As of May 2021, about 7,700 individuals are working as professional counselors in Alabama, with the majority specializing in educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling. To practice counseling in Alabama, you must obtain licensure through organizations like the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling.
The application process typically involves completing a master’s degree program in counseling, gaining supervised experience, and passing an exam. The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling handles associate and professional licensure for counselors. Therefore, it maintains all Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) requirements, including education, supervision, examination, and renewal.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary information for LPCs, which this article includes. Continue reading for more details on obtaining licensure as an LPC in Alabama.
Types of Counselor Licenses in Alabama
In Alabama, there are two categories of licenses available for counseling. The Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) is the first step towards licensure, which could eventually result in becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
An Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) is a state-recognized license that requires applicants to obtain a master’s degree in counseling or some other related field and complete at least two years of supervised clinical experience. The ALC license is provisional and allows counselors to practice. However, it does not grant them the full authority of an LPC. ALCs must also adhere to the code of ethics established by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling and abide by all state laws regarding counseling.
A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is an independent practitioner who has met all requirements set forth by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling, including completion of a master’s degree in counseling or related field, the culmination of at least two years of supervised clinical experience, and passing the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
An LPC can diagnose mental health disorders and provide counseling services independently. They are also expected to adhere to all state laws governing the practice of professional counseling and maintain continuing education requirements.
Other Types of Counselors in Alabama
In addition to ALCs and LPCs, there are several other types of counselors in Alabama:
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are licensed professionals who specialize in treating couples and families. They use various therapeutic techniques to help clients learn how to communicate better, resolve conflicts, and build stronger relationships.
Rehabilitation Counselors specialize in helping individuals with disabilities or chronic health conditions manage their condition and live meaningful lives.
School Counselors work with students in grades K-12 to promote academic success and social-emotional development.
Substance Abuse Counselors specialize in helping individuals who have substance abuse issues or addictions by providing therapeutic support.
Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Alabama
The state of Alabama requires a master’s degree in counseling for most types of licensure. The degree program should be recognized by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). It should include coursework in various areas, including:
- Human growth and development
- Process and counseling
- Counseling theory
- Social foundations
- Group dynamics
- Research and evaluation
While substance abuse counselors working independently in Alabama are not currently required to have certification, many are licensed as LPCs or licensed social workers (LSWs), typically requiring a master’s degree in a related field.
In addition to the previously mentioned requirements, you must meet several state-specific requirements to become an LPC in Alabama. These include completing a supervised internship of at least 600 hours, submitting fingerprints for a background check, and passing the Jurisprudence Exam.
The Jurisprudence Exam is a written test administered by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling that covers the state laws and regulations governing the practice of professional counseling.
Additionally, all LPCs in Alabama must maintain continuing education credits to remain licensed.
After obtaining approval to become an ALC, you can start accumulating the mandatory 3,000 hours of supervised experience required to become a full LPC. Of these hours, 2,250 should be spent on direct counseling services for individuals, families, couples, or groups. In contrast, the remaining 750 hours can be spent on indirect counseling services, including documentation and administration.
If you have completed 15 graduate hours in counseling beyond your master’s degree, you can deduct 1,000 hours from the required experience.
When applying for an ALC license, complete the Proposed Plan of Supervision (PPS) form and submit it to the Alabama Board of Examiners. The PPS must include the applicant’s name, contact information, educational background, supervised experience hours, and Proposed Plan of Supervision.
The applicant and the supervising LPC must complete and sign this form before it can be submitted to the board. The LPC identified in the Proposed Plan of Supervision must conduct the supervision.
To obtain a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license, achieving a satisfactory score in the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) is mandatory. The National Board conducts this exam for Certified Counselors. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that evaluate an individual’s proficiency, expertise, and competencies in delivering efficient counseling services.
To apply for the NCE, you must first apply to the National Board for Certified Counselors. The application should include your educational background, supervisory experience, and any relevant experience in counseling. Once your application is approved, you can register for the examination and take it at a testing center near you.
Once you have taken the NCE, you must submit your scores to the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling. You can do this online or send a copy of your official score to the board directly. Your application will be processed once they have received your scores.
Licensure and Fees
There are fees associated with obtaining and maintaining a license with the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling. Below is a partial listing, which is current as of May 2022. For a complete fee schedule, visit their website, or you can go to the main office in person for more information.
Associate Licensed Counselor Application: $200.00
Licensed Professional Counselor Application: $300.00
Associate Licensed Counselor Renewal: $150.00
Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal: $300.00
Supervising Counselor Approval Processing Fee: $150.00
Provisional License: $150.00
License Reactivation: $50.00 per year, not to exceed $250.00
LPC Reinstatement under 255-X-7-.01(3)(a): $500.00
Request of Reduction of Professional Experience Hours: $150.00
Lapsed License Fee: $100.00
You can submit your fees online via credit card or check. You can also pay them by mail or in person.
Mail payments should be sent to the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling, PO Box 301463, Montgomery, AL 36130-1463. If you pay in person, you can visit their office at 100 N. Union Street, Suite 830, Montgomery, AL 36104.
Continuing Education Requirements
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) are required to renew their licenses every two years. The initial license issued to LPCs will expire on July 31 during the renewal year. LPCs will receive renewal notices as a courtesy and are expected to renew their licenses within the specified period.
To renew your LPC license, you must submit your application beforehand, allowing the board to review and approve it before expiration. In addition, during each renewal cycle, you must complete at least 40 hours of formal professional and continuing education, including at least six hours devoted to ethical concerns. Finally, although you are expected to maintain a record of all CE hours earned for at least three years, you only need to submit them with your application if selected for an audit.
Continuing education (CE) is any form of learning that helps maintain and expand one’s professional knowledge, skills, and abilities. CE activities include conferences, workshops, seminars, online courses, and independent study. Examples of CE activities may consist of:
- Attending a conference related to mental health or addiction counseling
- Participating in a workshop on family therapy techniques
- Taking an online course in professional ethics
- Studying the current trends in counseling independently
To renew your ALC license, you must accumulate 10 hours of continuing professional education, with at least two hours focused on ethics. You must submit proof of completion of these hours to receive credit.
Once you have all the necessary requirements for renewal, you must submit the appropriate application form and fee to the Board of Examiners in Counseling. When your application is received and approved, you will be issued a new license valid for two years.
Counselor Salary in Alabama
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for educational, guidance, and vocational counselors in Alabama is $50,410 per year. This figure is slightly higher than the national average of $47,460.
However, substance abuse and mental health counselors come in much lower at just under $44,000 per year. All others in the private sector make around $51,000 annually.
These figures only represent estimates, and it largely depends on the county you choose to work. For example, you will likely get paid more if you set up your office in larger metro areas like Birmingham or Montgomery rather than rural areas. Traditionally, counselors make more money in larger cities than in smaller towns.