New Mexico Psychology, Social Work & Counseling Licensure Requirements
Though New Mexico is the 5th-largest state by land area in the U.S., it’s one of the most sparsely populated states in the nation, home to sprawling deserts, high mountains, and millions of acres of national park and national forest lands. Thriving arts scenes in major cities such as Albuquerque and Santa Fe pay tribute to the state’s rich Hispanic and Native American heritage, which creates a unique demand for culturally competent professionals.
New Mexico also has one of the largest concentrations of PhD holders in any state, due in part to its numerous federally funded research facilities. This can make New Mexico an excellent place to earn your education and begin your career, especially if you want to in work with diverse populations in the fields of psychology, counseling, therapy, or social work. But to do so, you’ll need to meet requirements that are specific to the state. Read on to learn what’s expected as you pursue a license in New Mexico.
Psychology Licensure in New Mexico
Psychologists in New Mexico are licensed by the Board of Psychologist Examiners. You’ll need to complete the board’s requirements for education, experience, and testing before you can earn your license and work in the state.
Earning your psychology license in New Mexico requires you to earn a doctoral-level degree. Your education will need to start with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. While it’s not required, it’s helpful to earn your bachelor’s in psychology or a closely related field. This can give you a strong foundation for the rest of your education and reduce the number of prerequisites you’ll need for graduate-level studies.
You can then choose from 2 different paths to your master’s degree. You can either attend a master’s program that’s part of a doctoral degree or attend one that’s its own separate program. The path you choose will depend on your goals, time frame, and learning style.
Some students prefer to get a separate master’s degree so that they can gain experience before entering a doctoral program. Other students might prefer to enter their doctoral program immediately after finishing their bachelor’s to save time.
Master’s level psychology licensure
New Mexico awards a psychological associate license on the master’s level, though you can only work under the supervision of a fully licensed psychologist. You won’t be able to go into private practice, however, working as a psychological associate can allow you to gain experience and build connections. This can be a good step for people who haven’t decided if they want to pursue a full psychologist license or who want to work for a few years before entering a doctoral program.
Doctoral degree programs
Your doctoral-level degree will typically be either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree, though are a few less common doctorates that also qualify. No matter which option you choose, your program needs to be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA ). New Mexico also requires that your degree include specialized training in one of the following areas:
- Counseling psychology
- Clinical psychology
- School psychology
Psychology licensing requirements
Your next step after earning your degree will be completing the required experience. In some cases, you might be able to gain your experience hours immediately, but many people need to take additional steps.
Provisional licensure in New Mexico
Some employers ask that you gain a provisional license before you can complete your experience. New Mexico grants provisional licensure to aspiring psychologists who have completed their doctoral training, allowing them to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
You’ll need to take the following steps if your employer requires a provisional license:
- Complete the board’s application form
- Undergo a background check
- Submit transcripts from your undergraduate and graduate programs
- Submit 3 letters of reference
- Take and pass the New Mexico Jurisprudence Exam
New Mexico participates in the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards’ (ASPPB) Psychology Licensure Universal System (PLUS). Through PLUS, you can submit your application and related materials online and track your application status.
You’ll need to meet the experience requirement before you can become fully licensed. New Mexico requires you to gain 3,000 supervised experience hours over a 2-year period. This requirement doesn’t have to be fully fulfilled after graduation. For example, if you completed a graduate practicum, you’ll be able to use up to 1,500 hours toward this requirement. You might also be able to apply other types of previous experience, such as up to 1-year of a predoctoral internship.
No matter when you complete your experience, it needs to meet both the board and the APA’s requirements. Your supervisor will also need to submit verification forms detailing your experience.
Applying for licensure
You can apply for licensure once your hours are complete. If you already have a provisional license, you’ll just need to provide the board with verification of experience from your supervisor. If you don’t have a provisional license, you’ll need to provide the board with other application materials including:
- 3 letters of reference
- A background check
After you submit your application, the board will notify you when you’re eligible to take the necessary exams. In New Mexico, there are 2 exams that all aspiring psychologists must take. The first is the New Mexico Jurisprudence Exam. This tests your knowledge of the laws and ethics of practice that are specific to the state. If you’ve already taken this exam for provisional licensure, you won’t need to take it again.
The second exam is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is used nationwide. This is a 225-question multiple-choice exam, and you’ll need to earn a score of at least a 500 out of 800 to pass.
If the board approves your materials and test scores, you’ll be granted a permanent license and you can begin working independently.
You’ll need to take a few steps to keep your license current.
During your first year of licensure, you’ll be asked to submit proof of your knowledge of cultural issues specific to New Mexico.
