Become a Counselor in Iowa | The Path to Counseling

Steve Bennett
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Iowa Counselor

Embarking on becoming a counselor in Iowa is an enriching career path filled with opportunities to impact individuals’ lives significantly. The process is multifaceted and involves acquiring the necessary educational credentials, obtaining licensure, gaining practical experience, and maintaining professional development. In Iowa, it becomes more beneficial when setting up a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your assets and enhance your professional reputation. This introduction provides an overview of becoming a counselor in Iowa, offering insight into the promising prospects and the crucial steps involved.

Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you gain knowledge through thorough research and market study. Before becoming a counselor in Iowa, all the steps in this article must guide you.

What is a Counselor?

A counselor in Iowa is a licensed mental health professional who provides guidance, support, and therapeutic interventions to individuals, couples, families, and groups facing various emotional, psychological, and behavioral challenges. Counselors in Iowa work in various settings, including private practice (as an LLC or Corporation in Iowa), mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, and community organizations.

To become a counselor in Iowa, individuals must complete educational and licensure requirements, including earning a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, completing the supervised clinical experience, passing the required licensing exams, and maintaining their license through ongoing professional development and continuing education. The specific licensure requirements and regulations for counselors in Iowa are overseen by the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science.

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How to Become a Counselor in Iowa

If you’re considering becoming a counselor in Iowa, it’s important to understand the steps and requirements involved in obtaining your license and starting your professional journey. This step-by-step guide will walk you through becoming a counselor.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step towards becoming a counselor in Iowa is to complete a bachelor’s degree. While a degree in Psychology, Social Work, or a related field is often preferred, it is only sometimes required. Many graduate counseling programs will accept students with bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines, provided they have completed the necessary prerequisite courses.

Be sure to research the requirements of the graduate programs you are interested in to ensure that your undergraduate coursework aligns with their admission criteria.


Step 2: Pursue a Master’s Degree in Counseling

After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to enroll in a master’s degree program in counseling or a closely related field. In Iowa, aspiring counselors must complete a graduate program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or an equivalent accrediting body. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and include coursework in counseling theory, ethics, multicultural counseling, research methods, and supervised clinical experiences.

When selecting a graduate program, it is essential to consider your desired area of specialization. Some programs offer tracks in specific counseling fields, such as mental health, school counseling, or marriage and family therapy. Other programs provide a more general counseling education, allowing students to choose electives that align with their career goals. Additionally, some programs in Iowa may offer online or hybrid learning options, providing increased flexibility for working professionals or those with family responsibilities.

Here is the list of Master’s Degree Counseling Programs in Iowa.

  • Master of Science (MSc) in Counseling Psychology
  • Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Education (MEd) in School Counseling
  • Master’s in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
  • Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Master’s in Clinical Counseling
  • Master’s in Career Counseling
  • Master’s in Addiction Counseling
  • Master’s in Art Therapy Counseling
  • Master’s in Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Master’s in Forensic Counseling
  • Master’s in Grief Counseling
  • Master’s in Multicultural Counseling
  • Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Master’s in Pastoral Counseling
  • Master’s in Trauma and Crisis Counseling
  • Master’s in Genetic Counseling
  • Master’s in Gerontological Counseling
  • Master’s in Educational Counseling
  • Master’s in Student Affairs and College Counseling.

Step 3: Complete Supervised Clinical Experience

Before becoming a licensed counselor in Iowa, individuals must complete several supervised clinical experience hours. The specific requirements vary depending on the type of counseling license being pursued. For example, Iowa Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) may need to complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, while Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) may require 1,500 hours of direct client contact.

Supervised clinical experience typically occurs during the master’s degree program and may continue post-graduation. These experiences allow aspiring counselors to gain practical, hands-on experience working with diverse populations and addressing various mental health concerns under the guidance of a licensed professional. Tracking your clinical hours and ensuring that your supervisor provides the necessary documentation to verify your experience when applying for Iowa licensure is essential.

Step 4: Pass The Required Licensing Exams

Once you have completed your master’s degree and supervised clinical experience, you must pass the required licensing exams for your chosen area of specialization. In Iowa, the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is typically required for those seeking licensure as a professional counselor. The Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) administers the national marriage and family therapist licensure examination. Here are the costs associated with the examinations:

  • National Counselor Examination – $195 to $275
  • National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination – $275
  • National Examination for Licensure of Marriage and Family Therapist – $355

These exams assess your knowledge of counseling theories, techniques, and ethical standards and your ability to apply this knowledge in practice. Thorough preparation is essential for success on these exams, and many resources are available to help you review key concepts and practice exam questions.

