Counseling Degrees & Licenses in Washington

The field of counseling is a proven career choice that provides both personal satisfaction and a stable career. Counselors spend time each day helping people work through emotional, family, school, or substance abuse issues.

Projections Central (2021) predicted that Washington will add more than 1,200 jobs for educational, guidance, and vocational counselors between 2018 and 2028—a figure that represents 19.6 percent growth. Openings for marriage and family therapists are expected to swell 20 percent in the same period. Compared to the average 4 percent growth expected for all occupations nationally in that decade, these are considered high-growth fields.

In Washington state, in particular, mental issues receive much of the attention they deserve. According to Mental Health America, Washington state is ranked number 16th for access to care. Washington is ranked number 11 for the availability of the mental health workforce. According to Mental Health America‘s data, the state rate of mental health workforce ranges from 160:1 in Massachusetts to 990:1 in Alabama.

Resources To Recover reports that Washington has a population of approximately seven million people. Close to 5.1 percent of adults in Washington (according to SAMHSA) live with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. But, only 44.4 percent of adults with mental illness in Washington receive any form of treatment from either the public system or private providers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), jobs for substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors, and mental health counselors will grow 25 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029. Just as the growth within Washington state, that rate is considered much faster than average.

To pursue a counseling license in Washington, the prospective licensee must have a master’s or doctoral degree in mental health counseling, behavioral science, or another field relating to mental health counseling. Read on for a few of the many schools offering programs for counseling degrees and licenses in Washington.

Accredited Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Antioch University

Antioch University offers a variety of counseling degree programs, both in-person and online, at a variety of locations. Founded in Ohio as a private university, it now has multiple campuses in the United States and online programs.

The online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling degree program includes online courses and two intensive two-week-long resident experiences. Students have the opportunity to take elective courses in the areas of trauma, military counseling, and substance abuse/addiction. Online courses are offered in both asynchronous and synchronous formats.

Students in the Seattle-based clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) program can choose to specialize in art and drama therapy, making it one of the few degree programs in the U.S. featuring art therapy with a clinical focus. The Antioch drama therapy program is one of only a few in the country that offers a special focus in Developmental Transformations (DvT) for drama therapists. DvT is a method of drama therapy that uses improvisation with individuals and groups. Students choose from couple and family therapy and CMHC coursework and can choose to integrate drama therapy as part of additional training, which includes an internship.

Also available is an addiction counseling concentration, which meets the Washington State Department of Health’s required topic areas to become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional via the “alternative training track.” A master of arts couple and family therapy program is also available as a standalone program option.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Duration: 60 credits, three years
  • Accreditation: Antioch University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC); the counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP); the couple and family therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); the dance/movement therapy & counseling program is accredited by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA)
  • Tuition: $751 per credit plus fees in Seattle; $656 per credit online

City University of Seattle

City University of Seattle’s master of arts in counseling trains students to become mental health counselors; marriage, couple, and family counselors; professional school counselors; or addictions counselors. These programs are offered in the hybrid format, of predominantly in-person work with on-line components). The program currently offers a weekday two-year cycle for clinical mental health; marriage, couple, and family; and addiction specialty tracks. It has a three-year (Saturdays) cycle for all four tracks.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Duration: 90 credits, two or three years
  • Accreditation: CityU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; the counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $660 per credit plus fees

Central Washington University – College of the Sciences

CWU’s master of science degree in clinical mental health counseling is a small program (admitting only eight students each year) with intense clinical training and supervision. The program includes three practica and a full-time, four-month internship for a total of 90-quarter-hours that takes just over two years to complete on a full-time basis.

Graduates of this program meet the educational requirements for professional licensure as a counselor in Washington State and many other states. Prospective students must have a GRE score at or above the 50th percentile and a GPA of at least 3.0 at the bachelor’s level. CWU graduates about 2,000 students each year with about 2,800 on-campus residents.

  • Location: Ellensburg, Washington
  • Duration: 90 quarter-hours, just over two years
  • Accreditation: Central Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); the counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $6,475 (for 10 to 17 credits)

Eastern Washington University – College of Social Sciences

Eastern Washington University was founded in 1882 by Benjamin Pierce Cheney, founder of the town of Cheney, Washington, near Spokane, where the campus is located. In 2019, it was named the No. 1 College of Diversity in Washington by Higher Education Excellence in Diversity.

EWU offers a master of science degree in either clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. The school did not accept students into its program starting in fall 2021 so that it could reimagine the program and the program delivery format. EWU has the lowest in-state tuition and fees of any public university in Washington.

