The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification® (NCE)

The NCE is used for two purposes: national counselor certification and state counselor licensure. The purpose of the NCE is to assess knowledge, skills, and abilities viewed as important for providing effective counseling services. The NCE is designed to be general in nature. It is intended to assess cognitive knowledge which should be known by all counselors regardless of their individual professional specialties.

Satisfactory performance on the National Counselor Examination (NCE®) is one of the criteria used by NBCC to identify professionals who may be eligible to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Click here for information on the NCC credential.

Many states also use the NCE for state credentialing (LPC, LAPC, LPGC, etc). Click here for a list of state board contact information.

NCE Change Announcement

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) has completed its most recent job analysis of the work performed by professional counselors. The purpose of NBCC's recurring job analyses is to ensure that the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) is based on an accurate understanding of the practice of professional counseling. The NCE has been revised to incorporate the practice changes identified by the job analysis, ensuring that the NCE continues to perform effectively as the standard for professional counselor licensure and certification.

The job analysis data will be used to construct the October 2012 version of the NCE. The work behavior areas (job analysis domains) and item distribution are shown below.

Work Behavior Area
Number of Items
1. Fundamental Counseling Issues
2. Counseling Process
3. Diagnostic and Assessment Services
4. Professional Practice
5. Professional Development, Supervision and Consultation

Although the work behavior areas have changed, the distribution of items across the eight CACREP core areas remains the same, as shown below.

CACREP Core Area
Number of Items
1. Human Growth and Development
2. Social and Cultural Diversity
3. Helping Relationships
4. Group Work
5. Career Development
6. Assessment
7. Research and Program Evaluation
8. Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice

Current NCE items will be reclassified to match the job analysis domains. New items will be developed and utilized after thorough psychometric validation. The structure and content of the NCE will continue to accurately reflect the practice of professional counseling as identified by job analysis and professional education requirements. If you are taking the NCE on computer, these changes will go into effect for the December 2012 Exam Administration.

Examination Format

The NCE is comprised of 200 multiple choice questions and is scheduled for a four-hour period beginning at 9:00 a.m. Responses are recorded on a separate machine-scorable answer sheet.

A different edition of the NCE is compiled for each administration of the exam. Each form's questions are drawn from the NCE item pool which has undergone extensive review and field testing. The entire item pool, each form of the NCE and the answer sheet are copyrighted. Consequently, any distribution of the examination content or materials through any form of reproduction or oral or written communication is strictly prohibited. Disclosure of examination content is a violation of the NBCC Code of Ethics.

NCE for Counselors Interested in Military Employment

Some individuals may be interested in this examination for the purpose of potential employment within the military or the military health systems. Eligibility for a particular position is not guaranteed.

TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselor: For more information, please visit Please direct TRICARE certification qualification questions to the TRICARE Management Activities Office. To download the NCE Military Registration Form, please please click here.