Illinois Counseling License Requirements
There are approximately 31,790 counselors employed in Illinois, primarily as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors as well as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.1-5 If you are interested in a career as a professional counselor in Illinois, you will find the state has high educational standards for professional counselors and jobs can be competitive. The main counseling license in Illinois is the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). This guide will provide information on how to become licensed for this and a number of other counseling professions in Illinois.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Illinois
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Illinois
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Illinois Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Illinois
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Illinois
To become a professional counselor in Illinois, you will need to fulfill various education and work experience requirements and then become licensed in your chosen area. There are numerous counseling programs in Illinois from which to choose, though out-of-state programs can satisfy requirements as well. While there are some commonalities between licensure processes, each type of Illinois counseling licensure has specific requirements. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Illinois, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide. Otherwise, continue reading to learn more about first-time licensure requirements in the state.
1. Choose an area of counseling to pursue.
Because licensure requirements are very specific, you should first consider what area of counseling you’d like to study and eventually practice. Then, you can make a plan to complete the necessary requirements.
2. Earn the right degree(s) for your preferred area of counseling practice.
Completing a degree that meets the requirements for licensure is imperative as it will help you avoid spending additional time and money down the road. The types of licensure described in this guide all require at least a master’s degree with specified coursework requirements, with the exception of the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC), which can become certified with a high school diploma (but some required work experience can be waived with a qualifying degree).
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Illinois.
The requirements for licensure for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPCs), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are assessed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), while the Illinois State Board of Education is responsible for school counseling licensure. Learn more in our guide below.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) Licensing Process
There are two main levels of counseling licensure in Illinois, both issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Both levels are able to assess and provide interventions to diverse client populations. The first level, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), must practice under the supervision of a licensed counseling professional. The second level, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), allows the licensee to practice independently. Regardless of the level of licensure sought, all applicants must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program in counseling, psychology, or rehabilitation counseling from a regionally-accredited school. For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide. To become an LCPC in Illinois, complete the following steps:
1. Apply as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and request permission to test.
Gaining LPC licensure is the first step in a counseling career in Illinois. The application is available online and the fee is $150 as of November 2022. The application packet includes a Convicted Criminal Acts (CCA) form, a Certification of Education (ED) form, and a Professional Counselor Academic Criteria (AC-PC) form.
2. Pass one of the required exams.
Upon approval of your application, you will receive permission to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRCE) offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) and achieve a score at or above the cut-off set by NBCC or CRCC. If your goal is to be an LPC, there are no additional requirements beyond the graduate education mentioned above and the exam, so you can begin work under the supervision of an approved licensed counseling professional as soon as they are approved.
3. Accrue supervised experience.
While it is not necessary to progress to LCPC licensure, it does widen the scope of practice to include an independent service provision. To be eligible for LCPC licensure, you must complete 1,680 clock hours per year for two years including at least 960 clock hours of direct service per year. The experience must be obtained over a minimum period of 96 weeks. Doctoral degree holders may count up to one year of experience accrued during doctoral study, including internships. The work must be supervised by an active licensed clinical professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, licensed clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist who provides at least one hour of supervision per week.
4. Apply for LCPC licensure and permission to test.
The LCPC application form is available online. You will record your supervised experience on the Verification of Employment/Experience (VE-LCPC) form in the application and include official transcripts, official score reports, and a fee of $150 (as of November 2022).
5. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).
For LCPC licensure, you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) offered by the NBCC. You must also be able to prove you have passed the NCE or CRCE in the past, but you do not need to take either of these exams again.
6. Receive your LCPC license.
The IDFPR no longer issues paper licenses. Once approved, licensure details can be retrieved and printed at any time on the IFDPR website.
LPC and LCPC Licensure by Endorsement in Illinois
Illinois offers licensure by endorsement to candidates who are already licensed in other states and have similar qualifications to those required in Illinois. Applicants must send proof of education including transcripts, proof of successful examination, a copy of the licensure file from the home state indicating good standing, and the fee ($150 as of November 2022). While not strictly a form of endorsement or reciprocity, Illinois does also waive proof of education requirements for individuals who already are either a National Certified Counselor (NCC) or Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). The application for both LPC and LCPC is the same as for initial licensure.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Illinois LPC and LCPC licenses expire on March 31 of odd-numbered years and licenses can be renewed online through the IDFPR online portal. Email reminders are sent periodically so the IDFPR recommends always keeping your email address up-to-date. Both LPC and LCPC licensees are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) in order to renew; however, LCPCs must complete 18 hours of clinical supervision training as part of these 30 hours one time during their career. A list of approved CE providers can be found online.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Illinois
Pathways for counseling licensure in Illinois vary depending on the type of counseling you would like to provide. In addition to LPCs and LCPCs, we have outlined a number of other licensure options below, such as licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
If you are interested in a career in marriage and family therapy, it is important to note that licensure is mandatory in Illinois for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) and is issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). LMFTs are licensed to provide a variety of interventions, such as behavior modification, psychotherapy, and hypnotherapy as well as referrals and assessments. A minimum of a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field is required with at least 48 credit hours of coursework in specific subjects.
LMFT candidates can apply for licensure by following these steps:
- Apply as an Associate Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (ALMFT).
- Complete 3,000 hours of professional experience, including at least 200 hours of supervised clinical experience.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Apply as an LMFT.
- Receive your LMFT license.
