On-Site Classes for Counselor Certification

Students who choose to obtain their counselor certification by taking classes on a college or university campus are making a significant commitment and investment in the future of their chosen counseling career. These students may have previously completed their bachelor’s, and possibly their master’s degrees by attending classes at a college or university, and may now be working full-time in a helping profession such as nursing, pastoral care, or social work. In light of an increased demand for counselors, many schools are now offering on-site training and education programs to help graduates and professionals alike take classes that can be used toward a specific type of counseling certification. Frequently, these classes can be applied toward a counselor’s recertification requirements. By taking classes at an accredited school, the student is assured of receiving an education that meets professional and educational standards. Continuing education and certification credits increase the counselor’s credentials, employability, and career options. They also allow the counselor to obtain more specialized training if they are interested in directing their career toward a specific area of expertise.

Schools arrange class schedules to be as flexible as possible so that students can attend them in the evenings or on weekends. While there may be a set curriculum of core and elective classes for a specific certification, the classes may not need to be taken in any specific order. By attending certification classes on campus the student has access to greater options for internships and job placement upon successful program completion.

Some counselor certification courses can be taken in non-university settings. For example, Christian counselors can take degree and certification programs at Bible schools and theological seminaries. Insurance counselors can earn their certification at a specialized training institute. Many specialized organizations and associations offer their own counselor certification programs, such as for a Consumer Credit Counselor. Professional schools and community colleges also offer on-campus counselor certification programs.

Individuals who are already in the counseling profession or those who aspire to become counselors should research their area of interest. With so many certification program options available, the student will need to decide which course of action is best for him depending on the amount of time he can dedicate to his studies, the location of the school, and the credentials he expects to receive upon degree completion.

Factors to Consider

When making the decision to attend classes at a college or university, there are many factors a prospective student must take into consideration. Whether the individual is a high school student preparing to enter college for the first time or a graduate student working toward obtaining his counselor certification in a master’s degree program, the student must make many of the same decisions.

Students in master’s degree or counselor certification programs will heavily weigh a school’s academic curriculum and accreditation when deciding which school to attend. Some schools specialize in master’s programs, some in research, and others have a religious affiliation. Students need to attend a school that offers the program of courses necessary for their counseling specialty.

A flexible course schedule can also be an important factor, so that students can plan their school and study schedules around other personal or professional commitments they may have. The chosen school should also be nationally accredited to assure that the student receives a quality education that aligns with national educational and professional standards.

The location and distance of the school from the student’s home are two other very important factors. Colleges and universities can be located in urban, suburban, and rural settings. You should research not just the college itself, but also the surrounding area. Decide what amenities, facilities, and services are important to you, and choose your school in an area that will meet those requirements. In terms of distance, do you want to attend school near your home or in another state altogether? Will you want to return home every weekend or just over major holidays? Will you drive or fly? Students who are studying to be counselors may want to attend school in an area that affords them ample opportunities for internships or for practicing their chosen profession.

Students should also consider the size of the school and the diversity of the student population when deciding where to attend. Because all counselors are in business to help other people, the more diverse a school’s population, the more opportunities the student will have to meet and study with people of all ethnicities and races and from all geographic and economic backgrounds. This is excellent preparation for an aspiring counselor, who, as a professional, will meet and deal with individuals from very diverse backgrounds.

Since you will be attending classes on campus, you will need to decide if you also want to live on campus. If much of the student population lives on campus, you are likely to find more activities and events available to them than if only a small percentage of students live on campus. The social and academic culture and values of a school are important to many people.

Cost is another important consideration when selecting a school. College can be very expensive; consider your chosen career and the potential return you will receive on the monetary investment you make toward your graduate and certification studies. Unless the student has significant financial resources, students applying to graduate school may also want to complete a request for financial aid and explore working as a teaching or research assistant. In some cases, these positions include a stipend for tuition and/or the student’s cost of living expenses.

One other key consideration is a school’s job placement program and its level of success for those students graduating with a master’s degree or working toward their counselor certification. Students will want to be certain that their chosen school has a good track record of supporting graduates in the job application process and helping them move into relevant positions.

Accreditation of School

Obtaining a counseling degree or counselor certification from an accredited school, institution, or program, whether traditional or online, is very important in solidifying the educational credentials of the school’s graduates. Accreditation exists to ensure that institutions and programs meet both educational and professional standards. At the undergraduate degree level, students applying to a college or university program will know that an accredited school offers a quality education and that their tuition dollars will be well-spent. Accreditation at the graduate level serves a similar purpose and much more.

