North Carolina Psychology, Social Work & Counseling Licensure Requirements

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With a diverse population of more than 10 million people, North Carolina has many residents who can benefit from critical services such as psychology, counseling, and social work. What’s more, with the state’s moderate climate, beautiful beaches, and majestic mountains, North Carolina is an appealing place to pursue an education in these fields.

If you’re thinking of joining the ranks of these professionals in the Tar Heel State, discover the steps you’ll need to take to earn your license in psychology, counseling, therapy, or social work.

Psychology Licensure in North Carolina

To work as a psychologist in North Carolina, you’ll need to fulfill the requirements laid out by the North Carolina Psychology Board. Below you’ll find detailed information that explains how to become a licensed psychologist in the state.

Education requirements

In North Carolina, you can apply to become a licensed psychologist or psychological associate.

The first allows you to work independently and in private practice, while the latter role must work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Each pathway involves different education requirements.

Licensed psychologist

A licensed psychologist must have received a doctoral degree in psychology from a program that includes the equivalent of at least 3 years of full-time study. The program must be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). It must also include at least 3 semester or 5 quarter hours in each of the following areas:

  • Biological bases of behavior (physiological psychology, comparative psychology, neuropsychology, sensation and perception, psychopharmacology)
  • Cognitive-affective bases of behavior (cognition, memory, learning, thinking, motivation, emotion)
  • Social bases of behavior (social psychology, group processes, organizational and systems theory, cultural and ethnic bases, gender roles)
  • Individual differences (personality theory, human development, abnormal psychology)

In addition, you must complete at least a 1-year internship including 1,500 practice hours, with a minimum of 1 hour per week of face-to-face, individual supervision.

Licensed psychological associate

A licensed psychological associate must have received a master’s or specialist degree in psychology from an APA- or CPA-accredited program that includes the equivalent of at least 1-year of full-time study. The program must include an internship or other supervised fieldwork related to psychology, with at least 12 weeks and 500 hours of training. This experience must be completed within a period of 12 consecutive months.

Psychology licensing requirements

Once you’ve earned your psychology degree, there are additional steps you must take before you can earn your license. Those looking to become a licensed psychologist must complete another year of supervised training totaling at least 1,500 hours. A provisional license may be issued while you’re still fulfilling this requirement. Once you finish these hours, you can transfer over from a provisional to a permanent license.

Before any kind of license can be issued, however, both psychologists and psychological associates must undergo a background check and take and pass the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The test consists of 225-multiple choice questions. Psychologists must pass with a score of at least 500 out of 800, while psychological associates must earn at least 440.

Both roles must also take the North Carolina State Examination, which is specific to the rules of practice set forth by the NC psychology board. The passing score for all licenses is a minimum of 78%.

Psychologist requirements do not end after your initial licensure is awarded. In order to renew your license, you’ll need to meet continuing education requirements by attending classes, workshops, seminars, or symposiums. Both psychologists and psychological associates must complete a minimum of 18 continuing education hours every 2 years.

License reciprocity

North Carolina has no official reciprocity agreement with any other state, so you cannot automatically transfer your license. However, if you do hold an out-of-state license that meets the criteria of North Carolina and have received a passing score on the EPPP, your application for licensure will only require taking the background check and state exam.

Psychologist salary and career advancement

To work in this field, you might consider looking at psychiatric hospitals, government agencies, or the offices of other health practitioners as potential employers.

Clinical and Counseling Psychologists
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Median Hourly Wage$39

Job growth9.9%

Total Employment1,820

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Raleigh, NC $87,360 $63,450 $166,310
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $86,010 $46,450 $157,090
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC $85,180 $54,320 $155,030
Asheville, NC $80,260 $27,670 $132,940
Winston-Salem, NC $78,940 $53,710 $141,600
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC $78,690 $59,160 $125,200
Wilmington, NC $78,210 $46,820 $139,980
Greenville, NC $78,180 $60,380 $106,050
Jacksonville, NC $76,880 $66,280 $163,050
Fayetteville, NC $75,330 $65,120 $130,160

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Therapy & Counseling Licensure in North Carolina

There are 2 primary roles within therapy and counseling in North Carolina—a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor. Each of these has different tiers of licensure.

