other states. This process is called “licensure by endorsement”. Out-of-state applicants must have a valid and in good standing license from another state, educational and supervision requirements that are comparable to those set forth by Virginia, complete an appropriate application with fee and submit required documents for verification - including a passing score on a counseling examination.

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Average Counselor Salary in Virginia

Virginia counselors can expect to earn these average hourly and annual wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Average Counselor Salary in Virginia
Type of Counselor Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $23.34 $48,540
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $30.89 $64,240
Marriage and Family Therapists $23.38 $48,630
Mental Health Counselors $23.23 $48,310
Rehabilitation Counselors $20.07 $41,750
All Other Counselors $20.48 $42,600

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Virginia Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to Virginia LPCs and LPC-MHs: 

Fred Adair Scholarship

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Description: The National Board of Certified Counselors offers this award to master’s-level Virginia counseling students committed to practicing in rural areas for two years upon graduation.

Virginia State Loan Repayment Program

  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Up to $50,000
  • Description: The Virginia Bureau of Health Professions offers primary care specialists, including LPCs and LPC-MHs, assistance in repaying qualified medical education loans in exchange for service at a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area for a minimum of two years full time.

Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Description: This award from the American Psychological Foundation is available to one full-time graduate student in good standing at an accredited university who has demonstrated a commitment to stigma issues.

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 students pursuing careers in behavioral 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: LPCs and LPC-MHs in Virginia 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.

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students

  • 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, amongst other health professions.

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*Licensure information including requirements, 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.