Master’s in Counseling Degrees in Illinois: Explore Online and On-Campus Program Options

There are a number of Illinois schools that offer master’s in counseling degrees, with concentrations in clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, marriage and family therapy, college counseling, rehabilitation counseling, community counseling and more. 

These degrees are offered in different cities throughout Illinois, including more than a dozen master’s in counseling programs in Chicago alone.

To practice counseling in Illinois, you will need to complete a counseling-related master’s or doctoral degree program from an accredited university, among other requirements. Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) in the state work in a range of settings to support people of varying ages and backgrounds through challenging situations. 

In Illinois, you can also find licensed clinical professional counselors (LCPCs). In addition to postgraduate education, these professionals are required to pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE) and complete two years of supervised clinical work, allowing them to practice independently and potentially pursue supervisory and leadership roles.

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Education and Other Requirements for Counseling Licensure in Illinois

If you want to become a counselor in Illinois, you may choose to become either a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). 

Both licenses require a master’s degree or higher in counseling from an accredited college or university. The counseling degree program must include at least 48 semester hours, or two academic years, with at least one course in each of these crucial areas:

  • 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, including Illinois law
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Practicum/internship
  • Psychopathology and maladaptive behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Family dynamics

Your internship must include a one-year residency of 24 semester hours. For aspiring LCPCs, you’ll also need to complete two years of supervised clinical experience post-degree.

According to the Illinois General Assembly, for both licenses, you must pass either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Examination—depending on your career path. 

Finally, you will need to pay an application fee of $150 for licensure as an LPC or an LCPC followed by $60 per year to renew your license. LPCs and LCPCs may join the Illinois Counseling Association, a long-standing membership-based organization. 

Salary and Career Outlook for Counselors in Illinois

How much you may earn as a counselor in Illinois often depends on a variety of factors, namely specialization. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education, guidance, and career counselors (which includes school counselors) in Illinois make a mean salary of $57,880 per year, as of May 2021.

Also according to BLS data for Illinois, marriage and family therapists there earned a mean salary of $53,560; rehabilitation counselors earned a salary of $46,430 in 2021; and substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors in the state took home annual earnings of $52,480 in 2021. All other types of counselors earned a mean annual salary of $52,170.

In the United States, jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are expected to grow by 23% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. Jobs for marriage and family therapists are expected to rise by 16% during the same time period. By contrast, employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to increase by 10%, still higher than the national average. Employment of school and career counselors is expected to increase 11% by 2030.


So, what can you do with a counseling degree in Illinois? And what do the pay and job market look like? We’ve put together some common questions and answers for Illinois residents considering a career in the field.

What degree do I need to become a marriage and family therapist in Illinois?

To become a marriage and family therapist in Illinois, you will need a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology or a related field. You will also need to complete an internship and post-degree supervised clinical experience and pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) for licensure and certification.

How much do mental health therapists make in Illinois?

In Illinois, mental health therapists make about $52,480 annually, or $25.23 per hour, according to the BLS. In Chicago, mental health therapists make a mean annual salary of $54,460. However, those numbers are not a guarantee. Mental health therapists may make more, and some might make much less.

What jobs can I get with a master’s degree in counseling in Illinois?

A master’s degree in counseling may help prepare you for a job as a school or career counselor, a marriage and family therapist, a mental health counselor, a substance abuse counselor or a rehabilitation counselor.

How much money can a counselor make in private practice in Illinois?

In private practice, the amount of money a counselor can make will likely depend on how many clients they take on and what area they specialize in. The mean annual salary in Illinois for a counselor is between $46,000 and $57,000.

Is mental health counseling a good career in Illinois?

Only you can determine whether a career in mental health counseling is a good fit for you. If you enjoy providing emotional and psychological support to others, then you may find this career path to be a rewarding one. Of course, there are other factors to consider as you make a decision, including earning potential and job outlook. According to the BLS, mental health counseling jobs are expected to grow by 23% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average rate for all occupations.

What is the job outlook for school counselors in Illinois?

In the United States, school counselor jobs are expected to grow 11% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS data. That number may rise as more students attend school, current school counselors retire and more colleges and universities open career centers. 

How much does a school counselor make with a master’s degree in Illinois?

In Illinois, school counselors make a mean salary of $57,880 per year, or $27.83 per hour. In Chicago, the mean salary is $60,150 per year, or $28.92 per hour, according to the BLS. But there’s a wide range of salaries for school counselors. Across the United States, that number ranges from around $37,550 to more than $98,190. 

Last updated: May 2022