How to Become a Counselor in Hawaii Begin a counseling career in Hawaii

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If you are interested in a career that lets you help others, being a counselor might be the job for you. This job puts your communication, analytical, and logical skills to the test. However, before you can start, there are a lot of requirements you need to fulfill. Explore this guide to learn exactly how to become a counselor in the state of Hawaii, from counseling therapy education to licensure.

Types of Counselor Licenses in Hawaii

The main counselor license in Hawaii is the Mental Health Counselor (MHC) license. This is the standard license offered through the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCAA). People will need this license before they can market themselves as a professional counselor and offer various therapy courses.

In addition to this general license that most counselors have, some counselors may also have industry-specific licenses. Depending on a person’s area of practice, they might need one or more of the following types of licenses.

  • Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT): This is a license you can receive through the DCAA. It is for those who wish to offer marriage and family therapy to people in Hawaii. Though it is not required, it can help counselors find more career opportunities.
  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC): Those who are interested in providing assistance to patients with substance use disorders may want this license. The CSAC license is offered through the Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.
  • School Counselor: If a person wants to counsel in one of Hawaii’s public schools, they will also need to get a license from the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. This certificate entitles the counselor to practice in a public school setting.

Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Hawaii

Like most other states, Hawaii only lets people get their MHC license if they have completed a postgraduate degree from an accredited institution. This means that you will need to get your bachelor’s degree in college, apply for a master’s or doctoral program, and take several years of additional training. All of this education and instruction ensures that you are fully capable of counseling people with delicate mental health.

There are no restrictions on what your undergraduate degree must be in. However, the requirements for counselor licensure in Hawaii specify that your post-graduate instruction must be in a field related to the practice of mental health. You can get a degree in counseling or pick a degree in a similar field such as psychology or social work.

The DCCA is mostly concerned with what your actual postgraduate coursework entails. They ask all applicants to provide a transcript showing that they had at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of counseling coursework. You also need 3 graduate semester hours or 5 graduate quarter hours in the following subject areas:

  • Human growth and development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Counseling theories and applications
  • Group theory and practice
  • Career and lifestyle development
  • Appraisal of human behavior
  • Tests and measurements
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Professional orientation and ethics

State Specific Requirements

Most of Hawaii’s licensing requirements are fairly common. Other states typically have requirements such as postgraduate degrees. However, Hawaii does have some specific requirements not found in other states.

You will need to pay Hawaii’s licensing fees before you can practice as a counselor. These fees range from $256 to $444 depending on what dates you wish your license to be valid. The other state-specific requirement is the coursework specifically on counseling. Unlike some other states, Hawaii requires an unusually high amount of classes that focus entirely on counseling. Some other states only require around 40 quarter hours while Hawaii requires at least 72 hours. Despite stricter educational requirements, Hawaii requires fewer face-to-face supervision hours than some other states.

Due to these requirements, Hawaii does not have a reciprocity program set up with any other states. A Hawaii counseling license is not valid in most other regions, and no one can use their other counseling license to practice in Hawaii. Even experienced counselors will need to pass the Hawaii counseling licensure program before they can start working in the state.

Supervision Hours

In addition to their education, prospective counselors in Hawaii also need to have a lot of experience working in a clinical setting. Hawaii requires a total of 3,000 hours of clinical work performed under the supervision of a professional supervisor. 100 of these hours must be face-to-face clinical supervision where you interact directly with patients. All of these supervision hours need to be done in no more than four years and no less than two years.

There are multiple ways to get the required supervision hours for your Hawaii counseling license. Hawaii allows you to get these hours through a practicum intern program at your school. As long as your accredited higher education institute confirms your hours, you can get your license. If you did not do your hours as part of your schooling, you can do them afterward through any professional mental health counseling agency.

Keep in mind that all supervision hours have to be submitted in a specific manner to qualify. Your supervisor will need to use the official letterhead from their institution to fill out a certification of your hours and a brief summary of your duties. They will need to sign this form in front of a Notary Public.


All Hawaii counseling applicants need to pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). You cannot take the exam until you first pass your license application. To take the exam, you need to apply with the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). If they approve your application, they will send you a registration form which you then have to fill out and send back. Hawaii requires you to take your test within six months of receiving your exam registration form. If you have already passed the NCE for another license, you do not have to take it again in Hawaii. Instead, you will just need to get the NBCC to send proof that you passed to the DCCA licensure office.

The NCE is a thorough, lengthy exam that tests all your knowledge of being a counselor. The exam is 200 items long and consists of multiple-choice. questions It goes over concepts such as clinical ethics, psychiatric assessment, and treatment planning. The exam is usually written and timed, but you can apply for special accommodations if necessary.

Many counselors find that their education has given them the knowledge they need to pass the NCE. However, if you are unsure about your ability to pass the exam, the NBCC offers study guides you can use to prepare. There are also third-party programs that offer courses to pass the NCE.

Licensure and Fees

There are no deadlines for turning in your initial application, and NCE examinations are held year-round. If you were in the process of applying but fail to take any steps towards completing it for two years, your application will be removed and you will have to reapply if you want to start the process again.

To complete the licensure process, you just have to collect proof of your education, supervision hours, and exam scores and send them to the DCCA along with the appropriate fees. Hawaii’s fees vary depending on how your license is set up. Everyone pays a license fee of $213. Then there are additional fees you can add on if you wish your license to be good for multiple years. These fees can add up to $188 in extra costs to your license. You also need to pay an application fee of $60 each time you apply.

Continuing Education Requirements

To renew your MHC license in the state of Hawaii, you do not need any continuing education. Counselors are allowed to practice without any education beyond their initial degrees. Renewing a counseling license in Hawaii just requires you to pay fees, so you do not have to provide any other information about your education or pass any other exams.

However, if you have any other Hawaii counseling licenses, continuing education might be required. The MFT license requires 45 hours of continuing education. You need to submit 45 hours of continuing education every three years, and 6 of these hours need to cover topics related to ethics.

Counselor Salary in Hawaii

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical counselor makes an average of $53,840. However, exact salaries can vary quite a bit depending on what type of counseling you do. Some people make as little as $40,000 a year while other Hawaiian counselors make upwards of $92,000.

There are many factors that affect the salary of counselors in Hawaii. On average, marriage and family therapists make less per year while those who work as school counselors make more. Those who have more training and can offer more services often command a higher salary as well. Your salary is often higher if you work independently instead of as part of a counseling practice, but the number of patients you have may also impact your salary.

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?