College of Arts and Sciences

How to Choose a Master’s Program in Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the program provide you with all the credits you need to obtain certification or licensure?

Licensure or certification in each state often requires a given number of credits as well as coverage of specific content areas. In Pennsylvania, for example, to become a Licensed Professional Counselor one must accrue 60 graduate credits, at least 48 of which must be within a master’s program. If you choose to complete a master’s program of only 48 credits, be sure to have a plan on how to accrue the remaining credits needed for licensure. Some programs use these remaining credits to provide you with specific coursework to develop a specialty area.

Arcadia University’s Counseling program offers both a 48 and a 60 credit option. Most students pursue the 60 credit option, as it not only provides all the content needed for becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, but also offers the opportunity to complete one or more concentrations/emphases.

Does the program offer a variety of concentrations/emphases?

Even if you think you know the population you might want to work with, during graduate school you will encounter people and topics that will spark your interest. A program that offers a number of concentrations or emphases will offer you the opportunity to explore and potentially obtain further specialization in emerging areas of interest. Find a program that can grow with you!

Arcadia University’s Counseling program offers 6 concentrations and 3 dual degree programs (view details here). Students can complete more than one concentration within their program of study. You can add or change concentrations at any point in the program.

Does the program allow you to complete it both full-time and part-time?

No two students entering graduate school arrive with the same set of life experiences and circumstances. Be sure to look for a program that can take into account whether you are working, have a family to care for, or simply must balance multiple roles in your day to day life. The ability to complete a program full-time or part-time (and to potentially switch after you begin if life throws you a curve ball!) could mean the difference between being able to complete the degree or not. 

Arcadia University’s Counseling program offers both full-time and part-time options, which students can change as needed. Students pay by the credit, so length of program does not impact expense.

Does the program expose you to a range of theoretical orientations?

Some counseling programs may offer specialized training within a given theoretical orientation, while others may take a more integrative approach and expose students to a number of theoretical perspectives. While the specialized approach may be appealing, effectively implementing evidence-based practice often calls for a strong foundation in generalist skills. You might consider a program that is evidence-based in its philosophy, but broad in its counseling approach. 

Arcadia University’s Counseling program trains students in a number of theoretical orientations. The program’s integrative philosophy is firmly rooted in evidence-based practices. Therefore, the program teaches only those perspectives that are validated by research. 

Does the program infuse multicultural and evidence-based practices in its training?

Counselors are asked to be accountable to outside agencies for the treatment plans they employ with clients, as well as to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Evidence-based and multicultural practices are some of the most central and cutting edge trends in the counseling field. You may want to look for a program that clearly addresses these two areas not simply in an isolated course, but truly throughout the curriculum. It’s easy to pay lip service to both of these areas. Look for faculty who are actively engaged in these areas (e.g., through research, teaching, involvement in professional organizations) to ensure thorough exposure to each.

Arcadia University’s Counseling program has two pillars: evidence-based practices and multicultural counseling. Both are integrated and infused throughout the curriculum, not simply in specialized courses, but also in skills labs. The training offered in these two areas sets Arcadia’s Counseling program apart from most of its peers.

Does the program provide systematic avenues for advising?

Graduate school, especially in a field like counseling, is a time of great growth, both personally and professionally. Mentoring throughout that process can make a considerable difference in your ability to make the most of your graduate program and opportunities in the fields. Look for a program that offers advising and mentoring that goes beyond simply identifying a class schedule, and caters to your development as a professional both within and outside of the actual program.

Arcadia University’s Counseling students are assigned three mentors: a program advisor, who assists them with class scheduling as well as Practicum/Internship placements; a faculty mentor who supports them academically and professionally for the duration of the program (and beyond!); and a peer mentor, an advanced student who supports students in their first semester of study.

Does the program provide you with an opportunity to interview prior to admission?

Selecting a graduate program is one of the most important career decisions you will make. The opportunity to interview with potential programs can be immensely helpful (and rewarding) for all parties. Faculty and staff can get to know a candidate much better when they are able to meet face to face during the interview process. Students also benefit from “interviewing” a program and its faculty and staff, so that they can experience what it might be like to be in the program. It’s as important for a program to match your professional goals as it is for it to fit your learning style (e.g., small vs. large classes, close mentoring relationship with faculty vs. independent work, discussion-based classes vs. lecture courses).

Admission into Arcadia University’s Counseling program requires an in-person interview, during which prospective students have the opportunity to become familiar with the program; meet faculty, staff, and current students (as well as fellow applicants!); and get a taste of the culture of the program.

What is the faculty/student ratio in the program?

Class size and faculty/student ratios become even more important with a counseling program that requires the careful and deliberate process of teaching counseling skills. You might ask yourself questions such as “Will I have the opportunity to discuss what I am learning and to practice skill development while receiving regular feedback from my professors? Does the program afford me the opportunity to truly know my professors and for them to know me? Will I have regular opportunities to meet with faculty to discuss career options, my personal development while in the program, or to give the program feedback about my experience as a student there? Does the program size still allow me to craft a plan that works for my individual set of circumstances?”

Arcadia University’s Counseling program is small by design and it affords personalized coaching by clinical faculty both inside and outside of the classroom. All students are also matched with a faculty mentor who guides them through their growth in the program as well as their professional development. The formal advising process offers the opportunity to provide the program with feedback as well, which is often incorporated into the structure of the program to enhance all students’ experiences.

Does the faculty in the program have an active practice?