To learn more, have a look at our LMFT career guide.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which issues the school counselor endorsement attached to the Professional Educator License (PEL), school counselors are support personnel who work with students on academic, career, or personal issues. School counselors can assist students as young as pre-kindergarten up to age 21 and should be knowledgeable in human behavior and childhood development. To achieve the school counselor endorsement in Illinois, applicants must complete a state-approved program for the preparation of school counselors and a master’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution. A 100-hour supervised counseling practicum that includes at least 40 hours of direct service work with students and a supervised internship of 600 hours (400 if you have at least two years of teaching experience) with at least 240 hours of direct service work must be included as part of the program. Upon completion of your education, follow these steps to earn school counseling licensure in Illinois:
- Create an account in the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) and apply for a Professional Educator License (PEL).
- Have your regionally-accredited institution send official transcripts directly to the Board.
- Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam.
- Receive your license.
More information about becoming a school counselor can be found in our school counseling career guide.
Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC)
While many LPCs and LCPCs work in the field of substance abuse counseling, you can also practice in this field without licensure (though you will not be able to provide clinical assessment and treatment). The Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA) of the Illinois Certification Board (ICB) also offers many substance abuse-specific certifications based on international standards in the field, but these are more narrow in scope and voluntary. The highest form of certification is the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC), which qualifies holders to assist and motivate clients dealing with alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems by providing professional counseling services and referrals when other professional services are needed. CADCs need a minimum of a high school diploma to apply, but a qualifying degree can significantly reduce the required work experience hours. To become a CADC, follow these steps:
- Complete the necessary work experience (4,000 hours with a high school diploma/GED, 3,000 hours with an associate’s degree in behavioral science or a related field, or 2,000 hours with at least a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science or a related field).
- Complete 150 hours of supervised practical experience.
- Complete 225 hours of training on substance abuse counseling topics.
- Apply as a CADC and request permission to take the required exam.
- Take the CADC examination.
- Receive your CADC credential.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Illinois
The Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA) offers many additional voluntary credentials for substance abuse professionals. While these are not necessary to practice, most employers look favorably upon candidates who have the education and experience required to obtain these credentials. They include:
- Adolescent Treatment Endorsement (ATE)
- Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS)
- Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS)
For more specific information about substance abuse counseling careers, read our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Pursuing a counseling career offers the chance to build a career helping others. While many individuals pursue the common paths outlined above, there are many different types of counseling you can explore throughout your career. Some examples of other counseling jobs include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Illinois Counseling Career and Salary Information
There are around 31,790 individuals employed as counselors in Illinois with over three-quarters employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (14,430) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (10,180).1-5 Illinois is ranked fifth in the country for the most educational, guidance, and career counselor and advisor jobs.3 The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area ranks highly for the overall number of jobs amongst other metropolitan areas in the United States, including second for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (11,290) and fifth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (7,810),1,3
Projections Central suggests that all areas of counseling will experience some job growth through 2030, with the highest growth amongst substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (17.8%) and rehabilitation counselors (13.5%).6 Although educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor jobs are projected to grow by only 9%, this could result in 1,320 new jobs overall and 1,540 openings per year including replacements, which is the most of any counseling category in the state.6 Other projected increases include marriage and family therapists with 7.2% projected growth or 150 new jobs.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||840||$52,170|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||14,430||$57,880|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||2,540||$53,560|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||10,180||$52,480|
Counseling Associations in Illinois
- Illinois Affiliation of Marriage and Family Therapists (IAMFT): A professional association for AMFTs and LMFTs to network and create advocacy strategies for relevant policy debates.
- Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals (IAAP): State affiliate of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) that provides professional education, conducts research, and advocates for substance abuse counselors.
- Illinois Counseling Association: A counseling association supporting all types of counselors in Illinois since 1948 through workshops and an annual conference.
- Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association (IMHCA): A professional organization for LPCs and LCPCs that work in the mental health field, it also provides resources for prospective applicants on how to earn Illinois counseling licensure.
- Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA): Statewide organization that offers professional development and networking opportunities, professional recognition, and legislative advocacy for school counselors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I complete an online or distance education program for LPC or LCPC licensure?
The IDFPR requires applicants to complete at least a two-year program with a year-long residency. The residency must be comprised of at least 24 credit hours of study that includes face-to-face interaction with faculty and other staff. Therefore, it is possible to complete some of the coursework requirements through online or distance education but an entire degree completed online or via distance would not meet the residency requirement and would not be eligible for licensure.
Does the IDFPR provide a list of approved counseling programs?
The IDFPR does not provide an exhaustive list of approved counseling programs for LPC or LCPC licensure. According to state regulations, all programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and doctoral programs in psychology approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Council for the National Registry of Health Service Providers (CNRHSP) are acceptable. Other programs may be accepted as long as they are in counseling or a related field and meet the general educational requirements.
Do I need to work as a teacher to become a school counselor in Illinois?
School counselors are considered to be support personnel in Illinois so you do not need previous teaching experience to pursue this career. However, it is an endorsement attached to a Professional Educator License (PEL). Endorsement requires a master’s degree and the completion of a preparation program in school counseling. With at least two years of teaching experience, the supervised internship hours needed will decrease from 600 to 400 hours.
Does the IDFPR offer counseling licensure by reciprocity?
While the IDFPR does not have any formal agreements with other states to offer licensure by reciprocity, it does offer licensure by endorsement to applicants who are already licensed in another state. To be eligible, the applicant must demonstrate that they have met similar requirements in terms of education and examination in their home state. If they have not completed the required coursework or exam, these conditions will need to be met before licensure by endorsement can be approved.
What is the job outlook for counselors in Illinois compared to the nation?
While all types of counseling jobs are projected to grow through 2030 in Illinois, the growth rates are below national averages during the same period. For example, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs are projected to grow by 22.9% at the national level and only 17.8% at the state level in Illinois.6 Although this growth is lower, it may still result in the creation of 2,240 new jobs.6 Also, these projections do not account for regional and local trends.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm