Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Online Degree Programs

Reviewed by Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC

If you hope to work in a helping field, there are many paths you can take. One of these is a career as a licensed professional counselor (LPC). This page will explain what an LPC does, the benefits of considering LPC online programs, the steps to obtain your counseling license after earning your LPC degree, and a bit about what to expect after earning your license to work as an LPC.

What Is an LPC Degree Program?

As the name implies, an LPC degree—which is often known as a master’s in clinical psychology or master’s in professional counseling—is a graduate-level program that provides aspiring counselors with the education required to become licensed and practice as professional counselors. The curriculum in an LPC degree program is comprehensive and covers various topics relevant to counseling and psychotherapy. Some common areas of study include:

  • Counseling theories and approaches
  • Psychopathology and diagnosis
  • Assessment and testing
  • Human development and lifespan issues
  • Cultural diversity and multicultural counseling
  • Legal and ethical issues in counseling
  • Group counseling and dynamics
  • Family and couples counseling
  • Substance abuse and addiction counseling
  • Trauma and crisis intervention
  • Research methods and evidence-based practices 

“Most students can expect to complete their LPC degree program within two to three years,” notes Megan Kelly, LMHC in Indiana, “particularly if they are attending on a full-time basis. Some non-traditional students or part-time students may need more like three to four years to complete their program, which includes coursework, practicum, internship, and a capstone project or dissertation.”

Importance of an LPC Degree Program

Enrolling in an LPC degree program is a vital first step for aspiring counselors. This is because successfully completing a graduate-level counseling program is required in most jurisdictions to obtain licensure to practice counseling. 

In many states in the U.S., only individuals who have completed a recognized LPC program, and who meet all other state-specific licensing requirements, are legally allowed to offer counseling services with the title of “Licensed Professional Counselor.” This is because LPC programs provide comprehensive training in counseling theory, assessment, and practical skills. This formal qualification ensures that clients receive services from counselors who have undergone rigorous training and whose skills and education have been verified.

What is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)?

A licensed professional counselor is a mental health care provider trained to work with individuals and groups to provide mental, behavioral, and emotional care, including diagnosing and treating disorders.

As a licensed professional counselor, you’ll work with individuals, families, or groups to address issues like substance abuse, learning disabilities, mood disorders, and other mental health disorders and the struggles that come with daily life.

“Licensed Professional Counselors are helping professionals who are often tasked with assessing and treating all varieties of mental and emotional disorders,” states Megan Kelly, LMHC. “They’re an essential part of supporting the mental health of their communities.”

Depending on your education and specialization, you might work in a mental health center, hospital, government agency, residential treatment facility, school, or a community-based organization. You may also establish a private practice offering counseling services.

Like most other types of counselors, LPCs are highly educated through licensed professional counselor programs, usually holding a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology or counseling. The state you plan to practice in sets the requirements for being able to provide counseling services under the official “LPC” designation.

What Are Other Terms for a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)?

LPCs go by different titles in some states, which can be a bit confusing. These titles sound similar but may require different education, testing, and supervised experience, depending on the state in which you reside.

Other common titles for this role include:

So, what is the difference between these titles?

For starters, license and educational requirements can vary by state. In general, titles that include terms like “mental health” or “clinical” are licensed to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and disorders, while others may not. However, licensed professional counselors may provide a broader range of counseling in areas like career counseling or domestic violence.

“To know for sure what license type exists in your state, you can check in with a local university that provides a graduate-level training program for counselors, or you can search your state’s laws and regulations regarding provision of behavioral health services,” notes Kelly.

What Is an LPC License?

LPC stands for Licensed Professional Counselor; it is also the name of the license that verifies these professionals as being able to provide professional counseling services. In the United States,  this license is issued at the state level, so the specific requirements vary. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits master’s degree licensed professional counselor programs in related fields to help students prepare for the licensing process.

What Does an LPC Do?

The exact tasks you may perform in your job as a licensed professional counselor vary based on where you work, your education, and whether you specialize in any specific area. However, most LPCs work with groups or individuals to diagnose mental health disorders and provide personalized treatment plans for recovery.

Many work in schools, governmental buildings, military bases, or rehabilitation centers. LPCs can provide counseling for children, teenagers, college students, and adults on a variety of mental, emotional, or social issues.

