Frequently Asked Questions | Faculty

Counselor Educator

NCC student applicants have several advantages:

  • A head start in the application submission process;
  • Lower NCC application fee;
  • Access to reduced rates on student liability insurance;
  • Convenient on-campus testing site; and

Beyond the benefits to students, counselor preparation programs are advantaged by the ability to collect aggregate score information on students’ examination performance and compare it with national statistics.

No. NBCC exams are not designed to be administered as an exit exam. For graduate programs that wish to offer a standardized exit exam, NBCC affiliate the Center for Credentialing & Education publishes the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE). The CPCE is widely used by counselor preparation programs as an exit exam. It is a paper and pencil exam consisting of 160 items—20 in each of the eight CACREP areas. Institutions may add their own items. CCE scores the exam and reports a total score with eight section scores for each student. In addition to their own aggregate statistics, participating schools receive a comparison with national data. The CPCE does not take the place of the NCE or the NCMHCE for certification or state licensure. Learn more about the CPCE.

They can be mailed to:

  • NBCC
  • Attention: Graduate Program Coordinator
  • 3 Terrace Way
  • Greensboro, NC 27403-3660

Or emailed to


The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is an independent not-for-profit certification organization for professional counselors. Since its inception in 1982, NBCC has become the primary credentialing organization for professional counselors in the United States and has initiated a worldwide effort, in conjunction with the World Health Organization, to identify, assist and encourage mental health programs on a global level.

National certification

National certification in professional counseling is an achievement affirming that a counselor has met national standards determined within the profession itself. Certification was developed to promote visibility and accountability in the counseling profession. It also promotes professional identity and pride, and can act as a job-search booster for those who will eventually work in more than one state. In contrast to applying for state licensure, applying for the NCC certification is completely voluntary.

National Certified Counselor (NCC)

The NCC is NBCC's flagship professional counseling credential. Counselors who hold this credential must have a qualifying master's or doctoral degree, pass a national exam, adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, and participate in continuing education activities. The NCC is not required for independent practice.

NCC Application Options for Participating Universities

The NCC for application options for participating universities provides an avenue for currently enrolled students and very recent graduates to begin the application process for national certification. Students from participating schools can apply through the campus coordinator at their university. The campus coordinator (usually a faculty or staff member) provides administrative support in the process, allowing NBCC to offer the NCC application fee at a lower rate than the rate for nonparticipants.

National Counselor Examination (NCE)

Passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE) is one of the requirements for national certification. Many states also require passage of the NCE as one of the requirements for state licensure. Currently, many states use the NCE for such purposes; NBCC provides the examination for them. NCCs and applicants who have submitted their final transcript showing their degree conferred and who are working on their postgraduate experience and supervision hours may request to have their NCE score reports sent to a state licensure board if their account is currently in compliance with all NBCC requirements.

National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)

Passing either the NCE or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is one of the requirements for national certification. Some states also require passage of the NCMHCE as one of the requirements for state licensure. NBCC provides the examination for them. NCCs and applicants who have submitted their final transcript showing their degree conferred and who are working on their postgraduate experience and supervision hours may request to have their NCMHCE score reports sent to a state licensure board if their account is currently in compliance with all NBCC requirements.

Postgraduate Experience and Supervision Requirements

NCC applicants who did not attend a CACREP-accredited program are required to complete 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work experience and 100 hours of direct clinical supervision over a 24-month period or provide documentation of full state licensure. Applicants are given six years from the time they pass the NCE or NCMHCE to complete this requirement.


The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is an independent organization that accredits graduate degree programs in counseling and other related fields. For a directory of accredited programs, visit their website.

State Licensure

Licensure is required by all states for professionals going into private practice and expecting to receive third-party payments. Its standards are set by legislators in each state. State licensure typically requires a master's degree, two to three years of supervised clinical experience, and a passing score on an examination. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted licensure laws for professional counselors.

An NBCC examination is just one requirement for the NCC credential. Applicants can choose to take either the NCE or the NCMHCE. In keeping with the voluntary nature of the credential, the NCE or the NCMHCE may not be used as a departmental comprehensive exam or as a graduation requirement.

