Becoming a counselor can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path as you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives by providing support and guidance. The amount of time it takes to become a licensed counselor in Illinois can vary depending on a number of factors, including specific education and experience requirements, the time it takes to complete a graduate program, and the length of time it takes to fulfill your internship. However, the average time it takes to become a licensed professional counselor is six years. This includes four years of earning a bachelor’s degree and two years of earning a master’s degree.
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Types of Counselor Licenses in Illinois
In Illinois, there are several types of counselor licenses available. These include:
• Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): This license allows you to provide counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, and private practices.
• Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC): This license is similar to the LPC license, but it requires additional education and experience in clinical counseling.
• Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): This license allows you to provide clinical social work services to individuals, families, and groups. This license requires a master’s degree in social work and a specific amount of supervised experience.
• Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): This license allows you to provide counseling services to couples and families. It requires a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a specific amount of supervised experience.
• Licensed Clinical Psychologist (LCP): This license allows you to provide psychological services, including therapy and assessments, to individuals, families, and groups. It requires a doctoral degree in psychology and a specific amount of supervised experience.
Each type of license has specific requirements for education, supervised experience, and exams. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation manages licensure for counselors and provides up-to-date information on licensing requirements.
Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Illinois
To become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Illinois, you must meet certain educational and experience requirements. Here is a breakdown of the education requirements:
You must have a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in counseling from an accredited institution. The degree program must two years. This coursework should include at least one course in the following subjects:
• Human Growth and Development
• Counseling Theory
• Counseling Techniques
• Group Dynamics, Processing, and Counseling
• Appraisal of Individuals
• Research and Evaluation
• Professional, Legal, and Ethical Responsibilities Relating to Professional Counseling (This includes Illinois Law)
• Social and Cultural Foundations
• Lifestyle and Career Development
• Psychopathology and Maladaptive Behavior
• Substance Abuse
• Family Dynamics
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Besides a masters or doctorate in counseling, you must complete a one-year residency. This is the internship experience of your graduate program. This can be a full-time or part-time addition to your coursework.
State Specific Requirements
If you are resident of Illinois, it’s important to find out what the state specific requirements are to become a licensed professional counselor. Although some states may allow other degrees or require additional coursework beyond the master’s level, Illinois requires a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling, The state of Illinois also requires a specific amount of supervised experience in counseling.
The exams required for licensure may also differ. While Illinois requires the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), some other states may require different exams, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) exam or a state-specific exam.
Additionally, the continuing education requirements for LPCs differ, too, including the number of hours required and the specific topics covered. Here are the state specific requirements for Illinois:
• Internship: You must have completed an internship as part of your graduate program. The practicum should include at least 100 hours of supervised counseling experience, while the internship should include at least 600 hours of supervised counseling experience.
• Examination: You must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
• Background check: You must pass a criminal background check.
Application: You must submit an application for licensure and pay the required fee of $150.
After completing your graduate program and passing the examination, you must complete at least 1680 hours of supervised counseling experience. At least 980 of those hours must be direct face-to-face hours.
You must receive supervision from a qualified supervisor during your supervised counseling experience. Your supervisor must hold a current license as an LPC or LCPC in Illinois or another state with equivalent requirements.
Illinois requires individuals seeking to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) to pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE). Those seeking to become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) must take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
The NCE is a multiple-choice examination consisting of 200 questions that tests your knowledge and skills in counseling theories, human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career counseling, assessment, research and program evaluation, and professional orientation and ethics. The fail rate for this exam is 60%, which means it is rated as a difficult exam.
The NCMHCE is also a multiple-choice examination consisting of 175 questions that tests your knowledge and skills in clinical mental health counseling. The exam includes questions on assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and other clinical topics. The fail rate for this exam is 40-45%.
Both exams are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and are offered at third-party testing centers. You can register for the exams on the NBCC website.
Here are some differences between the two exams:
• NCE: The NCE is designed for counselors who work in a variety of settings, including schools, community agencies, and private practice.
• NCMHCE: The NCMHCE is a more specialized exam that focuses specifically on clinical mental health counseling. It covers topics such as diagnosis and treatment planning, crisis intervention, and ethics. It is designed for counselors who work in mental health settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and private practice.
Registering for the Exam in Illinois
Before you register for the NCE exam in Illinois, you must be approved to take the test. Contact the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation to find out the steps you need to take. Confirmation of your approval must be approved by the state board.
Next, you must register with Continental Testing Services (CTS) and pay the $98 fee. Finally, you must submit your Illinois Licensure Examination Registration Form to the National Board of Certified Counselors (NCBB) and pay the exam fee of $275. Once you have registered and paid your fee, your registration is valid for six months. After the test, your scores will be sent directly to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.
Licensure and Fees
You must submit an application for licensure and pay the required fees. As of 2022, the application fee for LPC licensure in Illinois is $150. To renew your license, the fee is $60.
In addition to the initial licensure requirements, licensed professional counselors in Illinois must also renew their license every two years and complete 30 hours of continuing education during that time.
Continuing Education Requirements
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) need continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain their professional competency and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field of counseling. Here are some reasons why this requirement is necessary.
• Stay current with research: As the field of counseling is constantly evolving, new research and best practices are continuously emerging. CE requirements ensure that LPCs stay current with these developments and use the most effective and evidence-based methods in their work.
• Build knowledge and skills: Continuing education requirements provide an opportunity for LPCs to expand their knowledge and skills in specific areas of counseling that interest them or that are relevant to their work.
• Meet regulatory requirements: Many state licensing boards require LPCs to complete a certain amount of CE courses in order to maintain their license. However, there are no continuing education requirements the first time you renew your license in Illinois.
Here are the CE requirements for LPCs in Illinois:
• Hours: LPCs must complete 30 hours of continuing education every renewal period. Eighteen of those hours must be in clinical supervision.
• Approved providers: CE must be completed through an approved provider. Approved providers include the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association (ACA), among others.
• Documentation: LPCs must maintain documentation of their CE hours for at least six years and be prepared to provide proof of completion upon request.
• Exemptions: LPCs who have held a license for less than two years or who have completed their first renewal cycle are exempt from CE requirements.
• Audits: The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) may audit LPCs to verify that LPCS have completed the CE hours.
Counselor Salary in Illinois
In Illinois, educational, guidance, and career counselors can expect to earn roughly $57,880 per year or $27.83 per hour. In Chicago, the annual wage is a little higher, at $60,150.