For example, an LPC might work with patients in an addiction rehabilitation facility to help them understand the underlying issues contributing to their addictions and develop a plan to help them learn to live successful, fulfilling lives.

As with other types of counselors, LPCs can provide therapy and counseling but are not licensed to prescribe or recommend medications. In some states, they can diagnose issues as well.

In addition to counseling and diagnosis, day-to-day duties might include administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments and updating patient files.

Can an LPC Prescribe Medication?

While there are many related licensed mental health counseling positions, it’s important to understand the differences between related roles. An LPC is not licensed to prescribe medication or make professional recommendations on a particular medication. In order to prescribe medication, an LPC must receive specific medical training and licensure. Any necessary medication must be prescribed by a doctor, psychiatrist, or licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner.

LPC Specializations

Once you decide to become an LPC, you can choose from a range of specializations. The American Counseling Association (ACA) has approximately 18 divisions representing LPC specializations in the field. Here are a few common options to consider:

  • Grief counselor
  • Mental health counselor
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Child counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • School Counselor
  • Career Counselor
  • Couples Counselors
  • Trauma Counselor.

Can You Be a Counselor Without a License?

The requirements for serving as a counselor vary by state. In general, if you wish to work with patients who live with mental health disorders, you must obtain licensure as an LPC or the equivalent in your state.

However, the mental health field offers a wide range of career options. Depending on your state, a few counselor positions that may not require licensure include career counselors, school counselors, peer counselors, and alcohol and drug counselors.

Unlicensed counselors may work in a variety of settings, including courtrooms, schools, drug treatment facilities, and domestic violence shelters.

“It’s always a good idea to check with the laws governing your specific state when it comes to pursuing a counseling career without a graduate degree or a license,” says Kelly, an LMHC in Indiana. “When it comes to these types of services, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

How to Become an LPC

Embarking on a career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) involves a multifaceted process of education, practical supervised experience, and obtaining the proper licensure. Each state has its unique requirements, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific criteria in your region. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the journey to becoming an LPC.

1. Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

  • Choosing the Right Field: A bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field is helpful, but many programs will admit students with undergraduate degrees in other areas. For those who know they want to pursue their bachelor’s in psychology, counseling, or social work, they will find that these programs provide essential knowledge in human behavior, psychological theories, and basic counseling techniques.
  • Academic Performance and Extracurricular Involvement: Doing your best academically and engaging in relevant extracurricular activities can enhance your profile for graduate admissions. Kelly notes, “Things like participating in undergraduate research, joining or founding a psychology club, or taking a part-time job in a helping position can show graduate admissions boards that you take your education seriously.”

2. Enroll in an LPC Degree Program

  • Master’s Degree Requirements: A master’s degree in counseling or a related field is mandatory in most jurisdictions. Ensure the program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), as this accreditation is recognized for setting high educational standards in counseling and will likely make your licensure process much easier and more streamlined.
  • Choosing a Specialization: Consider specializing in areas such as addiction, marriage and family therapy, or mental health to align with your career goals. However, states Kelly, “it’s not essential to choose a specialty right away. If you’re not sure whether you want to specialize in anything, you can take your time and learn through hands-on experience instead.”

3. Complete Practicum and Internship

  • Gaining Practical Experience: Engage in the required clinical practicum (typically 100 hours) and supervised counseling internship (typically 600 hours). These experiences are vital for developing practical counseling skills. Some states may require more or less hours for practicum and internship—make sure you check with your local licensing board to ensure you’re getting the number of required hours.
  • State-Specific Requirements: Some states require a provisional license after graduation in order to obtain the required supervised experience. Stay informed about your state’s regulations. If you’re not sure, contact your state’s licensing board or ask someone within your counseling program.

4. Pass Licensing Exams

  • Preparation for NBCC Exams: When you successfully complete the practicum and internship, you will likely be invited to register for the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) exams—the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Utilize study materials, practice tests, and possibly join study groups or workshops.
  • Exam Strategies: Focus on areas of weakness and develop effective test-taking strategies. Study with your fellow classmates and make sure you give yourself ample time to prepare. And when it comes to test day, try to relax! 

5. Apply and Maintain LPC Licensure

  • Navigating the Application Process: Submit your application with all necessary documentation, including transcripts or class syllabi, supervised experience records signed by your supervisor(s), passing exam scores, and any necessary application fees.
  • Continuing Education: Understand your state’s requirements for license renewal, including continuing education credits. Engage in workshops, seminars, and other educational opportunities to stay current in the field.

