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Becoming a Counselor in Wisconsin

You will need a master's degree to be licensed as a counselor in Wisconsin. It can be a long road, but you don't have to make your educational decisions early in your educational career. At the beginning, you should concentrate on getting a solid academic background and exploring the helping professions.

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If you are a High School Student or have your Diploma/GED in Wisconsin:

Step 1:

Take advantage of your undergraduate years. You can major in any field, but take some social science coursework. Look ahead as programs sometimes have prerequisites; some may, for example, require human development, statistics, and abnormal psychology. You'll have more options if you have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in high school and college. Learn more about undergraduate counseling & similar programs here.

An undergraduate Psychology degree is also common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.

Step 2:

Get some experience. Schools will vary in terms of how much they expect. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh asks for two years of volunteer or related work experience. Not all schools will, but you’ll have more options if you have it.

You can look on the site of Volunteer Wisconsin for unpaid work opportunities. You’ll also find information about national service opportunities. Americorps can earn you money for college and in some cases also pay a stipend toward your living expenses.

If you do want significant paid experience before grad school, you can opt for an associate's or bachelor's degree that includes coursework in substance abuse counseling. Human service degrees may open up doors in other areas as well.

For those currently with a Bachelor’s Degree:

Step 1:

Make sure you can express yourself well orally and in writing. Counseling programs often require you to take the MAT or GRE. You will typically be asked to write an essay that addresses you career goals. If you appear to have what it takes, you may be asked to campus for an interview.

Step 2:

Enroll in a master's program in counseling. The State of Wisconsin requires at least 42 semester hours of coursework for professional counselors. In reality, your degree will probably be longer. CACREP-accredited mental health counseling programs are transitioning to a 60 semester hour minimum. Programs in some other disciplines have 48. You may have an easier time getting licensed in other jurisdictions if your degree program meets the standards of national accrediting agencies.

You will need coursework in at least six of the eight content areas specified by the Wisconsin Board.

School counselors are credentialed separately. If you don’t have teaching experience and you are interested in school counseling, you should generally enroll in a program that includes a yearlong internship.

Step 3:

If you do have a job offer in school counseling and you haven’t met experience requirements through teaching or internship, you can get a three-year nonrenewable license.

If your goal is a professional counseling license, you will work under supervision after graduation. You will need supervision until you have 3,000 hours of work experience. During this time, you will work under a trainee license. (Typically, you get a job offer and then apply.)

You will need to fill out an employer form and submit it to the Board. You’ll also need to notify the Board if you have a change in supervision.

Step 4:

Before you can be licensed as a professional counselor, you will need to take one of three licensing exams: the NCE, the NCMHCE, or the CRCE. The NCE is a counseling generalist exam. The NCMHCE is a specialist exam for mental health counselors. The CRCE is a certification exam for rehabilitation counselors.

You will also need to take an open book jurisprudence exam.

* Find more detailed Wisconsin counselor licensure information here.

Counselor Licensing & Certification Agencies in Wisconsin:

Department of Safety and Professional Services

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

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

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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.