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Illinois Counseling License Requirements

There are 30,410 counselors employed in Illinois, primarily as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors and 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 type of 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. While there are some commonalities between licensure processes, each type of Illinois counseling licensure has specific requirements. Following are the general steps:

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 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 be at least 21 years of age and complete a 48-credit-hour graduate degree program in counseling or a related field with coursework in specified areas, such as human growth and development, counseling theory, and counseling techniques. While not an exhaustive list, the Department states that 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 and the Council for the National Registry of Health Service Providers meet their requirements and are approved. 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 take a national exam.

LPC licensure is the first step in a counseling career in Illinois. To become licensed, you must receive approval 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. The application is available online and the fee is $150 as of July 2019.

2. Accrue supervised experience.

It is not necessary to progress to LCPC licensure, but 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 provision per year. The experience must be obtained over a minimum period of 104 weeks; however, up to one year of experience accrued during doctoral study can be counted towards this requirement. The work must be supervised by an active licensed clinical professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, licensed clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist who provides approximately one hour of supervision per week.

3. Apply for LCPC licensure and permission to take the required exam.

For LCPC licensure, you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) offered by the NBCC. You must 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. The LCPC application form is available online and the fee is $150 as of July 2019.

4. Receive your LCPC licensure.

The Department no longer issues paper licenses. Once approved, licensure details can be retrieved and printed at any time on the IFDPR website.

Professional Counselor 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 ($60 as of July 2019). While not strictly a form of endorsement or reciprocity, Illinois does also waive proof of education and examination requirements for individuals who already have either the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRC) or Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselors Certification (CCMHC).

Counselor Licensing 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. 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:

  • Register as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT).
  • Complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience.
  • Apply as an LMFT and for approval to take the National Marriage and Family Therapy Exam.
  • Request and receive your LMFT license online.

To learn more, have a look at our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, which issues school counselor licenses, 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 subjects such as human behavior and childhood development. A state-approved master’s degree in school counseling is required, including specific coursework in related educational and guidance counseling subjects and a 100-hour practicum. Upon completion of your education, follow these steps to earn school counseling licensure in Illinois:

  • Complete the required internship (600 hours or 400 hours for applicants with two years of teaching experience).
  • Pass the Basic Skills Test and the 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)

It is possible to work in the field of substance abuse counseling by becoming licensed as an LPC or LCPC, although this is only necessary if you intend 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 substance abuse field, but these are more narrow in scope and are voluntary. The highest form of certification is the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC), who are qualified 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:

  • Submit an application to the
  • Complete the necessary supervised experience hours.
  • Apply as CADC and request permission to take the required exam.
  • Take the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (CADC) Examination.
  • Receive your CADC credential.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Illinois

  • Adolescent Treatment Endorsement (ATE)
  • Certified Assessment and Referral Specialist (CARS)
  • Certified Associate Addictions Professional (CAAP)
  • Certified Family Partnership Professional (CFPP)
  • Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS)
  • Certified Recovery Support Specialist-Employment Endorsement (CRSS-E)
  • Certified Senior Prevention Specialist (CSPS)
  • Certified Veteran Support Specialist (CVSS)
  • Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorder Professional (CODP)
  • Criminal Justice Addictions Professional Certification (CCJP)
  • Gender Competent Endorsement (GCE)
  • IC&RC Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CRADC)
  • IC&RC Certified Supervisor Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CSADC)
  • IC&RC Certified Advanced Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CAADC)
  • Medication Assisted Addiction Treatment Professional (MAATPs)
  • National Recovery Certified Specialist (NRCS)
  • Registered Dual Disorder Professional (RDDP)
  • Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

For more specific information about substance abuse counseling careers, read our substance abuse counseling career guide.

Other Professional Counseling Careers

Pursuing a counseling career offer 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 30,410 individuals employed as counselors in Illinois with over three quarters employed as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (12,620) and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (11,640).1-5 Illinois is ranked fifth in the country for the most educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor and counselors, all other (2,040) jobs.3,5 The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area ranks highly for the overall number of jobs amongst other metropolitan areas in the United States, including third for educational, guidance, school, and vocational Counselors (9,790) and fifth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (8,790),3,1

Projections suggest that all areas of counseling will experience some job growth through 2026 with the highest growth amongst substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (13.1%) and marriage and family therapists (10.0%).6 Although educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselor jobs are projected to grow by only 7.0%, this could result in 780 new jobs overall and 1,260 openings per year including replacements, which is the most of any counseling category in the state.6 Other projected increases include mental health counselors with 7.8% projected growth or 430 new jobs, counselors, all other at 7.0% or 130 new jobs, and rehabilitation counselors at 6.6% or 220 new jobs.6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other2,040$37,010
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors12,620$56,540
Marriage and Family Therapists440$47,200
Rehabilitation Counselors3,670$40,260
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors11,640$44,250

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in Illinois

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 support personnel in Illinois so you do not need previous teaching experience to pursue this career. Licensure requires a master’s degree with coursework in education-related subjects, such as guidance counseling theory, rather than a graduate degree in education. If you do have two years of teaching experience, it may benefit you during the internship stage. Most applicants will be required to complete 600 hours whereas you may only be required to complete 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 2026 in Illinois, the growth rates are below national averages during the same period. For example, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor jobs are projected to grow by 23.2% at the national level and only 13.1% at the state level in Illinois. Although this growth is lower, it may still result in the creation of 470 new jobs. Also, these projections do not account for regional and local trends.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, 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, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm