Rehabilitation Counselor Requirements in Iowa: Finding Your Path to Becoming a Rehabilitation Counselor in Iowa

Although Iowa’s rehabilitation counselors may work in some agency settings on the strength of just their rehabilitation counseling education, they have additional credentialing options; they can be state credentialed as Licensed Mental Health Counselors, or LMHCs. Iowa boasts, among the licensing examination options, a certification examination designed for rehabilitation counselors. An individual trained as a rehabilitation counselor could also meet LMHC education and experience requirements.

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Rehabilitation Counselor Educational Requirements

Prospective rehabilitation counselors must complete degrees at the master’s or doctoral level. Requirements are in some ways more stringent for individuals who seek licensure. The current Iowa requirement is for programs to include at least 60 semester hours of coursework; this is somewhat above what is included in many nationally accredited rehabilitation counseling programs. Individuals who entered programs before July 1, 2012, however, need demonstrate only 45 hours.

Individuals who seek both counseling licensure and third party rehabilitation counselor certification should be aware that the state board and the certification commission favor programs with different accreditations. The Iowa Board of Behavioral Sciences does not mandate that programs be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. However, it does require that graduates of non-CACREP programs have their education evaluated for content equivalency; this same requirement is imposed on graduates of programs that are accredited by CACREP in disciplines other than mental health counseling. While the third party certification organization, the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, does not mandate accreditation by the Council on Rehabilitation Education, it does impose additional supervised practice requirements on master's level graduates who did not graduate from CORE programs.

In order for a current program to be found content equivalent by the licensing agency, it must include content in 12 Board-identified areas:

  • Human growth and development
  • Helping relationships
  • Social and cultural diversity
  • Assessment
  • Professional and ethical practice
  • Career development
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Group work
  • Psychopathology
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Practicum
  • Internship

The practicum experience is to include at least 100 total hours; the internship experience, at least 600. A full discussion of required content is found in Chapter 31 of state administrative code ( There are some differences in content requirements for individuals who began their programs prior to July 1, 2012.

The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) is the agency approved to determine equivalency; it is under the banner of the National Board for Certified Counselors. CCE has provided an Iowa educational review application with state-specific information ( CCE has stated that an educational review application may be held open for a maximum of three years while educational deficiencies are corrected.

In the case of foreign-trained applicants, the agency currently approved to carry out credential review is International Educational Research Foundations, Inc.

Some counseling programs emphasize both mental health counseling and rehabilitation counseling and hold accreditation through both CACREP and CORE. Others may meet Iowa’s minimum credit hour requirements. Iowa’s two CORE-accredited programs report that graduates have state licensure options, at least if they complete an appropriate internship experience.

Rehabilitation Counselor Examination Requirements

State licensure is dependent on passing a national examination. There are multiple options. Iowa will accept the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination, offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification ( The CRC tests mastery of ten rehabilitation counseling domains ( By successfully completing the examination, and fulfilling other prerequisite requirements, a counselor can be certified as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, or CRC.

The CRC is offered during three annual testing windows. Student in CORE-accredited rehabilitation counseling programs can submit materials and be approved before all program requirements have been met ( They will need to complete the student status form. Those who have already graduated will verify internship completion. Those who did not have rehabilitation counseling internships will need to verify relevant work experience. There is a $385 fee associated with the certification process. In some instances, eligibility could be denied for legal or professional reasons. A candidate found ineligible for examination may have $200 refunded.

Iowa will also accept the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), both of which are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The NCE is a generalist counseling examination. The NBCC has prepared a page of Iowa-specific examination information ( Iowa candidates are asked to seek eligibility letters before submitting registration materials. NBCC examinations are offered during monthly testing windows.

Supervision/Experience Requirements

A candidate for state licensure must work under supervision for at least two years. He or she will need to accrue at least 3,000 hours of experience that meets the Board’s definition of mental health counseling; at least 1,500 must consist of direct client contact. Experience requirements are slightly less for those who entered their programs before July 1, 2010. In either case, the supervisee will need at least 200 hours of clinical supervision. Supervision is to follow a supervisory plan. Supervision and documentation must meet standards described in Board rule.

A temporary license may be required for work. In other cases, the worker may fall under an exemption outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 154D.4,2,b. Qualifying experience earned before temporary licensing may in some cases be accepted. The candidate will submit an attestation of supervision. The same document file includes paperwork for approving future supervision and documenting supervision after it has been completed. The Board has provided a list of frequently asked questions about temporary licensure.

The Iowa Board may accept alternative documentation from an out-of-state licensee. If the counselor has been licensed and in practice at the independent level for at least five years, supervisory documentation may not be required.

The Application Process

Application materials can be downloaded from the website of the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science ( Applicants who need CCE review will first download and submit education review applications.

The Board will require official transcripts, or, in the case of those who completed non-CACREP programs, equivalency evaluations carried out by CCE.

The license application fee is $120. Applicants who need their education verified by CCE will pay a $150 fee to CCE.

A counselor who has held licensing in another jurisdiction will need to provide verification.

Additional Information

The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science ( can be reached at (515) 281-0254.

Rehabilitation counselors may also want to contact Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services about credentialing requirements (

Additional resources include the Iowa Chapter of the National Rehabilitation Association ( and the Iowa Chapter of the Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Association (

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