Counseling Licensure Requirements in Illinois

Becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Illinois requires applicants to possess a master's or doctoral degree and complete an application. If the Illinois counselor board approves the application, candidates can sit for the National Counselor Examination (NCE) licensing exam. If candidates pass the exam, they receive their license and may begin practicing.

An LPC can find work in many industries, including education and healthcare. Regardless of industry, LPCs diagnose and treat patients dealing with mental health or behavioral disorders. In Illinois, counselors earn an average annual salary of $38,484. Read on to discover the benefits of a counseling career and how to become a licensed counselor in Illinois.

Counseling Careers in Illinois

Illinois boasts many job opportunities for counselors in healthcare and education. Individuals with a master's degree in counseling often find a career as school guidance counselor, marriage and family therapist, rehabilitation counselor, or substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor.

How Much Do Counselors Make in Illinois?

The annual salary for counselors in Illinois varies depending on the field. For convenience, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors together. The table below further details earning potential for counselors in Illinois compared to national averages.

Education Requirements for Counselors in Illinois

Education and Coursework

To work as an LPC in Illinois, each candidate must possess a master's degree and state licensure. The first step in this process includes earning a bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field, such as psychology or human services. Then, individuals must enroll in a master's or doctoral program. Though not required, earning a degree through a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or other approved agency may ease the licensure process for professionals.

Graduate programs typically include an internship or practicum

The number of credit hours may vary depending on the program, but students typically complete 36-54 semester hours or 60-90 quarter-credits. Coursework comprises certain key industry topics, including counseling techniques and theories, substance abuse, human development, research and evaluation, ethics, and group dynamics in counseling. Graduate programs typically include an internship or practicum, which students must complete to graduate and qualify for licensure to practice.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation recommends that individuals interested in pursuing a career in counseling should visit their website for the latest news and information about educational requirements, the licensure process, and other regulatory standards to ensure they possess all necessary documentation to apply for and maintain their license.

Practicum and Internship

Illinois requires each individual to complete an internship or practicum to qualify for counseling licensure. Up to one year of internship experience may count toward Illinois's two-year supervised experience requirement. Most graduate programs include practicums or internships in their program requirements, so individuals should research programs carefully to ensure they meet Illinois standards for licensure.

Online Counseling Programs in Illinois

Aspiring counselors who want to learn how to become therapists in Illinois can explore many online degree options. Online counseling programs typically blend coursework with supervised clinical experiences. Illinois counseling licensure demands many hours of clinical training, and degree candidates spend significant time meeting the licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) requirements. While online courses provide a great deal of flexibility, aspiring counselors should plan to complete numerous face-to-face clinical experiences.

Online counseling programs typically blend coursework with supervised clinical experiences

Distance learners can usually complete clinical requirements close to home. For example, Bradley University's professional mental health and school counseling programs allow candidates to conduct their internships locally but require each student to attend campus for two one-week sessions.

Similarly, Northwestern's master of arts in counseling program requires on-campus immersion courses in addition to a practicum and an internship. Illinois online counseling programs meet the standards for an LCPC license. Programs accredited by CACREP meet all counseling requirements in Illinois and may qualify graduates to practice in other states.

How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Illinois

Illinois offers two levels of professional counseling licensure. The first option is the LPC, which requires each candidate to earn a master's degree in counseling and pass the NCE. The more advanced option is the LCPC, which requires each candidate to complete two years of supervised clinical experience and submit official school transcripts, proof of certification, and verification of experience.

Candidates must submit their application to Illinois' counselor board, known as the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. This group maintains the state's regulatory standards and ensures practicing professionals maintain necessary licensure and uphold ethical standards.

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Out of State Counselor Candidates

A counselor hoping to transfer their practice to Illinois from another state must apply for counseling licensure within 90 days of their current license's expiration. Illinois allows individuals to submit endorsements but does not allow licensure through a reciprocity agreement. Each candidate must possess a graduate degree in counseling, psychology, or other industry-related field and provide proof of current licensure.

Illinois typically requires out-of-state applicants to possess at least two years of supervised experience with a clean record in good standing. Candidates must also submit proof of passing the NCE or equivalent exam. If they do not, the Illinois counselor board may require individuals to sit for the exam for licensure.

Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Illinois

In Illinois, counselors must renew their licenses every two years. All licenses in Illinois expire on March 31 of odd-numbered years. The process to renew in Illinois is relatively simple and requires each professional to complete 30 hours minimum of continuing education. Coursework must be completed through an APA-approved platform. To apply for renewal, each candidate must complete an application, submit proof of education hours, and pay the application fee.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation recommends counseling professionals use their website to obtain the latest information on renewal requirements and connect with approved platforms for continuing education courses.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Illinois

  • AATP This nonprofit continuing education provider delivers online seminars to mental healthcare professionals in Illinois. Courses address industry-specific topics like emotional eating, antisocial personality disorder, and mood disorders.
  • @Health Endorsed by the American Psychological Association, this provider helps Illinois LPCs and LCPCs meet continuing education requirements online. Nearly 140 available courses offer something for every mental healthcare provider.
  • Continuing Education for Counselors LPCs, LCPCs, and marriage and family therapists can earn continuing education credits through this Chicago facility's small group classes. Courses emphasize practical skill development.

Resources and Organizations for Counselors in Illinois

  • Family Institute Behavioral Health Resources This aggregator, maintained by Northwestern University, contains a wealth of useful information for counseling students. Site content includes a clinical insights article series, monthly practice tips, and relevant podcasts.
  • Counselors for Social Justice This offshoot of the ACA is dedicated to enacting positive change through social justice endeavors. Professional development materials help counselors promote social justice in their practices.
  • National Institute of Mental Health A branch of the National Institute of Health, NIMH is a federally funded research organization. Visitors to the NIMH website may access expert summaries of mental health disorders and numerous special-interest topics, along with statistical information and the results of clinical trials.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration This federal agency seeks to address behavioral disorders and addiction through public health initiatives. Counselors can research mental healthcare topics, explore client referral resources, and apply for research grants.
  • Chi Sigma Iota Often found on college campuses, Chi Sigma Iota is a professional society consisting of students, practicing mental health counselors, and counseling educators. Student members receive access to career planning resources and leadership development opportunities.
  • Illinois Counseling Association Focused largely on professional development, the Illinois Counseling Association offers seminars and workshops on industry topics, most of which confer continuing education credits. Members may attend an annual conference and local meetings, or explore opportunities through the association's job board.
  • American School Counselor Association ASCA members benefit from the association's comprehensive professional development and continuing education options, including webinars, workshops, and self-paced courses. The organization produces a magazine and a scholarly journal. Other perks include industry discounts, professional liability insurance, and free educational materials and tools.
  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy AAMFT offers extensive membership benefits, including access to an exclusive job board, career development tools, continuing education courses and webinars, and leadership training. AAMFT members also receive vendor discounts and scholarly publications.
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