Since you are reading about entering a graduate program for counseling, you probably have already figured out that a career in counseling requires an advanced degree. Counseling is a master’s level profession. That is, the title "counselor” and practice of counseling requires an individual to hold a master’s degree specifically in counseling. Earning your master’s in counseling is an essential step in learning what to do and how to do it as a counselor, so it is important to understand the different types of counseling programs that exist, as well as how their curriculum and degree requirements might vary.

Degree Requirements

Historically, master’s degrees in counseling typically required 48 to 60 semester credit hours (i.e., 72 to 90 quarter credit hours). The current

CACREP standards require that all programs are a minimum of 60 credit hours (90 quarter hours) by the year 2020, although some programs may actually be higher based on the nature of their program. The length of a program is based on the number of credit hours required and can usually be completed in 2 to 3 years if enrolled as a full-time student.

While credit hour requirements are impacted by program type, not all programs are set up to only adhere to the minimum credit hours accepted by the profession. Consider graduate programs in school counseling: CACREP standards require school counselors to complete a degree program that includes a minimum of 60 credit hours. State licensure and certification bodies vary in the number of credit hours required for licensure/certification as a school counselor, in some cases far less than 60 credits. Even so, a growing number of these programs are requiring 60 credits to graduate. Counseling programs may also have requirements specific to their own institutions and emphasis, which may impact the nature of the coursework as well as the credit hours required. For example, we know of some programs that pride themselves in a highly emphasized multicultural focus (i.e., emphasized above the "norm,” as all counseling programs include a multicultural component). This means that, in addition to the standard coursework we are about to describe, students engage in classes, activities, assignments, and sometimes field placements that address needs and experiences specific to multicultural populations. In chapter 6 we will discuss these kinds of program descriptions that you may want to add to your considerations in selecting your program. For this chapter, we want you to have an understanding of general counseling curriculum requirements and what you can expect from this graduate education experience as well as the types of counseling careers for which you can be trained.

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