Additional Considerations

  • Professional Networking: Join professional counseling organizations for networking, resources, and continued learning. Kelly notes, “Some of your most important resources and sources for client referrals will be other providers you know and trust. Build and nurture those relationships early in your career!”
  • Personal and Professional Development: Seek mentorship and engage in self-care practices. Counseling can be emotionally demanding, and maintaining personal well-being is crucial for effectiveness. This can look like setting a consistent sleep and exercise routine, getting therapy on a regular basis, and making sure to schedule time to socialize or decompress throughout the week.
  • Career Advancement: Explore options for further specialization, doctoral studies, or advanced certifications to enhance your practice and career opportunities.

This comprehensive approach ensures that you not only meet the formal requirements to become an LPC but also develop the competencies, networks, and resilience needed for a successful and fulfilling career in counseling.

Tips for Becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Research and Planning

  • Understand State-Specific Requirements: Different states have varying requirements for LPC licensure. Early research into these specifics can help you tailor your educational and training path accordingly, and can help you avoid any frustrating roadblocks or pitfalls.
  • Plan Your Educational Pathway: Decide on undergraduate and graduate programs that align with your career goals and meet licensure requirements. Consider schools with strong counseling degrees, particularly those that are CACREP accredited masters in counseling online programs.

Educational Excellence

  • Excel Academically: Aim for high academic performance in your undergraduate and graduate studies. This can open doors to better internship opportunities and potentially aid in securing scholarships or funding.
  • Engage in Relevant Activities: Participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or part-time jobs related to counseling or mental health. This experience can be invaluable both for your resume and your practical understanding of the field.

Networking and Professional Development

  • Build a Professional Network: Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars. Join professional counseling associations and engage with peers and mentors in the field.
  • Seek Mentorship: Find mentors who can offer guidance, insight, and advice on navigating the path to becoming an LPC.

Practical Experience

  • Maximize Internship and Practicum Opportunities: Choose your practicum and internship placements thoughtfully. Look for settings that offer a broad range of experiences or specialize in areas of interest to you.
  • Develop a Range of Skills: While gaining practical experience, focus on developing a diverse set of counseling skills. This can include learning different therapy modalities, working with various populations, and understanding a range of mental health issues.

Licensure Examination

  • Prepare Thoroughly for the Exam: Utilize study guides, participate in prep courses, and practice with sample tests. Time management and test-taking strategies are key.
  • Stay Informed About Exam Updates: Keep up-to-date with any changes in the exam format or content to ensure your preparation is relevant.

Continuous Learning and Self-Care

  • Commit to Lifelong Learning: Stay updated with the latest research and developments in the field of counseling. Continuing education is not just a licensure requirement but also a professional responsibility.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: The role of a counselor can be emotionally taxing. Develop self-care habits and strategies to maintain your own mental and emotional well-being.

By following these tips, aspiring LPCs can navigate their educational and professional journey with greater confidence and preparedness, setting the foundation for a successful career in counseling.

LPC Qualifications

Educational Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. This foundational education sets the stage for advanced studies in counseling.
  • Master’s Degree in Counseling or Related Field: Essential for licensure, the master’s program should ideally be accredited by CACREP or an equivalent accrediting body. Specializations during this phase can shape future career paths.

Clinical Experience

  • Supervised Clinical Experience: Post-graduate supervised experience is a core requirement. The number of hours varies by state but typically ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 hours.
  • Practicum and Internship: A part of the master’s program, these experiences provide direct counseling practice under supervision, aiding in the development of practical counseling skills.

Licensure Examinations

  • National Counselor Examination (NCE): A comprehensive exam that assesses knowledge, skills, and abilities deemed important for providing effective counseling services.
  • National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE): Focuses specifically on clinical skills and knowledge required for mental health counseling.

State Licensure

  • State-Specific Requirements: Each state has its own set of requirements for LPC licensure, including specific coursework, exam scores, and supervised clinical hours.
  • Application Process: Involves submitting proof of education, clinical experience, exam scores, and any additional state-specific documentation.

Continuing Education

  • Ongoing Learning: To maintain licensure, LPCs are required to engage in continuing education. This can include workshops, seminars, additional coursework, and self-study. The number of CEUs will depend on the state(s) where you’re licensed.
  • Ethics and Best Practices: Continuing education also ensures that LPCs stay informed about ethical standards and current best practices in counseling.

