Are you looking to make a career in peer support? Discover how earning the National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification can help you demonstrate your exceptional skills, knowledge, and experience.
Opportunities for peers are on the rise, from inclusion in primary care to stand-alone support to expansion into the private sector. Becoming an NCPS-credentialed peer support specialist demonstrates that you are on the cutting edge of a rapidly growing field. Earning the NCPS shows employers and payers that you have significant knowledge, experience, and skills that set you apart and set you up for a career in peer support.
The National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification is a voluntary, examination-based certification that allows peers to demonstrate a high level of experience and competencies in peer support. The NCPS does not replace state certifications but is an add-on to required state certifications. Individuals who earn the NCPS go above and beyond state certification to show their leadership and commitment to the growth and advancement of the field.
Our Career Roadmap shows your path from deciding to work in peer support to earning the NCPS.
Not currently a peer specialist? If you are interested in getting started as a peer specialist, head to our How to Become a Peer Specialist page.
Mental Health America (MHA) believes the NCPS is a stepping stone toward the advancement and expansion of the field of peer support. Our goals include more career trajectories for peers and more opportunities for payment, including in Medicare and commercial insurance. While MHA works toward these goals, NCPSs are individuals jointly committed to the advancement of the field.
Current NCPS benefits:
- Join a network of NCPSs to connect and learn from peer leaders across the country
- Gain leadership opportunities, including opportunities to train, present, and write, through MHA’s over 750,000-person audience and Center for Peer Support Community
- Stay updated and engaged in NCPS policy through our ongoing policy and advocacy opportunities and information
- Get involved in research and stay up to date on emerging peer support publications
- Receive ongoing training through our advanced learning series on emerging topics in peer support
- Receive a 20% discount on MHA’s annual conference
- Promote yourself and the field of peer support through our outreach and education materials
To apply for the examination-based certification, individuals must:
- hold current state certification with a minimum of 40 hours of training OR have completed an MHA-approved training
- have a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised work or volunteer experience providing direct peer support
- provide one professional letter of recommendation for certification
- provide one supervisory letter of recommendation for certification
Once approved, applicants take the 125-question, three-hour examination at an approved testing location.
To maintain certification, NCPSs must complete 20 hours of Continuing Education every two years, practice according to the NCPS Code of Ethics, and pay the $200 biennial renewal fee.
Our career roadmap shows the path from the moment you decide to become a peer specialist to the moment you earn the NCPS certification!
Below are your eight steps to NCPS certification.
- Verify that you meet the NCPS requirements:
- A minimum of 3,000 supervised work or volunteer experience providing direct peer support
- Prior state certification with a minimum of 40 hours training OR completion of an MHA-approved training
- Using the Certification Guidelines: Credential Standards and Requirements Table for reference, complete the online application, including obtaining professional and supervisory letters of recommendation.
- Pay $225 application fee.
- Once approved, your certification specialist will work with you to schedule an examination online or at a testing location near you.
- Pay $200 examination fee.
- Review your knowledge and prepare for the examination with our National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) Self-Assessment Checklist and Test Preparation guide.
- Take the exam. You will receive your results upon completion.
MHA began working on the MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification in 2015. In partnership with the Florida Certification Board, MHA convened a group of subject matter experts including Patrick Hendry, Sue Bergeson, Larry Fricks, Tom Lane, Joseph Rogers, Janie Marsh, Andrew Bertagnolli, Andrea Crook, Larry Real, and Brenda Bergeson.
Using the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS) National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Core Competencies for Peer Workers, the subject matter experts developed a list of core competencies. These were opened for public comment and the feedback of over 1,000 peers determined the 55 core competencies across 6 domains of practice. The competencies were then sent to 10,000 peers to rank the importance and frequency in their work. Based on this feedback a psychometrician from the Florida Certification Board developed a blueprint for the 125-question examination and subject matter experts were trained to develop multiple choice questions for the examination.
Requirements for hours of experience, letters of recommendation, training, and continuing education were determined by subject matter experts after an environment scan of requirements across the states.
We are currently in the process of updating the NCPS based on changes in the field.
- NCPS Flyer
- NCPS Benefits Guide
- Employer Guide to NCPS Certification
- Letter to Employers on NCPS Certification
- NCPS vs State Certification Cheat Sheet
- MHA Webinar: Build Your Peer Career: National Advanced Certification: Slides (pdf) and Recording
- MHA Webinar: Peer Support In the Private Sector: Careers in Private Practice: Slides (pdf) and Recording