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Earn National Certification When You Graduate

When you graduate from PAU’s MA program, you will be eligible – and more than prepared – to get board-certified in professional counseling.

You can choose from two national certification exams: 

  • The National Counselor Examination (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.  
  • The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE) is a practice-based exam that involves clinical scenarios that are required for licensure in the state of California. You can use this exam, along with your degree and supervised practice, to apply to be a Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Current enrollment in the MA in Counseling Program
  • A declared emphasis (CMHC or MFCC) - use our online MA Counseling Degree Emphasis Form
  • 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)

Frequently Asked Questions about Certifications

Are board certification exams required?Toggle Accordion

No - this is an opportunity and not a requirement.

Do I need to take my exam before I graduate?Toggle Accordion

No - you can wait until after graduation to take the appropriate exam for certification and possibly licensure.

Learn more about the benefits of taking the exam while still a student

Why should I take the NCE?Toggle Accordion

  • It's cheaper!
  • You can "bank" your scores for licensure in most states. (Please check your state's testing requirements!)
  • You are more in touch with the material now than you will ever be
  • More states require the NCE than the NCMHCE

I'm in California, which requires the NCMHCE for licensure as an LPCC - what does taking the NCE do for me?Toggle Accordion

  • You can become a Board Certified Counselor with this exam.
  • If you move, that score moves with you and may apply to licensure in another state.

If I am in California, should I take the NCMHCE for LPCC licensure?Toggle Accordion

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 NCMHCE that occue prior to eligibility for licensure.

What if I am getting my LMFT in California?Toggle Accordion

  • Neither of these exams is required for LMFT.
  • You can still take the NCE and become a Board Certified Counselor.
  • You can still take the NCMHCE and become a Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor.
  • 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.
Kelly Coker_Palo Alto University Faculty
Kelly Coker, PhD, LCMHC, QLS, BC-TMH, NCC - Program Director & CACREP Liaison

Meet the above requirements and are interested in taking either the NCE or NCMHCE?

Submit your interest to Dr. Kelly Coker

Taking Your Certification Exam

There are two exam administration periods per year - October and April. PAU faculty will verify your eligibility, and you will receive an invitation and instructions from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

The application fee is $335.00, which includes examination registration fees and the maintenance fee for the first year.

If you intend to use the exam for state licensure, be sure to check your state's specific 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.

Learn more about certification versus licensure.

MA in Counseling National Certification

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.

Certification & Licensure
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