FAQ

General

Admissions

Field Education

 

General

What is Counseling@Northwestern?

Counseling@Northwestern is the online Master of Arts in Counseling Program from The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Featuring the same curriculum and academic requirements as the on-campus program, Counseling@Northwestern prepares students for a career in clinical mental health counseling as they learn various theoretical approaches and develop skills for self-reflective practice.

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How are The Family Institute and Northwestern University connected?

The Family Institute (TFI) is a nonprofit organization that is independently funded and integrally linked to Northwestern University. TFI directs the University’s Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies (CAPFS) in collaboration with Northwestern’s Graduate School and Office of Research. Through this relationship, students in the online Counseling Program enjoy the full benefits of a Northwestern education, graduating with a master’s degree from The Graduate School at Northwestern University.

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What is the difference between Counseling@Northwestern and the on-campus Master of Arts in Counseling Program?

The primary difference is the mode of delivery—Counseling@Northwestern uses a virtual campus to deliver course content through live, face-to-face classes, enabling students to attend classes from anywhere with an Internet connection.

The online program is similar to the on-campus MA in Counseling Program in the following ways: 

  • Same rigor, values, and mission
  • Same academic standards and requirements
  • Same degree earned and diploma received—online graduates are invited to participate in the commencement ceremony on campus in Chicago

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What differentiates this program from other Master of Arts in Counseling programs?

Unlike other graduate counseling programs, Counseling@Northwestern immerses students in a variety of key theoretical approaches at a deeper level than is typically found in a master’s program. Additionally, our clinical training model includes approximately 18 consecutive months of field training to support students in their journey to become self-reflective therapists. 

Counseling@Northwestern students meet in live, online classes each week to engage with faculty and fellow students. With dynamic, immersive course content delivered through a virtual campus and a high level of student support provided throughout the online learning experience, Counseling@Northwestern is unique from any other online MA in Counseling program. This online program also has a dedicated field placement team that works with students to locate relevant clinical placement sites—students are not required to find placements on their own.

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Is Counseling@Northwestern accredited?

Yes. Northwestern University’s on-campus Master of Arts in Counseling Program and online Counseling@Northwestern program have received an eight-year accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The CACREP accreditation renews in 2023.

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How many credits are required to complete the Master of Arts in Counseling Program?

To graduate, you must complete 24 courses (27 courses if you are enrolled in the Bridge to Counseling Program) as well as a two-part clinical placement. Counseling@Northwestern’s curriculum and clinical requirements are equivalent to those of a 60-credit hour program.

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Is the online program available full time and part time?

Yes. Counseling@Northwestern offers an accelerated track that comprises six quarters and takes approximately 18 months to complete. You can also choose to pursue your degree in our traditional or part-time track. The traditional track takes approximately two-and-a-half years to complete, and the 12-quarter track takes three years to complete.

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How long does the program take to complete?

Depending on whether you pursue your degree on an accelerated, traditional, or part-time basis, you can expect to graduate within one-and-a-half to three years.

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Can I work full time while enrolled in the program?

We recommend that students in the accelerated track do not work full time due to the rigor of our graduate Counseling Program and the demands of the coursework and clinical experience.

Traditional and part-time students may have more time to work because they take fewer courses per quarter and start their clinical placements later in the program.

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Will I be required to visit campus?

Yes. Students will be required to travel to campus twice throughout the program for immersion experiences.

The first immersion students attend is the Group Dynamics Immersion, a three-day conference that takes place during the Practicum year and is guided by Counseling@Northwestern faculty and selected supervisors. This immersion is embedded in the Theories and Techniques of Group Counseling and Psychotherapy course and is a living laboratory in which students experience and examine group, institutional, and diversity dynamics. This first immersion will include counseling skills training and practice.

The second in-person immersion takes place in Chicago just prior to graduation. Students will present their final projects as part of the Advanced Topics in Clinical Mental Health Counseling course at a research symposium open to Northwestern faculty as well as the families and friends of the students. As part of the advanced topics course, students will present to peers and to faculty on the competencies gained throughout the program. These competencies can be based in research, clinical experience, or other theories of the counseling field, developed based on their coursework throughout the program.

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What is the student-to-faculty ratio?

Classes are kept small to facilitate collaboration and relationship building. The student-to-faculty ratio is typically no greater than 12:1.

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Are there specializations available that I can pursue to focus my education?

Students can choose to pursue a Child and Adolescent specialization. This trains students to be counselors for children and adolescents, though students who choose the specialization are also fully equipped to work with adults.

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Will my diploma indicate that I earned my degree online?

No. Counseling@Northwestern graduates receive a diploma stating that they earned a Master of Arts in Counseling from Northwestern University. The only difference between the online and on-campus program is the form of delivery.

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Will this degree allow me to pursue licensure in any state?

After earning an MA in Counseling degree, counselors must complete their licensure in order to practice. The requirements for a counseling license are state-specific and include additional post-master’s supervised clinical hours and examination.

Graduates of Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Counseling Program are prepared with the necessary skills and knowledge to sit for licensing exams in each of the 50 states, including the District of Columbia. Licensure requirements differ from state to state, but most state licensing boards require a master’s degree from a CACREP- or CORE-accredited program. We encourage students to research the requirements specific to each state.

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What does it mean to become a licensed counselor?

Licensed counselors are legally permitted to practice clinical mental health counseling autonomously. The scope of a licensed counselor’s practice varies from state to state, but most can diagnose and treat mental health concerns. They may work in agencies or in private practices, and they can receive third-party insurance reimbursement.

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Can I become a school counselor with a degree from this program?

