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Frequently Asked Questions

National Certified Counselors (NCC)
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Current NCC Questions

Counselor Educator Questions

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

National certification can be a continuing source of career enhancement and pride for counseling professionals. It demonstrates to clients and employers that a professional counselor has met national standards. Learn more about the benefits of certification.

What are the requirements for the NCC certification?

Please see the NCC requirements page.

What are the advantages of the NCC application options for participating universities?

NCC students applicants have several advantages:

  • A head start on the NCC credentialing process;
  • Lower NCC application fee;
  • Access to reduced rates on student liability insurance;
  • Convenient on-campus testing site; and
  • A powerful career development tool.

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.

What can I call myself when I am certified?

Counselors who complete the national certification process through NBCC are called National Certified Counselors. The abbreviation 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. Learn more about the appropriate usage of your certification mark.

Does my NCC certification mean that I don’t have to get a state license?

No, counselors who hold the NCC and want to practice counseling in their state must still comply with all state laws regulating the practice of counseling. This usually means that they must obtain a state license in order to practice counseling.

If I get my NCC certification, does that mean that my state will automatically license me?

No, although some states have an abbreviated licensure process for counselors who hold national certification with NBCC, you still have to apply. If your state utilizes the same examination that you took to get your NCC, you may not have to pass another examination in order to be licensed. To find out if your state offers an abbreviated application process for NCCs, contact your state counselor licensure board.

Why do I have to pay an annual fee?

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.

What do I have to do to keep my certification active?

You are required to comply with NBCC policies and procedures, including the NBCC Code of Ethics. Additionally, you are required to pay your annual certification fees and complete the continuing education (CE) requirements. If you hold a specialty certification, a percentage of your continuing education requirement must be within your specialty area. You can make payments and track your CE hours through ProCounselor.

Will NBCC send me a notice when it's time to pay my annual certification fee?

Yes, NBCC will send you an e-mail each year 45 days in advance of the payment due date. You can pay directly through Procounselor or print an invoice to mail or fax. If the fee is not paid by the due date, a late fee will be applied to your account.

Will NBCC send me a notice when it's time to recertify?

Yes. In the fifth year, you will receive recertification notifications on the same schedule as your annual certification fee. You will be notified both on your ProCounselor account and your recertification form if you have been selected for the mandatory audit. If you are selected for the audit, you must upload or submit copies of your continuing education documentation as well as pay the recertification fee and attest to your continued adherence to the NBCC Code of Ethics. If you're not selected for audit, you must submit only the recertification fee payment and attest to your continued adherence to the NBCC Code of Ethics and to your completion of your continuing education requirement in order to recertify. You can complete all of these requirements through ProCounselor.

What if I don’t have my 100 clock hours of continuing education by my expiration date?

NBCC will grant up to a one-year extension for you to obtain the required number of clock hours of continuing education. In order to receive this extension, you are required to be up to date on your fees and submit a written request stating the reason that you did not complete the hours, how many hours you did complete, and the plan for completion of the remainder. The request may be submitted via mail or e-mail (recertification@nbcc.org).

What if I accidentally allow my NCC to lapse?

In order to reinstate your certification, you are required to pay any past-due fees, your reinstatement fee and your certification fee for the upcoming year, and attest to your adherence to the NBCC Code of Ethics. Additionally, you are required to complete a continuing education (CE) audit. You can make payments and upload your CE documentation through ProCounselor.

If I decide I no longer want my NCC, can I just stop paying or do I have to fill out a form?

If you decide that you need to relinquish your NCC certification, you are required to fill out the Request to Relinquish Certification form and turn it in as soon as possible in order to stop charges from accruing on your NCC account. Nonpayment of fees alone will not end your certification. The relinquish form can be found on the status changes page. Please note that NBCC cannot change the status of your certification by any other means, including by telephone or e-mail.

Can the NCE be used as an exit exam?
No. the NCE is 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 for national certification or state licensure. learn more about the CPCE.

After Exam Information

When will I get my scores?

The scoring process is completed approximately six to eight weeks after your exam date. It is our goal to mail your scores as soon as possible.

It has been more than eight weeks since I took the exam. Why haven’t I gotten my scores?

This is likely due to an address error. Please contact us at certification@nbcc.org. Please first allow at least eight weeks after the exam.

What if I failed the exam?

You are allowed to test a total of three times in a two-year period before your application closes. If you did not pass, you will receive specific information from NBCC via mail. This will include either a reregistration form for the next exam or a letter explaining that your application has closed. If your application has closed and you are interested in reapplying for national certification, please contact certification@nbcc.org.

I passed the NCE, and my account shows that I need to submit additional documents. Why?

Because the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) are designed for counselors who hold a master's degree, we are unable to proceed with the certification process or release your scores to a third party until an official sealed transcript showing your degree conferral date is provided.