Step 5: Apply For Licensure

After passing the required licensing exams, you can apply for licensure in Iowa. This process typically involves applying to the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science, proof of your education, supervised clinical experience, and exam scores. You may also be required to submit a background check and pay a licensing fee ranging from $120 – $240.

Be sure to review the specific licensure requirements for your desired area of specialization, as the criteria may vary slightly depending on the type of counseling license you are seeking. Also, remember that licensure requirements can change over time so staying informed of any updates to the Iowa licensing process is essential.

Step 6: Engage in Professional Development

Once you have become a licensed counselor in Iowa, engaging in ongoing professional development and continuing education opportunities is essential. Maintaining a high level of knowledge and skill in your field will benefit your clients and help you stay competitive in the job market and advance your career. If you will provide professional service or build a business to practice your counseling profession, consider forming a Professional Corporation in Iowa. If you have a colleague with the same profession as a counselor, consider forming a General Partnership in Iowa.

In Iowa, counselors must complete several continuing education hours every licensure renewal period. These requirements may vary depending on your area of specialization and the specific regulations of the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science. Continuing education opportunities can include workshops, conferences, online courses, and academic coursework related to counseling theory, practice, and ethics.

In addition to continuing education, consider joining professional associations related to your specialization. These organizations offer valuable networking opportunities, access to research and resources, and advocacy for the counseling profession. Some examples of professional associations for counselors include the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES).

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How Much Does a Counselor Make in Iowa?

The salary for a counselor in Iowa can vary depending on factors such as experience, education, and area of specialization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the median annual wage for mental health counselors in the United States was $47,660.


