School Counselor Certification in Iowa

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners offers two school counselor certifications: one at the elementary level and one at the secondary level. Either will qualify an individual to work with students in the middle grades (five through eight).

School counseling is considered a teacher certification. Credentialing is based on academic degree, qualifying coursework, and practicum experience. Iowa does not require school counselors to take an examination.

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School Counselor Educational Requirements

The candidate will need a master's degree from an accredited school. Iowa mandates completion of an approved exceptional learner component and a human relations component.

In addition, the prospective school counselor must complete a program that addresses the following content areas:

  • Nature and needs at different developmental levels
  • Learning theory
  • Classroom management skills
  • Fostering of relationships
  • Cultural and social foundations
  • Group work
  • School counseling skills
  • Curriculum
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Career development, post-secondary, and educational planning
  • Professional orientation
  • Practicum

Content areas are further broken down into specific knowledge and skills competencies.

School counseling skills include the following content:

  • Putting a comprehensive school counseling program into place
  • Meeting objectives by implementing and evaluating strategies
  • Consulting and collaborating with professionals inside and outside the school in order to meet program objectives
  • Collaborating with other school staff to provide appropriate educational experiences
  • Providing consultation and training to help school professionals respond to development issues
  • Assisting families in promoting a supportive environment
  • Providing information for educational transitions and helping students make the connection between their achievements and experiences and their future opportunities
  • Promoting schoolwide counseling and education/ career planning programs that foster a positive environment
  • Assisting in identification of the exceptional child
  • Advocating for children's educational needs
  • Applying ethical and legal knowledge to abuse and reporting issues

The curriculum competency area includes the following:

  • Writing lesson plans
  • Using various types of evaluation
  • Creating a developmentally appropriate unit
  • Competently carrying out whole group lessons
  • Demonstrating knowledge of benchmarks and standards

The career development and postsecondary planning competency area includes the following:

  • Helping students identify their strengths, weaknesses, and individual differences
  • Providing resources to students that will allow for personalized exploration of postsecondary options
  • Using career assessment programs knowledgeably
  • Carrying out placement and follow-up activities

The practicum is to be comprised of at least 500 contact hours. The prospective school counselor is to gain experience carrying out various activities that a school counselor would routinely carry out. The Department cites developmental classroom guidance, individual counseling, group work, and consultation, but notes that this list is not exhaustive. The experience must be supervised by a licensed school counselor.

The Board of Educational Examiners has provided a list of in-state programs that have been approved to offer school counseling programs (

A candidate seeking teacher credentialing on the basis of other than an Iowa-approved program will, at the time of application, document which courses developed each of the more than 50 required competencies. Competencies are described in detail in the out-of-state application packet and the endorsement checklist.

Changing/ Adding Grade Levels

Professionals certified as school counselors at one level may earn at the other level by completing a 500 hour practicum and two additional courses.

Those seeking certification at the elementary level will need to complete the following:

  • Natures and needs of individuals at different developmental levels
  • Comprehensive elementary counseling programs
  • Elementary practicum

Those seeking certification at the secondary level will need to complete the following:

  • Nature and needs of individuals at different developmental levels
  • Comprehensive secondary counseling programs
  • Secondary practicum

Criminal Background Checks

Applicants must have fingerprint-based background checks. The Board of Educational Examiners encourages applicant to have their fingerprints made at the Board office in Des Moines. Applicants are directed to call (515) 281 3245 to make an appointment.

There is a $52 fee for the background check. The fee is to be brought to the appointment along with driver's license or passport. A waiver form is also required. The form may be downloaded and completed in advance (

Those who can't go the office may submit an online request for a fingerprint packet then go to a local law enforcement office.

A $65 background check fee will be assessed. This is in addition to any fee that may be charged to have the fingerprints made locally ( Those who opt to have fingerprints made at the Board office will not pay a separate fingerprinting fee.

The Application Process

License applications are available on the Board website ( There are separate application packets for in-state and out-of-state applicants.The in-state application requires less supporting documentation. The applicant will include a signature from a school official verifying that the individual either graduated from the approved program or that the institution has reviewed the individuals education and determined that it meets Iowa requirements.

An applicant who answer “yes” to questions about felony convictions or actions against licenses will need to provide written explanation.

An out-of-state applicant will submit official transcripts documenting all qualifying coursework. The graduate will also have the preparing institution verify that Iowa competencies were met.

Individuals attending out-of-state institutions are directed to first seek credentialing in the other state. They will include copies of their current or expired licenses. The Iowa Board may grant a time-limited credential to an individual who is seeking credentialing in the home state.

The initial license fee is $85. There is a $50 processing fee for educators who are adding school counseling as an endorsement. The analysis fee, when required, is $60.

Students who complete programs outside of Iowa will submit internship/ practicum verification with the signature of the recommending official. The official will need to verify that the individual has demonstrated competency at the level sought (elementary and middle grades or middle grades and high school).

The application and supporting documentation are to be mailed to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners-Licensure at the following address:

Grimes State Office Building
400 E. 14th St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0147

Applications are typically processed within six weeks, but processing times vary by time of year.

Additional Information

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners ( can be reached at 515-281-3245. The consultant who represents the counseling discipline can be reached at 515-725-2146 or 'marylou.nosco at'.

Guidance counseling is currently listed as a shortage area ( Students may be eligible for forgivable loans.

You may also be interested in the Iowa Counselor license requirements.

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