Counseling Degrees and Programs in Iowa
Iowa colleges and universities offers prospective counselors degree and certificate programs in the following five major categories: mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and substance abuse counseling. To begin a professional counseling career in Iowa, you will need to choose a school and a program that fits with your goals, and prospective counselors should keep in mind that most counseling careers in Iowa require a graduate degree. Therefore, it should be no surprise that nearly all counseling programs in Iowa are offered at the master’s level or above, although an undergraduate option does exist in the area of substance abuse counseling. Most Iowa counseling programs are offered on campus but there are a couple of online or hybrid programs that allow students to complete at least some of the degree requirements online for greater flexibility.
- There are 9 not-for-profit colleges and universities that offer a program in mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or vocational rehabilitation counseling in Iowa.1,2
- Of the counseling schools in Iowa, 1 offers an associate degree, 0 offer a bachelor’s degree, 0 offer a certificate, and 8 offer a master’s or advanced degree.1,2
- 7 schools offer a degree in mental health counseling.1,2
- 1 school offers a degree in marriage and family therapy.1,2
- 2 schools offer a degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling.1,2
- 7 schools offer a degree in school counseling.1,2
- 1 school offers a degree in substance abuse counseling.1,2
- 1 school ranked in US News & World Report’s Best Student Counseling Programs 2022.3
- 1 school ranked in US News & World Report’s Best Online M.Ed Programs for Student Counseling 2022.4
- Across 4 schools, 9 counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).2
- Across 2 schools, 2 counseling programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).5
Comparison of Iowa Counseling Schools and Programs
We have provided the table below to help you compare the public and not-for-profit colleges and universities in Iowa offering counseling programs in these five main areas: mental health counseling (MH), marriage and family therapy (MF), vocational rehabilitation counseling (VR), school counseling (SC), and substance abuse counseling (SA). Use the table to compare each school by program type offered, Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accreditation status, graduation rate, and net price per year. If you want more information about the steps to counseling licensure in Iowa, have a look at our license requirements page.
|School Name||CACREP-Accred Program2||MH||MF||VR||SC||SA||Grad Rate1||Net Price1|
|Buena Vista University||Yes||Yes||—||—||Yes||—||63%||$18,532|
|Grand View University||—||Yes||—||—||Yes||—||51%||$20,434|
|Iowa Lakes Community College||—||—||—||—||—||Yes||50%||$12,294|
|Mount Mercy University||—||—||Yes||—||—||—||60%||$25,345|
|University of Iowa||Yes||Yes||—||Yes||Yes||—||74%||$17,599|
|University of Northern Iowa||Yes||Yes||—||—||Yes||—||69%||$15,231|
Top-Ranked Schools with Counseling Programs in Iowa
US News & World Report’s Best Student Counseling Programs 2022
- University of Iowa (#13 tie)3
US News & World Report’s Best Online M.Ed Programs for Student Counseling 2022
- Upper Iowa University (#221 tie)4
Schools in Iowa with Counseling Degrees
Traditional Graduate Programs
Drake University offers working professionals several part-time graduate counseling degree choices with classes available on evenings and weekends. The Master of Science (MS) in Counseling has three CACREP-accredited tracks in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling; and School Counseling, as well as a non-clinical Rehabilitation Counseling track. Students in all four tracks complete 33 credits of counseling core curriculum and additional coursework in their area of specialization. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, and non-clinical Rehabilitation Counseling tracks all require 27 additional credits, while the MS in School Counseling requires 15 to 24 additional credits depending on whether the student has a valid teaching license. Graduates of the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will meet state coursework requirements to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), while the MS in School Counseling curriculum meets the educational requirements to become an elementary and secondary school counselor in Iowa.
At the University of Iowa, students can choose from one of three CACREP-accredited graduate degrees in counseling. First, the Master of Arts (MA) in Rehabilitation Counseling is comprised of 60 credits and blends academic coursework with two semesters of supervised clinical experience. Students learn how to work with clients with psychiatric disabilities to achieve their employment, wellness, and personal goals. Students can also earn an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, in which they learn to provide psychological assessments and interventions in mental health facilities, hospitals, community settings, and private practice and will meet state educational requirements to become Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs). The University of Iowa also offers an MA in School Counseling. Graduates of the School Counseling program will immediately be eligible to become school counselors in K-12 settings in Iowa. New students are admitted to the MA concentrations in the fall term, while the School Counseling program also admits new students in the summer term. The University of Iowa also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision that teaches counselors advanced practical and leadership skills and is accredited by COAMFTE.
