From the bustling, windy streets of Chicago to calm, serene qualities of spots like Starved Rock State Park, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy life while pursuing your degree in Illinois.
If you wish to help others improve upon their own lives, a career in psychology, counseling, or social work can let you make a positive impact on a daily basis. But to find a role in these fields, you first need to earn your license. What does that entail? Read on for a step-by-step explanation of the education, experience, and testing that you need.
Psychology Licensure in Illinois
For anyone who’s interested in becoming a psychologist, obtaining your professional license is a requirement in Illinois. The state’s Clinical Psychologists Licensing and Disciplinary Board oversees all rules and regulations regarding licensure.
To practice independently as a psychologist, you’re required to complete a doctoral degree at a regionally accredited institution. Clinical and counseling psychology programs should ideally be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), though non-accredited programs that meet the standards of the Illinois Medical Licensing Board might also qualify. Candidates who enroll in doctoral programs that aren’t accredited by the APA might be required to submit additional materials or meet extra requirements when applying for a license.
In their programs, students must complete courses in 7 key content areas:
- Scientific and professional ethics
- Biological basis of behavior
- Cognitive-affective basis of behavior
- Social basis of behavior
- Individual differences
- Treatment modalities
Your program must also include a practicum, internship, and residency. Internships must be a minimum of 1,750 hours completed within 24 months, and be accredited by the APA, the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The wrong internship may not count toward licensure, which makes it all the more important to confirm accreditation before starting a program.
Residencies must be the equivalent of a year and involve face-to-face interaction with both faculty and other students. They need to consist of 30 semester hours accumulated within 2 years or a minimum of 350 contact hours within 18 months.
Psychology licensing requirements
To become a licensed psychologist, you need to have 2 years of supervised experience. Your internship hours can apply to half of this requirement, while another year—a minimum of 1,750 hours—must be completed postdoc.
Once you’ve met all education and experience requirements, you can sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). This national exam consists of 225 multiple-choice questions and must be passed with a minimum score of 500 out of 800.
Illinois psychology licenses expire on September 30 of every even-numbered year. To renew your license, you must pay a fee and provide documentation showing that you’ve completed at least 24 hours of continuing education (CE) during the previous 2 years. Those renewing for the first time don’t need to meet the CE requirements. Approved continuing education is further outlined by the Illinois General Assembly.
If you hold a psychology license in another state or Canada, you may be granted a license in Illinois if your education and experience are equivalent to the state’s requirements. You’ll need to submit official transcripts from your doctoral program and provide proof that you have at least 1 of the following:
- A valid Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology from the ASPPB
- A credential from the National Register of Health Service Psychologists
- A license that’s been active and undisciplined for at least 20 consecutive years
If you don’t meet these requirements, you’ll need to undergo the initial licensing process, including taking the exam.
After gaining experience working in the field, many psychologists choose to advance their careers by opening private practices or gaining specialty certification.
Counseling & Therapy Licensure in Illinois
Therapists and counselors assist clients across all age groups in handling life’s challenges and determining strategies for coping with difficult situations. To practice as a counselor or marriage and family therapist (MFT) in Illinois, candidates must first become licensed.
Many counselors and therapists choose to earn their doctoral degrees, but a master’s is the highest degree required for earning a license in Illinois.
Your program must be accredited by the National Council on Rehabilitation Education or the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. It also needs to be a minimum of 2 years in length, consist of at least 48 semester hours, and include at least 1 course in the following areas:
- Appraisal of individuals
- Counseling techniques
- Counseling theory
- Family dynamics
- Group dynamics, processing, and counseling
- Human growth and development
- Lifestyle and career development
- Research and evaluation
- Professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities in counseling
- Psychopathology and maladaptive behavior
- Research and evaluation
- Social and cultural foundations
- Substance abuse
Your program must also include a practicum or internship and a year-long residency.
Marriage and family therapists
Aspiring MFTs must hold at least a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, ideally in a program that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education or the Commission on Accreditation for Counseling Related Educational Programs. Your coursework must be the equivalent of 48 semester hours, details methods for working with both individuals and groups, and cover the following topics:
- Individual development and family dynamics
- Professional studies and ethics
- Theoretical foundations and clinical practice
Your program must also include a practicum or internship of 15 hours a week for a total of 300 hours. Approximately 8–10 of your weekly hours must be in direct contact with individuals, couples, families, and other groups.
Therapy and counseling licensing requirements
Once you’ve earned the appropriate degree, there are additional steps to getting your license as a counselor or therapist.
