credentialing has been the lack of uniformity between states, especially in terms of training, supervised experience, and examinations (Bradley, 1995; Anderson & Swanson, 1994). Through licensing legislation, states have given a broad range of titles to those in the counseling profession. The most commonly used title is “professional counselor,” however states may license counseling professionals as mental health counselors, clinical counselors or some other professional title (Remley & Herlihy, 2001; Bradley, 1995). According to one source, there are as many as 16 different titles used in counselor licensing laws throughout the country (Smith & Robinson, 1995).
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is a professional association that was established in 1982 to provide professional counselors with the opportunity to obtain voluntary national certification. As of 2001, more than 31,000 professionals had been certified by NBCC (NBCC, 2001). According to the organization, although not a substitute for state licensing requirements, credentialing through the NBCC allows professional counselors to demonstrate to the public that they have undergone a certification process that meets professional standards designed by counselors, not legislators (NBCC, 2001). States typically require that professional counselors pass a national exam prior to certification, and 38 of the 46 states (including the District of Columbia) that license counselors require or accept the National Counselors Exam for Licensure and Certification (NCE) administered by NBCC (NBCC, 2001). Number and Distribution of Professionals
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were approximately 465,000 counselors employed during 2000 (BLS, 2002). The same source reported that nearly half of these professionals (205,000) were identified as education, vocational or school counselors and another 110,000 as rehabilitation counselors. The remainder (approximately 150,000 counselors) are reportedly engaged in more traditional mental health practice as mental health counselors, substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors, and marriage and family therapists (BLS, 2002).
In addition to having a range of specialization within the professional counseling field, counselors may work in a number of different settings. As one would expect, the primary settings for education, vocational and school counselors are public and private schools, colleges and universities (BLS, 2002). In recent years, however, many more counselors have become employed in agency settings or in private practice. One professor in a counseling education program estimated that only 15 percent of graduates from his program now enter school settings, with about two-thirds entering agency settings (Briddick, 1997). According to this source, another 15 percent work for the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) of public or