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Become a Nationally Certified Counselor upon Graduation

As a participant in the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Counselor Examination Graduate Student Administration (NCE GSA), the MA in Counseling program has been evaluated and determined to provide the necessary educational coursework for eligibility for national certification. Any student approved to complete the examination through the NCE GSA has met the academic eligibility requirements for national certification.
Eligibility requirements to take either the NCE or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE) as an enrolled student at PAU include the following:
  • Current enrollment in the MA in Counseling Program
  • A declared emphasis (CMHC or MFCC) To declare your emphasis area, please complete the MA Counseling Degree Emphasis Form on the Counseling website
  • Must be in the last quarter of matriculation at PAU (i.e., in final internship and/or final courses in the program)
  • Must be a student in good standing (B or better GPA, no active or open remediation plans or SEC involvement)
If you meet the above requirements and are interested in taking either the NCE or NCMHCE, you will be asked to submit your interest to Dr. Kelly Coker. There are two exam administration periods per year; one in October and one in April. Upon expressing interest and verifying eligibility, you will receive an invitation from NBCC to participate in the exam administration with instruction on how to do so. The board certification application fee is $335.00, which includes examination registration fees and the maintenance fee for the first year.
Please note that this is an opportunity and not a requirement. You are also able to wait until after graduation to take the appropriate exam for certification and possibly licensure. If you intend to use the exam for state licensure, be aware of your specific state requirements for which exam to take and whether taking the exam while enrolled as a student can count as your licensure exam. California and New York do not accept NCMHCE scores for licensure if the examination was taken before graduation and without state approval.
1.      Why should I take the NCE now?
a.      It’s cheaper!
b.      You can “bank” your scores for licensure in most states. (Please check your state’s testing requirements!)
c.       You are more in touch with the material now than you will ever be
d.      More states require the NCE than the NCMHCE
2.      I’m in California, which requires the NCMHCE for licensure as an LPCC. What does taking the NCE do for me?
a.      You can become a Board Certified Counselor with this exam.
b.      If you move, that score moves with you and may apply to license in another state.
3.      What is the difference between the NCE and the NCMHCE?
a.      The NCE is a multiple choice content exam covering your main core areas that, along with supervised clinical experience and your master’s degree, allow you to apply to be a Board Certified Counselor. Here are some PRACTICE QUESTIONS
b.      The NCMHCE is a practice based exam that involves clinical scenarios that are required for licensure in the state of California (even though the graduate administration cannot be used for licensure). What can happen with this exam is that it can be used, along with your degree and supervised practice, to apply to be a Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Here are some PRACTICE QUESTIONS
4.      If I am in California, I should take the NCMHCE for LPCC licensure, right?
a.      Yes and no. You will take it for licensure but you probably do not need to take it now unless you just want to practice. The California licensure board does not accept test results on the CMHCE that occur prior to eligibility for licensure.
5.      What if I am getting my LMFT in California?
a.      Neither of these exams is required for LMFT.
b.      You can still take the NCE and become a Board Certified Counselor.
c.       You can still take the NCMHCE and become a Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor.
d.      If you leave California, you may find that you are more eligible for a counseling license (LPC, LCMHC) in another state if you have taken one or more of these tests.
Learn More
Learn more about the benefits of taking the exam while still a student.
Learn more about the differences between certification and licensure.
For more information, please contact Dr. Kelly Coker, MA in Counseling Program Director.