The requirements for becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) vary from state to state but there are certain curriculum typical to most programs. Although a graduate degree is not required for some fields of counseling, most LPCs hold master's degrees. Specialties within the profession, such as school counseling, marriage and family counseling, drug counseling, and others have their own specific program requirements. It is important to consult one of the professional counseling organizations, such as the American Counseling Association, for requirements regarding state-specific and specialization education requirements.

Ethics

Ethics are fundamental to the profession of counseling.
Ethics are fundamental to the profession of counseling.

Courses in ethics have to do with the professional principles and guidelines that are codified in each state's licensing laws for counselors. This course is generally taken in the first semester of study in order to provide a foundation on which to build all other coursework.

Psychology

The psychology of human beings is of interest to counselors.
The psychology of human beings is of interest to counselors.

Coursework in psychology should begin at the undergraduate level and continue through graduate school. This broad category covers everything from fundamental principles, theory and basic research in social psychology to advanced electives on cognitive neuroscience. Topics of study vary greatly from college to college. Statistical reasoning for the behavioral sciences is a fundamental course along with an introduction level course in human psychology.

Human Development

Development of the human brain is integral to learning counseling.
Development of the human brain is integral to learning counseling.

Human development courses include human physiology and human behavior. At least one course in this category is taken in the first year of study. Theories relating to human behaviors that occur during the different stages of life are examined.

Counseling Research Methodologies

Counseling students must grasp statistics.
Counseling students must grasp statistics.

Coursework in counseling research methodologies is foundational to understanding all aspects of the counseling profession. Academic institutions typically require it as a prerequisite to other coursework. The study of the accepted methodologies covers existing established research, psychological studies and statistical analysis in order to teach the student to analyze and interpret relevant data.

Patient Assessment

There is an art and an understanding to patient assessment.
There is an art and an understanding to patient assessment.

Required for all specialties, patient assessment courses train students in interviewing, testing, evaluation and assessment using accepted methodologies.

Child Development

Future counselors study the needs of children.
Future counselors study the needs of children.

Courses in this category have to do with the social and emotional issues of children and adolescents, as well as the appropriate techniques for treating young patients. Even without a specialization in children and adolescent counseling, this coursework is generally required and typically taken in the second year of study.

Family Counseling

Counselors learn how to help couples and families.
Counselors learn how to help couples and families.

Marriage and couples counseling is often grouped under this heading. These courses examine the family framework and influences of the family on family member relationships . They are typically taken near the middle of the program.