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Illinois Psychology Programs, Licenses, and Careers

Illinois has one of the country’s highest employment rates in the field of psychology. Additionally, recent state legislation granted psychologists prescribing responsibilities. Both of these facts highlight the growing need for psychologists in the state.

From diverse urban areas such as Chicago and Aurora to rural farm towns such as Hooppole and Galena, Illinois offers a wide range of opportunities for aspiring teachers.

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How to Become a Psychologist in Illinois

To become a practicing psychologist in Illinois you need to earn a doctorate. (Counselors only need a master’s degree.) Your journey will involve the following steps:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree: You might earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field such as sociology or social work.
  • Earn a master’s degree: While a master’s degree isn’t always required to pursue a doctorate in psychology, you may choose this route to delve into different specialties and narrow down your career goals. Often some credits from a master’s program can be applied to a doctorate program. Master’s programs take about two years to complete.
  • Earn a doctoral degree: There are two types of doctorates you can pursue in psychology: a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.). In general, the former focuses more on clinical practice and the latter on research. Getting either degree will take you anywhere from five to eight years and involves writing a dissertation.
  • Fulfill licensing requirements: All psychologists are required to complete a series of licensing requirements, which in Illinois includes a full year of supervised clinical work and an exam.

Illinois Psychology Licensing and Exams

All psychologists in Illinois are required by law to obtain and maintain licensure to practice in the state. The specific requirements will vary depending on the specialization or career path you choose.

Here’s an overview of the licensing requirements in Illinois for various mental health professions.

Licensed Psychologist

  • Doctoral degree from an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited program
  • One year of full-time post-doctoral supervised professional experience (SPE) totaling 1,750 hours (if pursuing part-time, this must be completed within 36 months of earning a doctoral degree)
  • 500 minimum score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
  • $50 license fee
  • Potential careers: Counseling psychologist, child psychologist, school psychologist

Prescribing Psychologist

  • Current license in clinical psychology (see licensed psychologist section for more details)
  • Master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology (in addition to a doctorate) from an American Psychological Association (APA)-designated program
  • 400 hours of supervised management of pharmacological treatment of at least 100 patients
  • Passing score on the Psychopharmacology Exam for Psychologists (PEP)
  • Potential careers: Clinical psychologist, behavioral psychologist, mental health psychologist

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

  • Master’s degree in social work
  • 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience
  • Passing score on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)’s Advanced Generalist Clinical exam
  • $200 license fee
  • Potential careers: Social worker, family counselor, caseworker

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

  • Master’s degree from a COAMFTE-accredited program
  • 1,000 hours of clinical experience
  • 3,000 hours of professional experience as an MFT
  • Passing score on the Association of Marriage and Family Regulatory Board’s National MFT Exam
  • $100 license fee
  • Potential careers: Marriage and family therapist, behavioral therapist, substance abuse counselor

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

  • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology or rehabilitation counseling from an accredited institution
  • Passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE), administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • $150 Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license fee
  • 3,360 hours of supervised clinical experience (completed over two years, includes 1,920 hours of face-to-face counseling)
  • Passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
  • $150 Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LPC) license fee
  • Potential careers: Mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, caseworker

Certified Addiction Counselor

  • Education:
    • High school diploma or GED, plus two years of full-time paid AOD-qualified work experience (4,000 hours), OR
    • Associate degree that is clinically-focused in behavioral science or related fields from an accredited institution, plus one-and-a-half years (3,000 hours) of related employment, OR
    • Bachelor’s degree that is clinically-focused in behavioral science or related fields from an accredited institution, plus one year (2,000 hours) of related employment
  • Documentation of on-the-job clinical supervision in 12 core skill areas (10+ hours per skill area)
  • Thorough understanding of the 12-step fellowship philosophy and process
  • Passing score on the Certified Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor (CADC) exam
  • $75 license fee
  • Potential careers: Substance abuse counselor, rehabilitation counselor, adolescent counselor

Here’s a look at the exams you’re most likely to encounter on the road to becoming a practicing psychologist.

  • Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP): All those applying for a license as a psychologist must take this exam. The exam consists of 225 multiple-choice questions and lasts 255 minutes. Applicants must achieve a passing score of 70%.
  • Psychopharmacology Exam for Psychologists (PEP): To be able to prescribe medication, psychologists need to pass this exam.

Job Growth and Psychologist Salary in Illinois

Career2018 Mean Annual Salary Average Wage Per HourExpected Job Growth
Licensed Psychologist$87,410 $47.8914%
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist$75,180 $36.14 14%
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist$97,260 N/A 8%
Mental Health Counselor$44,250 $19.78 23%
Licensed Clinical Social Worker$61,640 $29.46 8%
Marriage and Family Therapist$47,200 $19.28 23%
Substance Abuse Counselor$44,250 $19.78 23%

Recognized Psychology Specializations in Illinois

  • Licensed Psychologist: Licensed psychologists are trained to counsel patients, conduct research, and work in a clinical psychology setting.
  • Prescribing Psychologist: Prescribing psychologists have a similar role to licensed psychologists, but the additional education and licensing required gives them the authority to prescribe medications to patients seeking pharmacological mental health assistance.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): Social workers support, counsel, and provide resources for their clients and patients, who are typically from vulnerable populations.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT): Marriage and family therapists specialize in inter-relational counseling and treatment and help clients work through their struggles and challenges with other people.
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC): Patients seek out a mental health counselor during times of crisis or when they have a heightened need of support to help work through their challenges.
  • Certified Addiction Counselor: Alcohol and drug abuse counselors specialize in helping people combat their addictions through education and therapy.

Illinois Psychology Spotlight Programs

The following programs were chosen for their good reputation, the variety and uniqueness of the subjects available, and their diverse locations around the state of Illinois.

  • University of Chicago: University of Chicago’s Department of Psychology is dedicated to the advancement of scientific research in all of its degree programs. The doctoral program offers four concentrations—cognition, developmental psychology, integrative neuroscience, and social psychology—and two joint programs in cognition and linguistics and business and psychology. All programs are offered on-campus only. Full-time tuition costs $20,100 per quarter (roughly $60,000 per year); however, the graduate admissions office notes that the majority of doctoral students are offered full tuition funding, including a living stipend for the five years spent in the program.
  • Loyola University Chicago: LUC’s Department of Psychology focuses on three areas that are consistent with the institution’s mission: health development in children, youth, and families, and the psychological foundations of social justice. These elements are evident in their three graduate programs: applied social psychology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychology. Applied social psychology (which focuses on the foundations of social justice) offers a terminal master’s degree, a five-year joint B.S./M.A., and a Ph.D. option, while the other two programs offer doctoral qualifications. All programs are offered on-campus only. Master’s study tuition costs $565 per course and doctoral study costs $1,350 per course. Many (if not most) doctoral students receive funding for their studies through a variety of grants, fellowships, or assistantships.
  • Northwestern University: Located just outside of Chicago in Evanston, Northwestern University’s Department of Psychology offers five on-campus Ph.D. programs: brain, behavior, and cognition (BBC); clinical psychology; cognitive psychology; social psychology; and personality development and health. The program focuses more on preparing students for careers in academia. All Ph.D. students admitted to the psychology department receive full funding for their five years of study.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago: The UIC Department of Psychology offers five concentrations for their on-campus Ph.D. in psychology program: behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, community and prevention research, and social and personality psychology. This on-campus program is expressly research-oriented with the goal of creating leading scholars in the field. Base graduate tuition ranges depend on how many credit hours you’re taking as an active student. Full-time tuition (12 or more credits) costs $5,830 per semester for in-state students and $11,950 per semester for out-of-state students.
  • Northern Illinois University: The NIU Department of Psychology offers six programs at its DeKalb campus: clinical psychology, cognitive and instructional psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience and behavior, school psychology, and social-industrial/organizational psychology. The program not only trains graduates for academia but also prepares them to work in the field in a variety of settings, including education and healthcare. Domestic graduate tuition costs $485.72 per credit hour, with international graduate student tuition costing $852.72 per credit hour.
  • Roosevelt University: The Doctor of Clinical Psychology program at Roosevelt University’s Chicago campus prepares students for psychological careers in a variety of settings, including private psychotherapy practices, university counseling centers, and mental health support organizations. In addition to the main program, students have the opportunity to concentrate in clinical child and family psychology or neuropsychology. Roosevelt also offers four master’s programs in psychology: clinical psychology, clinical mental health counseling, clinical psychology-counseling practice, and general psychology. Full-time master’s tuition costs $20,858 per academic year, with the doctorate program costing $21,392 per academic year.
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is dedicated entirely to the field of psychology. It offers the most expansive set of psychology programs in the state. The school offers nine completely online and blended/hybrid Ph.D. programs, with subjects including international psychology, business psychology, applied behavior analysis, and an Ed.D. in educational psychology and technology. In addition to the doctoral programs, the school offers 30 master’s programs in subjects such as international psychology, counseling psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, clinical mental health counseling, and the S. Clinical Psychopharmacology Illinois Prescriptive Authority Preparation Track (which prepares licensed psychologists for prescription-giving authority in Illinois). In addition to the array of online offerings, the school offers eight doctoral programs, both in-person and in the form of blended/hybrid courses, with topics including school psychology, clinical psychology, business psychology, and applied behavior analysis. It also offers 12 master’s degree programs in areas such as industrial and organizational psychology, forensic psychology, and counseling psychology. Doctoral program tuition is $1,492 per credit hour and master’s tuition is $1,198 per credit hour.
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville: Located in the St. Louis metro area (but on the Illinois side), SIUE offers four on-campus master’s and specialist programs in psychology: clinical psychology, clinical child and school psychology, school psychology, and industrial/organizational psychology. Full-time (12 credit hours) tuition for U.S. residents costs $4,078 per semester and $10,194 for international students.
  • Western Illinois University: The WIU Department of Psychology offers three in-person graduate-level psychology programs: M.S. in general experimental psychology, M.S. in clinical/community health, and a specialist degree in school psychology. Domestic student tuition (all U.S. states) is $339.82 per semester hour; international student tuition is $509.73 per semester hour.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: The University of Illinois Department of Psychology offers an M.S. in psychological science and a Ph.D. in psychology, while the Department of Education offers a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Graduate base resident tuition is $12,942 per academic year and $27,960 per academic year for non-resident and international students.