This program is not endorsed to train school counselors. Additional coursework from another program may be needed to work as a school counselor.

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What types of jobs and salaries are possible with this degree?

Depending on the area of specialization, job opportunities include direct counseling or staff positions in the following settings: community mental health centers, inpatient/outpatient clinics, hospitals, research labs, university student services, career services, and independent practice. Salaries for graduates vary across professional settings and positions. For more information on average salaries of mental health counselors, please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

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Can I qualify for doctoral programs with this degree?

Yes, in fact, 30 percent of on-campus graduates apply and are admitted to competitive clinical or counseling PhD or PsyD programs, as well as counselor education PhD/EdD programs.

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How do I know if counseling best suits my skills and career goals or if I am better suited for clinical psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy?

Mental health professionals often undergo similar training, even if the name of the discipline is different. However, each industry and profession has its own trends. Clinical psychology emphasizes testing and assessment practices. Social workers tend to receive more administrative and policy-development training. Marriage and family therapists are trained in systems approaches and work in agencies geared toward families. As a discipline, counseling is more developmental in its emphasis and tends to prepare individuals to enter a wide variety of clinical settings, working closely with individuals and groups.

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Admissions

Do I need an undergraduate degree in counseling or psychology, or relevant experience in the field, to be eligible for this program?

No, an undergraduate degree in psychology or human services is not required. We offer a Bridge to Counseling Program designed specifically for career-changers who are entering the mental health profession. Learn more about the Bridge to Counseling Program.

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Do I need to submit standardized test scores?

GRE scores are not required for admission to the online program. If you completed your postsecondary academic work outside of the United States, you must submit official scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) taken within the last two years. To send test scores, use Northwestern University’s code 1565 and object code 01.

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I’m not a US citizen or permanent resident. Can I apply?

International students are not eligible for the online program at this time.

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I’m a US citizen living abroad. Am I eligible for the program?

US citizens living abroad are currently ineligible for the online program. Applicants who will be living in the United States before their desired cohort starts, however, will be eligible to enroll.

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Do I need to complete an interview?

Applicants will be required to complete a group interview with the admissions committee using the online learning platform. Once your application is completed and reviewed, you will receive a request to schedule your group interview.

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Is there an application fee?

Yes, a nonrefundable application fee of $95 is due at the time a candidate submits an application.

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What are the minimum eligibility requirements for admission to the program, such as undergraduate GPA and GRE scores?

There is no set minimum for undergraduate GPA scores, and GRE scores are not required for admission to the program.

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Are there prerequisite courses?

No. However, if you are generally qualified for admission but lack certain requirements, faculty reserve the right to admit you to either the part-time track or the Bridge to Counseling Program. Learn more about the admissions requirements.

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Can I request that my transcripts be sent electronically?

Many schools issue transcripts electronically, either through their own web services or through vendors. If this option is available through the institutions you attended, please specify that your transcript(s) be sent to applicationservices@counseling.northwestern.edu or select Northwestern – Counseling@Northwestern if listed as an option through a vendor. This will expedite the delivery of your transcript(s) and the completion of your application.

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If I am currently enrolled in or have previously attended another graduate counseling program, will my credits transfer?

No, transfer credits will not be accepted. To earn your degree through Counseling@Northwestern, you must complete all requirements of the program while enrolled as a Counseling@Northwestern student.

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Can I take individual Counseling@Northwestern courses to fulfill outstanding requirements for another program?

No. You may take courses through Counseling@Northwestern only if you are committed to completing all of the program requirements and earning your Master of Arts in Counseling degree online from Northwestern University.

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Field Education

Do I need to secure my own field placement?

No. Our dedicated clinical placement team will work with you to locate an appropriate, Northwestern-approved placement site.

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How much time should I expect to spend at my placement site?

In the Practicum year, students can expect to spend four to seven hours per week at their clinical placement site. They will complete at least 50 hours of face-to-face counseling and receive close to 100 hours of group and individual supervision.

In the Internship year, students can expect to spend 10 to 20 hours per week at their clinical field placement site. They will complete at least 240 hours of face-to-face counseling and receive 85 hours of clinical supervision.

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If I do not have a car, how does this impact my field placement selection?

The Counseling@Northwestern field placement team will make every effort to find appropriate field sites based on each student’s needs, but the number of options for students who do not drive is limited. Not having a car may delay a student’s placement.

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Can I complete my placement where I work?

While it is possible to complete one of your placements at your current job, it must meet Northwestern’s criteria and the mission and vision of the program and be approved by faculty. This is to ensure that you receive the best clinical experience to meet your training needs. You can discuss this with the field placement team once enrolled in the program, but approval is not guaranteed.

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How far will I have to travel to get to my field placement?

Trainees can be placed up to 75 miles away based on site availability and program requirements.

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Are there weekend and weeknight placements available?

Field placement hours must be completed during your site’s business hours to align with agency activities and client meetings. Field hours vary from site to site, but most agencies operate during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Hours may also be available later in the evening or on the weekend. As a counselor-in-training, you are required to adjust your schedule to accommodate both your site’s and your supervisor's schedules.

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When does field placement begin?

Field placement is a critical part of your counselor education. If you are in the accelerated Standard Program, your field placement will begin in your first quarter and continue until graduation. If you are in the traditional Standard Program, your field training will start in your fourth quarter and continue through the end of the program. If you are in the part-time Standard Program, your field training will start in your seventh quarter and continue through the end of the program. Students can expect to start seeing clients at their placement site between weeks one and eleven in the Practicum year.

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To learn more about Counseling@Northwestern, contact an admissions counselor at 1-844-684-6221 or admissions@counseling.northwestern.edu.