Counseling Degrees & Licenses in Tennessee

Earning your counseling degree and license to work in Tennessee can help you achieve both career advancements and personal fulfillment. Individuals who want to practice as a counselor will experience a growing and in-demand career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are expected to grow by 25 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average job growth over the same period (4 percent). The BLS predicts an increase of 79,000 jobs over those years.

Many schools offer counseling degrees that can be completed in person or online, and most master’s programs are geared toward making the process easy for students who are already working. Often, classes are held evenings and weekends to allow the students to achieve their master’s degree and hold other responsibilities. With a counseling degree and license to practice in Tennessee, students can guide and assist people with their personal troubles and interpersonal development. 

The Tennessee Department of Health licenses Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists. 

In Tennessee, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) must hold a master degree in counseling from an accredited 60-credit degree program and must complete either a supervised practicum or internship that includes a minimum of 500 hours of training and at least two years and 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work with at least 50 hours of consultation with an approved supervisor each year. And, graduates must pass the National Counselor Examination and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam to be registered in Tennessee. 

Read on to discover the accredited schools offering counseling degrees and how to become licensed in Tennessee.

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Accredited Counseling Degree Programs in Tennessee

Austin Peay State University 

Austin Peay State University is a public university in Clarksville, Tennessee, that has been on the same site since 1845. The school offers a master of science (MS) in counseling with a concentration in either clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. Both programs require 60 credits. A prerequisite for either of these degrees is 12 hours of psychology (or related) courses. 

The clinical mental health counseling concentration meets the educational requirements for licensure in Tennessee as a Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider status. The curriculum includes a 100-hour practicum experience, a 600-hour internship, and a comprehensive examination. 

The school counseling concentration prepares graduates for school counseling positions at elementary, middle/junior high, and high school levels. Graduates will meet the current licensing requirements for the Tennessee Board of Education. The curriculum includes a 120-hour practicum, a 600-hour internship, and a comprehensive examination. Students entering the program without prior teaching experience will be required to take two education courses as electives.

  • Location: Clarksville, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Tuition: $450 per credit hour for hours 1-10 plus fees, Tennessee resident; $727 per credit plus fees, non-resident

Belmont University

Belmont University is a private Christian university founded in 1890 by schoolteachers. The master of arts in counseling is the only graduate program in Belmont’s College of Theology & Christian Ministry. The MA in mental health counseling combines scientific theory with a Christian worldview. Students in the mental health counseling program choose one of four specialty tracks. Each requires 60 hours of coursework. 

The clinical mental health counseling track meets the requirements for Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and the Licensed Professional Counselor with the Mental Health Service Provider designation (LPC-MHSP) in Tennessee. The marriage, couple, and family counseling track qualifies students to apply for licensure as a Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Tennessee. The clinical pastoral therapy program satisfies the requirements for licensure in the state of Tennessee as a Clinical Pastoral Therapist, which is a field that engages in faith-based counseling. 

Finally, the school counseling program prepares graduate students to serve as school counselors in public or private pre-K-12 schools and satisfies the requirements for licensure as a School Counselor in the State of Tennessee. The school counseling program is a new program for the school.

  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 hours
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $790 per credit plus a fee of $245 per semester

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University is a public research university. This school’s graduate programs include a master of arts (MA) in counseling with an elementary/secondary school counseling concentration or an MA in counseling with a clinical mental health concentration. 

Through the College of Education, students can also earn an educational science degree in educational leadership with a counselor leadership concentration. The ETSU School Counseling concentration is approved by the state of Tennessee and is CACREP-accredited. All program graduates will be prepared to be licensed to work in grades Pre-K through 12. 

Students wishing to specialize in couples and family therapy can take courses as electives for that specialization. Students who are interested in licensure in Tennessee as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) can work with their advisor to complete coursework and clinical experiences that may lead to licensure as both an LPC-MHSP and an LMFT.    

  • Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits; the educational leadership degree is 31 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $5,951.50 plus fees for 12 credits, Tennessee resident; $13,511.50 plus fees for 12 credits, non-resident and international students

Lincoln Memorial University

Lincoln Memorial University is a private liberal arts university with a large campus bordering Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Lincoln’s counseling program offers master of education (MEd) concentrations in either PreK-12 school counseling or mental health counseling. 

Students in both concentrations start by taking the Common Counseling Core, which consists of 36 credit hours. Then, students take courses within their concentration. 

The PreK-12 school counseling program meets the academic requirements for licensure as a PreK-12 Counselor in the state of Tennessee. Students are required to be covered by insurance provided with an American Counseling Association student membership. After graduation, students are required by the State Department of Education to pass the Praxis Specialty Area Test in School Counselor with a score of at least 156 to be eligible for licensure as a PreK-12 school counselor in Tennessee. 