What are the different types of counselors in Iowa?
Iowa offers Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Psychologists.
How do I become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Iowa?
In Iowa, you must possess a master’s degree or higher in counseling or a related field from a university with accreditation by CACREP or CORE.
What is the Iowa Counseling Association?
The Iowa Counseling Association (ICA) is a professional membership organization that represents Iowa’s licensed mental health professionals and social workers.
Can I offer substance abuse counseling in Iowa?
Yes. In Iowa, individuals may become a Substance Abuse Counselor 1 without any degree requirements.
What education qualifications do you need to be a Substance Abuse Counselor 2 in Iowa?
To be a Substance Abuse Counselor 2, individuals must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
What is the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science?
The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science evaluates the professional qualifications of counselors to ensure they meet state licensure requirements.
What is the typical salary range for a Licensed Counselor in Iowa?
The salary range for counselors in Iowa can range from $35,000 to $75,000 per year.
How long does it take to become a Counselor in Iowa?
It can take anywhere from 4-8 years depending on the level of certification you choose to pursue.
Can counseling services provided by licensed professionals be reimbursed by insurance in Iowa?
Yes. Counseling services provided by licensed professionals are typically reimbursed by most insurance companies in Iowa.
Is there a national examination individuals must pass in order to practice counseling in Iowa?
Yes. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is used to qualify for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) credential in Iowa.
Can counselors receive licensure if they practice without any primary accreditation?
Most likely not.
Can I use the iCA Green logo on my website and marketing material when I become an Iowa counselor?
No. The Iowa Counseling Association logo trademark was not legally granted to its members.
Is experience encouraged as a counselor in Iowa?
Yes, experience is the number one identifier of expertise in the field of counseling.
Is oral fluency relevant to professional counselors?
Oral fluency is essential in becoming an effective counselor.
Are counseling graduate programs in Iowa competitive?
Grad program competition can vary depending on the number of available counseling jobs.
Can a specified substance abuse education obtained result in advanced accreditation for counselors otherwise uncomplicated systems?
Iowa does not provide ‘advanced accreditation’ for Substance Abuse Counselor 1 certification if applicants have additional certifications or degrees.
Are there financial aid options for those wanting to pursue a graduate counseling education in Iowa?
Yes, traditional financial aid options are available to schools within the state of Iowa.
Are Licensure applications submitted to IPPP reviewed quickly?
Typically, the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science will review an application within 90 days of initial submission.
What sort of questions should I expect on the National Counselor Examination in order to become LMHC in Iowa?
McKinsey utilizes logical, problem-solving ability, working with others, creativity and patience
When am I allowed to provide counseling services solely following certification as a substance abuse counselor in Iowa?
To practice as a considered licensed substance abuse counselor, you must accrue 2,000 hours of supervised experience for substance abuse assessment and psychotherapy.
Are there any practical requirements to become an LMHC?
Yes, as well as academic and training ands practical assessment proficiency/professionalism requirements to be passed in order to receive professional accreditation.
Is personal workplace contracting ultimately ideal, rather than contracting through an agency or referral service?
Counselors running a clinic should be associated with individuals with healthcare credentials, such as state and federal standing providers.
Which state entities prolong contractual relationships with addiction outreach research centers regarding conceptual foundation, prevention technology, and continuing supports available within the substance abuse landscape?
These contracts can certainly vary, but addiction outreach research centers are commonly used when extending licensing authority for these capabilities.
Should risk/reward calculations ever factor into practice ethics when counseling?
Counselors often assimilate risk/reward calculations regularly, as clients often have specific motivations and resistance to change, either within or concurrently involving motivations inconsistent with stakeholder satisfaction, program abandonment, or directives from positions of status; consultations with colleagues can maintain impartial perspective.
How often to regulation and policy changes effect upon addiction and enrichment outlets for substance abuse counselors?
Addiction treatment strategies are often updated with renewed process reviews.
Are LMHCs bound to subjection terms by association with the State of Iowa?
Yes, LOU&Team counselors; LCSWs, CMHCs, Mental Health service providers, Marital and Family therapists, and non-professional / auxiliary contractors (non-degreed).
Do Substance Abuse Counselor’s communications via electronic correspondence abide by regulations in Iowa?
Thus far the law on this is still being formalized in Iowa, and thus has yet to be tested by regulation.
If pursuing certification as a Substance Abuse Counselor 1 without formal education, is veteran licensure already gained a respectable factor?
Veteran counseling accreditation must never be taken as a determinant of inherent expertise when making professional determinations with clientele.
What are the basic educational requirements to become a counselor in Iowa?
To become a licensed counselor in Iowa, you need to complete a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.
Is it necessary to be licensed to work as a counselor in Iowa?
Yes, it is necessary to obtain a license to work as a counselor in Iowa.
What are the different types of counseling licenses available in Iowa?
In Iowa, there are three types of counseling licenses available
What is the difference between an LMHC, LP, and LMFT in Iowa?
An LMHC is trained to diagnose and provide treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions. An LP has a doctoral degree in psychology and can diagnose, evaluate, and treat mental health disorders. An LMFT specializes in family and couple’s therapy.
What are the steps to becoming an LMHC in Iowa?
The steps to become an LMHC in Iowa include completing a master’s degree in counseling, completing 3000 hours of supervised work experience, passing the National Counselor Examination, and obtaining licensure from the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science.
What are the job prospects for counselors in Iowa?
There is good job growth expected for counselors in Iowa, with an expected growth rate of 13.1% between 2016–2026.
What is the average salary for counselors in Iowa?
The average salary for counselors in Iowa ranges from $36,000-$66,000 depending on the field of concentration.
Are there any specific courses that are required to be licensed as a counselor in Iowa?
Iowa does not require specific courses; however, completion of coursework in certain core topics is expected for entry-level counselors.
How long does it take to complete the training and become a counselor in Iowa?
It takes around 6-7 years to complete the training and become a licensed counselor in Iowa.
Is there any requirement for work experience to become a counselor in Iowa?
Yes, some work experience is required to become a licensed counselor in Iowa.
How many supervised hours must counselors in Iowa complete before they’re licensed?
A minimum of 3000 hours of supervised work experience is required to become a licensed professional counselor in Iowa.
What is the pass rate for the National Counselor Exam in Iowa?
The pass rate for the National Counselor Exam varies but is usually around 70%.
Are online counseling programs recognized by the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science?
Yes, online counseling programs are recognized by the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science, provided they meet the requirements set forth by the Board.
What kinds of licenses do I need to start my practice in Iowa?
To start your practice in Iowa, you will need to obtain a license as an LMHC, LP, or LMFT through the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science.
Is there any continuing education required to maintain the license for counselors in Iowa?
Yes, counselors in Iowa are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their license.
Do I need malpractice insurance to practice counseling in Iowa?
Yes, it is recommended that counselors obtain malpractice insurance to protect themselves in case of legal action.
Are there any ethical guidelines associated with counseling in Iowa?
Yes, the Board of Behavioral Science has a code of ethics that all counselors in Iowa must abide by.
Can international students become licensed as counselors in Iowa?
Yes, international students can become licensed as counselors in Iowa, provided they meet all the requirements set forth by the Board of Behavioral Science.
Is it possible to work as a counselor in Iowa without a state-issued license?
No, it is not legal to work as a counselor in Iowa without a state-issued license.
Can you get a provisional license to work as a counselor in Iowa?
No, Iowa does not offer a provisional license for counselors.
Are there any additional certifications that can be helpful for counselors in Iowa?
Yes, certifications in fields such as marriage and family therapy or drug and alcohol counseling can be helpful for counselors in Iowa.
How can I apply for licensure as a counselor in Iowa?
You can apply for licensure as a counselor in Iowa online or through the mail.
Can you get a license in counseling by examination only?
No, you cannot obtain a license in counseling in Iowa by examination only; supervised work experience is also required.
Are there any financial aid options available for students pursuing a master’s degree in counseling in Iowa?
Yes, there are programs such as the Iowa College Student Aid Commission which offers financial aid option for students who need financial support to pursue profession in counseling.
Can you reapply for a license in Iowa if you used to be a licensed counselor in another state?
Yes, previous licensees can re-apply for licensure in Iowa if they were licensed in another state or other criteria have been met.
What is the first step to get an Iowa counseling license?
The first step is to check the requirements set forth by the Board of Behavioral Science.
Is a background check required to become a counselor in Iowa?
Yes, a background check is required before obtaining a counselor license in Iowa.
What should I consider when choosing a counseling degree program in Iowa?
You should consider factors like cost, location, program length, accreditation status, and job outcomes when selecting a grad school in counseling.

