Counseling Degrees & Licenses in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, counseling degrees and licenses will continue to be in high demand. 

Counseling degrees and licenses will continue to be in high demand in Pennsylvania. According to Projections Central (2023), there were 9,670 mental health and substance abuse workers in the state of Pennsylvania in 2020. In 2030, that number is expected to grow to reach 10,890.

Throughout the United States, positions in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling are expected to grow from 351,000 to 428,500 over a similar 10-year period (2021-2031). In the United States, that growth rate represents a 22 percent increase and 77,500 projected jobs added (BLS 2022), while in Pennsylvania that correlates to a 12.6 percent increase and 1,220 jobs added. Notably, both percentages are much higher than the average growth among all American occupations expected in the 2021 to 2031 timeframe (5 percent).

While Pennsylvania’s population growth has slowed after a high a couple of decades ago, according to PennLive, the demographics in the state are becoming older. That gives people with counseling degrees and licenses in Pennsylvania a unique opportunity to work with older people.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of rehabilitation counselors, for example, is projected to grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Rehabilitation counselors can work in various settings, including senior citizen centers.

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Specializations that are possible within the general counseling field give prospective students options of focusing on general aging along with specific populations, such as veteran or active military families or people in prisons. Rehabilitation counselors working with the elderly or aging populations might work in hospitals, long- and short-term care facilities, retirement homes, or community senior centers.

Following is a list of just a few of the programs offering counseling degrees and licenses in Pennsylvania.

Accredited Counseling Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

University of Scranton

The University of Scranton Counseling and Human Services Department offers the following programs: a master of science in clinical mental health counseling, a master of science in rehabilitation counseling, and a master of science in school counseling. They also offer a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in professional counseling. The University of Scranton is a private Jesuit university with a long history dating back to its founding in 1888.

The clinical mental health counseling master’s degree includes courses such as family counseling and therapy; assessment and diagnosis; addictive behaviors; crisis intervention; and evidence-based practice.

The clinical rehabilitation counseling program includes coursework on professional issues in CMHC; physical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities; disability and employment; psychiatric rehabilitation.

The master of science degree in school counseling includes courses such as group process and practice; professional issues: school counseling; school counseling comprehensive programming; appraisal techniques; and counseling and interviewing skills.

  • Location: Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: All programs are 60 credits except for the certificate, which normally takes one year to complete
  • Estimated Tuition: MS ($757 per credit plus fees); certificate ($9,084 plus fees)

Alvernia University

Alvernia University’s master of arts (MA) in clinical counseling is offered solely on-campus, but courses are offered at both the Philadelphia Center and main campus sites, in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Alvernia is a private, Franciscan-based college with 121 acres in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, with a rich cultural history and scenic outdoor destinations not far away. Full-time students take three classes per semester. The schedule is possible to be adjusted if necessary, and Alvernia says it tries hard to accommodate working students with busy lives.

The MA application process does not require scores from graduate entrance exam testing. However, acceptance requires a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all previous undergraduate and graduate work. Students must complete a practicum of 100 hours, and two internship field experiences at 300 hours each. Most courses are delivered on-site with a few online and blended courses.

This 60-credit program includes courses such as introduction to counseling; ethics and moral leadership; human development across the lifespan; counseling theories; multicultural issues in counseling; counseling children and adolescents; addiction and society; family therapy concepts & methods; and legal and ethical issues in counseling.

  • Location: Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three years
  • Estimated Tuition: $900 per credit

California University of Pennsylvania

Although the name might seem like it’s a university from California in Pennsylvania, the name actually comes from a city in Pennsylvania named California. Founded in 1852, the school has about 97 acres in the southwest corner of the state, south of Pittsburgh.

This school’s graduate program in clinical mental health counseling fulfills all requirements for students to become a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and provides all courses needed to pursue a career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Pennsylvania and other states.

Flexible start dates and evening classes make this an accessible program for students already working or having other life demands. This program can also be completed in an online format. The school boasts a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, with courses taught by faculty members who are all Licensed Professional Counselors with years of experience in the field. Graduate testing scores are not required for admission to the school.

The curriculum of the 60-credit graduate program in clinical mental health counseling includes courses such as counseling theory; counseling skills and techniques; introduction to clinical mental health counseling; developmental group counseling; diagnosis and treatment in mental health; substance abuse and addiction; introduction to family therapy; crisis counseling and disaster preparedness; and research methods in counseling.

The clinical mental health counseling program is a master of science. The school also has a master of education in school counseling, an in-person, on-campus program. The school counseling program is an accelerated program allowing students to complete the degree in only four semesters and one summer, for students of any undergraduate major. No GRE or GMAT scores are required for admission if the student’s undergraduate GPA is 2.9 or above. This program is also available online.