Graduates of LMU’s mental health counseling program will qualify to apply for licensure in professional counseling (LPC). After graduating, students must pass a national counselor certification test (NCE) and complete post master’s supervision hours prior to LPC licensure. Students majoring in mental health counseling are required to be covered by insurance provided with an American Counseling Association student membership. 

  • Location: Harrogate, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $1,300 per credit plus fees

Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University is a public university founded in 1911. Middle Tennessee State University offers a professional counseling educational science degree. MTSU’s professional counseling program offers two concentrations: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. 

The MTSU Professional Counseling program was the 2011 recipient of the “Outstanding Master’s Program Award” by the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision. Both degree programs are 61-hour programs. 

Students who complete the concentration in clinical mental health counseling will have met the educational requirements for licensure as professional counselors with mental health service provider (MHSP) designation in the state of Tennessee. Students who complete the concentration in school counseling will have met the educational requirements necessary for licensure as a school counselor in the state of Tennessee.

  • Location: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Duration: 61 hours 
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $6,103 for 12 credits per semester, Tennessee resident; $15,243 for 12 credits per semester, non-resident

Tennessee Technological University

Tennessee Technological University is a public research university that was formerly known as Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. The Counseling and Psychology Department offers either a master of arts or an education specialist degree. Students can choose from four degree concentrations: clinical mental health counseling, psychology, school counseling, or school psychology. 

Graduates of the clinical mental health counseling program are qualified to obtain LPC licensure with a Mental Health Service Provider endorsement. Licensure requires supervised clinical experience beyond the hours required for a degree. The psychology master of arts is a general non-licensure concentration. Licensure as a school counselor requires successful completion of the guidance section of the Praxis examination. The educational psychology program is a non-licensure track. 

  • Location: Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 hours for the licensure track programs
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $5,983 for 12 credits per semester, Tennessee resident; $7,663 for 12 credits per semester, non-resident; $13,533 for 12 credits per semester, international 

University of Memphis

The University of Memphis is a public research university founded in 1912 with an enrollment of more than 22,000 students. The school has several master of science (MS) in counseling degree programs with concentrations in addiction counseling, clinical mental health counseling, clinical rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or school counseling. The clinical rehabilitation counseling program requires 12 more credits than rehabilitation counseling. 

  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Duration: The school counseling and rehabilitation counseling programs are a minimum of 48 semester hours; clinical mental health counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling are 60-semester hour programs.
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Council of Rehabilitation Counseling (CORE)
  • Tuition: $5,970 for 12 credits per semester, Tennessee resident; $9,298 for 12 credits per semester, non-resident; $11,602 for 12 credits per semester, international students

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee is a public research university founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state. The school offers master of science (MS) degrees in counseling with two concentrations: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. 

The clinical mental health counseling concentration meets educational standards for licensure as a professional counselor in Tennessee and most other states. All states also require additional testing and postgraduate supervised experience for licensure. 

The school counseling concentration meets the requirements for PreK-12 licensure as a school counselor in Tennessee and most other states. Some states may have additional experience and testing requirements. 

  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $639 plus fees, Tennessee resident, $1,650 plus fees, non-resident 

University of Tennessee – Chattanooga 

The University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus offers a similar counseling education program as the Knoxville campus, but the awarded degrees are slightly different. The Chattanooga campus offers master of education degrees in counseling with two concentrations: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. 

The clinical mental health counseling concentration meets educational standards for licensure as a professional counselor in Tennessee and most other states. All states also require additional testing and postgraduate supervised experience for licensure. 

The school counseling concentration meets the requirements for PreK-12 licensure as a school counselor in Tennessee and most other states. Some states may have additional experience and testing requirements. 

  • Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $5,135 per term, Tennessee resident, $9,167 non-resident

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private research university founded in 1873. Vanderbilt offers a counseling degree in the field of human development counseling (HDC) in either clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. The master of education in human development counseling is a 48- to 60-credit program. 

Both tracks in the Human Development Counseling program include a practicum and full-year internship placement in a mental health facility, social service agency, or school setting under supervision. 

In addition to an on-campus master’s program in Human Development Counseling, the Peabody College of Education and Human Development also offers an online master’s program in the school counseling specialization track.

  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $2,087 per credit, plus fees

How Much Do Counselors Make in Tennessee?

These numbers represent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2020.

