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The National Certified Counselor Certification (NCC) is a voluntary national certification that identifies counselors who have met national standards set by the counseling profession. The NCC is issued by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Individuals must pass the National Counseling Exam (NCE) to receive the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification. National certification from NBCC shows your colleagues and the public that you have voluntarily met high national standards for the practice of counseling.

As part of the application for NCC certification, students can take either the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The application fee is $335. Students will no longer have to pay a site fee.

The NCE is a 200-item multiple-choice examination designed to assess knowledge, skills and abilities determined to be important for providing effective counseling services. The National Certified Counselor certification is a national certification, not a state license.  A state license must be obtain separately in order to do private practice counseling.

NCC Student Application Instructions FAQs for Exam Registration
NBCC Pre-Exam Newsletter NCC Credential Information
Tips for a Successful Exam Experience


Degree-seeking counseling students must meet the following requirements in order to apply for the NCE:

  • Must be currently enrolled in a counseling track in a master’s, specialist or doctoral program. If you are enrolled in a certificate program you are not eligible to apply.
  • Prior to graduating students must complete a minimum of 48 semester hours/72 quarter hours of graduate-level coursework in counseling.
  • Students must be well-advanced in their program of study.  At a minimum, they must have completed coursework in six of the eight required subject areas and be enrolled in the final two during the semester of the exam.
  • You will complete an ethics attestation as part of the registration process.  This must be resolved before your application can be processed.

  1. Currently enrolled students must submit an NCE sign-up form to receive an exam application. This sign-up form creates a roster that will be submitted to NBCC by September 21, 2018, to notify them of your request to receive an application with student pricing.  NBCC will then email you an application.  If you miss the deadline you may not be able to receive student pricing and will have to register independently.
  2. Applications are emailed by NBCC between late November and January. Check spam and/or junk filters.
  3. Follow the application instructions to benefit from student pricing.

The National Counselor Examination for School Counseling students, Clinical Mental Health Counseling students, and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling students will be held at a Pearson VUE center.

You can check for testing locations in your vicinity by going to the Pearson VUE website and clicking on “Find a Test Center” to see which centers are administering the NCE or NCMHCE. Please consult the Exam Registration Instructions for step-by-step instructions on how to register correctly. 

Spring 2019 Deadline to Submit CPS NCC Sign-Up Form: September 20, 2018 
Spring 2019 Deadline to Apply:  January 9, 2019 at 11:59 pm
Exam Date: April 13,2019 - May 25, 2019 at any Pearson VUE location

Q: Why should I apply for the NCC certification? What will it do for me?

A: The national certification is a continuing source of career enhancement and pride for counseling professionals. It demonstrates to clients and employers that you are a professional counselor who has met national standards.

Q: What is the difference between the NCC and a State License?

A: National counselor certification from NBCC demonstrates to the public and employers that the counselor has voluntarily met the national standards set by the counseling profession. It is not a license to practice. In some states, holding a national certification can assist the counselor in obtaining a state license. National certification travels with the counselor no matter the state or country of residence. The flagship national certification offered by NBCC is the NCC (National Certified Counselor), and it is the largest national counselor certification in the world.

A state license in counseling is literally permission from a particular state to practice counseling or to call oneself a licensed counselor. Some states have a single license and some have a two-tiered system. The names of state licenses vary from state to state. Some examples are LPC, LCPC, LPCC, LMHC, LPCMH, LCMHC, LPC-MH.  A state license must be obtain in order to do private practice counseling.

Q: Does my NCC certification mean that I do not have to get a state license?

A: No, counselors who hold the NCC and who wish to do private practice counseling in their state must still comply with all state laws regulating the practice of counseling. They must obtain a state license in order to do private practice counseling.

Q: If I get my NCC certification, will my state automatically license me?

A: No. You still have to apply. If a state utilizes the NCE for state licensure, you may not have to pass another examination in order to receive your state license.

Q: Do I have to pay an annual fee to keep my NCC active?

A: Yes. It is standard practice to charge an annual fee for the maintenance of any professional credential, including a license or national certification. Annual certification fees support all NBCC certification, legislative and advocacy efforts.

 Q: What can I call myself when I am certified?

A: Counselors who complete the national certification process through NBCC are called National Certified Counselors. The acronym is “NCC." National Certified Counselors may use the NCC certification mark on business cards and all professional materials. NCCs also receive a certificate suitable for framing.

 Q: How much is the NCC exam fee?

A: The application fee is $335 if registered through the department

 Q: How and where will I take the exam?

A: The NCE is a computer-based examination that will be taken through the NBCC's computer-based testing partner, Pearson VUE.  There are three sites within the Atlanta area.

 Q: What is the structure of the NCE?

A: The NCE is a computer-based 200-item non-sectioned test that relies on CACREP standards for derivation of content and a job analysis for the derivation of context.  Its purpose is to assess knowledge of counseling information that is deemed necessary for effective counselor functioning.  While the NCE is primarily a knowledge-based achievement test, it includes some practice related items.  CACREP’s eight core areas constitute the eight content domains of the exam and thus form the theoretical basis for it.

Each question contains an item stem and four response choices.  There is only one correct response to each item.   As much as possible, awkward, difficult, and “tricky” wording has been eliminated.  While the exam is scheduled for a 4-hour period, most examinees complete the exam in 2 ½ to 3 hours.

 Q: Where can I acquire study material for the exam?

A: You can order Examination Preparation Guides online from NBCC.

Q: How long will it take to receive my scores?

A: The scoring process is completed approximately six to eight weeks after your exam date.

 Q: How many times can I retake the test?

A: You are allowed to test a total of three times in a two-year period before your application closes.

  1. The ability to market yourself using your certification.
  2. Access to low-cost, highly rated liability insurance through Lockton Affinity, designed to meet the needs of counselors.
  3. Use of NBCC certification marks on business cards, advertisements, Web sites and other promotional materials.
  4. A free six-month listing in the Therapy Directory, an effective tool for attracting clients.
  5. The opportunity to participate in free webinars offered by the NBCC Foundation.
  6. Continuing education credit with Psychology Today.
  7. Access to ProCounselor, an effective and convenient online resource that offers many features, including a timeline tool for tracking continuing education.
  8. Specialty certifications to show your expertise in the areas of addictions, clinical mental health or school counseling.