Licensed professional counselors (LPC) combine their training and desire to help others into fulfilling careers. They are important figures for communities, families and individuals facing difficult situations. In Alaska, the Board of Professional Counselors, or BPC, issues credentials needed to offer resources and guidance to vulnerable clients.
As part of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, BPC ensures that anyone who desires this career path completes all requirements. The steps include education, supervision, examination, certification and licensing before engaging in counseling services. Read further to learn how to become a counselor in Alaska.
Types of Counselor Licenses in Alaska
The broad field of counseling services has licensure requirements based on your chosen practice area. In addition to an LPC, Alaska has other major types of counseling that may interest you.
Chemical Dependency Counselor (CDC)
To provide counseling services such as treatment planning and assessments, you need approval from the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification. Upon completion, you can help Alaska residents struggling with or impacted by drug and alcohol dependencies. Your career choices in this area include:
• Counselor Technician
• Chemical Dependency Counselor I
• Chemical Dependency Counselor II
You can earn certification to become a chemical dependency counselor by completing coursework in substance abuse counseling. Supervised experience and passing the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors exam are additional requirements.
A college degree is not required for these three credential levels of becoming a certified chemical dependency counselor. However, you may find that a degree helps to reduce the time it takes to meet training and experience requirements.
Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT)
As a licensed marital and family therapist, you specialize in assessing and diagnosing behavioral, emotional and mental health disorders. This gives you the authority to use counseling methods for treatment when those disorders impact the dynamics within interpersonal relationships.
The education requirement is a master’s degree in allied mental health or a master’s in marriage and family therapy from a regionally accredited college or university. The Alaska Board of Marital and Family Therapy issues the license once you apply for this counseling designation.
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development issues a Type C Special Services Certificate to anyone who wants to become a school counselor. With this certificate, you can begin practicing as a school counselor while you work to complete Alaska-specific studies.
To assist students in reaching their personal, academic and career goals, you must:
• Complete an approved school counseling program
• Earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited college or university
• Complete six hours of coursework within five years preceding application submission
• Complete mandatory training in dating violence, suicide awareness, alcohol and drug-related disorders and sexual abuse awareness
• Work for five years as a school counselor
• Submit an application and receive approval for a Regular Special Services Certificate
• Submit an Advanced Special Services Certificate application
Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Alaska
Following the general requirements for how to become a counselor in Alaska is the same no matter your chosen career path. All applicants must have a master’s or doctoral counseling degree.
A related field is acceptable as long as the degree is from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university. Other related fields include applied behavioral science, psychology and social work.
The instruction required to obtain professional licensure must include at least eight of the following counseling-related subjects:
• Assessment, Appraisal and Testing of Individuals
• Counseling Theory and Practice
• Disorders and Dysfunctional Behavior
• Group Dynamics, Processes, Counseling and Consulting
• Helping Relationships
• Human Growth and Development
• Lifestyle and Career Development
• Marriage and Family Counseling and Therapy
• Principles of Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment Planning and Prevention of Mental and Emotional
• Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethics
• Research and Evaluation
• Social and Cultural Foundation
If you do not have a counseling degree, the Board of Professional Counselors provides an educational coursework check sheet. This form must be submitted with your application.
Alaska Specific Requirements
The state also requires approved coursework in multicultural education and Alaska studies. Some examples of the classes you can take from institutions in the state:
• Interethnic Communications
• Native Cultures of Alaska
• Indigenous Social Movements
• History of Alaska
• Community Healing and Wellness
• Alaska, Land, and Its People
Becoming a professional counselor in Alaska requires the completion of 3,000 clinical supervision hours by a Board-approved supervisor and licensed counselor. A clinical social worker, psychologist, advanced nurse practitioner, physician, marital and family therapist or psychological associate can act as your supervisor as they are certified to provide services for mental health in Alaska.
You have a minimum of two years to satisfy this requirement post-degree. During this time, you also need at least 100 hours of in-person supervision and at least 1,000 hours should be direct service delivery.
The required examination to become an LPC in Alaska is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). You must pass one of two exams. The NBCC determines the passing score.
One is the National Counselor Examination. This 200-question exam is in a multiple-choice format to test your knowledge of eight counseling categories set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Key areas include:
• Counseling process
• Diagnostic and assessment services
• Human growth and development
• Social and cultural diversity
A second option is the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination, which tests your knowledge of clinical counseling through a clinical simulation format. The NBCC will give you a testing information handbook and links to exam resources to help you prepare.
In lieu of passing either one of these exams, the board does accept an equivalent nationally recognized examination designated for professional counselors. If you choose this route, make sure you obtain verification of passage. This information must be sent directly to NBCC by the exam administrator.
You will need to retake the exam if you do not receive a license within three years of passing either examination. In situations where good cause is shown, NBCC may grant an extension.
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam
Another valid national exam that is recognized by the Board is called the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exam, or CRC. You can complete registration for this exam online from NBCC’s website at nbcc.org where you can also get answers to any questions.
Licensure and Fees
Alaska’s Department of Commerce has an application package online to apply for and receive professional counseling licensure. In addition to this package, the Board must receive:
• Exam results
• Official transcripts
• Two letters or reference
• Supervision verification
• Criminal records check
• Required fees
The application fee is $200. As of January 2023, the initial licensure fee is $250. It can take 4-6 weeks for your application to be processed. If you practice counseling while waiting, you must have supervision. Use of the LPC title is forbidden until you receive your license.
Receiving a hard copy from the Board of Professional Counselors is discontinued. However, you can download your certificate at any time from the website.
Licensure by Credentials
The state of Alaska does not have formal agreements if you were licensed in a different state. Instead of reciprocity, you can apply for licensure by credentials. However, the counseling requirements of that state must be greater than or equal to the requirements in Alaska.
Eligibility for licensure by credentials requires 60 credits of counseling education at the graduate level. This is necessary even if the other state does not recognize this requirement. Official transcripts, verification of licensure and a criminal background check are required.
Additionally, you must show proof of 40 continuing education credits within two years of your application. You can submit the same application package that is provided for the LPC.
Criminal Records Check
Contact the Alaska Department of Public Safety, Statewide Services division to obtain your criminal records check. If you do not live in Alaska or have lived in the state for less than one year, you must provide the records from the state in which you most recently lived.
Continuing Education Requirements and Renewal Fees
Alaska makes it easy for you to renew your professional counselor license online from the MY LICENSE link on its website. Biannual renewal is required for LPC licenses. You should receive a renewal notice in the mail 30 days before your license expires.
A paper application is also accepted. Keep in mind that there is no grace period for late renewals. Therefore, be sure to give yourself enough time to mail in the application. Paper processing can take up to six weeks.
For the professional counselor license, the renewal fee is $250 with 30-40 completed hours of continued education. Another option is a prorated renewal that costs $125 and requires 29 or fewer completed continuing education hours.
In addition to CE hours, you must complete three CEs of professional ethics training. While you are not required to include documentation, you may have to present proof of continuing education completion during a random audit conducted by the Board.
Counselor Salary in Alaska
Equally important to finding out how to become a counselor in Alaska is learning the salary expectations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska is in the top five highest-paying states for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
The hourly mean wage is $31.29 per hour with an annual salary of $65,090. If you decide to become an Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselor, the median annual salary is $64,840. Rehabilitation Counselors can earn $55,100 annually.