  • Location: Cheney, Washington
  • Duration: Contact the school for a customized assessment
  • Accreditation: EWU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); the counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $400.49 per credit plus fees, Washington resident; $929.83 per credit plus fees, non-resident

Gonzaga University – School of Education

Gonzaga University is a private Catholic university in Spokane. It offers a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling, a master of arts in marriage and family counseling, and a master of arts in school counseling. Gonzaga also offers a master of counselling program, based at sites in Canada.

Each cohort is approximately 22 students. Each program requires an internship, which is a total of 600 hours (240 of those in direct service), completed in the second year of the program. Three-hundred hours are completed during the fall semester, and 300 during the spring semester. There are an additional 100 hours of practicum during the first year.

  • Location: Spokane, Washington
  • Duration: 60 credits, two years
  • Accreditation: Gonzaga University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); the counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $1,050 per credit

Seattle University

Seattle University is a private Jesuit university in Seattle, Washington. Seattle U’s master of education in counseling program through the College of Education holds the distinction of being the first counseling program in Seattle to be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

This program is also the only program in the nation where graduates are eligible to pursue Washington State substance use disorder certification upon graduation, meaning that graduates of the program are able to provide both substance abuse and mental health counseling. The school’s master of arts in couples and family therapy is offered through the School of Theology and Ministry.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Duration: The couples and family counseling degree is 79 credits, 2.5 years; the clinical mental health counseling degree is 90 credits, three years
  • Accreditation: Seattle University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; the CMHC program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); the master of arts in couples and family therapy is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Tuition: The couples and family counseling degree is $663 per credit; the clinical mental health counseling degree is $650 per credit

Seattle Pacific University

Seattle Pacific University is a private Christian university in Seattle, Washington. It was founded in 1891 as a seminary. It offers four counseling degree programs: a master of education in school counseling, a master of science in marriage and family therapy, and two dual degrees of either a master of science in marriage and family therapy and a master of arts in theology (theological integration) or a master of science in marriage and family therapy and a master of divinity.

The dual theological integration program is completed in 23 fewer credits than would be required for the two programs separately. The master of divinity dual degree program

requires 32 fewer credits than the two programs pursued separately.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Duration: The school counseling degree is 90 credits, three years; the marriage and family therapy is 70 credits and can be completed in two years (full-time) or three years (part-time)
  • Accreditation: The school counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); the marriage and family therapy degree is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Tuition: The school counseling program is $712 per credit; the marriage and family therapy program is $815 per credit

Western Washington University

The rehabilitation counseling program prepares students to work with people who have physical, sensory, mental, developmental, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. The program is offered through a hybrid model of classroom-based courses offered at the off-campus site located at the Everett University Center on the Everett Community College campus and distance learning coursework. Face-to-face classes meet one evening a week. Hybrid classes meet face-to-face five times per quarter and the other weeks are online.

  • Location: Bellingham, Washington; Everett, Washington
  • Duration: 90 credits, eight quarters or two years (including two summers), full-time, or three to four years part-time
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $346 per credit up to ten credits, or $3,463 per quarter for ten to 18 credits, Washington residents; $743 per credit up to ten credits, or $7,434 per quarter for ten to 18 credits, non-resident

How Much Do Counselors Make in Washington?

These numbers represent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2019—the latest data available as of March 2021.

Marriage and Family Therapists

United StatesWashington
Number employed59,050140
Average annual salary (mean)$54,590$49,700
10th percentile$32,070$35,740
50th percentile (median)$49,610$48,880
90th percentile$87,700$64,510

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

United StatesWashington
Number employed284,5409,540
Average annual salary (mean)$49,950$52,200
10th percentile$29,520$32,800
50th percentile (median)$46,240$47,680
90th percentile$76,080$77,950

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors

United StatesWashington
Number employed296,4605,240
Average annual salary (mean)$61,000$65,550
10th percentile$34,380$44,480
50th percentile (median)$57,040$62,760
90th percentile$96,090$93,150

Rehabilitation Counselors

United StatesWashington
Number employed109,0403,890
Average annual salary (mean)$40,160$48,000
10th percentile$23,820$32,380
50th percentile (median)$39,950$43,080
90th percentile$63,790$67,990

All Other Counselors

United StatesWashington
Number employed25,420340
Average annual salary (mean)$48,800$56,520
10th percentile$27,030$39,920
50th percentile (median)$42,930$54,310
90th percentile$77,590$77,950