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors

United StatesTennessee
Number employed292,2305,370
Average annual salary (mean)$61,000$53,210
10th percentile$34,380$32,500
50th percentile (median)$57,040$51,440
90th percentile$96,090$78,030

Marriage and Family Therapists

United StatesTennessee
Number employed60,8501,080
Average annual salary (mean)$54,590$41,440
10th percentile$32,070$27,490
50th percentile (median)$49,610$38,830
90th percentile$87,700$55,540

Rehabilitation Counselors

United StatesTennessee
Number employed100,2601,070
Average annual salary (mean)$40,160$35,260
10th percentile$23,820$19,980
50th percentile (median)$39,950$35,680
90th percentile$63,790$52,410

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

United StatesTennessee
Number employed293,6203,530
Average annual salary (mean)$49,950$40,370
10th percentile$29,520$25,350
50th percentile (median)$46,240$37,380
90th percentile$76,080$59,540

All Other Counselors

United StatesTennessee
Number employed27,3101,150
Average annual salary (mean)$48,800$39,750
10th percentile$27,030$23,740
50th percentile (median)$42,930$38,970
90th percentile$77,590$53,890

Counseling Professional Associations & Resources in Tennessee

  • The Tennessee Licensed Professional Counselors Association (TLPCA)
  • Tennessee Counseling Association (TMHCA)
  • The Tennessee School Counselor Association (TSCA)
  • Tennessee Association of Pastoral Therapists (TAPT)
  • Tennessee Psychological Association (TPA)
  • The Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (TAMHO)
  • Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (TAMFT)
  • Tennessee Occupational Therapy Association (TNOTA)

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

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists

Tennessee credentials Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Providers (LPC/MHSPs) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPCs).

In order to receive LPC licensure, candidates must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Pass the NCE exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
  • Complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution of at least 60 semester hours. It must include an internship of at least 500 hours, of which 300 must be direct client contact
  • Submit an online application
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete two years of supervised professional experience, which consists of at least 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work and at least 50 hours of direct supervision
  • Provide letters of recommendation
  • Pay $200 application fee
  • Pay the annual $400 Professional Privilege Tax

To be an LPC-MH, candidates must hold an LPC license as well as:

  • Pass the NCMHCE exam
  • Complete nine graduate semester hours of coursework related to the diagnosing, treatment, and assessment of mental disorders
  • Complete two years of supervised work experience. Of this, 1,500 hours must be face-to-face counseling and 1,500 must be clinically related work. There must also be 150 hours of consultation with an approved supervisor.

Renewals for LPC/HMSPs and LPCs in Tennessee are due every two years, may be completed online, and cost $115.

Counselors are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education per renewal cycle. Three of those hours must be in ethics or Tennessee rules and regulations.

School Counseling Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Department of Education

The Tennessee Department of Education issues school services personnel licenses with a school counselor endorsement.

There are five paths to earn a practitioner level license and endorsement. Candidates must do one of the following:

  • Have an advanced degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited institution, complete a state-approved educator preparation program in school counseling, have a recommendation by the approved educator preparation provider, and pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited institution, be enrolled in a state-approved educator preparation program in school counseling (with a job embedded in clinical practice), complete all the coursework required of the educator preparation program, have a recommendation by the approved educator preparation provider, and pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam
  • Have an advanced degree in a counseling, be enrolled in a state-approved educator preparation program in school counseling, complete a minimum of 24 graduate semester credits in school counseling, submit a required supervision agreement, have a recommendation by the approved educator preparation provider, and pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam
  • Have an advanced degree in social work or school psychology, be enrolled in a state-approved educator preparation program in school counseling, submit a required supervision agreement, have a recommendation by the approved educator preparation provider, and pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam
  • Have an advanced degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited institution and have either a valid out-of-state school counseling license or a recommendation from the out-of-state educator preparation provider

Candidates must be 18 years old to apply. Applications are completed online and must pass a National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) screening.

To advance from a practitioner to professional licenses, school counselors must:

  • Complete three years of qualifying work experience
  • Earn 30 qualifying professional development points

A practitioner personnel license with a school counselor endorsement issued in Tennessee is valid for three years and may only be renewed once.

A professional license is valid for six.

Renewal applications must be completed online. Professional license holders must earn 60 professional development points (PDPs) per renewal cycle. There are no continuing education requirements for practitioner licenses.

Substance Abuse Counseling Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Tennessee’s Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors

Tennessee’s Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors issues licenses for Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors Level I and II (LADC).

