How to Become a Counselor in California

Last Updated on December 27, 2021

The state of California is a prime place to start your career as a professional counselor. The state has many regulations and guidelines for this position, thus it is imperative that you know how to become a counselor in California. This article will discuss the requirements and steps in becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the state of California, how to become a school counselor in california, how long does it take to become a therapist in california, masters in counseling california & practicing therapy without a license california.

Becoming a counselor in California can be challenging because there are specific regulations, exams, and licenses that you need to obtain first. If you want to be a professional counselor then finding schools like Thomas Edison State College is your first step. It is one of the best schools for this field because of its training methods. They offer an online PhD program in Counseling Psychology which can take as few as 10 months to complete.

How to Become a Counseling Psychologist |

If you are interested in how to become a counselor in California, please spend some time gaining awareness of standards and requirements. The Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor applies to some, but not all, of California counselors. Substance abuse counselors can be certified with less than a Master’s degree. School counselors are certified by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Your First Step: If your plan is to pursue counseling in California, though you are able to take any major you want as an undergraduate, we recommend relevant ones such as Psychology, Social Work, or Counseling. Make sure that your academic performance is as strong as can be, as graduate school for counseling is known to be quite competitive. Your Second Step: Your work experience (either paid or volunteer) in counseling and human services can help you tremendously. Look around for viable volunteer opportunities. Some notable organizations include Momentum for Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of Orange County.

Also Read: How To Become A Counselor In California, how long does it take to become a therapist in california, how to become a therapist without a degree.

how to become a school counselor in california

In order to practice psychology in California, you will need to secure a license from the California Board of Psychology. The Board has educational and work hours requirements you must complete before submitting an application to become a psychologist. You must also provide your fingerprints and undergo a background check before becoming a psychologist. California requires applicants to pass two exams: the nationally required Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination (CPLEE). The application process can be confusing; our step-by-step guide to obtaining a California psychology license should make the process easier. Some of the most frequently asked questions include:

Counseling Psychology Programs in California

More than 43.8 million adults experience some type of mental health issue each year; that’s according to the United States Center for Disease Control. A growing number of people of all ages are seeking care from mental health professionals for conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to stress and substance abuse.

A master’s degree in counseling psychology is the foundation for a rewarding career in the mental health field. This graduate-level course of study provides the knowledge, clinical skills, and credentials needed to sit for state certification in California.

In this article, we’ll explore why this field is in such demand, how to determine if it’s a good career choice for you, where you can work after earning this graduate degree, and what to look for in counseling psychology programs in California.

While students can take different pathways to the school counseling profession, the most direct route requires a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. Some states and schools may accept candidates with related degrees or only bachelor’s degrees, but it’s less common. Depending on the state, aspiring counselors may also need teaching or counseling licensure to practice.

How to Become a Marriage & Family Therapist: CA | Pacific Oaks

The following sections outline typical career requirements for school counselors, including degrees and certifications.


Most school counselors earn master’s degrees in school counseling, but degrees in psychology or behavioral sciences may also qualify. Typically, counselors earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or another social science, then complete a graduate degree in counseling, often specializing in a particular area, like early childhood development.

To enroll in a bachelor’s program, applicants generally need to submit transcripts demonstrating a high school diploma and SAT or ACT scores. In-person master’s and online master’s in school counseling typically require a behavioral or social science bachelor’s degree for admission. Competitive programs may set minimum GPAs.

Typically, counselors earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or another social science, then complete a graduate degree in counseling, often specializing in a particular area, like early childhood development.

Within these programs, enrollees can often choose courses or specializations that match their desired professional focus. The school counseling field relies heavily on practical experience, so programs often feature internships.

After graduating, most states require school counselors to complete post-master supervised clinical work for licensure. Once licensed, school counselors need to meet continuing education requirements to renew their licenses. Some may even pursue doctorates in the field, particularly if they’re interested in policy, research, or influencing statewide or national programming.

Certification and Licensure

While requirement details vary by state and school, counselors need licensure to work in the public school system. According to the American School Counselor Association, every state has distinct requirements, with differences in required education level, grade minimums, and certification exams.

In addition to state licensure, school counselors can pursue voluntary certification through the National Board for School Counselors. This credential demonstrates that candidates meet high industry standards.

Depending on the state, school counselors must renew their licenses every 2-10 years. Renewal requirements vary considerably by state, with some even using point-based systems. Typically, however, a school counselor needs to complete approximately six continuing education credits every five years, and the license must remain in good standing to qualify for renewal.

Also Read: dual licensure lpcc lmft california, associate professional clinical counselor, masters in counseling california.

how long does it take to become a therapist in california

California is one of the most recent states to begin licensing professional Counsellors. To practice as a licensed Counselor in California you must fulfill all of the requirements set out by the California Board of Behavioural Sciences to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. If you wish to practice as a School Counselor then you must become certified by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Once you have graduated with a Bachelors degree it is important to consider your further education options and make sure the course you choose fulfills the necessary requirements for licensure. For example, if you wish to work as a licensed School Counselor in California you need to enroll in a program that includes 48 semester hours and a practicum with school children. If however, you are aiming to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor then you need to complete a program then includes 60 semester hours of coursework.