Exam Administrator Role

The exam administrator is identified by the campus coordinator to administer the NCE to registered graduate student applicants on a predetermined testing date in April and/or October. Because of potential conflicts of interest, the exam administrator may not be associated with the counseling department or related to anyone who is. The individual should, however, have familiarity with the administration of standardized examinations. They will arrange for the exam location and any special accommodations approved by NBCC. An exam administration manual with complete instructions is provided by the CCE Assessment Department several months before the exam. The exam roster is mailed to the exam administrator about one week before the exam. CCE staff members are available on the exam date to resolve any issues that may arise that day.

Exam Structure

For more information on the exam creation, implementation and scoring, please see the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.

Special Accommodations

Special testing accommodations can be arranged at no cost for students with special needs. Students request special exam accommodations when they submit the application.

Time extensions, reading/recording assistance and translation dictionaries are examples of special accommodations. Students who cannot sit for the exam on a Saturday for religious reasons may also be accommodated. After the application is submitted, students will be contacted by the NBCC Accommodations Coordinator regarding required supporting documentation.

Because of the time required to make special testing arrangements, NBCC asks that these requests be made at least 45 days in advance of the examination date. Accommodations for requests submitted less than 45 days in advance cannot be guaranteed.

Examination Preparation Guides

A list of examination preparation guides is available. Since these tools are designed for varying learning styles and preferences, NBCC does not endorse any particular one.

Site Switching

Most graduate student examinees appreciate being able to test on campus in familiar surroundings. Occasionally, someone may need to test elsewhere for personal reasons or a campus may not reach the minimum number of applications (three) necessary for NBCC to justify offering the exam on campus. In these instances, students may elect to test at one of NBCC's public testing sites. Most states have at least two such locations for each exam cycle-October and April. Students who want or need to test away from their university should choose the “site switch” option when submitting the application and must pay an additional $25 fee to cover NBCC's costs of making the change.

Exam Scoring

Within four to six weeks after the examination, graduate student applicants will receive an individualized score report itemizing scores and including a total score. Means and standard deviations are included for each domain and the total for those taking the exam at the same time. The passing score is indicated along with a determination of whether the examinee met or surpassed the minimum criterion.

Participating institutions will receive aggregate results of the students' exam performance about 12 weeks after the exam. Individually identifiable statistics are not provided.

Score Release Policies

Once students have passed the NCE, graduated and submitted a final transcript, they may submit a score verification request to have their official exam score report sent to a third party. Some limitations apply.

Deferring or Failing

Occasionally, applicants must miss the exam for personal reasons or must retake the exam. Since they have already applied and been approved to test, NBCC does not ask them to reapply. Instead, they are instructed on how to reregister for the exam.

  • Registered applicants who notify NBCC at least 30 days in advance of the test date that they will not be attending will have their reregistration fees waived.
  • When there are extenuating circumstances in the last 30 days before the exam date that will preclude an applicant's attendance at the exam, the applicant may request a waiver of the reregistration fee. Requests should be made in writing and should be emailed with supporting documentation to

Advising Alumni Applicants

  • Graduates who are not eligible to begin the NCC application while in the final semesters of their graduate program should check online for one of the other NCC application options.

Advising Alumni Who Are Rescheduling or Retaking the Exam.

NBCC will handle communications with graduate student applicants who need to reschedule or retake the NCE.

Counselor educators help students understand the counseling profession, including professional credentials. Classroom presentations and/or discussion in advanced classes are very useful particularly in helping students distinguish between certification and state licensure. Descriptive email announcements can also be effective. It is important that students understand the voluntary nature of the NCC and independently choose to apply.

Important points to make about this NCC application opportunity include the following:

  • This is an application for national certification, not just for an examination.
  • If the application process is successfully completed, the applicant will be granted the NCC certification, which requires maintenance.
  • There are several requirements for the NCC certification, only one of which is passing either the NCE or NCMHCE.
  • In many states, but not all, scores associated with national certification may be used for state licensure. To determine what examination your state uses for licensure, visit the State Board Directory.
  • Benefits of this certification include an online NCC directory, affordable liability insurance, and advocacy on behalf of the profession.
  • Once you are certified, there are steps necessary to maintain your certification. Each year, certificants are required to pay maintenance fees and attest to continued compliance with NBCC policies and procedures, including the NBCC Code of Ethics. Every five years, certificants are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education.

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