LADC Level I licensure candidates must:

  • Be 21 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Complete three years and 6,000 hours of work experience as an alcohol and drug counselor
  • Submit a three page written philosophy of treatment
  • Send a passport-sized photo
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Pass the Tennessee jurisprudence exam
  • Complete 270 hours of drug and alcohol counseling education (six of those hours must be in ethics)
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pass the NCAC Level I or MAC exam
  • Pay $250 application fee and $50 license fee

LADC Level II licensure candidates must:

  • Be 21 years old
  • Earn a bachelor’s or master’s in behavioral health
  • Complete two years (4,000 hours) of work experience as an alcohol and drug counselor if the applicant has a bachelor’s degree; master’s degree applicants need only one year (2,000 hours) of work experience
  • Submit a three page written philosophy of treatment
  • Send a passport-sized photo
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Pass the Tennessee jurisprudence exam
  • Complete 270 hours of drug and alcohol counseling education (six of those hours must be in ethics)
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pass the NCAC Level II or MAC exam
  • Pay $250 application fee and $50 license fee

LACD Level I and IIs in Tennessee must renew their licenses every two years. Renewals cost $325.

Counselors must complete 15 hours of continuing education. Three of those hours must be in ethics and at least nine hours must be face to face.

Rehabilitation Counseling Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists

Rehabilitation counselors in Tennessee are either Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Providers (LPC/MHSPs) or Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).

In order to receive LPC licensure, candidates must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Pass the NCE exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
  • Complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution of at least 60 semester hours. It must include an internship of at least 500 hours, of which 300 must be direct client contact
  • Submit an online application
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete two years of supervised professional experience, which consists of at least 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work and at least 50 hours of direct supervision
  • Provide letters of recommendation
  • Pay $200 application fee
  • Pay the annual $400 Professional Privilege Tax

To be an LPC-MH, candidates must hold an LPC license as well as:

  • Pass the NCMHCE exam
  • Complete nine graduate semester hours of coursework related to the diagnosing, treatment, and assessment of mental disorders
  • Complete two years of supervised work experience. Of this, 1,500 hours must be face-to-face counseling and 1,500 must be clinically related work. There must also be 150 hours of consultation with an approved supervisor.

Renewals for LPC/HMSPs and LPCs in Tennessee are due every two years, may be completed online, and cost $115.

Counselors are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education per renewal cycle. Three of those hours must be in ethics or Tennessee rules and regulations.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Health Professional Boards Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Committee

The Tennessee Health Professional Boards Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Committee credentials Licensed Behavior Analysts and Licensed Assistant Behavior Analysts.

Candidates must:

  • Submit a completed application
  • Have a BCBA or BCaBA certification
  • Pay a $250 application fee for a Licensed Behavior Analyst applications $150 for Licensed Assistant Behavior Analyst applications; both types of licensees must pay a $100 fee as well
  • Provide proof of supervision, if the applicant holds a BCaBA
  • Pass a fingerprint criminal records check
  • Submit a recent passport-sized photo
  • Be 21 years old or older

Behavior analyst licenses issued in Tennessee are valid for two years. Renewals cost $300 for full analyst licenses and $200 for assistant licenses.

Renewal applications must be accompanied with proof of current BACB certification.

Marriage and Family Therapy Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists

The Tennessee Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists credentials Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT).

In order to receive LMFT licensure, candidates must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Pass the AMFTRB exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
  • Complete a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from an accredited institution, including a 300-hour internship
  • Submit an online application
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete two years of supervised professional experience (at least 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work and at least 200 hours of direct supervision)
  • Provide two letters of recommendation
  • Pay $200 application fee
  • Pay the annual $400 Professional Privilege Tax

Renewals for LMFTs in Tennessee are due every two years, can be completed online, and cost $115.

Counselors are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education per renewal cycle. Three of those hours must be in ethics or Tennessee rules and regulations.

Child (Pediatric) Behavioral Therapy Licenses in Tennessee

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists

Child therapists in Tennessee are either Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Providers (LPC/MHSPs) or Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).

In order to receive LPC licensure, candidates must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Pass the NCE exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
  • Complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution of at least 60 semester hours. It must include an internship of at least 500 hours, of which 300 must be direct client contact
  • Submit an online application
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete two years of supervised professional experience, which consists of at least 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work and at least 50 hours of direct supervision
  • Provide letters of recommendation
  • Pay $200 application fee
  • Pay the annual $400 Professional Privilege Tax

To be an LPC-MH, candidates must hold an LPC license as well as:

  • Pass the NCMHCE exam
  • Complete nine graduate semester hours of coursework related to the diagnosing, treatment, and assessment of mental disorders
  • Complete two years of supervised work experience. Of this, 1,500 hours must be face-to-face counseling and 1,500 must be clinically related work. There must also be 150 hours of consultation with an approved supervisor.

Renewals for LPC/HMSPs and LPCs in Tennessee are due every two years, may be completed online, and cost $115.

Counselors are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education per renewal cycle. Three of those hours must be in ethics or Tennessee rules and regulations.

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.