How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor in Illinois

Illinois offers a large and prosperous job market for rehabilitation counselors at any stage in their careers. The metropolitan area of Chicago, Illinois; Naperville, Indiana; and Elgin, Wisconsin ranks among the top ten metropolitan areas in the nation for the highest concentration of rehabilitation counselors. Illinois employs some 3,670 rehabilitation counselors who made an annual mean wage of $40,260 as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To become a licensed rehabilitation counselor in Illinois, professionals must first complete a master's degree (or higher) in counseling. Then, graduates can work to obtain licensure. Illinois is one of the few states that allows candidates to take the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) examination to qualify for professional counseling licensure. Rehabilitation counselors can also apply for the licensed professional counselor (LPC) or licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) certifications.

Find out more in this comprehensive guide about how to become a rehabilitation counselor in Illinois, including the education and supervised experience requirements.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Illinois

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Illinois here

Education and Experience Requirements

Obtaining a professional counseling license in Illinois requires multiple steps. Prospective licensees must first complete an advanced counseling degree from an accredited college. Then they must complete all supervised work experience before applying to take the licensure exam. Below, you can find more information about what prospective counselors must do to earn a license.

Education and Coursework

Earning a master's or doctoral degree in counseling or a related program is the first step toward becoming licensed in Illinois. The degree must come from a college or university accredited by either the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), and the program must require at least 48 semester credits. Visit this page to learn more about how to find an accredited counseling program.After earning a degree, candidates can take the CRC exam.

The Illinois licensing agency may accept applicants from non-accredited programs if they have completed acceptable coursework. Applicants must have completed at least one three-credit course in each of the following content areas:

  • Counseling theory
  • Counseling techniques
  • Human growth and development
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Group dynamics/group processing and counseling
  • Research and evaluation
  • Professional, ethical, and legal responsibility
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Substance abuse
  • Psychopathology
  • Family dynamics
  • Practicum and internships

Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:


Practicum and Internship

To become licensed, the Division of Professional Regulation requires each rehabilitation counselor with a master's or doctorate to complete two years of full-time supervised counseling experience in a professional setting. A doctorate internship may suffice for this requirement. Each candidate must complete a maximum of 1,680 hours in one year, plus 960 hours working one-on-one with counseling groups or individuals.

Application and Exam Requirements for Illinois Rehabilitation Counselors

The Division of Professional Regulation regulates the licensure process in Illinois. Different pathways can lead to licensure in Illinois. Counselors can become CRCs and apply for licensure. They can also take the national counselor exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) to earn their LPC or LCPC.

To apply for an exam, a master's or doctorate graduate must have completed a CACREP-accredited counseling program. Programs must have required a minimum of 48 semester hours in the following graduate-level classes:

  • Professional orientation and ethics in rehabilitation counseling
  • Medical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities
  • Assessment
  • Career development theories and job development and placement techniques
  • Case management and community partnerships
  • Theories and techniques of counseling
  • Research, methodology, and performance management

Current students who have completed 75% of their master's coursework a month before their testing date can apply for the CRC exam. All prospective licensees must complete 600 hours of an internship supervised by a CRC, including 240 hours of direct rehabilitation counseling. To apply for the exam, each applicant must submit official transcripts and proof of a completed internship five months in advance. Exam dates are offered three times a year.

Out-of-State Rehabilitation Counselor Candidates

Illinois does not offer a reciprocity agreement. Each applicant, whether they are a current resident or out-of-state, needs to meet all requirements set by the division to obtain a counseling license in Illinois. However, out-of-state rehabilitation counselors who received CRC certification, or individuals who have passed the NCE or NCMHCE, can have their test scores sent to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to obtain licensure in the state.

Rehabilitation Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Licenses in Illinois expire on March 31 on odd-numbered years. To renew a license, counselors must submit a fee and renewal application. The division sends renewal notifications to the counselor's address on file.

Licenses in Illinois expire on March 31 on odd-numbered years

Each LPC or LCPC must also complete 30 hours of continuing education to renew a license, which includes 18 hours in clinical supervision training. Applicants can earn credits from postgraduate fellowships, publishing papers in journals, or teaching work in counseling. The division allows counselors seeking renewal to earn a maximum of 15 credits online or through correspondence coursework.

Resources and Organizations for Rehabilitation Counselors in Illinois

Counselors at every point in their careers must rely on their community of peers to access resources. Whether you want to stay current with journals, find continuing education courses, or browse for local jobs, the resources listed below can help you to thrive in your career.

  • American Counseling Association Established in 1952, ACA works to help professional counselors achieve their potential through career development. Non-members can find information about state licensure requirements, and members can access continuing education opportunities, the ACA Career Central, and members-only awards.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association AMHCA, comprised of mental health counselors, was founded in 1976 to promote industry standards and ethics. Members can find free or discounted continuing education opportunities. They can also receive discounts to webinars and conferences.
  • American Rehabilitation Counseling Association This association, comprised of students, rehabilitation counselors, and educators, works to improve the lives of people with disabilities and raise awareness about rehabilitation counseling. Members can win awards and gain access to ARCA's journal, student networking, and continuing education courses.
  • Association for Advanced Training in the Behavioral Sciences AATBS prepares counselors to take mental health counseling exams, including the NCE and NCMHCE. Counselors can also get access to continuing education courses and certifications through the association.
  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification CRCC represents more than 15,000 CRCs. In addition to the nationally recognized certification, CRCC offers continuing education courses in ethics, case management, and multicultural counseling through its e-University.
  • Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation The department's website provides downloadable license application forms for counselors. It also offers access to the professional counseling act and rules. Counselors can find information about how to change their address and request a reprinted license.
  • Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association IMHCA works to support mental health counselors in the state. Members can benefit from awards, webinars, and professional development such as NCE and NCMHCE exam preparation classes. The association also hosts an annual conference.
  • Illinois Counseling Association Since 1948, ICA has worked to improve the counseling profession for clients and counselors. Joining ICA keeps members up to date on industry news and gives them access to conferences, workshops, and a 24/7 web chat.
  • Illinois Counseling Association Foundation The ICAF offers financial assistance to counselors who want to access professional development courses and opportunities. Illinois counselors can take advantage of the foundation's programs and research grants.
  • National Rehabilitation Association This association works to promote the rights of people with disabilities. Members include rehabilitation counselors, educators, and researchers. Membership offers access to the association's journal, online professional references, and discounts to webinars and workshops.

Explore More Pathways to Becoming a Counselor in Illinois

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