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Becoming a Counselor in New York

In New York, you can provide some counseling-related services without a master's; you can even get certified in areas like substance abuse or problem gambling.

For the highest level of credentialing and the most employment options, though, you will need a master's degree and a state license. Early planning will give you the most opportunity.

learning tree

If you are a High School Student or High School Graduate

Step 1:

Experience, either paid or volunteer, can strengthen your graduate school application. There are many options. New York City Health and Hospitals employs volunteers in a variety of capacities: art therapy, tutoring children, helping patients with reading or writing tasks. You will be required to make a time commitment and, in some instances, have special training. On the plus side, you may get high school or college credit, depending on your program.

You can also determine what area of therapy most interests you. New York licenses therapists in several related disciplines, not just in traditional counseling.

You can look for other volunteer opportunities on the site of NYC Service.

Step 2:

You have a lot of choices when it comes to your undergraduate major, but do look ahead to see graduate school requirements. Some schools require you to have a certain number of semester hours in fields that are related to counseling (for example, psychology, education, or human services). Learn about the undergraduate preparation here.

A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.

If you already have an Undergraduate Degree

Step 1:

Request application information well in advance. Expect to submit writing samples and letters of recommendation.

Step 2:

Interested in school counseling? Enroll in a program approved by the New York State Education Department. The requirements for a permanent certificate are greater than those for a provisional certificate, but you can opt for a master’s program that will give you all the coursework you need for the higher license.

Fingerprint clearance will be required at some point in the process. School counseling is considered a pupil personnel services field; you will find details on the certification page of the Office of Teaching Initiatives site. Interested in mental health counseling? Enroll in a program that is New York qualifying or, if located in another state, holds CACREP accreditation. New York maintains an online Inventory of Registered Programs.

Step 3:

A mental health counseling program will include 60 semester hours of coursework and field experience. (You may be allowed to take additional classes and make up the difference, though, if you have a degree in another branch of counseling, and it is between 48 and 60 semester hours.)

Step 4:

Licensure as a professional counselor requires a period of supervised practice under conditions set by the Board. Before you can begin your supervised practice, you will need to obtain a limited permit. This allows you to practice in a particular setting under a specified supervisor. Any time you change or add a work setting or supervisor, you will need to have new information added to your permit.

You should apply for your permit only when you are ready to make a serious time commitment. You will be expected to complete 3,000 hours of supervised work experience. Your permit is good for a 24 month period, but you can get an extension for an additional 12 months.

Two years’ of full-time work experience is also required to go from provisional school counseling certification to permanent certification. Learn more about licensed professional counselor requirements in NY.

Step 5:

Before you can be licensed as a mental health counselor, you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, which is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Licensing Agencies

Office of the Professions-Mental Health Practitioners

New York State Education Department

A Sample of Schools Offering Bachelor's and Master's Programs

View Schools by State


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*Most states require completion of a CACREP accredited master's in counseling program or a program
that covers very specific curriculum in order to be licensed as a counselor. It is recommend that you follow up
with your state licensing board to review specific educational requirements and determine whether a
program meets your state's counselor licensure requirements.