Professional Skills

  • Interpersonal Skills: Effective communication, empathy, objectivity, non-judgmental acceptance of others, and the ability to establish trust are essential.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities: It’s important to  be able to assess client issues and develop appropriate therapeutic strategies using evidence-based interventions and assessments.
  • Ethical Judgment and Integrity: Adhering to ethical guidelines and maintaining professional integrity.

Personal Qualities

  • Resilience and Self-Care: The ability to manage personal stress and engage in self-care practices is crucial for sustained effectiveness as a counselor.
  • Lifelong Commitment to Growth: A dedication to personal and professional development and an openness to feedback and self-improvement.

These qualifications combine academic rigor, practical experience, and personal development, ensuring that LPCs are well-equipped to provide high-quality counseling services.

Demand for LPCs: Are LPCs Needed?

“It’s never been a more important time for the helping profession to grow and add qualified providers to the field,” notes Kelly, “especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Indeed, the need for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) has become increasingly apparent in light of the current mental health landscape in the United States. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) paint a concerning picture of mental health prevalence:

  • Widespread Mental Illness Among Adults: More than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness. This statistic underscores a significant portion of the adult population requiring mental health services, many of which can be provided by LPCs.
  • Youth Mental Health Concerns: Over 1 in 5 youth (ages 13-18) either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness. This prevalence in the younger population highlights the critical need for early intervention and ongoing mental health support, areas where LPCs can make a substantial impact.
  • Serious Mental Illnesses: About 1 in 25 U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. These conditions often require long-term, specialized therapeutic interventions, an area where LPCs, with their comprehensive training and expertise, are well-positioned to contribute.

Given these statistics, the role of LPCs is more crucial than ever. They are not only needed to address the high prevalence of mental health issues but also to provide specialized care for those with serious mental illnesses. The demand for LPCs extends across various settings, including private practices, hospitals, schools, community health centers, and more. As awareness and de-stigmatization of mental health issues continue to grow, so too does the recognition of the vital role that LPCs play in mental health care and support.

Common LPC Degree Specializations

When searching for the right LPC online programs for you, it’s important to consider what you’d like for your future career. Specialization in different types of counseling can provide you with the education you need to support clients in your area of interest.

Common specializations offered by licensed professional counselor programs include:

  • Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: A clinical mental healthcare provider typically works in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic. This specialization can be a great fit for practitioners who want to work with people with various mental health issues.
  • Online Master’s in Family Counseling: Family counseling requires LPCs to consider several dynamics, including relationships, age, gender, family history, mental health issues, and more. A specialization in family counseling prepares LPCs to support clients as they work towards happier, healthier relationships with one another.
  • Online Master’s in Counseling: Earning a general counseling degree can be a perfect fit for those who want to keep their practice options open, or who want to get a general counseling education before focusing on a specialty area during their doctorate study.

Counseling Certification Paths

Some counseling programs that offer a general course of study also allow for elective options, allowing therapists to concentrate in a particular area that can help them provide specialized services to clients.

Some counseling concentrations include:

  • Gerontology counseling: This type of counseling focuses on helping older adults through mental health issues, including thriving in retirement, relating to adult children, and dealing with past traumas that are impacting their current quality of life.
  • Addiction or rehabilitation counseling: Drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors help clients work toward sobriety. While many drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors are people who are working through the recovery process themselves, this is not a requirement to be a successful rehabilitation counselor.
  • Disorder-specific counseling: Some LPCs choose to focus their practice on helping people with a specific disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

6 Online Programs for LPC Degrees

1. New York University (NYU): Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness

This program prepares students to work in private practice, medical settings, rehabilitation clinics, and more. In addition to classwork, students must also complete a lab course, practicum, and internship.

Tuition: $121,200 (full program)

Program Length: Two years

Credits Required: 60

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis. The program does not have a GRE requirement.

2. University of Pennsylvania: Master of Philosophy in Professional Counseling

UPenn’s Master of Philosophy in Professional Counseling program emphasizes social justice and prepares students to become either LPCs or certified school counselors. In addition to coursework, students must spend 20 hours per week completing an internship during the second year of their program.

Tuition: $158,600

Program Length: Two years

Credits Required: 20

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. The program does not have a GRE requirement. Students may be required to attend an online or in-person interview as a part of the admission process.

3. Columbia University: Master of Education in Psychological Counseling

This program also emphasizes social justice and prepares students to work as licensed counselors in several settings, including nursing homes, outpatient mental health settings, and inpatient facilities.

Tuition: $116,800

Program Length: 2 to 3 years

Credits Required: 60

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. The program does not have a GRE requirement. Students are also required to submit a resume, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

4. Boston College: Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling

Boston College’s M.A. in Mental Health Counseling prepares students both for work and further graduate study. In addition to teaching students the skills necessary to support their clients’ mental health, the program also focuses on systemic injustices in mental healthcare systems.

Tuition: $101,300

Program Length: Two years

Credits Required: 60

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. The program does not have a GRE requirement, but students are permitted to submit scores if they so choose. Students are also required to submit a writing sample, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume.

5. University of Texas at Austin: Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

At U of T, counseling graduate students prepare to work as academic advisers, student affairs associates, and career counselors at the college level. Students also have the option to pursue an LPC or certified school counselor pathway.

Tuition: $25,300 for in-state residents, $50,700 for out-of-state residents

Program Length: Two years

Credits Required: 60 credits

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. The program does not have a GRE requirement. Students are required to attend an interview and submit letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and demonstrate readiness to participate in research.

6. Vanderbilt University: Master of Education in Human Development Counseling

Students in Vanderbilt’s counseling program emerge ready to help clients through the complexities of human systems. The program focuses heavily on allowing students to develop the skills necessary to help their clients maximize their potential.

Tuition: $132,900

Program Length: 2 years

Credits Required: 48-60

Admission Requirements: Completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required for admission consideration. GRE score submission is required. Students are required to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Post-Master’s or Doctorate Requirements

1. Complete Hands-On Supervised Practice to Meet LPC Requirements

In addition to completing a master’s or doctoral degree, LPCs must complete hands-on practice under a licensed practitioner’s supervision. You’ll likely work under a licensed psychiatrist, social worker, LPC, or clinical psychologist during your supervised practice to evaluate and treat patients.

Hands-on practice is required before taking the exam to become licensed to practice, and the number of hours required varies by state. If you plan to earn your master’s degree online, talk to the school about your options.

Expect to work with your supervisor to understand how to work with different types of patients, what treatments are most successful, and how to navigate difficult counseling situations.

2. Take LPC Examinations

After completing your required supervised practice and your LPC degree coursework, the next step is to apply and take one of the two exams required for licensure: the National Mental Health Counselor Examination (NMHCE) or the National Counselor Examination (NCE).

If your state requires the NMHCE, expect to be tested using ten clinical simulations designed to ensure your competency in various situations. The simulations look at several areas, including diagnostic skills, counseling experience, administration skills, and supervision abilities. This proctored exam is offered twice a year—spring and fall—and costs $275. You’ll take it on a computer.

Some states require LPCs to pass the NCE, a 200-question, multiple-choice test taken on paper. Out of the 200 questions, 160 are scored, and 40 questions are unscored questions used to evaluate potential questions for future versions of the test. The NCE exam’s topics include ethics, assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, counseling skills, and interventions. The cost to register and take the NCE exam is $275.

3. Review Steps for Out-of-State Licensure Applications for LPCs

LPC education requirements vary drastically by state. Therefore, it’s best to obtain your education and licensure in the state you plan to practice in. If you choose to move to a new state or practice in a neighboring state, there are several out-of-state licensure options.

Several states offer licensure reciprocity, though LPCs may find their new states have different requirements than their previous homes did.

This doesn’t mean you need to retake the NMHCE or NCE; in most cases, you can ask the board to send your test results to the state you wish to practice in. However, you may be required to show you meet all their other requirements and apply and pay for licensure in that state.

What is the Difference Between Counselor Board Certification and Licensure?

Board certification helps employers and potential patients recognize mental health professionals who meet the counseling profession’s standards. Licensure, on the other hand, is a legal requirement to use specific titles and provide treatment in a particular state.

Licensure requires meeting specific education requirements, completing supervised practice, and passing the National Mental Health Counselor Examination. Board certification requires completing one of your state’s licensed professional counselor programs at a master’s level (or higher), 3,000 hours of counseling experience, and 100 hours of supervised work over two years.


A related career to an LPC is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). This professional role works with communities and organizations in both hands-on and administrative roles. To become an LCSW, you must earn a master’s in social work, complete supervised clinical practice hours, and pass the relevant examination.

Both LPCs and LCSWs require a graduate degree and social work license. LPCs, however, focus more on the psychological state of individuals, whereas LCSWs are more likely to work in administrative roles and focus on the societal issues of a situation.

LPC vs. LCSW Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers earned a median pay of $58,380 in 2023. This is comparable to the median pay of LPCs working as mental health counselors, which was $53,710 in 2023, according to BLS.


The Master of Social Work (MSW) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credentials represent two distinct pathways in the field of mental health and social services, each with its own focus, training, and scope of practice.

An MSW degree prepares individuals for a broad range of roles, including clinical social work, case management, and advocacy, with a strong emphasis on social justice, systems theory, and community resources. Social workers with an MSW can become licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) in most jurisdictions, allowing them to provide therapy and counseling services.

On the other hand, the LPC credential is specifically focused on providing mental health services, requiring a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. LPCs are trained in therapeutic techniques, assessment, and diagnosis, and work directly with clients to address mental health issues.

While both MSWs and LPCs can offer counseling and therapy, the MSW curriculum is broader, covering macro social work practices in addition to clinical skills, whereas LPC education is centered on individual and group therapy techniques.

LPC Career Options

“There are so many career paths and specialization options to choose from,” says Kelly. “There is something for everyone, from the generalist to the super-specialized counselor.” 

An LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) license opens the door to a diverse array of career paths, each customizable to align with your unique interests, skills, and passion areas. Here are some detailed LPC career options that go beyond traditional counseling roles:

Private Practice

  • For the Entrepreneurial Counselor: Operate your own counseling business where you have the autonomy to set your work schedule, select your client base, and apply your preferred counseling methodologies.
  • Specialization Opportunities: Focus on areas you are passionate about, such as marriage and family therapy, trauma counseling, or child and adolescent therapy.
  • Learn Business Management: Beyond counseling, you’ll also manage business aspects like marketing, billing, and regulatory compliance.


  • Remote Counseling Services: Provide counseling sessions via video calls or phone, expanding access to clients who are remote, have mobility issues, or prefer the convenience of online sessions.
  • Flexible Work Environment: Offers the ability to work from virtually anywhere, granting greater work-life balance and the opportunity to reach a broader client base.
  • Technological Proficiency: Requires comfort with digital platforms and an understanding of the ethical considerations and best practices in teletherapy.


  • Mental Health Research: Engage in scholarly research to explore mental health disorders, treatment efficacy, or counseling methodologies.
  • Academic Collaboration: Often involves working at universities, research institutions, or think tanks, often in collaboration with other mental health professionals.
  • Publication and Dissemination: Contribute to the body of knowledge in mental health by publishing research findings and presenting at conferences.


  • Organizational Consultancy: Work with businesses, non-profits, or educational institutions to enhance their mental health policies, employee well-being programs, or student counseling services.
  • Program Development: Design and implement mental health programs tailored to the specific needs of the organization.
  • Training and Workshops: Provide training sessions to staff or educators on topics such as stress management, conflict resolution, or effective communication.


  • Championing Mental Health: Advocate for improved mental health services and policies at local, state, or national levels.
  • Community Engagement: Collaborate with community groups, healthcare agencies, or governmental organizations to promote mental health awareness and combat stigma.
  • Policy Influence: Influence public policy related to mental health through lobbying efforts, public speaking, and collaborating with policymakers.

Each of these career paths not only allows LPCs to apply their counseling skills in diverse settings but also to make a significant impact in the field of mental health in a manner that aligns with their personal and professional aspirations.

LPC Salary

The salary of a licensed professional counselor (LPC) is influenced by a variety of factors. Geographic location is a key determinant, with urban areas typically offering higher salaries than rural ones. The level of experience also greatly affects earnings, as more experienced counselors often earn more. Educational background and specialized training can lead to higher pay, particularly for those with advanced degrees or certifications in specific counseling areas. The sector of employment, such as private practice or educational institutions, also plays a role. To provide a clearer picture of salary potential, subsequent sections will delve into specific salaries and roles within the field of professional counseling.