Going forward, you’ll need to renew your license every 2 years. To do so, you must complete 40 hours of continuing education in every 2-year cycle, with a minimum of 15 hours in cultural diversity and 10 hours in ethics. You’ll also be required to submit an updated background check.
In some circumstances, New Mexico does allow license reciprocity for psychologists licensed in other states. You’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Have a current license in good standing
- Match the equivalent rules for education and experience in New Mexico
- Pass the New Mexico Jurisprudence Exam
You’ll also need to have been working under your professional license for at least 5 years. If you’ve been licensed for more than 10 years, no additional steps are needed. If you’ve been licensed for less than 10 years but more than 5, you’ll need to either:
- Hold a certificate of Professional Qualification (CPQ) from the ASPPB
- Be registered with the National Register of Health Service Psychologists
You might need to apply for provisional licensure in the state if you don’t meet all of these requirements.
Psychologist salary and career advancement
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn an average annual salary of $77,030. But keep in mind that this figure is not a guarantee. Your salary will depend upon your employer, experience level, and other factors.
Therapy & Counseling Licensure in New Mexico
In New Mexico, independent counselors and therapists are licensed on 4 main levels. You can work without supervision as a professional clinical mental health counselor (LPCC), professional art therapist (LPAT), marriage and family therapist (LMFT), or alcohol and drug abuse counselor (LADAC).
LPCCs are licenses with which you can treat clients with a wide range of mental, emotional, and behavioral concerns. The remaining licenses are more tailored to their respective subfields. You’ll earn a core mental health education similar to that for LPCCs, while also meeting requirements that are more specific to those areas.
In most cases, you need to earn at least a master’s degree to work as a counselor or therapist in New Mexico.
The exception is for substance abuse counselors, who can become licensed with as little as an associate’s degree.
To work as an LPCC, you must earn your master’s degree in counseling or a related field. This might be areas such as psychology, family studies, or art therapy. Your degree must consist of at least 48 credits, with least 3 credits in each of the following subjects:
- Human growth and development
- Social and cultural foundations
- Helping relationships
- Group work
- Career and lifestyle development
- Research methods
- Professional orientation
Your graduate degree also needs to include at least 9 credits of a clinical practicum or internship. Your remaining credits should focus on specialized areas within counseling based on your ultimate career goals.
Licensed art therapists are required to complete a master’s degree of at least 48 credits, with the same core curriculum as that for LPCCs. A minimum of 3 credits in the following areas is also required:
- History of art therapy
- Theories of art therapy
- Techniques in art therapy
- Application of art therapy with different populations
- Art therapy assessment
- Ethical and legal issues in art therapy
- Standards of practice in art therapy
- Cultural diversity issues relevant to art therapy
You’ll also need to complete a thesis or take comprehensive written and oral exams.
To earn your license as a marriage and family therapist, your master’s degree must consist of at least 45 credits, with 9 credits each in the areas of:
- Marriage and family studies
- Marriage and family therapy
- Human development
At least 3 credits will each be in multicultural studies, professional studies, and research. You’ll also need to complete at least 6 credits of a supervised practicum, with 300 hours of direct client contact in a period of at least a year.
Substance abuse counselors can get the education they need to become licensed with as little as an associate’s degree, however, the level of degree you earn directly impacts the amount of supervised experience you need. These requirements are discussed in more detail in the sections below.
No matter which degree you pursue, it was must include 90 hours each in the areas of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and counseling, along with 6 hours that pertain specifically to the ethics involved in this type of counseling.
Therapy and counseling licensing requirements
The steps you need to take after earning your degree depends on the license you want to earn. Each license has its own requirement for examination.
Upon completing your master’s program, you’re eligible to apply to earn your licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) credential. Designed to be a transitional license, LMHCs are earned prior to working toward the experience required to become an LPCC. LMHCs under the supervision of other professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, or LPCCs. Earning this level of license requires passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE) from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
Once you hold your LMHC, you can begin your supervised hours for your LPCC. The latter license—which allows you to practice independently—requires you to gain a minimum of 2 years of postgrad clinical counseling experience totaling 3,000, with 100 hours in face-to-face supervision with a licensed counselor, psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or social worker.
Once your experience is complete, you can take the NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Passing the exam allows you to complete your application for full LPCC licensing.
Following graduation, aspiring art therapists must also complete 2 years of supervised art therapy totaling 3,000 hours, with 100 hours under direct supervision. Before doing so, they also need to earn their LMHC license by passing the NCE exam.
When you’ve reached the level of experience you need, earning your LPAT license requires passing the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination.
