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Counseling Degrees and Programs in Iowa

Iowa colleges and universities offer prospective counselors degree and certificate programs in the following five major categories: marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, 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 online or hybrid programs that allow students to complete at least some of the degree requirements online for greater flexibility.

Quick Facts

  • There are 7 not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities that offer a program in marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or vocational rehabilitation counseling in Iowa.1,2
  • Of the counseling schools in Iowa, 0 offer an associate’s degree, 0 offer a bachelor’s degree, 0 offers a certificate, and 7 offer a master’s or advanced degree.1,2
  • 2 schools offer a degree in marriage and family therapy.1,2
  • 6 schools offer a degree in mental health counseling.1,2
  • 2 schools offer a degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling.1,2
  • 5 schools offer a degree in school counseling.1,2
  • 1 schools offer a degree in substance abuse counseling.1,2
  • 3 counseling schools ranked in Kiplinger’s Best College Values 2019.3
  • 1 school ranked in US News Best Student Counseling Programs 2019.4
  • 2 schools ranked in US News Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs 2019.5
  • Across 3 schools, 8 counseling programs are accredited by CACREP.2

Comparison of Iowa Counseling Schools and Programs

We have provided the table below to help you compare the public and not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities in Iowa offering counseling programs in these five main areas: mental health counseling (MH), marriage and family therapy (MFT), vocational rehabilitation counseling (VR), school counseling (SC), and substance abuse counseling (SA). The table indicates the schools that offer programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); CACREP-accredited programs are denoted with an asterisk (*). Keep in mind that some schools offer a joint program in clinical mental health counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling, so check with the school for more information on the programs offered. Use the table to compare schools by program type offered, 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 NameCACREP-
Accred
Program2
MHMFVRSCSAGrad Rate1Net Price1
Buena Vista UniversityYesYesYesYes54%$20,580
Drake UniversityYesYes*Yes*Yes*78%$29,511
Loras CollegeYesYes68%$20,316
Mount Mercy UniversityYes71%$20,704
University of IowaYesYes*Yes*Yes*73%$15,817
University of Northern IowaYesYes*Yes*65%$16,453
Upper Iowa University Yes43%$21,630

Top-Ranked Schools with Counseling Programs in Iowa

Kiplinger’s Best College Values 2019

  • Drake University (#165)
  • University of Northern Iowa (#269)
  • University of Iowa (#310)

US News Best Student Counseling Programs 2019

  • University of Iowa (#11 tie)

US News Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs 2019

  • University of Iowa (#9 tie)
  • Drake University (#37 tie)

Schools in Iowa with Counseling Degrees

Traditional Graduate Programs

Drake University

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. Students in all tracks complete 33 credits of counseling core curriculum and then choose one or more tracks that include specialized coursework. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the MS in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling both require 27 additional credits, while the MS in School Counseling requires 15-24 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.

University of Iowa

At the University of Iowa, students can choose from one of four CACREP-accredited graduate degrees in counseling. First, the Master of Arts (MA) in Rehabilitative and Counselor Education is comprised of 60 credits and is offered with three concentrations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling; Rehabilitation Counseling; and School Counseling. Second, students in the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 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 a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). The MA in Rehabilitation Counseling teaches students to work with clients with a range of disabilities to achieve personal, health, and social goals. Finally, graduates of the School Counseling concentration will 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.

Loras College

Loras College is a Catholic, liberal arts college located in Dubuque that offers graduate-level degrees in counseling. The Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling is a 60-credit degree that includes courses such as Assessment, Psychopathology, and Addictions. Courses are typically held on weekday evenings to accommodate the needs of working students. Upon completion of the program, graduates will meet the academic requirements to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Iowa. 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 degree is comprised of 39 credits, although additional coursework may be required for students who do not have a teaching license. Loras College also offers individualized, non-degree graduate programs in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling that enable applicants with a graduate degree in a counseling-related field to complete additional coursework to meet state licensing requirements.

Mount Mercy University

Individuals interested in completing a degree in marriage and family therapy in Iowa may wish to consider the 60-credit Master of Arts (MA) in Marriage and Family Therapy at Mount Mercy University, a Catholic institution in Cedar Rapids. 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 four years to complete and teaches students advanced clinical skills.

University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) offers CACREP-accredited Master of Arts (MA) degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. Both degrees require 60 credits and take approximately three years of full-time study to complete. 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

Buena Vista University

Students can complete a 48-credit Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in School Counseling or Mental Health Counseling at Buena Vista University (BVU), which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. The MSEd degree has a hybrid format that combines online classes, a weekly online virtual meeting, and one-week residencies at the Storm Lake campus at the beginning of each year. Both programs admit new students in the summer term and take two years of full-time study to complete. The MSEd in Mental Health Counseling is a 60-credit degree with optional concentrations in Addiction Counseling; Child and Adolescent Counseling; and Couple and Family Counseling. This degree is designed to meet Iowa coursework requirements to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). The MSEd in School Counseling is a 48-credit degree and is designed to meet the requirements to become a school counselor in Iowa.

Upper Iowa University

Upper Iowa University (UIU) offers a Master of Science in Counseling (M.Sc.) consisting of 60 semester hours that can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Areas of emphasis include Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. All students must attend a 100-hour practicum and at least a 600-hour internship towards the end of the program; these field experiences are under the supervision of faculty in the program. While the program is said to be aligned with CACREP’s standards, it has not been accredited by CACREP as of April 2020. The application deadline for fall entry is in May, while the deadline for spring entry is in October. UIU’s online counseling program can be audited for non-degree seeking students, who can take four courses from the program without enrolling: Theories of Counseling; Lifespan Growth and Development; Research & Program Evaluation; and Ethical, Legal & Professional Issues in Counseling. Courses in the master’s in counseling program can be taken 100% online to accommodate working students, and the program typically takes between two-and-a-half and three years to complete.

References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Accredited Programs: https://www.cacrep.org/directory/
3. Kiplinger’s Best College Values, 2019: https://www.kiplinger.com/fronts/special-report/college-rankings/index.html
4. US News & World Report Best Student Counseling Programs, 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-education-schools/student-counseling-rankings
5. US News & World Report Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs, 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/rehabilitation-counseling-rankings