  • Location: California, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Full-time, two years; part-time options are available
  • Estimated Tuition: Pennsylvania resident ($516 per credit); non-resident ($774 per credit)

Gannon University

Gannon University offers a master of science program in clinical mental health counseling preparing graduates for careers in professional counseling settings such as clinics and hospitals, mental health and behavioral agencies, human service agencies, residential treatment facilities, and university and college counseling centers. The program’s curriculum provides students with a blend of counselor training experiences necessary for becoming professional counselors. Graduates will be prepared to pursue National Counselor Certification (NCC) and licensure as Professional Counselors (LPC).

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as research methodology; counseling personality theories; appraisal in counseling; multicultural issues in counseling; family systems; career and development counseling; diagnosis and treatment planning; and child and adolescent counseling.

  • Location: Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years and nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $750 per credit

Lock Haven University

Lock Haven University is a public university in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, in the central part of the state. The 200-acre main campus hosts many graduate programs but the clinical mental health counseling program is 100 percent online. Distance education courses utilize the latest technology and synchronous tools to allow every student to participate, regardless of location, through online instruction, streaming audio, streaming video, threaded discussions, real-time chat, face-to-face interactions, and document sharing. No campus visits or on-campus residencies are required for this program.

The school has set up an interactive tutorial “test drive” so that students can experience the online platform. The program consists of 60 credits. Nine credits are required in one of three specialization areas: counseling military veterans and their families, counseling children and adolescents, and general clinical mental health counseling.

The core curriculum includes courses such as counseling theories; assessment in mental health counseling; clinical mental health counseling as a profession; lifespan development implications for counseling; skills and techniques in mental health counseling; research and evaluation in counseling; multicultural counseling; addiction counseling; advanced skills in mental health counseling; family and couples therapy; and trauma and crisis counseling.

Messiah University

Messiah University (formerly Messiah College) is a top-ranked private liberal arts college in the south-central part of Pennsylvania. The change from “college” to “university” reflects the enhancements and expansions of its undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. The master of arts (MA) in counseling degree is designed to prepare students for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Pennsylvania. Courses are eight weeks long, with one-week intensive courses in January and July.

For the MA, coursework is entirely online; there is no in-person requirement. The three available specialization tracks are clinical mental health counseling; marriage, couple, and family counseling; and school counseling. All coursework for those three tracks is also entirely online. GREs are not required for admission, but basic documents such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, a personal statement, and an in-person or online interview are required.

The curriculum includes courses such as professional issues and ethics for counselors; lifespan development; multicultural issues for counseling professionals; counseling theories; career counseling across the lifespan; group counseling; spiritual formation and faith-based counseling; counseling techniques; and assessment techniques for individuals, couples, and families.

  • Location: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 60 credits; two-, three-, and four-year timelines
  • Estimated Tuition: $755 per credit, no-fee tuition

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a public research university in Indiana County, offers a school counseling master of education along with a clinical mental health counseling master of arts. Students who complete the school counseling program will have a strong foundation for work in pre-K-12 schools. They will also complete a 600-hour field experience under the supervision of a certified school counselor.

The general counseling program features a curriculum that prepares students to work in various settings, including mental health centers, addiction treatment centers, rehabilitation programs, healthcare settings, and more. Students are ready for licensure after graduation. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is located 55 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The master’s in clinical mental health counseling degree is also available at the school’s IUP Pittsburgh East campus.

The curriculum includes courses such as elements of research; counseling across the lifespan; basic counseling skills; multicultural & diversity issues in counseling; career counseling; counseling theories; counseling and consulting within systems; crisis and addictions counseling; and professional orientation and ethical practice in counseling.

  • Location: Indiana, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 60 credits; two to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: Pennsylvania resident ($516 per credit plus fees); non-resident ($774 per credit plus fees)

Kutztown University

Kutztown is southwest of Allentown and 17 miles northeast of Reading, in the mid-southeast corner of the state. Kutztown University is a public institution that sits on 289 acres in Pennsylvania Dutch country. In fact, the campus has received an award for being one of the most beautifully-maintained college campuses in the nation.

Although the campus is in a rural area of Pennsylvania, it is close to some of the country’s other major cities: It is 100 miles from New York City, 120 miles from Baltimore, and 160 miles from Washington, D.C. The counselor education program encompasses specializations in addiction counseling; clinical mental health; school counseling; and marriage, couple, and family counseling. All are master of arts (MA) degrees except for the school counseling program which is a master of science degree. Students admitted to the program are not required to have any specific undergraduate degree to apply. It is also not a requirement to have any psychology or education experience.

The curriculum includes courses such as intercultural issues in counseling; professional orientation and ethics for school counselors; fundamentals of counseling; career counseling issues across the lifespan; tests and assessments in counseling; research methods in counseling; and introduction to problems of addiction.

