Counseling Degrees & Licenses in Iowa

Pursuing a counseling career in the state of Iowa can be a rewarding professional choice. The state of Iowa features several accredited master’s-level counseling degree programs, including several areas of emphasis such as clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and school counseling.

Mental health professionals entering the Iowa workforce in the coming years are likely to find ample opportunities to contribute to strengthening the state’s mental health system. The Iowa mental health care system has been beset with significant issues in recent years. Prominent concerns include a very low number of available psychiatric treatment beds per capita, a statewide shortage of psychiatrists and other licensed professionals, a meager network of community treatment options, and a redirection of many untreated individuals into the law enforcement system that ultimately saturates this system and does little to fulfill their mental health treatment needs. Money, or lack thereof, also tends to further exacerbate these issues. 

The issue of funding is partially connected to certificate of need laws. Iowa is among the majority of states with such laws. This type of law, originally justified as likely to control costs, instead can stifle market competition and thereby drive up costs while lowering the quality of available care. The medical monopolies that more easily develop in response to this law price the poor and vulnerable out of the market for anything other than woefully inadequate care.

Iowa will continue to need newly trained mental health care professionals not just to resolve its workforce shortage but also to address the substantial mental health impacts of the Covid pandemic.

Read on to discover how to join various counseling careers in Iowa, including detailed information about academic programs and licensing.

Accredited Counseling Degree Programs in Iowa

Buena Vista University

Buena Vista University offers a master of science in education in two fields: clinical mental health counseling or professional school counseling. Both programs feature a hybrid format including online coursework and a week-long in-person summer residency focused on clinical skills development.

The clinical mental health counseling program comprises 60 credits with both formal coursework and an internship requirement. Students must pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) to become eligible to begin their internship placements. Upon graduation, students seeking to become certified clinical mental health counselors must also pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

The professional school counseling option is 48 credits and emphasizes the development of practical skills such that graduates can promptly enter the workforce. The curriculum aligns with the American School Counselor Association model and provides graduates with the education necessary for school counseling licensure within Iowa.

  • Location: Storm Lake, IA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) 
  • Tuition: $552 per credit 

Drake University

The Drake University School of Education offers a master of science in counseling degree with an option to choose one of three specializations: clinical mental health counseling, clinical rehabilitation counseling, and school counseling. The curriculum is designed specifically for working professionals; classes are offered on evenings and weekends. Students complete a set of core courses and courses specific to their specialization.

The clinical mental health counseling specialization is a 60-credit program consisting of 33 credits of core courses and 27 credits of specialization courses. Program requirements allow graduates to become eligible for mental health counseling licensure in Iowa.

The clinical rehabilitation counseling specialization also features 27 credits of specialized coursework. Graduates may choose from a variety of career options, including working in community agencies, substance abuse treatment, hospitals, state agencies, or private practice. The National Rehabilitation Institute, in operation at Drake University since 1976, distinguishes this rehabilitation program among others. The institute performs research and provides various training opportunities.

The school counseling program requires the completion of 15 to 24 credits of specialized coursework. Students may choose one of three completion options. Those already licensed as teachers in Iowa may pursue both elementary and secondary school licensure or one of those two licenses. Unlicensed individuals may complete 54 credits to obtain the degree.

  • Location: Des Moines, IA
  • Duration: 2.5 to three years; students must complete within five years of acceptance
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $525 per credit 

Loras College

Loras College offers two master of arts degrees for aspiring counselors: a master of arts in counseling and a master of arts in school counseling. Both programs are designed for working professionals as well as recent graduates.

The master of arts in counseling is a 60-credit program that includes nine credits of elective coursework. Coursework meets the requirements for licensure in the tri-state area of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Students may also complete additional training to become certified alcohol and drug counselors.

The master of arts in school counseling is a 39-credit program consisting of 21 credits of core coursework and 18 credits of clinical coursework. A practicum and internship fulfill a majority of the required clinical coursework hours. Loras College holds the distinction of being the only program to currently offer a school counseling program in the tri-state area.

