Becoming a Counselor in South Carolina
South Carolina’s counselors have different licenses depending on whether they work in public school settings or clinical community settings. Some, though, pursue programs that will lead to dual credentialing.
Education isn’t differentiated until the master’s level. If graduate school is a few years off, you have plenty of time to explore the field.
If you currently hold a High School Diploma/GED or you are in High School in South Carolina:
You can major in whatever you like at the undergraduate level, but look ahead to see graduate school requirements. Some programs have prerequisites, for example, a minimum number of semester hours in psychology or sociology. Read up on selecting an undergrad counseling degree here.
Try to get some experience in the field. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health maintains a list of organizations that may need volunteers in some capacity.
You can also check South Carolina’s workforce site. There are jobs in social services, human services, and mental health that don't require a higher degree. Browse early -- you may need to work your way up to some positions. Having a relevant associate or bachelor's degree will also be an asset in some instances. If you want significant experience before grad school, this is something to consider.
If you have a Bachelor’s Degree:
As graduate school approaches, you’ll do two things. You’ll complete pre-admission requirements. This may entail taking the GRE or other admission test.
You’ll also need to thoroughly research programs. Read up on master’s in counseling degrees here.
If you are interested in school counseling, look for a program that is approved by the Department of Education.
If you are interested in professional counseling outside of a school setting, you will need a graduate program of at least 48 semester hours. It may be in counseling or a related field. It must include coursework in ten content areas defined by the Board. You will need at least a 150 hour practicum. If you want to be qualified to work with individuals with severe problems, you will need a practicum that exposes you to these problems. You will also need a 600 hour internship in which you work with individuals with more severe mental health issues.
Some graduate coursework may be taken outside your master’s program. It should be acceptable as long as the institution holds accreditation through a regional accreditation agency or through the Association of Theological Schools.
You will need to take the National Counselor Examination or National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination before you can be licensed at the professional level. You can take the National Counselor Examination before you graduate if you are in a CACREP-accredited program.
If you are pursuing the school counseling credential, you will take the Praxis II.
You will need to work under supervision for two years before you can attain full licensure as an LPC. You will be licensed as an intern while you complete supervised requirements. You are free to work in any of a variety of settings, including private practice, but you must have oversight as mandated by the Board. Before beginning, you will apply for intern status. You will need to submit a supervision plan at this time. You can find a list of potential supervisors on the Board site.
Your supervisor will verify your hours and eventually make a licensing recommendation.
The South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psycho-Educational Specialists contracts with the Center for Credentialing and Education, so you will send your initial paperwork to CCE for review.