Licensure and Certification

Counseling Licensure

A counseling license allows a counseling professional with the proper education, experience, and supervision to offer counseling services to children, adolescents and adults in Illinois. A counseling license is required to work in a community agency setting and K-12 schools. Licensure is not always required, but is highly recommended, for individuals working higher education settings. There are two types of general counseling license in Illinois. The first level license is called The Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). The second level license is called the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). Illinois School Counselors are Licensed with a Professional Educators License (PEL) through the Illinois Board of Education.

  • The Illinois Mental Health Counseling Association website maintains information about continuing education requirements for IL-LPC and IL-LCPC credentialed individuals.
  • School Counselors holding a Professional Educator License are expected to complete 120 clock hours of professional development hours every five years. School Counselors who also hold an active clinical license may be able to use confirmation of their active clinical licensure status when renewing their PEL:SC credential.

A LPC is a protected title license. As a LPC, you can work as a counselor offering professional counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults. You may work in a community agency, school or higher education setting. You must work under the supervision of a licensed clinical counselor, clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. However, as a LPC, you cannot work in independent practice. This means that you must always receive counseling supervision when you work with clients.

How to Become a LPC

In order to obtain an LPC license, you must:

  • Have a master's degree in counseling or its equivalent. This means a 48-hour program with at least one course in each 13 counseling areas. Each course must be three credits. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredited programs automatically meet this education requirement.
  • Apply to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) for a Professional Counselor license. Complete the application in black ink
    • When you complete the top portion of the IDFPR LPC/LCPC application ED form, you will need to drop off or mail the physical form with original signature to the NIU Registration and Records office to complete and affix the university seal.
    • Within the main application, “PART VII: Examination Coding Information (This part is for examination applicants only)” (a) enter "01", (b) enter "9999", (c) enter "001737", and (d) enter the two-digit representation of number of attempts of exam administration you are applying with submission of respective application form.
    • When completing the Academic Criteria-Professional Counselor (AC-PC) form of the LPC/LCPC application, include "CACREP" in the comments column for all courses completed within the NIU Counseling program or another CACREP accredited institution accredited when the courses were completed.
    • The CT form is not applicable for MSEd Counseling graduates as it is required only if you ever held or hold a permanent license in any state or country
  • Pass the National Counselors Examination (NCE). There are two ways to apply to take the NCE examination. You can apply for this examination during your last semester in NIU's counseling program as a part of your National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential application. A faculty member will contact you the semester prior to inquire and confirm your eligibility to be added to the respective spring or fall NBCC NCE roster if you wish to take the exam before graduation. Or you can wait until after you graduate and register to take the NCE when you apply for your LPC license.
  • Whether you take the NCE as part of NBCC or wait until after you graduate to take the NCE, you must apply to IDFPR for your LPC license. If you take the NCE as part of your NBCC NCC credential application, you will need to request for NBCC to send your official exam scores to the IDFPR after your application has been mailed.
  • Include a copy of your official transcripts (post-degree conferment) with your physical application packet.
  • After mailing your LPC application to the IDFPR, including your licensure credential fee, you will receive notification of your approval to register to test with Continental Testing Services. Once registration to test, and the associated registration fee is submitted successfully and processed, you will receive communication from the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE; sibling organization to NBCC). CCE handles IL state licensure while NBCC handles national certification. In creating your CCE Credentialing Gateway account for state licensure, you will be able to pay for the exam itself. After this payment is processed, CCE will provide instructions on accessing the PearsonVue website to schedule your NCE testing date and location.

To work as a professional school counselor in most K-12 school settings, students must be licensed with an Educator License through the Illinois State Board of Education. The licensure program provided by Northern Illinois University is certified by the Illinois State Board of Education and is designed to assure candidates meet all state laws and regulations.

Upon completion of the 60-semester hour program in school counseling, students are eligible to apply for Educator Licensure with endorsement in School Counseling. This Educator License allows graduates to work as a K-12 Professional School Counselor in Illinois.