Loras College is a Catholic, liberal arts college located in Dubuque that offers graduate-level degrees in counseling. The Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a 60-credit degree that includes courses such as Assessment, Psychopathology, and Addictions. Courses are typically held on one weekday evening per week to accommodate the needs of working students. Upon completion of the program, graduates will meet the academic requirements to become Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) in Iowa. Students can also add an Addictions track to their degree by completing the coursework required to become Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs) concurrently with their degree. New students are admitted in the fall, spring, and summer terms. Students interested in school counseling careers can complete the MA in School Counseling, which meets state requirements to become a school counselor. The number of credits required depends on whether or not the student already has a teaching license, but the program follows a two-year plan for those who do have a current license. Loras College also offers an individualized, non-degree graduate program in Certified Alcohol and Drug Certification, a 12-credit program that prepares students to become CADCs.
Individuals interested in completing a degree in marriage and family therapy in Iowa may wish to consider the 60-credit Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MA-MFT) at Mount Mercy University, a Catholic institution in Cedar Rapids. The program is the only one in the state of Iowa that is accredited by COAMFTE. New students are admitted in the fall and can complete the program in as little as two years, although part-time study is permitted. Classes are held in the evenings to help accommodate working professionals. Upon completion of the program, individuals will meet the coursework requirements to become Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) in Iowa. Mount Mercy University also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Marriage and Family Therapy with a practical focus. Students choose one of three areas of specialization: Leadership and Business; Advanced Couples Therapy; or Neuroscience and Psychophysiology. The degree takes at least three years to complete and teaches students advanced clinical skills.
The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) offers two CACREP-accredited Master of Arts (MA) degrees, one in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the other in School Counseling. Both degrees require 60 credits and take approximately three years of full-time study to complete. The first two years follow an in-person classroom format for the fall and spring semesters with hybrid summer courses, while the third year offers hybrid or online courses to give students maximum flexibility in field placement. The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling teaches students how to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health illnesses in individual and group counseling settings. The degree curriculum meets Iowa coursework requirements to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). Students in the MA in School Counseling program learn how to provide age-appropriate assessments and interventions related to mental, emotional, behavioral, and social issues in K-12 settings. The degree requires 150 hours of practicum as well as 600 hours of internship. Graduates will meet state requirements to become school counselors in Iowa.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Students can complete a 60-credit Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in Mental Health Counseling at Buena Vista University (BVU), which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. The CACREP-accredited MSEd degree has an online format with weekly online virtual meetings. Course subjects include social and cultural foundations, concepts of trauma, and advanced counseling practices, with the last year being centered around the student’s internship. The program takes approximately two years to complete and admits new students on a rolling basis, with new cohorts beginning with a four-day face-to-face summer residency at the Storm Lake campus each July. Graduates are prepared to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), which qualifies them to become Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CCMHCs).
Grand View University offers a hybrid 60-credit Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Courses are offered completely online with the exception of a four-and-a-half-day residency program that is required for graduation. Of the 60 credits required for graduation, 12 are centered on experience-based learning, either through an internship or supervised clinical experience. The online format of the courses taken with this fieldwork gives students greater flexibility when determining where they want to intern. Core courses within the program emphasize a research-informed counseling approach with classes such as Applied Microskills; Theory and Treatment of Substance Abuse; and Psychopharmacology. Elective courses allow students to add their own emphasis to their degree, with the ability to choose courses in marriage and family therapy, play therapy, or counseling in children and adolescents. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is designed to meet Iowa coursework requirements to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, Accredited Programs: https://www.cacrep.org/directory/
3. US News & World Report Best Student Counseling Programs 2022: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-education-schools/student-counseling-rankings
4. US News & World Report Best Online Master’s in Education Programs Offering Student Counseling and Personnel Services 2022: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education/student-counseling-rankings
5. Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, Directory of COAMFTE Accredited Programs: https://coamfte.org/COAMFTE/Directory_of_Accredited_Programs/MFT_Training_Programs.aspx