How to Become a National Certified Counselor


A National Certified Counselor is a Master's level professional counselor certified through the National Board for Certified Counselors. According to the National Board for Certified Counselors website, NBCC certification is used by 49 of the 50 U.S. states and in more than 40 countries around the world.

Things You'll Need

  • Masters degree in counseling psychology or a related field from an accredited college or university
  • Field experience (3,000 hours) of verified and supervised experience as a counselor
  • Face-to-face supervision meetings (100 hours) with qualified supervisor
  • Pass the National Counselor Certification Exam
  • Accrue 100 hours of continuing education units after the five-year initial certification period
  • Earn a Master's degree in counseling or psychology from a regionally accredited college or university. Specialized program accreditation, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs, CACREP, are the most direct route to NCC certification. There are application options for counselors of non-CACREP-accredited programs as well.

  • Work experience is required of counselors under the Supervision of Licensed Supervisors in clinical settings, such as hospitals, group homes, and residential treatment facilities. Counselors must accrue 3,000 hours of experience and 100 hours of supervision meetings with a qualified supervisor, which must be done within the last two years since the Counseling Master's degree, or a related field, was awarded.

  • Apply to take the National Certified Counselor credential exam online through the NBCC website. The NBCC offers a study guide called the "Official Preparation Guide for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE)." The guide covers not only the test subject matter, but it answers frequently asked questions as well. Additionally, the official Preparation Guide offers 134 practice questions and "includes 38 former examination questions with justified responses." It Costs $34.95 from NBCC.

  • Pass the examination for National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), consisting of 200 multiple choice questions. Exams need to be completed in four hours. NCE exams are available in every U.S. state. The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) is designed to assess general cognitive knowledge that all counselors should know, such as human development, career development, cultural norms and much more. Additionally, counselors must have a working knowledge of group therapy skills, clinical counseling, assessment and crisis intervention skills.

  • After five years, NCCs must document 100 hours of continuing education units, or retake the NCE. The NCC credential provides a professional network and recognition, client referrals, news and issues in the field, and "ensures a national standard developed by counselors, not legislators," according to the NBCC website. National Certified Counselors (NCCs) hold certification for five years. There are ethics to which NCCs must adhere.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure that the educational program you choose is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs, (CACRP), which is specifically approved by the NBCC. However, regional accreditation of a qualified counseling program is another option toward obtaining the NCC.

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  • Photo Credit graduate girl image by Maria Bell from Stage de communication image by Francis Lempérière from computer image by Ewe Degiampietro from exam image by Petro Feketa from Blank award certificate form image by Stasys Eidiejus from
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