  • Location: Dubuque, IA
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Institutional accreditation provided by Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school counseling program is approved by the Iowa Department of Education.
  • Tuition: $745 per credit 

Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University offers a master of arts degree in marriage and family therapy (MA-MFT). This 60-credit program features evening classes and is the only COAMFTE-accredited MA-MFT program in Iowa. The coursework includes general ed, elective courses, and clinical coursework consisting of three successive practica. Both the university and this program emphasize a student culture focused on service, leadership, and social responsibility. 

Students interested in state licensure must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical training following graduation and pass the national MFT examination. Accrual of necessary clinical hours typically requires approximately two years. The total time investment to complete both the degree as well as obtain licensure is thus four years.

  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on the Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Tuition: $545 per credit 

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa College of Education offers a 60-credit master of arts degree in counseling in three areas: clinical mental health, rehabilitation, and school counseling. All three subprograms require the completion of comprehensive examinations. The clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling programs can be completed in four semesters in as little as 20 months. 

The master of arts in clinical mental health counseling features f both traditional coursework and supervised clinical experience. Training placements are made in settings that meet CACREP accreditation standards and align with students’ educational goals. Graduates may work in several settings, including government agencies, hospitals, employee assistance programs, substance abuse treatment programs, and private practice. Graduates may also seek certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors and seek licensure in Iowa.

The rehabilitation option features a combination of coursework and clinical training, similar to the clinical mental counseling program. The main difference in these subprograms is the target populations graduates will work with. Rehabilitation counselors assist clients with various aspects of their lives including wellness, employment, and independent living skills. Graduates may seek certification from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

The school counseling option trains counselors to work in K-12 settings. The curriculum consists of core counseling coursework and a 100-clock-hour practicum and a 600-clock-hour internship. Such placements provide students with direct clinical practice experience, must occur in an approved setting, and be supervised by an experienced licensed school counselor. Students who enter without a teaching license are required to complete additional coursework. Successful graduates may seek licensure as school counselors within Iowa. 

  • Location: Iowa City, IA
  • Duration: 20 months to two years
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $349 per credit 

University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa College of Social and Behavioral Sciences offers a 60-credit master of arts degree in counseling with two areas of emphasis: clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. 

Both emphases feature a sequence of core courses, a practicum, and an internship requirement. Students may additionally select a thesis or non-thesis option. Students who prepare a thesis complete a six-credit research course and ultimately complete a total of 66 credits.

The school counseling curriculum is designed following national standards for the school counseling profession. Students may enter the program without a teaching certificate or experience, but such individuals must complete two additional credits of coursework to fulfill state department requirements.

All students must also pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE). Exam content is based on eight CACREP core curriculum areas. Successful thesis option graduates must complete a thesis and offer a successful oral defense of their research.

  • Location: Cedar Falls, IA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $9,691 per academic year for resident students and $20,774 for non-residents

How Much Do Counselors Earn in Iowa?

These numbers represent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2021. In cases where no BLS data were available, Ziprecruiter and Salary.com were referenced to find current information.

Clinical and Counseling Psychologist Salaries

United StatesIowa
Number employed58,100330
Average annual salary (mean)$99,640$103,070
10th percentile$47,010$32,320
50th percentile (median)$82,510$88,340
90th percentile$167,460$166,980

Marriage and Family Therapist Salaries

United StatesIowa
Number employed54,800260
Average annual salary (mean)$59,660$49,920
10th percentile$37,050$36,910
50th percentile (median)$49,880$46,910
90th percentile$96,520$76,950

Rehabilitation Counselor Salaries

United StatesIowa
Number employed90,3101,670
Average annual salary (mean)$44,740$39,060
10th percentile$28,890$28,820
50th percentile (median)$38,560$36,360
90th percentile$65,880$59,150

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselor and Advisor Salaries

United StatesIowa
Number employed57,1103,480
Average annual salary (mean)$82,770$53,720
10th percentile$49,260$36,750
50th percentile (median)$78,780$49,290
90th percentile$124,950$77,450

Counseling Professional Associations & Resources in Iowa

  • Iowa Behavioral Health Association
  • Iowa School Counselor Association
  • Iowa Psychological Association
  • Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association
  • Iowa Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Iowa Rehabilitation Association

Mental Health Counseling (LMHC) Licenses in Iowa: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Iowa Department of Public Health Board of Behavioral Science