Please submit an official sealed transcript from your university that shows your master's degree has been conferred and/or a Counselor Supervisor Endorsement Form (for applicants who applied before May 2011). Once the documents are reviewed, you will receive notification of your status.

My counseling program is not accredited by CACREP. Do I have different requirements for the NCC?

Yes, applicants who graduated from a regionally accredited master’s program (that is not accredited by CACREP) are required to complete one additional step in the certification process. After you pass the NCE and graduate, you have three years to complete and submit documentation of 3,000 hours of counseling work experience and 100 hours of direct counseling supervision completed over a minimum of 24 months. This will be the final step in completing your national certification.

I passed the NCE, and my account shows that all of my documents have been approved. What is my status?

You will be receiving notification of your status via mail or e-mail shortly. You are welcome to contact us at certification@nbcc.org to clarify your certification status.

How do I get my scores sent to my state licensure board or a third-party agency?

Your NCE scores will not automatically be sent to your state board if you took the NCE as a part of your NCC application. To order an official copy of your scores for state licensure or a third-party agency, you must submit required documentation to complete your application. Log in to your ProCounselor account to request a score verification from the online store. If you are unsure if you have any missing documents, you can log in or e-mail certification@nbcc.org. All past-due fees must be paid before score verification can be sent.

Does the official sealed transcript have to come directly from the university or can I send it?

You can send your transcript as long as it is in an official sealed envelope from your school. If you receive your transcript from your school, do not open it before sending it to us.

I graduated in January, but I won’t have my transcript with a conferred degree date until May. Can I request a letter from the registrar confirming my graduation?

No, NBCC only accepts official sealed transcripts with a conferral date as proof of completion

Do I have to submit payment with my forms?

Payment is not required for submission of transcripts and/ or supervision forms.

How long does it take to review my documents?

Due to the high volume of applicants, it takes six to eight weeks. If you have your documents prior to testing, please go ahead and send them to us.

My documents have been received and reviewed, but not approved. Why?

There may be a problem with the document that is not approved. In this instance, a Certification Department reviewer will contact you. If you do not hear from us within two weeks, please e-mail us at certification@nbcc.org to make sure that we have your up-to-date contact information.

I sent you a transcript with my application. Do I have to send it again?

Yes, we need an official sealed transcript showing the date your master’s degree was conferred. If you had already graduated when you applied and submitted an official sealed transcript showing your conferral date, you do not need to resubmit it.

I sent you a Counseling Supervisor Endorsement Form with my application. Do I have to send it again? How many hours do I need to document?

No, as long as we have documentation showing any number of hours of supervision, you do not need to resend this form. However, graduates of regionally accredited graduate programs (that are not CACREP-accredited) must document 3,000 hours of counseling work experience and 100 hours of direct supervision over a two-year, post-master’s time period in order to complete certification.

Can I fax or e-mail you my documents?

No, NBCC requires official sealed transcripts and original ink signatures on all Counseling Supervisor Endorsement Forms.

Where should I send my documents?

Attention: Certification Department
3 Terrace Way
Greensboro, NC 27403-3660

I think my program is CACREP accredited or has become CACREP accredited since I applied for the NCC, but I am not sure. What should I do?
You can go directly to the CACREP Web site directory and verify your program and track there. If your program and track are listed as CACREP accredited, please contact the Certification Department and we will help you.
I thought I was just taking a test; I’m not sure I want to be certified.

The application you submitted to NBCC was for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification. You were allowed to test as part of getting this national certification. You must submit your final documents (official sealed transcript showing your master's degree conferral date and/or the Counseling Supervisor Endorsement Form (if you applied prior to May 2011) in order to have access to your exam scores.

Many experienced counselors hold national certification in addition to state licensure. Once you are certified, you may choose to change your status at any time by contacting the Recertification Department at recertification@nbcc.org.

About the NCC for Graduate Student Program

What terms and definitions are important to know in order to advise students about their options?
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. National 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. The end product of an application for national certification is the right to call oneself an NCC. 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 required for independent practice; 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 for Licensure and Certification (NCE)
Passing the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (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, 43 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 in good standing.
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 state licensure. Applicants are given three years from the time they pass the NCE to complete this requirement.
The CACREP is the acronym for 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 www.cacrep.org.
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 or doctoral 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. Once a governmental body, such as a state legislature, has implemented a licensure law, it becomes illegal for any individual who is not licensed by the state to engage in the activities of the licensed occupation. Violators are subject to fines and/or imprisonment. Professional counselors who are fully state licensed may apply for the NCC using a special application.
How is the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) administered in the NCC application options for participating universities, and what are its features?

