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 delivery method, 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.
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.
What is the difference between Counseling@Northwestern and the on-campus Master of Arts in Counseling delivery methods?
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 Illinois
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 practitioners.
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.
Yes. Northwestern University’s on-campus Master of Arts in Counseling and online Counseling@Northwestern have received an eight-year accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The CACREP accreditation renews in 2023.
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.
Is the online delivery method 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.
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.
*Note: Due to regulations by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), we cannot offer the Accelerated track to California residents. Students must complete the equivalent of two quarters of coursework with Counseling@Northwestern in order to be eligible to start their Practicum season in California. Therefore, we encourage California residents to apply for the Traditional 9-quarter or Part-Time 12-quarter track.
Yes. Students will be required to travel to Illinois twice throughout the program for immersion experiences.
The first immersion is the New Student Immersion or NSI. Students are invited to campus in their first quarter to learn about program expectations and support. The NSI is designed to orient students to the many resources available to them. Students also have the opportunity to meet and greet Core Faculty Advisors, staff, peers, and other students in the program.
The second immersion students attend is the Group Dynamics Immersion or GDI, a three-day conference that takes place during Practicum season and is guided by Counseling@Northwestern faculty and selected supervisors. The GDI is embedded in COUN 412-6: Group Counseling Theory and Practice course and is a living laboratory where students experience and examine group, institutional, and diversity dynamics. This immersion includes group counseling skills training and practice. Lastly, the immersion aligns with the program’s psychodynamic focus as students explore their personal experiences and how they may arise in a group counseling setting.
Are there specialization options available to focus my education?
Students can choose to pursue a Child and Adolescent Specialization. The Child and Adolescent Specialization trains students to be counselors for children and adolescents. Students who choose the Specialization are also fully equipped to work with adults.
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 from Northwestern University. The only difference between the online and on-campus program is the form of delivery.
Will this degree allow me to pursue licensure in any state?
After earning an MA in Counseling degree, counselors must obtain their state licensure to legally practice counseling. 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, and some 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.
What does it mean to become a clinically licensed counselor?
Clinically licensed counselors are legally permitted to practice clinical mental health counseling autonomously. Most states have a two-tier licensure process. Graduates typically apply for a provisional license once they graduate, which requires them to practice under the supervision of a clinically licensed counselor. Once they have acquired the required number of post-graduate hours, alumni can apply and test for a clinical license which allows counselors to practice 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, private or group practices, behavioral health facilities, and more.
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.
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 and theoretical orientation. 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, clinical mental health 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Please note: To be considered an official transcript, the transcript must be sent directly from your institution(s) or through an electronic transcript vendor retained by that institution. Transcripts submitted by enrolled or prospective students are considered unofficial documents, even if they are in a sealed envelope provided to you by the issuing university.
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.
All field placements must be vetted and approved by our Clinical Director team. You may request a site for placement and our clinical placement team will assist with the qualification process. Additionally, our dedicated clinical placement team will work with you to locate an appropriate, Northwestern-approved placement site. You may also request a site be vetted for your placement if you are interested in completing your clinical training there.
How much time should I expect to spend at my placement site?
In the Practicum season, 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 season, 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.
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.
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.
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. The more limited your availability is, the longer it may take to complete your clinical training requirements and thus, delay your graduation. We recommend you increase your availability during your Internship season to ensure a timely graduation.
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.