Once you have graduated from your chosen Masters Degree in Counseling the next step in becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) is to complete the required hours of supervised experience, you will need to be registered as an intern while you acquire these hours. After you have achieved the required supervised professional experience you then need to start taking the credentialing exams, in order to qualify for licensure as an LPSS you need to pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. You will also need to take the California Law and Ethics Examination.

Once you have passed the two above exams you can then go ahead and apply for licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in the state of California.

If you are aiming to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor then you must attain a Masters level degree in counseling, this is a minimum requirement to be considered for licensure. If you are working towards becoming a School Counselor then you also need to attain a graduate-level program in School Counseling. If however, you desire to work as a substance abuse counselor you can be certified without a Masters degree.

Counseling Educational TrackEducation RequirementsEducation LengthAvailable Programs
Undergraduate WorkEarn a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling4 YearsOnline or Campus
Graduate WorkEarn a Master’s Degree in Counseling5-6 YearsOnline or Campus
PHD or Doctoral WorkEarn a Doctorate in Counseling7-8 YearsOnline or Campus

masters in counseling california

In order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in California you must first graduate with a Masters Degree in Counseling, your chosen Masters program must have included a minimum of 60 semester hours of coursework. As part of your Master’s degree, you must have completed coursework in at least 10 out of 13 core areas stipulated by the California Board of Behavioral Science. Beyond this is must also have included coursework covering the following topics: child abuse, partner abuse, human sexuality and gender, and again and long term care. While studying for your Master’s Degree you must also complete six hours of fieldwork.

After you have finished your Master’s degree you can then register as an intern while you complete the necessary 3,000 hours of supervised professional practice. At least 150 of these hours must be done in either a hospital or community agency.

The final step after graduating and attaining the supervised hours needed to qualify for licensure is to sit the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination and the California Law and Ethics Examination. Once you have passed the two exams you have met all of the necessary stipulations and can go ahead and apply for licensure.

The Department of Counseling offers three master’s degrees: the Master of Science in Counseling; the Master of Science in Counseling with a Concentration in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling; and the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. All graduates are eligible to take the National Counselor Examination.

Within the Masters of Science in Counseling There are four different counseling specializations — Career, College, Gerontological, and School. School counseling students are eligible for the State of California Pupil Personnel Services Credential with a specialization in School Counseling (P-12).

The Career Counseling specialization prepares graduates to work in high school and college career centers and advising offices. Some graduates use this training to establish private career counseling and consultation practices while others enter career development centers in private industry and public agencies. The specialization interfaces career counseling with interpersonal development and family dynamics. Career counseling encompasses the well-being of the whole individual and how work and career relate to family, fulfillment, and lifestyle. Multicultural and social justice foundations are integrated throughout the program. In addition, issues such as worker dysfunction, workplace violence, and sexual harassment are covered in the curriculum.

Fastest Way to Become a Licensed Counselor or Therapist?

how to become a therapist without a degree

Therapists are an important resource for many individuals, couples, and families because they help them navigate stressful, emotional, or traumatic life events and circumstances.

Careers in therapy tend to offer higher than average salaries and positive job growth when compared to many other occupations.

The path to becoming a therapist without a psychology degree includes several steps. The specific steps may vary depending on the state you’re interested in practicing in and the type of therapist you’re interested in becoming.

Certain therapist roles, such as marriage and family therapists, educational or school therapists, and organizational therapists, may only require you to hold a master’s degree. Other positions, such as clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists, require a PhD or PsyD.

The difference in educational requirements lies in the type of work you’re looking to do and whether you want to work as an unlicensed or licensed therapist.

Here are common steps that need to be taken to become a therapist:

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. While it may be fitting to complete your undergraduate degree in psychology, it is not necessary in order to become a therapist.
  2. Enroll in a psychology graduate program. It’s at the level of masters and doctoral studies where you need to complete your education in psychology or a similar field in order to become a therapist. The type of graduate degree you need depends on your overall career goals and state licensure requirements.
  3. Gain work experience. To become licensed as a therapist, you will likely need to complete a specific number of supervised clinical work hours. The exact requirement will vary from one state to the next.
  4. Take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. The final step to becoming a licensed therapist is to complete and pass the EPPP.

Though you may wonder what masters degree you can get with a bachelor’s in psychology, you may want to consider that there are many master’s and doctorate programs in psychology that do not require students to have a bachelor’s in psychology. Some of these universities may require you to take bridge courses or certificates to introduce you to key psychology principles though.

Many find that becoming a therapist is a rewarding career goal, but there are a number of skills and qualifications needed to enter and be successful in the profession.

A couple of qualifications that may be required for you to become a therapist are:

  • Master’s or doctoral degree in psychology: The level of education you will need depends on the type of therapy work you’re interested in pursuing.
  • Licensure: Depending on your career goals, you may need to become licensed in order to practice in your state of choice.

There are many skills and traits that can be useful as a therapist as well, including:

  • Empathy
  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to set boundaries

All of these things can help you become an effective therapist that is ready to help others.

Common Pathways to Becoming a Therapist

A bachelor’s degree, even one unrelated to psychology, is not enough to become a therapist, but it is the first step in the process.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to pursue additional education in the form of graduate studies. This may include various master’s and doctoral level programs, such as a master’s in counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy, or a Ph.D. in psychology.

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