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As is typically the case with most forms of licensure and online counseling certificate, there is an involved process that counseling professionals must complete in order to earn online counseling certificate. While the various steps differ from state to state and by area of specialization, this process generally requires coursework in particular areas, hours of clinical or field experience, and a passing score on at least one examination. Some certifications require that you complete a specific program of academic coursework and have only a bachelor’s degree, while counseling professionals can often earn other online counseling certificate through the work they did to earn their counseling license.

Coursework required for certification is typically centered in the specific subset of the counseling field named in the certification, such as mental health or substance abuse. The number of required credits varies, with some certification programs requiring students to complete as few as 20 to earn their credential. The number of required experience hours can also differ, as can the particulars of the experience, such as whether supervision is required.

Counseling professionals must earn a passing score on various examinations to earn different certifications in the field. These include the NCE, the NCMHCE, and the certified rehabilitation counselor exam.


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How Long Does It Take to Earn a Certificate in Counseling?

While some certifications require you to complete a structured set of specific courses, others simply require evidence that you have already completed the eligibility requirements. Because of this, the amount of time it takes to earn a counseling certification can vary significantly on an individual basis. For those who are completing a certification program through a school or other institution, these programs can take as little as six months or as long as one year. As is the case with most postsecondary programs, there are factors that influence this duration, including full-time or part-time status. In general, online counseling certifications require students to complete at least 20 credits, and students can work at their own pace. Typically, part-time students pay similar tuition to full-time learners, but this can vary from institution to institution.

How Much Is a Certification Program in Counseling?

Students and professionals can earn counseling certificates from various organizations and institutions. Professional organizations that bestow counseling certificates generally set their own costs and fees that may be associated with the application or award process. Some candidates choose to earn an online counseling certification from an institution of higher learning. These programs vary in cost as well, but a student can expect to pay approximately $10,000 over the course of their certificate program.


There are many factors that affect the cost of certification in this field. Professional associations may charge students more or less than other organizations based on the relative value of benefits they offer with certification. These benefits often include discounted liability insurance or discounted continuing education credits. Students earning their online counseling certification from a college or university may pay lower fees if they enter the program with previous credits that apply toward the completion of their certification process or if they receive some form of financial aid, such as a scholarship or grant. Students must also account for the costs that typically accompany educational pursuits, such as housing and technology fees.

Counseling Certification Maintenance and Renewal

Most counseling certifications must be maintained in various ways and renewed after certain periods of time. While they vary by certification, maintenance requirements typically include the payment of annual fees, compliance with ethical standards, and different forms of continuing education. Counseling professionals can generally fulfill continuing education requirements through online courses, in-person seminars, and networking conferences where panels speak on current issues in the field.

The amount of time that can pass between earning the certification and required renewals differs by certification, but most require recipients to check in with their credentialing body in some way every one to three years. A counseling professional who allows their certification to lapse typically must recomplete certain certification requirements, such as work experience hours or examinations.


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Updated: February 13, 2019 — 5:29 pm

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