Rehabilitation Counselor Salary

A rehabilitation counselor works with individuals to restore their emotional, developmental, physical, and developmental independence. As of May 2023, the median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $44,040, with an expected employment growth of 2% from 2022 to 2032, according to the BLS. This growth is about as fast as the average for all occupations. 

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor Salary

Behavioral disorders counselors, substance abuse counselors, and mental health counselors work with individuals to overcome drug addiction, mental health issues, behavioral problems, or alcoholism. As of May 2023, the median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $53,710, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects the diverse salary range for LPCs, which varies based on location, experience, and other factors.

School and Career Counselor Salary

As of May 2023, the median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors was $61,710, according to the BLS. The field is expected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is projected to result in about 26,600 job openings annually over the decade. These openings will primarily be due to the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Continuing Education Requirements for LPCs

Even once you’ve finished your formal education, you’ll likely be expected to keep learning via continuing education (CE) to maintain your licensure. The number of CE hours required varies by state, and some have different requirements for first renewals versus later ones. A few examples include:

  • California: 36 hours for renewal, with six in law and ethics; depending on your exact license, other requirements may exist
  • Kansas: 30 credit hours per two-year renewal, with three in ethics and six in diagnosis and treatment
  • Louisiana: 40 hours per renewal period, with three in ethics and six in diagnosis; board-approved supervisors need three in supervision, and those engaging in telehealth need three in that area
  • New York: 36 hours per three-year renewal period
  • Wisconsin: 30 credit hours per renewal, with four in ethics and professional boundaries

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) can help find places to earn these credits, and many state sites also list accepted continuing education options.

Take the Next Step into Your Future With an LPC Degree

Are you passionate about helping and supporting people? Then, an LPC degree is the first step towards getting an LPC license and a fulfilling career. Consider pursuing an LPC degree today and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.


What’s the Difference Between an LPC and a Regular Counselor?

An LPC, or Licensed Professional Counselor, is a counselor who has met specific state licensing requirements, including advanced education (typically a master’s degree), supervised clinical experience, and passing a licensure exam. A “regular” counselor might not have these qualifications and is not licensed to provide certain types of counseling services.

What is an LPC Counselor?

An LPC counselor is a mental health professional licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. They offer a range of services, including individual and group therapy, and work in various settings like private practices, hospitals, and schools.

What States Have the Highest Salaries for LPCs?

Salaries for LPCs vary based on geographic location, experience, and the sector in which they work. Typically, states with higher living costs tend to offer higher salaries. Examples include California, New York, and Massachusetts, but it’s essential to research current data for up-to-date information. Based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors, the top-paying states and their respective annual mean wages are as follows:

  • Alaska: The annual mean wage is $68,770.
  • Hawaii: The annual mean wage is $66,610.
  • Utah: The annual mean wage is $65,180.
  • New Jersey: The annual mean wage is $65,090.

These figures suggest that LPC salaries can significantly vary based on geographic location. States with higher living costs or unique demand for these professionals tend to offer higher salaries. It’s essential for aspiring LPCs to consider these regional differences when planning their career paths.

Are LPCs Doctors?

No, LPCs are not medical doctors. They typically hold a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. While some may pursue a doctoral degree in counseling or psychology, having a doctorate is not a requirement for LPC licensure.

What Is an LPC License?

An LPC license is a certification granted by state licensing boards to counselors who have met the required educational, clinical, and examination standards. This license allows them to practice counseling independently and is a mark of professional competency and adherence to ethical standards.

How Long Does an LPC License Last?

The duration of an LPC license varies by state but typically needs renewal every one to two years. Renewal often requires completing continuing education credits to ensure the counselor remains current with best practices in the field.

Can LPCs Prescribe Medication?

No, LPCs are not authorized to prescribe medication. Prescribing medication is limited to medical doctors, psychiatrists, and other healthcare providers with specific prescribing privileges.

What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for LPCs?

LPCs are required to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours to maintain their licensure. The specific number of hours and the type of CE activities that qualify can vary by state.

Can LPCs Work Across State Lines?

Licensing requirements and scopes of practice for LPCs vary by state. While some states have reciprocity agreements, generally, LPCs must meet the licensure requirements of each state in which they intend to practice.

What are Common Specializations for LPCs?

LPCs often specialize in areas such as addiction counseling, marriage and family therapy, child and adolescent therapy, trauma and crisis counseling, or mental health counseling, aligning their practice with specific client needs and interests.

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