To work as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), you’ll need to seek a license from the North Carolina Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure Board. There are 2 licensing options:

  • An LMFTA (associate) is for those who have yet to fulfill the required clinical hours of experience. They must practice under approved supervision.
  • An LMFT is for those who have completed their supervised clinical experience and can now practice on their own.

To work as a licensed counselor, you’ll need to obtain a license from the North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors (NCBLPC), which offers 3 different tiers:

  • A licensed professional counselor associate (LPCA) includes new graduates or new counseling professionals. This license is restricted and requires approved supervision in order to practice.
  • A licensed professional counselor (LPC) has already been supervised as a professional counselor. This license is non-restricted, allowing those who have it to practice independently.
  • A licensed professional counselor supervisor (LPCS) is a professional counselor who’s approved by the board to offer clinical supervision to others.

Education requirements

A minimum of a master’s degree is required to work as an LMFT or counselor in North Carolina.

Marriage and family therapist

You must earn a master’s in a marriage or family therapy or a related field. These include clinical social work, counseling, psychology, or psychiatric nursing. Your program must be regionally accredited and include at least 45 semester hours or the quarter equivalent. Your courses should cover:

  • Theoretical foundation of MFT
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Human development and family relations
  • Professional identity and ethics
  • Research in MFT

You must also participate in a practicum equaling 9 semester hours of the quarter equivalent, which involves face-to-face contact with individuals, couples, and families in a clinical setting.

Professional counselor

The NCBLPC lists slightly different educational requirements depending on the level of licensure you seek.

Applicants looking to become an LPCA must receive a master’s degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally accredited institution. Your program must include 60 semester (90 quarter) hours and cover 3 semester (5 quarter) hours of each of the following areas:

  • Helping relationships in counseling
  • Professional orientation to counseling
  • Human growth and development theories in counseling
  • Social and cultural foundations in counseling
  • Group counseling theories and processes
  • Career counseling and lifestyle development
  • Assessment in counseling
  • Research and program evaluation

In addition, you must participate in a practicum that totals at least 3 semester or 5 quarter hours. You must also complete an internship that consists of 300 hours of supervised counseling experience with at least 180 hours in direct client counseling.

Applicants seeking to become an LPC license have slightly different accreditation requirements. They must have earned a master’s degree in counseling or a related field from an institution that’s either regionally accredited or accredited by both the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and another organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). However, the number of credits and course requirements are the same as those listed above for LPCAs.

Applicants pursuing an LPCS must meet additional education requirements. There are 2 options available. They can either earn 3 semester graduate credits in clinical supervision from a regionally accredited institution, or they may submit 45 hours of continuing education from a provider approved by one of the following:

  • American Association of State Counseling Boards,
  • American Counseling Association
  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
  • National Board for Certified Counselors

Therapy and counseling licensing requirements

In addition to educational requirements, applicants must complete the following steps to become a licensed counselor or therapist.

Marriage and family therapist

Once you’ve graduated, the next step to take the National MFT Examination administered by the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. You should receive your score approximately 4 weeks after your test. If you pass the exam, you can then apply for your LMFTA license and begin the required experience.

The LMFTA is only valid for a period of 3 years, during which time you must complete your supervised experience if you wish to earn your LMFT. This involves at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face therapy, with a minimum of 200 hours of supervision. You can apply up to 500 hours that were obtained during your degree program.

After finishing your experience, you can then apply for an official MFT license. You’ll need to complete the application, submit test scores and documentation of experience, and pay a $200 fee. You’ll be required to renew your license once a year. To do so, you must complete 20 contact hours of continuing education, with at least 3 of these hours in ethics training.

Professional counselor

To earn your LPCA license, you must pass the National Counselor Examination, the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination, or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination. You must also take the North Carolina LPCA Jurisprudence Exam.

LPC licensure requires that you hold an active LPCA license at the time of application. You need to pass one of the national exams listed above, as well as the Jurisprudence Exam, as proof that you’ve obtained the required 1,500 hours of internship and 1,500 hours of postgraduate supervised experience.

To earn your license as an LPCS, you must hold an active and unrestricted LPC license which has been applied to at least 5 years of full-time or 8 years of part-time counseling experience with 2,500 direct client hours. You must have also completed the additional counseling supervision training or continuing education.

