When choosing a graduate school, students may want to look at whether the master’s in counseling programs have accreditation and how they are accredited. This lets them know if the credits they take will transfer to another campus and if the internships that they need to do have accreditation. Students may want to take some time away from school to work full-time or spend time with their families. When they attend a college or university that has the right accreditation, they can transfer to another school when needed or return to the original campus. There are several things that students should know about accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a term that describes the approval or authorization that a college or university has. One type is called regional accreditation. This refers to the school as a whole and applies to all the programs available, including both degree and certificate options. It typically comes from an organization or agency such as the Higher Learning Commission, which has branches in all major regions of the United States. Specialty accreditation applies only to specific programs in one field such as all the counseling programs that a university offers.
Who Accredits Counseling Programs?
The largest agency that accredits counseling programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Also called CACREP, it grants accreditation to colleges that offer one or more counseling degree programs. The organization will examine the policies and practices of the school, including the backgrounds and education of each professor who works in the program and the requirements that students must meet to graduate. This accreditation can apply to both the courses that counseling majors take and their internships and practicums. Most states require that counselors have some fieldwork before they can get their licenses. School counseling and counseling psychology programs may have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA) too.
Why is Accreditation Important?
One reason why accreditation is important in regards to master’s in counseling degree programs is that it helps students get financial aid. The Department of Education in the United States will only let students who attend a school with regional accreditation to use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the form that helps them get financial aid. Accreditation from the APA or the CACREP is also important because it shows that the schools offer the courses that they need to take and the fieldwork they need to do to get their licenses.
Each organization that grants accreditation has standards regarding which schools get it. According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, schools must meet the standards in six different areas to gain accreditation, including professional practice, community identity, learning environment and evaluation within the program. It also identifies eight specialty areas and establishes standards for those areas. Those standards apply to students studying clinical mental health counseling, addiction counseling, and other fields. Schools must maintain these standards to keep their accreditation.
Accreditation is an important feature that any student should look for when choosing a program. Students who want to study counseling should look for programs with CACREP accreditation and approval from the APA. Master’s in counseling degrees get accreditation from organizations when the programs meet specific standards in terms of the learning environment and other factors.