How to Become a Counselor in Kentucky Your guide to a counseling career in Kentucky

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Counselors can be life-changing to those struggling with various obstacles and are vital in treating those with substance abuse and mental health issues. Becoming a counselor may seem intimidating, but it means that you’ll positively impact people and their lives.

Here is a guide that breaks down your options and answers all the questions you need to know for how to become a counselor in Kentucky, like:

  • What types of counselor licenses can I get in Kentucky?
  • What are my career path options as a licensed counselor?
  • What is the income and job market for counselors in Kentucky like?
  • What training and counseling therapy education do I need to become a counselor in Kentucky?
  • What continuing education am I required to complete as a counselor?
  • How many clinical training hours do I have to complete?
  • What associations can I join for professional development?

The Types of Counselor Licensing and Starting The Licensing Process

There are two titles for Counselors in Kentucky: Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) and Licensed Professional Counselor Associates (LCPAs).

LPCCs have full licensure. LCPAs do not yet have full licensure, but have completed a master’s degree, passed the national exams, and are currently completing their supervised clinical hours.

These licenses are managed by the State Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, a division of the Public Protection Cabinet run by the Kentucky Office of Occupations and Professions.

There are 4 main types of counselor licenses in the state of Kentucky, including

  • Rehabilitation counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Behavioral disorder and mental health counselors

Other, more specialized counselors work in the state of Kentucky, across industries like the office of health practitioners, death care services, residential care facilities, housing, emergency relief, and other services.

Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Kentucky

The first step in becoming a counselor in Kentucky is to earn a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) -accredited graduate degree with the following coursework:

  • The Helping Relationship
  • Counseling Theory & Practice
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Professional Orientation and Counseling Ethics
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Group Dynamics, Process, Counseling, and Consulting
  • Principles of Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment Planning, and Prevention
  • Assessment, Appraisal, and Testing of Individuals

There may be a difference between universities on the exact topics covered, which is why it is important to take time and figure out how to find the best counseling degree for you. However, all of the topics listed do appear on the State Accreditation Exam.

It is simpler to become a counselor in Kentucky than in other states, like California, because there are no extra state requirements. But, is also important that the degree you earn has an internship or practicum included that involves at least 60 hours of hands-on clinical practice.

Counselor Internship & Supervision Hours

The practicum or internship that your degree offers needs to consist of at least 600 hours, with 240 of those hours being spent in direct contact with a client. While this is completed separately from the coursework, this is considered part of your education and does not count towards continuing education.

Kentucky requires LPCCs to complete at least 4,000 hours of post-graduate supervised experience—which is a little bit more than the national average of 2,000-3,000 hours.

This is why, once you’ve earned your degree and passed your exams, you would first apply to be an LPCA to complete directed, on-hand experience while supervised by licensed professionals in a work setting.

As an LPCA, your 4,000 hours of supervision must include 1,600 hours of direct counseling and 100 hours of individual, face-to-face clinical supervision. LPCAs are also encouraged to include 10 hours of direct counseling with individuals in a jail or correctional setting as part of the 4,000 hours.


Before you can apply to be an LPCA however, you must first complete the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, also known as the NCE.

Counselors used to choose between this test and the NCMHCE, a set of 10 clinical simulations that sample a broad area of competencies. As of early 2023, only the NCE is the exam counselors can take to achieve certification.

The NCE exam is administered by the Center of Credentialing and Education, which was contracted by the National Board of Certified Counselors.

The test has 200 questions in total, and candidates have three hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam. What’s interesting about the test is that only 160 of the questions count towards a passing score, with the other 40 being put on the exam to gather item statistics to evaluate their performance for use on future exams.

Thus, the maximum possible score a respondent can achieve is 160. It is widely considered that somewhere in the high 90s is considered a passing score. If you do not pass, you can request and/or score verification.

Candidates may take the examination once every three months, and you can reregister by submitting a new examination registration and repaying the exam fee. Passing the examination does not guarantee licensure. NBCC and its affiliates document that they reserve the right to withdraw or void official scores.

Kentucky Counselor Licensure and Fees

Once you’ve successfully completed your coursework, and supervision, and passed all of the required exams, you can apply to become a licensed counselor in Kentucky.

There is a fee for this process, including the following:

  • LPCC Application: $150
  • LPCA Application: $50
  • LPCC License Renewal: $150
  • LPCA License Renewal: $50
  • LPCC License Renewal Late Fee: $25
  • LPCA License Renewal Late Fee: $10

You will also be required to pass a background check by the Kentucky State Police, as well as a criminal background check by the FBI. You must have these documents when applying and they cannot be older than 90 days.

There are very specific dates for licensure and renewal. LPCC licenses in Kentucky expire annually on October 31. There is a 6-day grace period, but after that time, unrenewed licenses are terminated. The renewal for licenses issued 120 days before the renewal date shall not be required to renew until October 31 of the following year.

If your license expires, you must re-apply for licensure and submit recent continuing education (CEHs) as part of your application for licensure.

License Reciprocity with North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee

License Reciprocity is the practice of granting privileges from one state to another state. Meaning that if you earn your license in Kentucky, you can apply for a license in any of the following states by following an alternative route to the licensing process.

Good candidates for applying for reciprocity have current licenses that are in good standing, have at least five years of experience, and have completed their graduate degrees in the required areas listed above.

Continuing Education Requirements and Professional Development

While LPCAs are focused on their 4,000 hours of supervised training, LPCCs are required to complete at least 10 hours of continuing education annually. This can be done through a series of programs approved by the Kentucky Board of Licensed Professional Counselors.

Kentucky also requires that LPCCs must complete 15 hours of board-approved supervision training or show proof of CACREP-accredited course completion to continue providing supervision to LPCAs.

In addition to earning a license and keeping up with continuing education hours, counselors have plenty of room for professional growth in Kentucky.

The biggest professional association for Kentucky counselors is the Kentucky Counseling Association, which is a state branch of the American Counseling Association.

The mission of the Kentucky Counselors Association is to “ enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.”

Counselor Salaries and The Job Market

The salaries of counselors in Kentucky range by type, however, they do stay within about $15,000 of each other. That means there isn’t a reason to pick one above the other, as they are all important to a health society.

Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors make up 35% of counselors in Kentucky They are the largest group and also the highest earning. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are an estimated 4,170 of these types of counselors in Kentucky. Their average salary is $57,830 per year.

The next largest group of counselors is Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors, who make up about 32% of counselors in Kentucky. There are currently about 3,920 of these counselors, and the average salary is $45,310.

Rehabilitation Counselors make up about 12% of the workforce, with less than 1000 counselors averaging a salary of $42,580 annually.

There is a sector of counselors in Kentucky listed as other make up roughly 1% of the workforce, although the relative standard of error was estimated to be 16%. There are only 90 of these listed in the state, but the salaries average out to about $52,760 a year.

Taking Your First Step to Become a Licensed Counselor in Kentucky

Now you have everything you need when it comes to how to become a counselor in Kentucky. From coursework to continuing education, counselors in Kentucky earn a decent wage, have plenty of work opportunities, and are well-trained to help those in need.

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?