Why earn a licensed professional counseling degree online?
Real-world skills development
Apply what you learn in your live, online classes to your in-field experience and build real-world expertise.
Prepare to pursue licensure
Build critical expertise in class and in the field, on your schedule and without having to relocate.
Expand your professional network
Connect with like-minded future licensed professional counselors across the country in the online classroom.
Browse accredited online LPC programs New
What is an LPC program?
The two most common LPC degree pathways are a master’s degree in counseling or a master’s degree in clinical psychology — you need to earn either of these, or an equivalent, before being able to fulfill any licensure requirements. Typically, these master’s programs consist of academic work that covers the theoretical and practical aspects of counseling. They also include field experience or internship courses that prepare learners to sit for licensure. All licensing requirements vary by state.
Depending on where you intend to practice, you may need to earn a degree at an institution accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or equivalent.
Education requirements for an LPC program
While the nuances of each LPC degree program vary, master’s in counseling degrees offer specialized curricula designed to prepare professional counselors to sit for licensure before being able to practice. Master’s in counseling programs that are accredited by CACREP, the most widely preferred accreditor, must include:
A practicum that consists of at least 100 supervised hours over 10 weeks
An internship that spans approximately 600 supervised hours
Licensed professional counselor degree curriculum
In addition to the core curriculum set by CACREP, counseling programs often offer concentrations, or specialized areas of study, such as:
Clinical mental health counseling
Marriage, couple, and family counseling
If you already know what specialization within counseling you plan to pursue after graduation, you may wish to include that information in your search for a licensed professional counselor degree program. Focusing your coursework prior to entering the field may better prepare you to pursue licensure in your chosen specialty.
Salary ranges for licensed professional counselors vary depending on your location, experience level, specialty, and other factors.
For example, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for substance abuse, behavior disorder, and mental health counselors was $48,520 in May 2021. Those who work in the government saw a median annual salary of $60,450, and the highest 10 percent in any industry earned more than $77,980.Footnote 1
Potential LPC jobs
Regardless of which population you plan to support as a counselor, you will find that the profession is growing quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for substance abuse, behavior disorder, and mental health counselors from 2021-2031 is as great as 22%, which is much faster than average.Footnote 2
After obtaining licensure, you may work in the following roles:
Behavioral disorder counselor
Mental health counselor
Substance abuse counselor
LPC vs LCSW salary
Social work takes a holistic and community-based approach to wellness, as opposed to counseling, which more often than not focuses solely on an individual’s emotional wellbeing. Both licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) require a master’s degree to sit for licensure, and both offer comparable salary ranges. The median annual wage for social workers, for instance, is $50,390Footnote 3; that of some counselors, $48,520.Footnote 4
How to become an LPC
Licensed professional counselor education requirements are designed to help graduates become credentialed mental health professionals. While specific licensure requirements may vary depending on the state in which you plan to practice, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in the field of study that includes a supervised fieldwork component. You will then need to complete national exams required by your state, and apply for an initial license within your state.
While exploring licensed professional counselor online programs, it’s important to think about the expertise and soft skills you will need to support your future patients. These may include, but are not limited to:
Find the best online LPC for your licensed professional counselor career
If you want to become a licensed professional counselor, online programs may help you achieve this goal with minimal disruption to your current professional responsibilities and life obligations. An online LPC program may be a good fit for you, for example, if you plan to continue working while pursuing your degree.
Here are other factors to think about when exploring LPC online programs:
School prestige: Research a school’s ranking and reputation.
Length of study: Compare the duration of online programs to find one with the length and flexibility of study that suits your career needs and current schedule.
Clinical placements: Determine how much support your universities of choice provide for students who are searching for fieldwork placements.
Graduation rates: Review graduation and licensure rates to better understand the quality of an online master’s program.
Career outcomes: Explore employment rates of program graduates, and get to know your future alumni network.
Frequently asked questions
CACREP, the most widely preferred accreditor, requires that a master’s in counseling curriculum must cover eight common core areas: professional counseling orientation and ethical practice; social and cultural diversity; human growth and development; career development; counseling and helping relationships; group counseling and group work; assessment and testing; and research and program evaluation. Programs must also include both a practicum and an internship.
Some online LPC programs may offer academic coursework that is 100% online. However, they must all include field experience or in-person, on-site internships that are supervised by a licensed, approved supervisor.
An LPC, or licensed professional counselor, is a mental health service professional who provides care to individuals facing behavioral, emotional, or mental challenges. LPCs may specialize as rehabilitation counselors, or mental health counselors, among others.
To work as a licensed professional counselor (LPC), you need to have a master’s degree in the field of study and a relevant license; an LPC offers support to clients that specifically pertains to emotional and mental health. To work as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), on the other hand, you need a master’s in social work or similar field and a relevant license; an LCSW approaches counseling holistically by taking internal and external factors, such as home, career, and social challenges, into account.
The primary difference between licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) and licensed professional counselors (LPCs) is the population they serve. LMFTs work with couples and families to address interpersonal challenges. LPCs help individuals address mental and emotional disorders.
Tuition for a licensed professional counselor degree program will vary depending on the school, the duration of the program, and other factors. Reach out to the admissions office at your preferred university to explore tuition costs.