Career Counseling Specialty: Out with the Old and Bring In the New!

by Peter Manzi

Until recently, counselors who wanted to receive specialty certification as career counselors had to first obtain certification as National Certified Counselors (NCC) through the National Board of Certified Counselors. Certification was obtained by meeting the course work and clinical experience/supervision to sit for the National Counselor Exam (NCE). Passing the NCE qualified one for a five year term, during which a certified counselor paid an annual fee to maintain her or his status as an NCC. During the five year term one would attend professional conferences and workshops to earn approved CEU credits, with a total of 100 required for re-certification, or if not, re-take the NCE.

Once the NCC was obtained, career counseling specialists who met NBCC criteria (take then pass a career counseling specialty exam, the NCCE), would receive certification as National Certified Career Counselors (NCCC) for five years. The "N triple C" as some called it, became the credential for establishing one's excellence as a career counselor. Things began to change in 1999 when NBCC reviewed the status of NCCCs and decided that because few people had been applying for the NCCE, they would no longer offer the NCCC. The credential was retired in June of 1999. However, those who had obtained it could keep the credential and call themselves NCCCs. The National Career Development Association (NCDA), the oldest and most accomplished of career development and counseling organizations, formed a committee headed by the innovative and cogent Dr. Mark Pope, then Past-President of NCDA, and the current President-elect of ACA. Mark was charged to find an alternative to the NCCC for new career practitioners. For many, it made sense that the organization that advanced career development should take the lead.

In 2000, the committee formed three different Special NCDA membership categories for those seeking a special recognition as career counselors. The three are Fellow, Master Career Counselor, and Master Career Development Professional. These membership categories are described below. All three require membership in NCDA. You can obtain application forms, requirements for eligibility and supporting materials, and application deadline dates at the NCDA web site (www.ncda.org), with questions directed to Carri Hoffman, Director, Membership/Operations at (866) 367-6232.


The term "Fellow" is a person of professional distinction. A Fellow is conferred to recognize outstanding and substantial contributions to the career development profession. Requirements include five years of professional membership in NCDA; a Master's degree or higher in counseling or a related field from a recognized, accredited program; five years of post-master's experience in career counseling and development; significant contributions to theory, practice and research; strong and sustained leadership in the field; engaged in education, training or research in career development; and a sustained commitment to career counseling and development through theory, research, practice, or leadership.

Master Career Counselor (MCC)

The minimum requirements for this category are a two year membership in NCDA (either professional or regular); a master's degree or higher in counseling or closely related field from a regional, accredited program; three years of post-master's experience in career counseling; possess and maintain the NCC, state LPCC, RPCC or licensed psychologist credential; successfully completed at least three credits in each of the six NCDA Competency areas: Career development theory, individual/group counseling skills, individual/group assessment, career information/resources, diverse populations, and ethical/legal issues. Other requirements are successful completion of supervised career counseling work experience under a certified supervisor or licensed counseling professional and documentation that at least one-half of current full-time work activities are directly career counseling related. NCDA members who already hold the NCCC are automatically qualified for the MCC.

Master Career Development Professional (MCDP)

The minimum requirements include professional or regular membership in NCDA, a master's degree or higher in counseling or closely related field; three years of post-master's career development experience in training, teaching, program development, or materials development; documentation that a least one-half of current full-time work activities are directly career development related.

There is no fee for the Fellow application. The MCC and MCDP each have an application fee of $50. If the category criteria are met, the membership is good for five years as long as NCDA membership remains valid. If membership lapses, reapplication is required. In addition, a total of 20 NCDA sponsored continuing education hours must be completed at the state or national level, during the five years for the MCC and MCDP categories. Those holding special membership categories can have their names and e-mail addresses listed on the NCDA web site for only $25.00 for a five year period.

NCDA Wants and Needs You!

As of November 2002, there were only about 160 MCC's, MCDPs and Fellows. This pales in comparison to the total number of NCCCs. If you are an NCCC and believe that this is all you need for recognition, think again. A credential that has been discontinued, however valuable it once was, now serves (without continuing education requirements or current availability) as a historical artifact. If NCDA and its members want to be taken seriously by other professions and the consumer public, NCDA should be at the vanguard of career counselor specialization. Career counselors should hold the top credentials to establish and maintain their edge. These membership categories are not merely replacements for the old NCCC; they are carefully constructed distinctions that usher in a new era of career counseling expertise, appropriately initiated at the onset of the new millennium.

Peter Manzi, Ed. D., NCC, NCCC, MCC is a career consultant, adjunct professor, and Chair of the NCDA PR Committee, 2000-04. He can be contacted at parmcede@hotmail.com

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