How to Obtain a School Counselor Educator License

Complete a department-level entitlement request form during your first academic term of program matriculation.

  • Register and pass school counselor (181 or 235) content area exam prior to starting your school counseling internship
  • Complete Educator Licensure Process
      • Department Application for Professional Educator License and Endorsement for School Counseling prior to your last semester of internship enrollment.
  • Send official transcripts via email to or by mail: 
    • Illinois State Board of Education
      Educator Effectiveness - E240
      100 N. 1st Street
      Springfield, IL 62777
  • Receive confirmation from program-level licensure liaison that appropriate paperwork has been submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education licensure office after graduation (ELIS).
  • Look for an email from ISBE and check ELIS account for "Completed Program" status change and notice to redeem license (pay associated licensure and registration fees)

The Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) is a clinical-level independent practitioner license in the state of Illinois, with both title and service protections. As an LCPC, you can work as a clinical counselor offering professional clinical counseling services to children, adolescents and adults, in individual, paired, or group formats you have been prepared for. You may work in a community agency, school, higher education, or in a private practice setting; billing for services to insurance providers when applicable.

How to Become a LCPC

In order to obtain an LCPC license, you must:

  • Have a Master's degree in counseling or its equivalent. This means a 48-hour program with at least one course in 13 counseling areas. Each course must be 3 credits.
    • CACREP accredited programs automatically meet this education requirement.
  • Have 3,360 hours of supervised professional counseling work experience (equivalent of two years of full-time counseling work; of which 1,920 hours were direct counseling services) and one hour per week of supervision with a qualified supervisor over a minimum of two-years. You must work under the supervision of a licensed clinical counselor, clinical social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.
  • Apply to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) for a Clinical Professional Counselor license.
  • Pass the National Counselors Examination. Many applicants for the LCPC license already have their LPC license, so they have previously taken and passed the NCE. If you have not taken and passed this examination, you must pass it in order to obtain your LCPC license.
  • Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMCHE). When you complete your work experience and apply to IDFPR for your license, IDFPR will register you for the NCMCHE.
  • "The new (as of fall 2022) format of the NCMHCE was expertly developed, written, designed, and reviewed by counselors, for counselors,” said Callie Marino, NBCC’s vice president of credentialing and quality assurance. "In creating this examination, counseling professionals have determined the standards for what counselors need to know in order to practice safely and effectively."
  • The new format includes 11 case studies, each with a set of 13 multiple-choice questions broken into three sections. Examinees may sit for the examination in person at a PearsonVUE center or online through OnVUE. Test-takers are given 260 minutes of total seat time, including 225 minutes for the examination, five minutes for the non-disclosure agreement, a 15-minute tutorial, and a 15-minute break. A format comparison (PDF) and sample case study (PDF) are available on our website.
  • There are two ways to register for the examination—as part of an application for national certification or solely for state licensure. The examination in each of these scenarios is the same, and the scores from either route can be used for licensure or national certification.

Visit the National Board of Certified Counselors for current and complete information regarding national certification.

Students can apply to become National Certified Counselors (NCC) prior to graduation from our program. Alumni can also apply after graduation by creating an account within the NBCC Credentialing Gateway.

In order to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC), you must obtain a passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examinations (NCMHCE) while also holding a master's or doctorate degree in counseling from either a CACREP-accredited degree program or a counseling program administered by an institutionally accredited educational institution: The program must include at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of graduate-level coursework and at least six semester or 10 quarter hours of graduate degree–related supervised field experience in counseling.

The Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) program credential identifies those professionals who have met approved national professional supervision standards; promotes the professional identity, visibility and accountability of approved clinical supervisors; and encourages the professional growth of approved clinical supervisors.

  • You must have a master's degree or higher in the mental health field.
  • You must hold either professional licensure that authorizes independent practice in a mental health field or the National Certified Counselor Certification (NCC).
  • You must have a minimum of five years of post-master's experience in the mental health field that includes at least 4,000 hours of direct service with clients.

Visit the Center for Credentialing and Education for complete information regarding Approved Clinical Supervisor certification and to apply.

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