  • Location: Kutztown, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 60 credits; three years
  • Estimated Tuition: Pennsylvania resident ($516 per credit plus fees); non-resident ($774 per credit plus fees)

How Much Do Counselors Make in Pennsylvania?

These numbers represent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2022—the latest data available as of July 2023.

Marriage and Family Therapist Salaries

United StatesPennsylvania
Number employed62,0802,890
Average annual salary (mean)$63,300$57,570
10th percentile$36,840$38,730
25th percentile$44,730$46,260
50th percentile (median)$56,570$57,460
75th percentile$75,220$66,140
90th percentile$98,700$79,590

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor Salaries

United StatesPennsylvania
Number employed344,97020,680
Average annual salary (mean)$56,230$51,650
10th percentile$34,580$33,490
25th percentile$39,810$38,420
50th percentile (median)$49,710$46,630
75th percentile$64,400$61,160
90th percentile$82,710$78,140

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselor and Advisor Salaries

United StatesPennsylvania
Number employed308,0008,440
Average annual salary (mean)$64,200$66,080
10th percentile$38,280$40,460
25th percentile$47,380$48,930
50th percentile (median)$60,140$61,760
75th percentile$76,590$78,560
90th percentile$98,530$99,150

Rehabilitation Counselor Salaries

United StatesPennsylvania
Number employed82,4204,370
Average annual salary (mean)$46,020$41,930
10th percentile$29,120$26,280
25th percentile$33,790$29,990
50th percentile (median)$39,990$35,870
75th percentile$53,470$47,120
90th percentile$71,270$68,620

Mental Health Counseling (LMHC) Licenses in Pennsylvania: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors

Pennsylvania credentials Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).

To apply, LPC candidates must:

  • Pass one of seven national counselor exams (NCE, CRC, ATCB Certification Examination, CBMT Board Certification Examination, NAMP Exam, IC & RC/AODA Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination, or NBCC Examination for Master Addictions Counselors)
  • Complete a master’s or doctorate degree in counseling from an accredited institution (at least 48 semester-hours or 72 quarter-hours)
  • Complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience (or 2,400 hours if the candidate has a doctorate), of which half the hours must be providing assessment, counseling, therapy, psychotherapy, other therapeutic interventions, consultation, family therapy, or group therapy. There must be two hours of supervision for every 40 hours of supervised clinical experience.
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Complete a criminal history check
  • Complete three hours of approved child abuse continuing education
  • Pay $100 application fee
  • Complete a Databank Report

LPC licenses in Pennsylvania are renewed biennially in March of odd-numbered years. Renewals cost $95.

LPCs are required to complete 30 continuing education units per renewal cycle. One of those hours must be in suicide prevention and three must be in ethics.

School Counseling Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) issues an Educational Specialist Certificate  Elementary and Secondary School Counselor certificate. The requirements for this certificate are:

  • A master’s degree in school counseling from an approved program
  • A 300-hour internship, including 70 hours of direct contact at the elementary school level or 75 hours at the secondary level
  • Passing scores on the Professional School Counselor Praxis exam and a basic skills test
  • A complete application
  • An application fee

The first certificate a counselor receives is a level one certificate and is valid for six years.

To apply for a level two certificate, school counselors must:

  • Complete three years of work experience in a PA public school
  • Complete 24 semester hours of graduate coursework
  • Complete a two-year induction or mentorship
  • Have six satisfactory work performance assessments

A level one Educational Specialist Certificate with an Elementary and Secondary School Counselor certificate issued in Pennsylvania cannot be renewed

A level two certificate does not expire. However, school counselors must complete six semester credits of continuing education every five years in order to keep their certificate active.

Substance Abuse Counseling Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Pennsylvania Certification Board (PCB)

Associate Addiction Counselor (AAC), Certified Associate Addiction Counselor (CAAC), Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) are the substance abuse counselor certifications issued by the Pennsylvania Certification Board (PCB).

AAC certificate candidates must:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be currently employed and supervised as an addiction counselor
  • Supply a current job description
  • Complete one full year and at least 2,000 hours of supervised work experience
  • Have at least 100 hours of supervision with at least ten hours in critical domains
  • Complete 100 hours of education in substance abuse disorders
  • Pay $150 application fee

CAAC certificate candidates must:

  • Pass the ADC exam from IC&RC
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be currently employed and supervised as an addiction counselor
  • Supply a current job description
  • Complete three years and at least 6,000 hours of supervised work experience
  • Have at least 300 hours of supervision with at least ten hours in critical domains
  • Complete 300 hours of education, of which at least 100 must be in substance abuse disorders
  • Pay $375 application fee

CADC certificate candidates must:

  • Pass the ADC exam from IC&RC
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree
  • Be currently employed and supervised as an addiction counselor
  • Supply a current job description
  • Complete two years and at least 4,000 hours of supervised work experience, if the applicant has a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field; if the degree is not in a relevant field, then applicants must complete three years (at least 6,000 hours) of supervised work experience
  • Have at least 200 hours of supervision with at least ten hours in critical domains
  • Complete 300 hours of education, of which at least 100 must be in substance abuse disorders
  • Pay $375 application fee

