National Certification vs. State Licensure

There is often confusion about the differences between national certification and state licensure. Many counselors believe it is advantageous to hold both national and state credentials for maximum effect in the profession. The following explanation of both processes may help students who are considering various options.

National certification (NCC) is a voluntary process which is entirely separate from state licensure (even though the testing instrument is the same in many parts of the nation). The end product of an application for national certification is the right to call oneself an NCC (National Certified Counselor). National certification was developed within the profession to promote professional identity and pride. It has evolved to be a job search booster as well, especially for those who will eventually work in more than one state. NCCs benefit from other NBCC services: enforceable code of ethics, access to resource materials/newsletter for counselors, and advocacy/public education initiatives.

Licensure is now required by all states for professionals going into private practice and expecting to receive third party payments.  For professionals who are only looking for state licensure, this is the most economical way to take the NCE. NBCC is essentially not involved in this process other than to act as the “testing company” for the state in question. In most states, an individual must have completed his/her degree in order to sit for the exam for state licensure; and there may be other state mandated requirements as well, depending on the state.

Whether a person undertakes state licensure requirements first, followed by earning the national credential or the other way around, is a matter of personal choice. The advantage of working on the NCC credential while still a student is that NCE testing occurs while book knowledge is at its peak. Many states will accept a passing NCE score achieved under the GSA-NCC program. However, applicants may need to be reminded that completion of all certification requirements is the only way to secure NCE scores for future use. Individuals who fail to complete the requirements face having their files closed and their NCE scores invalidated.

*Taken from


Application Information

The application process can be found here.



*Please note: LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and NCC (National Certified Counselor) are two separate entities, each having separate requirements. Both the LPC and the NCC require students to take the NCE Exam.

Students interested in becoming Licensed Professional Counselors in the State of Pennsylvania are required to meet the following requirements:

Attain a graduate degree in counseling from an accredited university.

Complete 60 (48 graduate degree requirements plus 12 additional) graduate credits in counseling.

Complete a 100 hour Practicum and 600 hour Internship as part of their graduate degree in counseling. 

Achieve a national passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification.

Following the completion of their graduate degree (48 credits) and field experiences (Practicum and Internship), candidates are required to have completed 3 years or 3600 hours of supervised clinical experience within a setting that is organized to prepare the applicant for the practice of counseling consistent with the applicant’s education and training.

Students interested in becoming Licensed Professional Counselors may register for the 12 additional graduate credits which are required for licensure. Also, Villanova’s CHR program provides the opportunity to receive post-master’s degree supervision.

(The above requirements are only applicable to the State of Pennsylvania and are subject to change; please refer to to obtain accurate information.)

NCE Exam
National Certification vs. State Licensure