How to Become a School Counselor in Iowa

Iowa has a relatively promising job landscape for future guidance counselors. According to a May 2018 data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Hawkeye State houses approximately 2,600 school counselor positions. These 2,600 professionals earn a mean annual wage of nearly $55,000. Furthermore, a different data set from the BLS projects a 13% growth rate for the school counselor profession between 2016-2026, which outpaces the national average.

Read on to learn more about how to become a guidance counselor in Iowa by earning an education, licensure, and experience in the field.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Iowa

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Iowa here

Education and Experience Requirements

The following section includes more information on how to become a school counselor in Iowa, including required degrees, typical coursework, and typical fieldwork, internship, and practicum requirements.

Education and Coursework

For Iowa counseling, aspiring professionals do not need any particular undergraduate degree to earn licensure. However, each candidate for school counselor licensure in Iowa must hold a master's degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited university. That master's degree must include courses in the following:

  • Exceptional learners

  • Human relations

  • Nature and needs of individuals at different levels of development

  • Social and cultural foundations

  • Relationship building

  • Group work

  • Classroom management

  • Curriculum

  • Learning theory

  • Assessment and evaluation

  • Postsecondary planning

  • Career development

Most master's programs in school counseling require 36-54 credits. These programs usually take between 18 months and three years to complete, depending on whether students enroll full time or part time.

To learn more about counseling education and careers, please visit the counseling hub page on this website.


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


Practicum and Internship

A school counselor applying for licensure in Iowa must complete a teaching/counseling practicum with a minimum of 500 contact hours during their master's programs. They must complete these hours with the population (either K-6 or 7-12) with which they would like to become certified.

Application and Exam Requirements for Iowa School Counselors

The Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Board of Education Examiners (IBEE) manage all matters related to school counselor licensure in Iowa, including application and exam requirements. Currently, IBEE awards school counselor licensure at the K-8 and 5-12 levels. Students must complete 500-hour practicum experiences and relevant coursework before they can apply to IBEE for licensure.

Students must complete 500-hour practicum experiences and relevant coursework before they can apply to IBEE for licensure

The process for becoming a school counselor in Iowa differs greatly from other counseling specializations, in terms of licensure and certification. Each prospective school counselor in Iowa must fill out an application on the IBEE website. As of June 2019, applicants did not need to complete any sort of examination to become professionally certified. However, all applicants must submit official college transcripts to IBEE and pay a fee for a criminal background check. All applicants who meet the education and experience requirements, along with passing their criminal background checks, can become certified.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Iowa does not maintain reciprocity agreements with other states for out-of-state school counseling licensure candidates. However, the process for becoming certified in Iowa with an out-of-state license is relatively painless.

Since Iowa does not require candidates to take any exams to earn initial licensure, there are no examination requirements for out-of-state candidates. An out-of-state counselor needs to demonstrate that they have already met requirements for initial licensure in Iowa, including a master's degree in school counseling, a criminal background check, and a transcript demonstrating coursework in the required areas.

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Each Iowa school counselor license lasts for five years. As such, all of Iowa's school counselors must apply to renew their licenses every five years.

A counselor with an initial license can apply for an official professional license after two years of work experience without completing any continuing education coursework. Each counselor with a standard or educational license must complete six credits of continuing education coursework during each five-year renewal period. All professionals with master's licenses must earn four continuing education credits during each renewal period.

A professional in the field can go from a standard to a master's license by completing five years of experience and earning six renewal credits.

Iowa's school counselors must renew their licenses every five years

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Iowa

The following list of resources and professional organizations provides future Iowa guidance counselors with an idea of how to grow in their careers. These organizations and resources provide services such as continuing education and professional development.

  • ACT In recent years, the ACT exam has challenged the SAT for the mantle of the nation's most prevalent and important college entrance exam. As such, high school counselors should familiarize themselves with the ACT and its procedures.
  • American Counseling Association ACA is perhaps the flagship professional organization for counselors in general. It provides many member services, including continuing education, professional development, a jobs board, and publications.
  • American School Counselor Association Unlike ACA, ASCA focuses exclusively on the school counseling profession. ASCA operates a chapter in most states and provides professional development and networking opportunities at a national level.
  • Iowa School Counselor Association As a state branch of ASCA, the Iowa School Counselor Association provides advocacy, professional development opportunities, and an annual conference for Iowa school counselors.
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs CACREP vets college counseling programs against a set of standards to ensure quality. Future counseling students can check on the accreditation status of their programs on this website.
  • DrugRehab.com DrugRehab.com — sponsored by Advanced Recovery Systems — provides a large storehouse of articles and knowledge related to drug-specific topics, including addiction, treatment, and rehabilitation. The site also contains information to help high school counselors in difficult situations.
  • Iowa Department of Education School Counseling Page The school counseling page on the Iowa Department of Education's website provides information about licensure and policies specific to Iowa, plus links to national school counselor resources.
  • The National Association for College Admission Counseling NACAC exists to further the profession by providing knowledge and best practices to workers in the field. As such, membership makes the most sense for counselors who work with high school students.
  • The National Board for Certified Counselors BCC helps professionals advance their careers through online certificate and badge programs completed through the board's website.

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