It is essential that counseling skills be taught by faculty who actively practice them. At times, faculty’s attention is solely on administrative or research responsibilities rather than also on clinical work. Applying clinical skills is a nuanced process that must take into consideration the great diversity of clients and settings. Look for a program where faculty bring up to date perspectives to their teaching and are able to show you how to apply techniques in the real world. 

Each core faculty member of Arcadia University’s Counseling program maintains a clinical practice. Both full and part-time faculty are active in their specialty fields, both clinically and professionally.

Are classes taught primarily by adjunct or full-time faculty?

Many programs cut costs by having few full-time faculty and many adjunct faculty. The greater the ratio of adjunct to full-time faculty, the more variability there may be in the quality of delivery of the curriculum.

While full-time faculty often have a chance to communicate with each other and coordinate curricula, adjunct faculty may come to campus just to teach their courses and may not be well integrated into the department. You might want to assess whether a program has a stable core of adjunct faculty versus adjunct faculty who might teach only once or twice without much further involvement with the program. You might ask programs what training and opportunities for collaboration they offer their adjunct faculty, and how well integrated into the overall functioning of the department they might be.

Most classes in Arcadia University’s Counseling program are taught by the four core full-time faculty, who also serve as faculty mentors (see above). A small core of long-standing adjunct faculty teaches regularly in the program, sharing their specialties and expertise with students. Both core and adjunct faculty meet together regularly to coordinate the curriculum and share resources. All faculty is deeply committed to training and mentoring the next generation of counselors.

Are there opportunities for professional activities, such as research or attending conferences?

Graduate school is not simply a time to attend courses, but also a time to learn more about the mental health field, discover one’s passion and professional aspirations, develop presentation skills, and potentially acquire the necessary background to apply for further training (e.g., if you are considering doctoral programs). There is no better way to accomplish the above than to attend workshops and conferences, or to become involved in research. Look for a program where faculty are closely connected to, and actively involved in, professional organizations, and (if you are thinking about doctoral programs) frequently conduct research with students. Identifying and attending professional development activities can be intimidating at first; in this context, faculty can provide mentoring and guidance to students just entering the field.

All faculty in the entire Psychology Department (both undergraduate and graduate) have active research agendas and often work with students on various projects. Research is not a requirement of the program, but is an opportunity for further development offered to all students. Interested students can either join a faculty’s research project, or develop their own under the guidance of a faculty. Students often present their work at professional conferences, publish in collaboration with faculty, and otherwise share their work in the community. More information on specific projects completed by students.

What mentoring does the program offer towards securing a job?

Securing a job involves a lot more than completing a program or acquiring hours for licensure. From identifying one’s area of specialty, to crafting an effective resume, to developing strong interviewing skills, to networking in the field, each step is essential in bringing you closer to securing the job you want. Look for a program that provides you with clear steps in acquiring job search skills, not simply in your last semester of the program, but throughout the curriculum. This is especially important as some skills (e.g., interviewing, networking) are developed over time and are most effective when integrated with the knowledge acquired in the core coursework.

Embedded in Arcadia University’s Counseling program is an integrated Career Development Curriculum, which guides students through all the steps required to become marketable, from identifying a specialty, to crafting job application documents (e.g., resume, cover letter), developing interviewing skills, and practicing job searches (through the Practicum and Internship search process). All skills are developed through specific class activities and assignments. The Career Development Curriculum starts the very first semester in the program and continues through graduation.

Will you have the opportunity to develop a sense of community with your fellow graduate students?

Graduate school is the perfect time to begin making lifelong connections that will help sustain you throughout your professional career. It’s important to have shared experiences beyond the classroom that help you get to know other students within your university community. Look for a program that provides opportunities for you to create those important personal and professional connections that will stay with you long after graduation. Ask whether students travel together to conferences or workshops, or if there are scheduled evening/weekend get-togethers or even study groups.

Even though Arcadia University’s Counseling program does not have a cohort model, students have the opportunity to take a number of classes together, while also getting to know students in all concentrations and at various stages in the program. Students also participate in a day-long orientation program, in which they are placed in small learning communities that function as a home-base for the rest of the program. The department also comes together a few times a year for social gatherings. Students who pursue research often work together on research teams and are encouraged to attend and present at conferences. Every student in the program is given a $500 “purse” that can be used towards any professional activities!

Is the program accredited?

Counseling programs may or may not be accredited. While non-accredited programs often still offer valuable training and the opportunity to obtain certification or licensure, accredited programs voluntarily choose to undergo a rigorous review process to maximize the quality of the training they offer. Accrediting bodies (e.g., CACREP, MPCAC) provide standards and consultation that ensure a given level of quality. You might ask programs if they are accredited and why they chose a given accrediting body.

Arcadia University’s Counseling program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), because of MPCAC’s emphasis on science, social justice, as well as outcomes. As indicated in MPCAC’s mission statement, “MPCAC requires programs to provide science-based education and training in the practice of counseling and psychological services…, using both counseling and psychological principles and theories as they apply to specific populations and settings.  MPCAC’s…commitment to science-based education is emphasized in the interest of providing services that are culturally responsive and that promote the public good.”

Are you able to access information about the program directly from the staff in charge?

Graduate students usually lead busy and complicated lives. Getting questions answered and finding out key information from the program staff and faculty can be paramount in keeping things moving forward in a timely manner. Be sure you feel that the program and those in charge are accessible to you and your needs.

Arcadia University’s Counseling program’s Director and Associate Director are always available to answer questions and speak to prospective students. Feel free to e-mail them anytime! Arcadia University’s Counseling program also offers an Open House three times a year, in April, August, and November Contact us for specific dates.