CAADC certificate candidates must:

  • Pass the AADC exam from IC&RC
  • Have earned a master’s degree in a relevant field
  • Be currently employed and supervised as an addiction counselor
  • Supply a current job description
  • Complete one year and at least 2,000 hours of supervised work experience
  • Have at least 100 hours of supervision with at least ten hours in critical domains
  • Complete 180 hours of education in substance abuse disorders
  • Pay $375 application fee

Certifications issued by the PCB expire every two years. AAC certificates cost $100 to renew, while CAAC, CADC, and CAADC certificates cost $200. AAC certificates may only be renewed once as it is intended to be a stepping stone to higher certification.

All counselors are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education. Three of those hours must be in ethics.

Rehabilitation Counseling Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors

Pennsylvania rehabilitation counselors must be Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).

To apply, LPC candidates must:

  • Pass one of seven national counselor exams (NCE, CRC, ATCB Certification Examination, CBMT Board Certification Examination, NAMP Exam, IC & RC/AODA Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination, or NBCC Examination for Master Addictions Counselors)
  • Complete a master’s or doctorate degree in counseling from an accredited institution (at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours)
  • Complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience (or 2,400 hours if the candidate has a doctorate), of which half the hours must be providing assessment, counseling, therapy, psychotherapy, other therapeutic interventions, consultation, family therapy, or group therapy. There must be two hours of supervision for every 40 hours of supervised clinical experience.
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Complete a criminal history check
  • Complete three hours of approved child abuse continuing education
  • Pay $45 application fee
  • Complete a Databank Report

LPC licenses in Pennsylvania are renewed biennially in March of odd-numbered years. Renewals cost $95.

LPCs are required to complete 30 continuing education units per renewal cycle. One of those hours must be in suicide prevention and three must be in ethics.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for national certification

Currently, there are no state certification or licensing requirements for applied behavior analysts in Pennsylvania.

However, holding a BCBA certification and maintaining membership with the Pennsylvania Association for Behavior Analysis (PennABA) can help with employment opportunities or job advancement.

The Better Access to Treatment (BAT) Act was introduced as HB 1900 in 2018. If passed, this law will create a path to licensure for behavior analysts in Pennsylvania.

Marriage and Family Therapy Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors

The Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors credentials Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT).

To apply, candidates must:

  • Pass the AMFTRB exam
  • Complete a master’s or doctorate degree in marriage and family therapy from an accredited institution
  • Complete two years and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, 2,400 hours if the candidate has a doctorate, of which half the hours must be providing assessment, counseling, therapy, psychotherapy, other therapeutic interventions, consultation, family therapy, or group therapy (there must be two hours of supervision for every 40 hours of supervised clinical experience)
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Provide two recommendations
  • Complete a criminal history check
  • Complete three hours of approved child abuse continuing education
  • Pay $100 application fee
  • Complete a Databank Report

LMFT licenses in Pennsylvania are renewed biennially in March of odd-numbered years. Renewals cost $95.

LMFTs are required to complete 30 continuing education units per renewal cycle. One of those hours must be in suicide prevention and three must be in ethics.

Child (Pediatric) Behavioral Therapy Licenses in Pennsylvania

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors

Pennsylvania child therapists must be Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).

To apply, LPC candidates must:

  • Pass one of seven national counselor exams (NCE, CRC, ATCB Certification Examination, CBMT Board Certification Examination, NAMP Exam, IC & RC/AODA Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination, or NBCC Examination for Master Addictions Counselors)
  • Complete a master’s or doctorate degree in counseling from an accredited institution (at least 60 semester-hours or 90 quarter-hours)
  • Complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience (or 2,400 hours if the candidate has a doctorate), of which half the hours must be providing assessment, counseling, therapy, psychotherapy, other therapeutic interventions, consultation, family therapy, or group therapy. There must be two hours of supervision for every 40 hours of supervised clinical experience.
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Complete a criminal history check
  • Complete three hours of approved child abuse continuing education
  • Pay a $100 application fee
  • Complete a Databank Report

LPC licenses in Pennsylvania are renewed biennially in March of odd-numbered years. Renewals cost $95.

LPCs are required to complete 30 continuing education units per renewal cycle. One of those hours must be in suicide prevention and three must be in ethics.

Vanessa Salvia

Vanessa Salvia

Writer

Vanessa Salvia is an Oregon-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As fun as rigorous studies in math and science were, Vanessa took an independent path and developed a prolific career covering lifestyle and healthcare topics for magazines and newspapers, important industries such as concrete construction and building waterproofing, and even hard science. You can get in touch at Sage Media and Marketing.