Illinois Psychology Scholarships

You can find more about psychology scholarships here, but below are some of the scholarship options open to Illinois students.

  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology President’s Award: One of many scholarships the school offers to incoming students
    • Award amount: $7,000
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: N/A
    • GPA requirements: 3.30 or higher post-bac programs; 3.5 for post-master’s
    • Renewable: No
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Graduate Scholar Award: Gives financial support to underrepresented students in SIUE graduate programs
    • Award amount: Full tuition waiver
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: 15
    • GPA requirements: 3.30
    • Renewable: No
  • The Melanie Foundation: An award in honor of Melanie Merola O’Donnell that assists candidates pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree in the mental health field
    • Award amount: $2,500
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: N/A
    • GPA requirements: N/A
    • Renewable: Yes
  • American Psychological Foundation Graduate Student Scholarships: One of the many APF scholarships for any doctoral students (or future doctoral students) studying psychology
    • Award amount: $2,000–$5000
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: 21
    • GPA requirements: N/A
    • Renewable: N/A
  • APF Walter Katkovsky Scholarship: Offered to first-year students enrolled in APA-designated psychopharmacology programs
    • Award amount: $5,000
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: 9
    • GPA requirements: N/A
    • Renewable: No
  • Beth Rom Rymer Scholarships: Supports any student in a psychopharmacology program
    • Award amount: $5,000
    • Degree level: Graduate
    • Number of scholarships awarded: N/A
    • GPA requirements: N/A
    • Renewable: N/A

Illinois Internships and Fellowships

The Illinois Board of Psychology requires that anyone seeking a license in the field complete supervised professional experience, which usually takes the form of clinical internships. While many schools assist their doctoral students in finding internships, the following is an overview of just some of the opportunities in Illinois.

Illinois Psychology Resources

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