To earn your LMFT, you’ll need to complete 2 years of postgrad experience in marriage and therapy, for a total of at least 1,000 hours. To begin working toward these hours, you’ll first need to get your license as an associate MFT by passing the national exam administered by the Association of Marital and Family Regulatory Boards. This is another transitional license that allows you to provide counseling services to clients during your supervised experience. You can then finish these hours and apply for your full license.
As with the other licenses, you’ll need an entry-level license to earn your required supervised hours. Becoming a substance abuse associate (LSAA) simply involves providing documentation that you’ve met the education requirements and have arranged for an approved supervisory experience.
As an LSAA, you can then begin working toward the hours you need depending on your level of education. Those with an associate’s degree need at least 3 years and 3,000 client contact hours, while those with bachelor’s degrees need a minimum of 2 years and 2,000 hours. If you hold a master’s or doctoral degree, you only need 1 year and 1,000 hours of supervised experience.
After you’ve completed these requirements, you can earn your full LADAC license by passing the National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level 1 (NCAC-1) exam.
Each license must legally be renewed every 2 years. You must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each 2-year cycle and submit proof of this to the board. At least 6 of these hours must be in ethics and 3 in counseling/mental health supervision.
New Mexico grants license reciprocity to out-of-state LPCCs, LPATS, and LMFTs who have been licensed and in good standing for at least 5 years.
LADACs from other states can be granted licensing in New Mexico by providing verification that they hold a current license and have passed the NCAC-1 exam or the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium.
Therapist and counselor salaries and career advancement
Salaries for therapists and counselors in New Mexico vary based on specialization, employer, and experience. According to the BLS, average salaries for counseling and therapy professionals in the state include:
- Rehabilitation counselors: $36,520
- Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors: $50,370
- Marriage and family therapists: $55,650
- Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors: $57,790
- All other counselors: $50,790
Counselors and therapists looking to advance their careers might consider earning a doctoral-level degree. With a doctorate, you might be able to gain leadership roles or teach at the university level.
Social Work Licensure in New Mexico
Social workers in New Mexico are licensed by the New Mexico State Board of Social Work Examiners. The board awards 3 license types to qualified candidates.
LBSW, LMSW, and LCSW: what’s the difference?
Generally, states license social workers according to their education and experience. Higher license levels allow for greater independence and a broader scope of practice. Some states only license 2 levels, while others license as many as 5. New Mexico awards the following 3 levels:
- Licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW): Social workers with an LBSW have completed their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and are able to practice non-clinical social work under supervision.
- Licensed master social worker (LMSW): Social workers on the LMSW have completed a Master of Social Work (MSW) and are able to practice non-clinical social work independently.
- Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW): Social workers on the LCSW level have completed an MSW and have at least 3,600 hours of supervised clinical experience. They’re able to practice clinical social work independently.
You’ll need to earn at least a BSW before you can hold any social work license in New Mexico. Your degree must be from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school and will include fieldwork hours. To earn either LMSW or LCSW licensure, you’ll need to earn your MSW. This degree also needs to be from a CSWE-accredited school and will include additional fieldwork.
Keep in mind that the LBSW is an entry-level license. You might qualify for jobs such as social services assistant or caseworker with this license, but you’ll need to earn your MSW if you want to practice independently.
Social work licensing requirements
Each license requires that you pass the New Mexico Jurisprudence Exam with at least 70% and take a board-approved course on New Mexico culture. Beyond that, requirements depend on the level of license you’re pursuing.
- LBSW: Pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s-level exam
- LMSW: Pass the ASWB master’s-level exam
- LCSW: Hold a current license as an LMSW, complete 3,600 hours of postgrad supervised experience over the course of 2–5 years, and take the ASWB clinical-level exam
No matter what your license level, you’ll need to renew it every 2 years. You’ll be required to complete 30 continuing education hours in each cycle, with at least 6 of these in cultural awareness.
You might be eligible for social work license reciprocity if you’ve been licensed in another state for at least 5 years. You’ll need to provide proof that you’ve met the education requirements for your license level and passed the appropriate ASWB exam. You’ll still need to take a course on New Mexico culture and pass the Jurisprudence Exam.
Social worker salary and career advancement
Per the BLS, reported average salaries for various types of social work careers include the following:
- Social and human services assistants: $33,370
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $38,620
- Child, family, and school social workers: $41,650
- Healthcare social workers: $55,640
- All other social workers: $56,730
Factors such as your license level, employer, and experience can all affect your salary. A higher degree might be a good choice for social workers looking to advance their career. With a doctorate, you could teach social work at the university level or hold administrative roles at nonprofit and healthcare organizations.
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