Becoming a Counselor in Illinois

Illinois licenses professional counselors and certifies school guidance counselors. Both professions require master's level education. Counselors with more limited scopes of duty (for example, domestic violence and partner abuse counselors) may be certified with lower levels of education.

If you are going for the higher level of licensing, you won't have to do a lot of career planning as an undergraduate. You will want to make sure that you're on the right track educationally and that you've got references who can address your counseling aptitude.

CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:

learning tree

If you are a High School Student or hold a Diploma/GED in Illinois:

Step 1:

You do not have to enroll in any particular degree program as an undergraduate. However, do look ahead to see graduate admission policies. You will probably have a few prerequisite courses to complete. You'll find the graduate school admission process either if you have a 3.00 or above. Learn about counseling and related undergraduate program options.

An undergraduate degree in Psychology is a common route for students interested in later pursuing graduate studies in counseling.

Step 2:

Look for experiences that will confirm your commitment to the profession. You can volunteer in a school or mental health setting. Organizations like Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health look for high school and college students to socialize with patients and assist with recreation.

You can expect to write a professional statement down the line. You will also submit references. Your volunteer experiences can be an asset.

If you already hold a Bachelor’s Degree:

Step 1:

Research programs and fulfill admission requirements. Before you can be licensed as a school counselor, you'll need to pass the Illinois Basic Skills exam. Chances are good your school will expect you to pass it before you begin the program.

Step 2:

As a prospective school counselor, you should enroll in a graduate program that has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. It must include a practicum of at least 100 hours and an internship of at least 600 hours. If you're not certified as a teacher, you will need coursework covering the educational system, human development, classroom management, and diversity (including state programs designed to meet diverse needs). Normally you enroll in a master's program, but if you already have a master's, you may enroll in a program that doesn't confer a degree.

If you are interested in becoming a professional counselor, you can enroll in a master's level program in mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or something closely related.

*Learn about Master’s in Counseling program options.

Generally, the program should be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). Other programs are acceptable if they meet state curriculum standards and are housed in schools with appropriate institutional level accreditation. (CORE accredits programs in rehabilitation counseling while CACREP accredits most other counseling disciplines. Programs in related fields like counseling psychology may have other accreditations.)

Step 3:

Complete coursework and internship requirements. For additional networking opportunities, you can become a student member of the Illinois Counseling Association. There are multiple interests groups and divisions.

You may apply for interim certification to allow you to work as a school counseling intern while completing degree requirements.

Step 4:

Apply to take the licensing exam. As a prospective professional counselor, you will take the National Counselor Examination, available through the National Board for Certified Counselors, or the certification exam offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

Step 5:

Before you can achieve the highest level of licensing, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, you will need to work under supervision for two years. Then you will take another licensing exam. (This is something that is generally not expected of school counselors.)

*Find more detailed licensure and certification information here.

Illinois Counselor Licensing and Certification Agencies

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation – Professional Counselor

Illinois State Board of Education

A Sample of Schools Offering Bachelor's and Master's Programs

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