The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) is just one requirement for the NCC credential. For applicants for the NCC options for participating universities, the NCE is given on their campus. In keeping with the voluntary nature of the credential, the NCE 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 conflict of interest, the exam administrator may not be involved in grading or awarding academic credit to the examinees. 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 NBCC Assessment Department several months before the exam. The exam booklets and exam roster are mailed to the exam administrator about one week before the exam. NBCC staff members are available on the exam date to resolve any issues that may arise that day.
Exam Structure
The NCE is a 200-item nonsectioned test that relies on CACREP standards for derivation of content and on 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 four-hour period, most examinees complete the exam in two and a half to three hours.
Special Accommodations
Special testing accommodations can be arranged at no cost for students with special needs. Be sure students check the special accommodations box on the front page. Campus coordinators will check the Special Accommodations box on the roster.

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. Students with special needs should include a written request in their application folders along with 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.
Study Aids
A list of study guide titles is available. Since these tools are designed for varying learning styles and preferences, NBCC does not endorse any particular one. NBCC publishes an official NCE preparation guide. It describes the NCE design and construction and includes more than 100 sample questions. A complimentary copy is available upon request for new participating graduate programs.
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 on the same day. Most states have at least two such locations for each exam cycle-October and April. Students who want to or need to test away from their universities should place a simple note in the application folder indicating their location preference. They must also add $25 to the application fee to cover NBCC's costs of making the change.
Exam Scoring
Fourteen independent scores are generated from the exam—one for each of the eight CACREP content areas, one for each of the five job analysis areas, and one for the sum of correct answers (total). The cutoff or passing score is based on the total score. It is determined by a modified Angoff method.

Within six to eight weeks after the examination, graduate student applicants will receive in the mail an individualized score report itemizing scores for the 13 domains and including a total score. Means and standard deviations are included for each domain and the total for those taking the NCE 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 NCE score report sent to a third party.
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.
  • To reregister, student applicants will complete the reregistration form mailed to them by NBCC.
  • 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, but must still submit the reregistration form with their site and date choices.
  • 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 sent with supporting documentation to NBCC Certification Department, 3 Terrace Way, Greensboro, NC 27403.
What should faculty know about alumni access to the NCC application options for participating universities and national certification?

Advising Alumni Applicants

  • Recent graduates may apply for the NCC under the application options for participating universities as long as they will test within 12 months of their graduation date
  • Graduates who are not eligible for the NCC through the graduate student application option should check online to determine if they may be eligible 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. Should any of these individuals want to test on campus along with current student applicants, they may so indicate on their reregistration form. NBCC will notify campus coordinators with the names of any reregistrants in this category. Campus coordinators have the right to deny permission for alumni to test on campus. When that happens, NBCC will assist the individual in selecting one of NBCC's public testing sites.

What should faculty know about doctoral students' access to the NCC for application options for participating universities?
Doctoral students pay a slightly higher application fee than master's-level applicants because review of their academic and experiential records is more time consuming and complex.
Some doctoral students may be eligible for the NCC on the strength of their master's degree if it was earned in a CACREP-accredited program. For others, coursework eligibility may be determined by review of both the master's and doctoral transcripts, or by the doctoral transcript alone.
All doctoral applicants must submit a current transcript documenting enrollment. If they hold a master's in counseling, then they must also submit an unofficial master's transcript (an official copy will be required later in the process). For those whose master's degree is not in counseling, an official doctoral transcript showing degree conferral will eventually be required before the applicant can be certified and before the NCE results can be sent to a state licensure board.
Special Instructions
The graduate student NCC application contains special instructions for doctoral applicants on the back cover.
Decision to Apply
The timing of when to apply through the graduate student application option can be important for doctoral students. Doctoral applicants should be well-advanced in their coursework. Those who are not from CACREP tracks must consider the three-year period to complete their postgraduate experience and supervision. The dissertation timeframe can sometimes conflict. NBCC can grant up to three one-year extensions to applicants from non-CACREP programs. CACREP doctoral students with noncounseling master's degrees should be aware that a completed doctorate is required for certification and score release.
How should the NCC application options for participating universities be publicized on campus?

Approaches to publicizing the NCC application options vary from campus to campus. Classroom presentations and/or discussion in advanced classes are very useful particularly in helping students distinguish between national certification and state licensure. Descriptive e-mail announcements can also be effective. It is important that students understand the voluntary nature of the NCC credential 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.
  • The final outcome of this process is the NCC credential, which requires maintenance and updating throughout one's career.
  • There are several requirements for the NCC credential, only one of which is passing the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
  • In many states, but not all, a passing NCE score that is obtained through the graduate student application option may be acceptable for state licensure. To determine what examination your state uses for licensure, visit www.nbcc.org/directory.
  • Benefits of this credential include a referral system, affordable liability insurance, advocacy on behalf of the profession, protection of the integrity of the counseling profession, and salary supplementation in some states.

MYTHS to dispel:

  • With the application options for participating universities, students are only applying for an exam.
  • With the application options for participating universities, students are applying for state licensure.
  • Once certified, always certified.
  • National certification takes the place of a state license.

MY NCC Guide

Within each application is a condensed practical guide to the NCC credential: benefits, application procedures, certification requirements, score reports and continuing education requirements. The guide is designed for safekeeping. Please urge students to make use of this informational tool.