School Counseling in Illinois
The field of school counseling has been around for over 100 years. Previously referred to as guidance counseling, the field of school counseling has come a long way from the early 1900s. What was once considered a regular job position, just like any other, the role of school counselor has evolved into a highly revered service position.
School counselors are perhaps one of the most vital members of a school leadership team. School counselors are licensed or certified educators whose focus is on improving student success. They work to promote equity and access for all students through the implementation of comprehensive school counseling programs.
School counselors in Illinois can be employed across all education levels, including elementary, middle, high school, and university/college. Illinois school counselors, especially in the Chicago metropolitan area, have high employment levels.
What are the Requirements to Become a School Counselor in Illinois?
Becoming a school counselor in the state of Illinois can be a rigorous and lengthy process. Those who desire to enter into the field of school counseling must be committed in order to remain motivated through the necessary schooling, internship, examination, and other various requirements.
Educational and Coursework Requirements
To serve as a school counselor in Illinois, individuals must earn a master’s degree in school counseling (or a related field). The master’s degree must be from an accredited university and meet the requirements set forth by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The school counseling degree program must be two academic years or include at least 48 semester hours. The degree program must include at least one course in the following areas:
- Counseling theory
- Human growth and development
- Group dynamics
- Research and evaluation
- Professional, legal, and ethical considerations
- Social/cultural foundations
- Counseling techniques
- Lifestyle and career development
- Substance abuse
In addition to completing a master’s degree program, candidates for school counseling licensure in Illinois must also complete a number of clinical hours, as a way to gain adequate experience in the field. These clinical hours, which are typically obtained through a practicum and internship.
During the practicum, individuals must complete 100 hours of interaction with school aged children, either in a one-on-one or group setting. In addition to the hours obtained in practicum, an additional 600 clock hours must be obtained in the internship. Individuals who have been a teacher for at least two years may be eligible for a reduced number of required hours.
Following the practicum and internship, individuals working towards becoming school counselors must pass the ISBE, or the Illinois State Board of Education examination. The ISBE is a requirement for anyone who wants to become certified as a school counselor in the state of Illinois.
The ISBE is a computer-based, time-limited exam consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions. The test includes four core areas of comprehension as they relate to school counseling in Illinois, including:
- Professional Identity and Practice – this section addresses the legal and ethical issues in the school counseling field, as well as the primary roles/responsibilities of a school counselor.
- Human Growth and Development – used to evaluate one’s knowledge of human development, this section covers human development over the entire lifespan, including physical, emotional, cognitive, and social realms.
- Social and Cultural Diversity – this section evaluates comprehension related to the impact of societal and cultural factors on students, families, and communities. It also is used to assess level of readiness to work effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds and populations.
- Counseling, Consultation, Coordination, and Advocacy – the final area of assessment looks at one’s aptitude when it comes to providing consultation and counseling services (which includes important aspects such as student advocacy and care coordination with other providers/services.
Individuals must complete the ISBE in 3 hours or less and must obtain a score of 240 (out of a possible 300 points) to pass the examination.
School Counselor Certification and Certification Renewal Requirements
The Illinois school counselor certification is valid for five years from the date of issue. This means every five years school counselors working in Illinois must renew their certification. Renewal applications can be completed online, along with a payment of $50.
Certification renewal requires school counselors to complete 120 hours of professional development/continuing education. The 120 hours may be completed from a regionally accredited Illinois college/university with an approved education program. The 120 hours of continued education must include at least one hour in the following areas:
- Suicide awareness/prevention
- Cultural competency
- Special education/education of disabled students
- Laws and ethics
- Career development
- Academic development
- Human growth and development
- Prevention of child sexual abuse
- Social/emotional development
Most school counselors do not wait until their certification is about to expire to complete the continuing education requirements. It is more common to start to accrue the 120 hours from the time of initial certification or last renewal period.
In addition to the continuing education hours, the Illinois State Board of Education also requires counselors submit to a background check and receive a satisfactory evaluation from the school district in which they are employed as a part of their certification renewal.
Illinois School Counselor Certification Reciprocity
The Illinois State Board of Education does consider reciprocity for any out-of-state applicants. To be eligible for reciprocity, one must hold a current school counselor certification/license (in the state) and be able to verify a year’s worth of employment as a school counselor.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Illinois?
The time it takes to become a school counselor varies depending on an individual’s educational background and the specific program requirements. Typically, it takes around 2-3 years to complete a master’s degree in school counseling, and an additional 1-2 years to complete the coursework and internship requirements.
Can You Be a School Counselor with a Bachelor’s Degree in Illinois?
To become a school counselor in Illinois, individuals are required to hold a master’s degree in school counseling (or a related field). So, while all school counselors do hold a bachelor’s degrees, their educational requirements do not stop there. The bachelor’s degree is simply a required step that will allow those interested in becoming a school counselor to enter their post-graduate degree program.
What is the Role of School Counselors in Illinois?
Due to the breadth of responsibilities inherent to Illinois school counselors, it is challenging to categorize a “primary” role. Illinois school counselors serve many roles and take on a range of responsibilities.
While their primary place of service to students is in a school setting, their duties reach far beyond that of promoting academic development. Illinois school counselors also play an integral role in fostering the personal, social, and career development of students.
Each role targets specific areas important to student success and overall wellbeing, including:
- Academic counseling – choosing classes, planning coursework developing study habits/skills, other academic supports, identifying academic strengths, weaknesses.
- Post-secondary counseling/career counseling – school counselors aid students in planning for post-secondary options, whether that be higher education, military, or the work force. School counselors assist students in exploring areas of career interest and potential options, identifying career goals, interview/resume/job search skills.
- Personal and social counseling – although they are not licensed mental health professionals, school counselors do assist students in addressing social/personal issues as they relate to self and peers. They may provide support in managing emotions and/or applying interpersonal skills. Although school counselors typically only see students on a short-term basis for these types of services, they can provide referrals for long-term support.
In addition to the above roles, Illinois school counselors may also provide other services such as
- Advocacy– school counselors also may spend a portion of their time advocating for the personal and/or academic needs of student. Through collaborating with teachers, families, administrators, and the community, they work to create a supportive educational environment conducive to student success.
- Responsive services– following a traumatic event or in times of crisis, school counselors meet the immediate concerns and needs of, not only students, but also, at times, other school faculty members.
- Data Analysis – at times, school counselors conduct data analysis to ascertain student needs, issues, and challenges.
Additionally, role can look different for a school counselor depending on the academic age range (i.e. – elementary, middle school, etc.) they serve. For example, an elementary school counselor may have more focused attention on behavioral interventions and developmental skills, while a high school counselor may concentrate more on students developing independent living skills and other areas related to the transition into adulthood.
What are the Career Opportunities for School Counselors in Illinois?
School counselors in Illinois have a range of opportunities for employment in terms of settings and populations they serve. School counselors may work in public or private schools, at either the elementary, middle, high school, or university/college level.
Some school counselors choose a career as a school counselor educator, teaching those seeking to break into the field. School counselor educators may also serve as internship and/or practicum supervisors. Additionally, some school counselors take on more of a leadership role, serving as directors or coordinators of a specific school district.
Overall, school counselors in Illinois have a range of career options available to them, depending on their specific interests and goals.