Illinois offers 2 titles for counselors—licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). While both allow you to practice in the field, the LCPC is a higher level of license and is designed for those who wish to work in supervisory roles or conduct research.
After graduation, LPCs can earn their license by passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE) given by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Those wishing to work specifically in rehabilitation counseling can opt to take the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam (CRCE).
For those seeking the advanced LCPC license, you’ll need to earn additional experience before you can get your license. After graduation, those with a master’s degree must work under supervision for 2 full-time years. Each year includes a maximum of 1,680 work hours, with 960 of these in direct contact with clients. Those with a doctoral degree must also work under supervision for 2 years, however, up to 1 year of an internship experience may be applied to this requirement.
Once you’ve completed these hours, the next step to your license is taking the exams. As with LPCs, you’ll need to take the NCE, as well as the board’s National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam.
Both LPC and LCPC licenses expire on March 31 of odd-numbered years. To renew, you need to have completed 30 hours of continuing education within the last 2 years, with at least 18 of these hours in clinical supervision. Those renewing for the first time don’t need to meet the CE requirements.
Marriage and family therapists
Once you’ve earned your degree, you can apply for a license to become an associate MFT. With this 1-time license, you can work toward earning the 3,000 required hours of postgrad experience, which must be completed within 2–5 years. At least 1,000 of these hours must be face-to-face work with individuals, couples, and families. Another 200 hours must in the clinical supervision to marriage and family therapy, though it’s possible to apply up to 100 hours of training from a graduate practicum or internship.
With your education and work experience complete, you can sit for the exam offered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). You and the state board will receive your scores in roughly 3 weeks and, if you pass, you can then submit the application for your license.
MFT licenses expire in February of every odd-numbered year. To renew, you need to have completed 30 hours of continuing education during the previous 2 years. Those renewing for the first time don’t need to meet the CE requirements.
Illinois doesn’t offer official reciprocity, however active counselors in other states or Canada can apply for licensing through endorsement. Your education, experience, and prior test scores must meet the requirements of the state in order for you to be granted a license.
Social Work Licensure in Illinois
Another possible route to take for those who are interested in helping others is social work. There are a number of different ways to get a social work license in Illinois, and the steps you take depend on your long-term career goals.
LSW vs. LCSW: what’s the difference?
While some states license up to 5 different types of social workers, Illinois only offers licensing for 2. These designations include the licensed social worker (LSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
The major difference between these titles comes down to whether a social worker can provide clinical services independently. LSWs may perform clinical duties, but they can only do so under the full supervision of an LSCW, licensed psychologist, or psychiatrist.
There are 2 main paths for those seeking an Illinois social work license—a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. A bachelor’s is the minimum you need to become an LSW, while at least a master’s is required to earn your license as an LCSW. Both programs will involve practicums that focus on hands-on experience and coursework covering topics such as human growth and development, behavioral issues, and sociological constructs.
Social work licensing requirements
Requirements to become a social worker in Illinois vary significantly depending on the level of license you seek.
After earning at least a bachelor’s degree, those pursuing an LSW need to complete 3 years of supervised experience directly related to social work. Your supervisor may be an LSW, LCSW, diplomate in clinical social work, or a designated member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers.
Once you’ve completed these hours, the last step to getting your license is passing the master’s-level exam offered by theAssociation of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Your license will expire on November 30 of every odd-numbered year. To keep your license current, you’ll need to pay the renewal fee and show that you’ve completed 30 hours of continuing education in the last 2 years. Those renewing for the first time don’t need to meet the CE requirements.
With your completed master’s, aspiring LCSWs must complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience. If you earned as high as your doctoral degree, you only need to complete 2,000. Your supervisor may only be an LCSW.
To earn your official title, you then need to take and pass the ASWB’s Clinical-level exam. Once you have your license, you’ll be required to meet the same renewal and continuing education requirements as for LSWs.
Illinois offers licensing to out-of-state social workers if their education, experience, and previous test scores meet the requirements of the state. If they don’t, you’ll need to earn the additional education or work experience you need and take the appropriate ASWB exam, even if you’ve taken it before.
There are 3 primary organizations Illinois social workers can join:
- The National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter provides timely information on conferences and changes in policy throughout the state. They also offer networking opportunities, continuing education resources, and the chance to earn a number of different certifications.
- The Illinois Society for Clinical Social Work supports the professional education standards for clinical social work practice.The organization provides advocacy services, continuing education information, professional development opportunities, and networking for its members.
- The Illinois Association of School Social Workers is dedicated to improving the quality of both life and education for children. They assist with the professional development of school social workers by offering grants, workshops, conferences, continuing education, and job resources.