Students who attend an accredited program or school will be assured of gaining a quality academic program. Students who graduate from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), for example, have been shown to perform better on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). CACREP-accredited programs are reviewed and held to professionally approved standards. CACREP is an independent agency that accredits both master’s and doctorate degree programs. CACREP is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA maintains a database that lists over 7,000 accredited institutions and over 17,000 accredited programs.

Educators, educational, and counseling programs should obtain CACREP accreditation for various reasons. CACREP accreditation enhances the reputation of the program. This accreditation promotes the self-review and improvement of learning programs to constantly meet the highest educational and professional standards. The most qualified students enroll in CACREP-accredited programs, and faculty is motivated to conduct research, publish writings, and provide their counseling services. It is clear that CACREP serves both students who are searching for an accredited counseling degree program, as well as educators and practitioners who understand the value of what it means to be part of a CACREP-accredited program.

CACREP accredits numerous programs for master’s degrees in counseling, including career counseling, school counseling, mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, gerontology counseling, and community counseling. At the doctorate level, CACREP accredits programs for counselor education and supervision. CACREP accredits only programs, not the department or school where that program is located. However, for a program to be eligible for CACREP accreditation, it must be housed at an accredited institution.

Students who choose a CACREP-accredited program can be assured that the quality of the program meets the standards set by the counseling profession. CACREP-accredited programs demonstrate accountability for their educational activities to ensure that the program’s mission and goals are met. An education in an accredited counseling program increases the individual’s credibility and professionalism as a counselor and ultimately enhances his career options.

Schools receive institutional accreditation from accrediting agencies whose primary objective is to maintain and/or improve the standards of educational programs and schools. Schools that work with accrediting agencies are motivated to continually improve their own standards and programs. Accreditation can be at the national level or at the regional level. Nationally accredited institutions are typically more career-oriented, whereas regionally accredited institutions offer areas of study that are more academic in nature.

Students interested in a career in counseling will want to ensure that they attend only accredited schools and pursue only accredited programs. To confirm the accreditation status of a particular educational institution, students should check with the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The schools and programs listed in the CHEA database meet the educational standards and offer the quality education you expect to receive for your money; obtaining your counseling degree from an accredited institution is one of the best things you can do for your career.

Benefits of an On-Site School

Even in this day of advanced technology and a growing popularity in distance learning, a classroom is still the most common learning environment, regardless of the age of the student or area of study. Students who attend college or some other educational institution on-site have some distinct advantages over those who do not, and some compelling reasons to obtain their education on campus.

While there may be less flexibility in scheduling courses in a campus environment, students are able to receive immediate feedback from both the instructor as well as from other students in a classroom setting. This interactive learning environment facilitates open communication and discussion that is not as readily available in an online environment. The interactive learning and social environment available on campus can contribute to how well an individual learns, since he observes and hears questions and information provided from their peers as well as responses and teachings directly from the instructor. In general, all students benefit from group participation, discussions, and role playing. By learning to work with others in a group environment, a student gains valuable experience that will eventually be put to use in any kind of work environment.

Another benefit to attending school on campus is that college campuses attract and retain good professors and instructors. Many schools build their reputations on the quality of their faculty. These professors are motivated to perform well so they earn tenure, which, in turn, allows them a bit more freedom in the classroom. Some instructors make the best of both real and virtual classroom environments by incorporating electronic and internet teaching tools into their curricula. Also, classroom students may have online access to internet resources including tutorials, webinars, and even instructors in remote classrooms. When students have direct access to a school’s faculty, the relationships they develop can eventually benefit the student in the forms of mentoring and networking. Professors who are familiar with your work and your ethics will be happy to provide letters of recommendation when needed for a job or for continuing education.

Students can also use the relationship they have built with professors and instructors to determine their best career path, decide what, if any, additional education may be necessary, and even find a job. This is especially true for those who aspire to become counselors. These students will have entered into a graduate program, probably with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but uncertain of which counseling path to take. Using on-campus resources such as professors, career counselors, or even other students, the student will gain insights into the type of counseling position that will suit them best. They will learn degree requirements and other coursework they can take for counselor certification and licensure. They will also develop friendships that could eventually turn into peer counselor relationships or professional partnerships post-graduation.

Students who take classes on campus also have access to the school’s professional career counselor. This counselor will help students evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and identify possible career paths for them. These counselors are also available to help students search and apply for jobs by helping them to develop resumes and cover letters and also conducting mock job interviews with them.

Ultimately, students must decide which learning environment is better for them – on-site classes or distance learning. There are pros and cons to each, but it may just be the on-site classroom and instructor who incorporates advanced technology into the curriculum that produces the desired results.

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