How to Become a Licensed Counselor in Iowa

iowaThe State of Iowa offers an abundance of counseling settings for licensed professional counselors.  Of the approximately 3 million people living in Iowa, close to half of them live in large urban areas. Iowa also has a substantial rural population which originates it's own set of unique challenges for counselors.  Counselors entering the professional field will have the option of working in the rural setting of Sioux Center, Iowa or in the growing urban core of Des Moines.  Read below to learn more about the specific requirements to become licensed as a professional counselor in Iowa.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Counselor in Iowa?

In Iowa, professional counselors are licensed by the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).  To become licensed, all candidates are required to complete graduate coursework in a counseling program with a mental health counseling focus from a program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Once an individual has earned their degree they can apply for a temporary license. With this temporary license they will begin to work towards accumulating the 3,000 hours of supervised practice required by the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science.

Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling 7-8 Years Online or Campus

What are the Supervised Experience Requirements to Become a Counselor in Iowa?

In addition to all other requirements, a permanent license can only be issued once an applicant has worked for two years in supervised practice. A total of 3,000 hours must be logged. Of those, 1,500 hours will be in direct patient care. 200 hours will be spent in direct supervision with an approved supervisor. Supervisors with the necessary qualifications are approved by the board once an applicant has submitted a Supervised Clinical Experience Approval and Attestation form.  After a supervisor is approved, candidates are required to meet no less than four times per month.  100 hours are required in person, and 100 hours individually. A temporary license is good for three years and may be renewed at the board’s sole discretion.

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What are the Examination Requirements to Become a Counselor in Iowa?

The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science accepts a passing score on three different exams when awarding a license:  The National Counselor Exam (NCE) and National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)  administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors,  and the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

The NCE consists of 200 multiple choice questions designed to assess knowledge, skills and abilities of licensure candidates. You will receive your score within 8 weeks of the examination. Study guides are available via the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The NCMHCE consists of 10 simulated clinical mental health counseling cases that are designed to sample a broad area of competencies. You will receive your score within 6 weeks of the examination. Study guides are also available via the NBCC.

The CRCE consists of 175 multiple-choice questions administered during an allotted 3.5 hours within an eight day testing window. You will receive your score within 5 weeks of the examination.

What is the Median Salary of a Counselor in Iowa?

Whether a LMHC licensed professional counselor decides to practice in a city, the country, or one of Iowa’s high end suburbs, they can expect a salary on par with their peers in other states. Specific salaries of licensed professional counselors will vary greatly depending on level of education, specialization, location, licensing, and the type of counseling provided. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Iowa have a median salary of $50,800 as of May 2022.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics market trends and salary figures for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.

 Schools with Degree Programs Accepting Students in Iowa