To renew any of these licenses, you must complete continuing education. The requirements vary depending on your level of license and how long you’ve held it.

LPCA and LPC (within 2 years of license)30 contact hours, with 3 hours of ethics
LPCA and LPC (after 2 years of license)40 contact hours, with 3 hours of ethics
LPCS40 contact hours, with 3 hours of ethics, plus 10 additional hours related to clinical supervision

In addition to proof of continuing education, you’ll need to submit a renewal form, sign an ethics attestation statement, submit a professional disclosure statement, retake the Jurisprudence Exam, and pay a renewal fee. The exam can qualify for 5 hours of your continuing education requirements.

License reciprocity

The NCBLPC doesn’t offer reciprocity with other states. However, licensed counselors in other states can seek an LPC license through an endorsement process if they have:

  • A minimum of 5 years of full-time or 8 years of part-time experience within the last 10 years
  • 2,500 hours or more of direct client contact
  • An independent license that’s been active and in good standing in another state for at least the last 2 years
  • Fulfilled all other requirements for an LPC

However, marriage and family therapists can use reciprocity to become licensed in North Carolina if they have an unrestricted license, are in good standing, and have at least 5 years of experience that meets the requirements of North Carolina.

Therapist and counselor salaries and career advancement

Mental health counselors in North Carolina earn a median annual wage of $49,710 says the 2022 BLS. If you’re interested in earning higher pay, you may want to explore positions in settings other than outpatient care centers or substance abuse facilities. Employers may include psychiatric hospitals, government facilities, college and universities, and insurance carriers.

In contrast, marriage and family therapists in North Carolina earn a median salary of $56,570 per year. Top employers include state government, general medical and surgical hospitals, and religious organizations.

Social Work Licensure in North Carolina

Want to know how to become a certified or licensed social worker in North Carolina? To do so, you’ll need to complete the requirements laid out by the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board.

CSW, CMSW, CSMW, LCSWA, and LCSW: what’s the difference?

North Carolina divides its social workers into several categories depending on a person’s qualifications. There’s only 1 official license—the LCSW—which is mandatory if you wish to practice clinical social work without supervision. These categories are:

  • Certified social worker (CSW)
  • Certified master social worker (CMSW)
  • Certified social work manager (CSWM)
  • Licensed clinical social worker associate (LCSWA)
  • Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)

Education requirements

Each type of credential requires a certain level of education. No matter which credential you pursue, the program you choose must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Below, find the minimum degree type for each level of social work in North Carolina.

Certified social workerBachelor’s
Certified master social workerMaster’s
Certified social work managerBachelor’s
Licensed clinical social worker associateMaster’s
Licensed clinical social workerMaster’s

Social work licensing requirements

In addition to educational requirements, applicants must pass the following exams administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and complete the necessary experience for their level:

Certified social workerBachelor-level exam; no experience is required after graduation
Certified master social workerMaster-level exam; no experience is required
Certified social work managerAdvanced Generalist-level exam, 3,000 hours of post-degree non-clinical employment accumulated within 2–6 years, and at least 100 hours of supervision by a social work administrator
Licensed clinical social worker associateNo exam or post-degree experience is required for initial licensure, but passing the Clinical-level exam is required during the first licensure period in order to continue working on supervised hours
Licensed clinical social workerClinical-level exam; 3,000 hours of post-degree clinical supervised employment accumulated within 2–6 years, and at least 100 hours of supervision from an LCSW

But social worker requirements don’t end there. These credentials must be renewed every 2 years by paying a fee and submitting documentation of 40 clock hours of continuing education, with at least 4 of these hours in ethics.

License reciprocity

North Carolina doesn’t offer automatic reciprocity to social workers from other states. However, through the application process, education and experience will be assessed and reciprocity might be granted if individual qualifications meet those set forth by North Carolina.

Social worker salary and career advancement

North Carolina social work salaries vary slightly by employment type. Here’s a look at median annual wages for different titles of social workers, as cited by the BLS’ 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics:

Among these types of social work, highest employment industries include state government agencies, federal executive branches, individual and family services, and community food and housing and other relief service offices.