Also Read

How to Save Money While Starting a Becoming Counselor in Iowa

One of the primary concerns for any prospective counselor is education. Pursuing a degree in counseling is a significant investment, and tuition fees can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are options to make education more affordable. Firstly, consider attending a community college for the initial years of your undergraduate studies. These institutions often offer lower tuition fees and provide a more cost-effective option for completing general education requirements.

Furthermore, be sure to explore available scholarships and grants specific to your counseling program. Many organizations provide financial assistance to students who demonstrate a passion for the field and wish to contribute to the mental health profession. Devoting some time to research and completing applications may pay off in the form of reduced tuition expenses.

Another area where aspiring Iowa counselors can save money is in their choice of textbooks and study materials. Often, required textbooks can be quite pricey, but consider renting or purchasing used books instead. Online marketplaces and specialized websites offer an extensive array of used textbooks in good condition at significantly lower prices. Additionally, don’t overlook the possibility of borrowing textbooks from friends or fellow students who have taken the courses previously. In some cases, digital versions of textbooks may be available, allowing for additional savings.

While pursuing a degree is undoubtedly important, it’s crucial to note that hands-on experience and practical skills are equally critical for success in the counseling field. Iowa offers several training opportunities that might help develop essential skills without straining your budget. Look for internships or volunteer positions at local counseling centers, hospitals, or non-profit organizations. Not only will these provide valuable experience, but they may also present networking possibilities and potential job opportunities in the future.

Finding the right balance between ambition and financial responsibility is key during the early stages of your counseling journey. This means paying close attention to your everyday expenses and making necessary adjustments to break free from any unnecessary spending habits. Little choices, like cooking at home instead of eating out or packing lunch for work, can add up significantly over time, allowing you to redirect those savings towards your education or professional development.

Finally, seeking guidance from professionals in the field can make a considerable difference. By establishing connections with experienced counselors or mentors, you gain access to invaluable advice and knowledge about the ins and outs of the profession. These individuals can help you navigate the financial aspects of starting your career, providing insights on budgeting, cost-cutting strategies, and resourceful ways to access necessary resources without breaking the bank.

Becoming a counselor is a noble pursuit that requires sacrifice, persistence, and a solid financial plan. By implementing these money-saving techniques, Iowa residents aspiring to start a career in counseling can mitigate the financial burden and pursue their passion without sacrificing their financial stability. With the right mix of determination and frugality, the path to becoming a counselor becomes much more attainable, providing hope and reassurance to those who dream of making a positive impact on others’ lives.


Becoming a counselor in Iowa is a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those passionate about helping others overcome challenges and improve their mental health and well-being. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you will be well on your way to becoming a licensed counselor and positively impacting the lives of those in need. Remember to stay informed of any changes to the licensure requirements and engage in ongoing professional development to ensure that you continue to provide the highest quality of care to your clients.

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