Counseling Professional Associations & Resources in Washington

  • Washington Mental Health Counselors Association (WMHCA)
  • Washington Community and Technical College Counselor Association (WCTCCA)
  • The Washington Council for Behavioral Health
  • Washington School Counselor Association
  • Washington State Department of Health
  • Washington Professional Counselors Association (WAPROCA)
  • Counseling Washington
  • National Alliance For the Mentally Ill Washington Chapter
  • Washington Association For Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Washington Counseling Association
  • Washington State Psychiatric Association
  • Washington State Psychological Association
  • Washington State Public Health Association
  • Independent Colleges of Washington
  • Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators
  • Washington Alliance of Black School Educators
  • Washington Association For Career and Technical Education
  • Washington Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  • Washington Association of Educational Office Professionals
  • Washington Association of School Social Workers
  • Washington Education Association
  • Washington School Counselor Association
  • Washington School Personnel Association

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

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers Advisory Committee

Washington issues Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate (LMHCA) licenses.

Requirements for a LMHCA license include:

  • A completed application, including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • A $35 application fee
  • A master’s or doctorate in counseling from a regionally accredited institution. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision. The program must include a practicum or internship
  • A Declaration Working Toward Licensure
  • Four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education

To be licensed as an LMHC, candidates must already hold an LMHCA as well as:

  • Complete an application including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • Pay $191 application fee
  • Pass the NCE or NCMHCE
  • Provide proof of 36 hours of continuing education, six hours must be in professional ethics
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education
  • Complete 3,000 hours and 36 months of post-graduate supervised work experience. Of those, 1,200 hours must be in direct client contact and 100 hours must be supervised. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision.

In Washington, LMHCA and LMHC licenses must be renewed annually. LMHCA licenses may only be renewed six times and the fee is $25. LMHC license renewal fees are $106.

LMHCs are required to complete 36 continuing education hours every two years. Six of those hours must be in ethics.

School Counseling Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction issues Educational Staff Associate School Counselor Certificates.

The requirements for a first-time applicant are:

  • Have a master’s degree in counseling
  • Complete any state’s approved program leading to certification for the school counselor or have three years of experience as a school counselor
  • Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam or the National Counselor Examination (NCE) of the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • Pass a background check that includes fingerprinting
  • Submit a completed application
  • Pay $64 application fee

To advance from a first-tier to s second-tier certificate, school counselors must:

  • Meet the requirements for the first tier
  • Hold a school counselor certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
  • Complete an approved suicide prevention training
  • Complete issues of abuse course

The initial school counselor certificate issued in Washington is valid until two years of work experience have been completed. Counselors may then receive a reissued certificate that is valid for five years. A new background check is required.

A first-tier certificate must be renewed every five years. The requirements are:

  • Complete issues of abuse course
  • Submit a renewal application
  • Pay $64 fee
  • Complete 100 hours of continuing education

A second-tier certificate must be renewed every five years. The requirements are:

  • Complete suicide prevention training
  • Submit a renewal application
  • Pay $64 fee
  • Complete 100 hours of continuing education.

Maintaining a current National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certificate meets the continuing education requirement.

Substance Abuse Counseling Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Washington State Department of Health

The Washington State Department of Health issues Substance Use Disorder Professional and Substance Use Disorder Professional Trainee licenses to substance abuse counselors.

Substance Use Disorder Professional Trainee license candidates must:

  • Submit a completed application
  • Pay $110 application fee
  • Provide a National Provider Identifier (NPI) from the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Complete a declaration that the applicant is seeking the education and training requirements for the Substance Use Disorder Professional credential
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS training
  • Submit a signed Attestation of Recovery form

Substance Use Disorder Professional license candidates must:

  • Pay $260 application fee and $295 initial license fee
  • Submit a completed application
  • Provide a National Provider Identifier (NPI) from the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS training
  • Submit a signed Attestation of Recovery form
  • Have an associate’s degree or higher
  • Complete at least 45 quarter or 30 semester credits of education in alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Complete required supervised work experience (2,500 hours are required if the applicant has an associate degree, 2,000 hours if the applicant has a bachelor’s, and 1,500 is the applicant has a master’s)
  • Pass the NCAC level 2 exam from NAADAC or the AADC exam from the IC&RC

In place of work experience and an examination, candidates may submit proof of NAADAC or IC&RC certification.

Substance abuse counselor licenses in Washington must be renewed annually. Trainee license renewal fees are $90 while full license renewals cost $300.

Counselors must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years. Of those hours four must be in ethics, three must be in suicide assessment training, and 14 in an approved topic area

Rehabilitation Counseling Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers Advisory Committee

Rehabilitation counselors in Washington are either Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associates (LMHCA).