Iowa issues temporary Mental Health Counselor (MHC) licenses to candidates who still need to complete supervised work experience. Candidates must:

  • Pay a $120 application fee
  • Complete part one of the Supervised Clinical Experience Approval and Attestation form
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

To apply for a full MHC license, candidates must:

  • Complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience of which 200 hours must be supervision hours. In lieu of this applicants can provide proof of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor status with the National Board for Certified Counselors
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

Iowa requires licenses to be renewed every two years on even-numbered years. The period to renew a license runs from October 1st of an even-numbered year till September 30th of the next even-numbered year. During that period, counselors must submit their renewal application, pay the $120 fee, and complete 40 hours of continuing education.

School Counseling Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Iowa Board of Education Examiners

Iowa Board of Education Examiners issues a Professional Services license for school counselors.

For an initial license, applicants must:

  • Complete a master’s degree in school counseling from an accredited institution
  • Pay $85.00 processing fee, $60.00 evaluation fee, $3.00 convenience fee, and $75.00 background check fee
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete a 500-hour practicum or internship
  • Submit a completed application

A Class G license may be issued to applicants who have not met the internship or practicum requirements.

After two years of full-time work, school counselors can convert their license from an initial one to a standard one.

The initial Professional Services license must be renewed every two years. Applications can be submitted online and no continuing education is required.

Standard licenses are valid for five years and must be renewed online. Counselors renewing standard licenses will need to complete four renewal credits per cycle. These credits can be earned through education, testing, certification, or mentoring.

Substance Abuse Counseling Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Iowa Board of Certification (IBC)

The Iowa Board of Certification (IBC) issues Temporary Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (tCADC), Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IADC), and International Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IAADC) certifications.

To earn a tCADC certification, applicants must:

  • Pass the ADC IC&RC exam
  • Have a high school diploma and 150 clock hours of relevant education with at least 45 hours in counseling theories and techniques, 45 hours in alcohol and drug abuse, six hours in special populations, six hours in counseling ethics, and three hours in racial/ethnic courses
  • Pay the $400 application fee
  • Submit a completed application

CADC certificate applicants must choose to either apply through the education or experience track. The requirements include:

  • Pass the ADC IC&RC exam
  • Education track: Have a high school diploma, 24 semester hours (or 33 quarter hours) of college-level coursework in substance abuse, 150 clock hours of relevant education with at least 45 hours in counseling theories and techniques, 45 hours in alcohol and drug-specific classes, six hours in special populations, six hours in counseling ethics, and three hours in racial/ethnic and six months (or 1,000 hours) of full-time supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling, of which 500 hours must in the Four Domains of the Alcohol and Drug Counselor, with a minimum of 20 hours in each domain, and 36 of the hours in direct supervision with a qualified supervisor
  • Experience track: Have a high school diploma and 150 clock hours of relevant education with at least 45 hours in counseling theories and techniques, 45 hours in alcohol and drug-specific classes, six hours in special populations, six hours in counseling ethics, and three hours in racial/ethnic courses and a year-and-a-half (or 3,000 hours) of full-time supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling, of which 500 hours must in the Four Domains of the Alcohol and Drug Counselor, with a minimum of 20 hours in each domain, and 36 of the hours in direct supervision with a qualified supervisor
  • Pay the $400 application fee
  • Submit a completed application

IADC certificates are reciprocal with other states that use IC&RC certification. The requirements include:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • 300 hours of alcohol and drug knowledge and skill competencies; at least 30 hours must have been earned in the past 24 months and must include 90 hours in counseling theories and techniques, 90 hours in alcohol and drug-specific training, six hours in counseling ethics, and three hours in racial/ethnic courses
  • Work experience in the Four Domains of Drug and Alcohol Counselors
  • A passing score on the Supervisor’s Counselor Evaluation
  • $400 application fee
  • A completed application
  • Passing score on the ADC IC&RC exam

Those with a master’s degree or higher in a related field must complete 2,000 hours, with 100 hours of supervision; bachelor’s degree holders in a related field must complete 4,000 hours, with 200 hours of supervision; associate degree holders in a related field must complete 5,000 hours, with 250 hours of supervision; and those without a college degree in a related field must document 6,000 hours of experience, with 300 hours of supervision.