Requirements for a LMHCA license include:

  • A completed application, including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • A $35 application fee
  • A master’s or doctorate in counseling from a regionally accredited institution. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision. The program must include a practicum or internship
  • A Declaration Working Toward Licensure
  • Four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education

To be licensed as an LMHC, candidates must already hold an LMHCA as well as:

  • Complete an application including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • Pay $191 application fee
  • Pass the NCE or NCMHCE
  • Provide proof of 36 hours of continuing education, six hours must be in professional ethics
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education
  • Complete 3,000 hours and 36 months of post-graduate supervised work experience. Of those, 1,200 hours must be in direct client contact and 100 hours must be supervised. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision.

In Washington, LMHCA and LMHC licenses must be renewed annually. LMHCA licenses may only be renewed six times and the fee is $25. LMHC license renewal fees are $106.

LMHCs are required to complete 36 continuing education hours every two years. Six of those hours must be in ethics.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Washington State Department of Health

The Washington State Department of Health credentials Licensed Behavior Analysts (LAB) and Licensed Assistant Behavior Analysts (LABA).

The requirements for LABA licensure include:

  • Submit an online application
  • Provide proof of ongoing supervision
  • Pay a $160 application fee
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS training

Additionally, LABA candidates must hold a BCaBA certification or have a bachelor’s in behavior analysis or related field, as well as:

  • Complete 135 hours of instruction in behavior analysis
  • Complete 1,000 hours of supervised work experience (at least 5 percent of those hours must be under supervision)

The requirements for LAB licensure include:

  • Submit an online application
  • Pay a $250 application fee
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS training

Additionally, LAB candidates must hold a BCBA certification or have a master’s in behavior analysis or related field, as well as:

  • Complete 250 hours of instruction in behavior analysis
  • Complete 1,500 hours of supervised work experience (at least 5 percent of those hours must be under supervision)

Behavior analyst licenses issued in Washington expire every two years on the license holder’s birthday. Renewal fees are $350 for LABs and $175 for LABAs. To renew, applicants may either provide proof of continued BACB certification or complete 32 hours of continuing education for LABs or 20 hours for LABAs. Four hours must be in ethics.

Marriage and Family Therapy Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers Advisory Committee

Washington issues Marriage and Family Therapist and Marriage and Family Therapist Associate licenses.

Requirements for a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate license include:

  • A completed application including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • An $81 application fee
  • A master’s or doctorate in marriage and family therapy from a regionally accredited institution of at least 45 semester hours or 60 quarter hours, including a practicum (graduates of COAMFTE programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision)
  • A Declaration Working Toward Licensure
  • Four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education

To be licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist, candidates must already hold Marriage and Family Therapist Associate license, as well as:

  • Complete an application including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • Pay $306 application and initial license fee
  • Pass the AMFTRB exam
  • Provide proof of 36 hours of continuing education, six hours must be in professional ethics
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education
  • Complete 3,000 hours and 24 months of post-graduate supervised work experience (1,000 hours must be in direct client contact and 100 hours must be supervision)

Graduates of COAMFTE programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision.

In Washington, marriage and family therapy licenses must be renewed annually. Associate licenses may only be renewed six times and the fee is $66. Marriage and Family Therapist license renewal fees are $196.

Marriage and Family Therapists are required to complete 36 continuing education hours every two years. Six of those hours must be in ethics.

Child (Pediatric) Behavioral Therapy Licenses in Washington

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers Advisory Committee

Child therapists in Washington are either Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associates (LMHCA).

Requirements for a LMHCA license include:

  • A completed application, including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • A $35 application fee
  • A master’s or doctorate in counseling from a regionally accredited institution. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision. The program must include a practicum or internship
  • A Declaration Working Toward Licensure
  • Four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education

To be licensed as an LMHC, candidates must already hold an LMHCA as well as:

  • Complete an application including a social security number and a National Provider Identifier Number (NPI)
  • Pay $191 application fee
  • Pass the NCE or NCMHCE
  • Provide proof of 36 hours of continuing education, six hours must be in professional ethics
  • Complete four hours of HIV/AIDS continuing education
  • Complete 3,000 hours and 36 months of post-graduate supervised work experience. Of those, 1,200 hours must be in direct client contact and 100 hours must be supervised. Graduates of CACREP programs will receive credit for 500 hours of post-graduate work experience and 50 hours of supervision.

In Washington, LMHCA and LMHC licenses must be renewed annually. LMHCA licenses may only be renewed six times and the fee is $25. LMHC license renewal fees are $106.

LMHCs are required to complete 36 continuing education hours every two years. Six of those hours 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.

Counseling Schools & Licensure in Nearby States