IAADC certification requirements include:

  • A master’s or doctorate in behavioral science
  • 180 hours in alcohol and drug knowledge and skill competencies with six hours in counseling ethics and three hours in racial/ethnic courses
  • 2,000 hours of work experience in the Four Domains of Drug and Alcohol Counselors, including 300 hours of on the job supervision.
  • A passing score on the Supervisor’s Counselor Evaluation
  • $400 application fee
  • A completed application
  • Passing score on the AADC IC&RC exam

The IBC requires certificate holders to renew every two years.

To renew, counselors must:

  • Submit a completed application either online or on a paper application
  • Pay $220 fee
  • Complete 40 hours of continuing education; 25 hours must be from formal training or classes

Rehabilitation Counseling Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements

Iowa Department of Public Health Board of Behavioral Science

Iowa issues temporary Mental Health Counselor (MHC) licenses to rehabilitation counselors who still need to complete supervised work experience. Candidates must:

  • Pay a $120 application fee
  • Complete part one of the Supervised Clinical Experience Approval and Attestation form
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

To apply for a full MHC license, candidates must:

  • Complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience of which 200 hours must be supervision hours. In lieu of this applicants can provide proof of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor status with the National Board for Certified Counselors
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

Iowa requires licenses to be renewed every two years on even-numbered years. The period to renew a license runs from October 1st of an even-numbered year till September 30th of the next even-numbered year. During that period, counselors must submit their renewal application, pay the $120 fee, and complete 40 hours of continuing education.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Iowa Board of Behavioral Science

The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science issues licenses for Behavior Analysts and Assistant Behavior Analysts. The requirements are:

  • Submit a completed application
  • Pay $300 application fee
  • Hold either BCBA or BCaBA certification

Behavior analyst licenses in Iowa run concurrently with the BCBA certification. Both the certification and license must be renewed before the certification expires.

To renew, the applicant must meet the renewal requirements set forth by the BACB. The fee to renew is $120.

Marriage and Family Therapy Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Iowa Department of Public Health Board of Behavioral Science

Iowa issues temporary Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) licenses to candidates who still need to complete supervised work experience. Candidates must:

  • Pay a $120 application fee
  • Complete part one of the Supervised Clinical Experience Approval and Attestation form
  • Pass the AMFTRB exam
  • Graduate from a COAMFTE-accredited master’s or doctoral program (or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-COAMFTE accredited school)
  • Complete an application

To apply for a full MFT license, candidates must:

  • Complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, of which 200 hours must be supervision hours; in lieu of this, applicants can provide proof of clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Pass the AMFTRB exam
  • Graduate from a COAMFTE-accredited master’s or doctoral program (or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-COAMFTE accredited school)
  • Complete an application

Iowa requires licenses to be renewed each even-numbered year. The period to renew a license runs from October 1st of an even-numbered year till September 30th of the next even-numbered year.

During that period, counselors must submit their renewal application, pay the $120 fee, and complete 40 hours of continuing education requirements.

Child (Pediatric) Behavioral Therapy Licenses in Iowa

Licensing AuthorityEligibility & DetailsRenewal Requirements
Iowa Department of Public Health Board of Behavioral Science

Iowa issues temporary Mental Health Counselor (MHC) licenses to child therapists who still need to complete supervised work experience. Candidates must:

  • Pay a $120 application fee
  • Complete part one of the Supervised Clinical Experience Approval and
  • Attestation form
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

To apply for a full MHC license, candidates must:

  • Complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience of which 200 hours must be supervision hours. Instead of this, applicants can provide proof of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor status with the National Board for Certified Counselors
  • Pass the NCE exam
  • Graduate from a CACREP accredited master’s or doctoral program or obtain an equivalency evaluation if a graduate degree is earned at a non-CACREP accredited school
  • Complete an application

Iowa requires licenses to be renewed every two years on even-numbered years. The period to renew a license runs from September 1st of an even-numbered year till September 30th of the next even-numbered year. During that period, counselors must submit their renewal application, pay the $120 fee, and complete 40 hours of continuing education.

Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels

Writer

Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at berndgeels@gmail.com.