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Student FAQs

Counseling as a Career

About CACREP – General

About CACREP – Programs

Accreditation, Licensure and Certification

Questions about CACREP Standards

Counseling as a Career

Where can I get information on becoming a professional counselor?

Information on the counseling profession is included in the FAQs below. Other sources for information include the American Counseling Association (ACA) (www.counseling.org) and its divisions, the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) (www.nbcc.org), and Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) (www.csi-net.org). The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and available online (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) is an excellent resource providing information and statistics pertaining to the counseling profession.

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Should I get a master’s degree in counseling or a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision?

The master’s degree is considered the entry degree for practice as a professional counselor. In order to work as a licensed professional counselor, it is necessary to get a master’s degree. The doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision expands on the master’s degree and is individually tailored to provide emphases in counseling, supervision, teaching, research and scholarship, and leadership and advocacy. Some individuals pursue a doctoral degree in order to work in colleges and universities teaching and supervising future counselors and adding to the research base for the counseling profession, while others might pursue the doctoral degree to advance their counseling career through assuming administrative and/or supervisory roles within their organizations. In most circumstances, an individual will need to have a master’s degree in counseling and have worked as a counselor before he or she would be eligible to pursue a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision.

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What subject areas comprise the counseling curriculum?

The eight core curricular areas in the CACREP Standard applicable to all programs regardless of specialization (e.g., Addiction Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling) are: Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice, Social and Cultural Diversity, Human Growth and Development, Career Development, Counseling and Helping Relationships, Group Counseling and Group Work, Assessment and Testing, and Research and Program Evaluation. There are also specialization-specific curricular standards.

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About CACREP – General

What is CACREP?

CACREP is a specialized accreditor for counseling programs. The agency accredits counseling programs in a variety of specialization areas at the masters and doctoral levels in the United States and throughout the world. CACREP is recognized as an accreditor by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

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What kinds of programs does CACREP accredit?

CACREP accredits master’s-level counseling programs in the following areas: Addiction Counseling; Career Counseling; Clinical Mental Health Counseling; Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling; College Counseling and Student Affairs; Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; and, School Counseling. In addition, CACREP accredits doctoral programs in Counselor Education and Supervision.

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What does a program have to do to become CACREP accredited?

Programs that desire to become CACREP accredited make a commitment to demonstrate that they adhere to the publicly available CACREP Policies and Standards. In order to achieve becoming an accredited program, the program faculty conducts a comprehensive internal review and then develops an extensive report, called a Self-Study Report, explaining and providing documentation on how the CACREP Policies and Standards are met. The submission of the Self-Study Report begins an intensive and multi-stage review process, including a three day on-site peer review, culminating in the CACREP Board of Directors determining whether or not to grant accredited status to the program. Throughout the review process, the program faculty are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with reviewers to clarify and present additional evidence of how the policies and standards are being met.

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I noticed the process includes the submission of a Self-Study Report. What is a Self-Study Report?

Programs seeking accreditation or reaccreditation develop self-study reports. These comprehensive reports provide an overview of the program(s) for which accreditation is sought and include narrative responses and supporting documentation indicating how the program is meeting the specifications if the CACREP Policies and Standards. The review of the Self-Study Report constitutes the first phase of the CACREP accreditation review process.

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Upon what criteria does CACREP base accreditation decisions?

The sole reference points for CACREP accreditation decisions are CACREP’s Policies and Standards. The initial review, site visit, and final Board review and subsequent accreditation decision are all conducted in reference to the same CACREP Policies and Standards.

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Who makes accreditation decisions for CACREP?

The CACREP accreditation process is a multi-stage process involving initial reviewers, site team visitors, and the CACREP Board of Directors. All reviewers provide input at the various stages of review. The ultimate authority for the rendering of accreditation decisions rests with the CACREP Board of Directors. The CACREP Board consists of counselor educators, counseling practitioners, and public members.

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How long does the CACREP accreditation process take?

The accreditation process generally takes 12-18 months from the time an application is received but can take up to 24 months.

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Are CACREP accredited programs the best counseling programs?

The ranking of preparation programs is not the purpose of accreditation. Accreditation is about quality assurance and the promotion of continuous improvement of programs. While there are aspirational elements included in the CACREP Standards, and programs routinely go above and beyond the specifications in the standards, the Standards clearly delineate what program components must be in place in order for a program to be accredited. The accredited status of a program assures the public that the program has gone through an extensive, multi-level external review process ensuring these critical quality-related components are in place. In addition, CACREP accredited programs commit to ongoing reporting and continuous and systematic program evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses and to make data-informed program modifications for improvement over time. A non-accredited program may be a quality program, but prospective students and the public will have to do their own research about the program and/or generally accept the information shared by the program about its strengths.

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What is the “best” CACREP accredited counseling program?

CACREP does not rank accredited programs and ranking is not the purpose of accreditation. CACREP accredited programs vary greatly in size, resources, delivery methods, student demographics, and the overall mission of the institution of higher education in which it is housed. CACREP accreditation guarantees through a multi-stage external review process that critical quality-related program components are in place. The ultimate determination of what program is “best” should be made by you, the prospective student, based on your educational needs and interests.

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>Does CACREP accredit programs outside the United States?

The majority of CACREP accredited programs are in the United States. CACREP currently accredits a program in Mexico. Many US-based programs maintain connections with international programs to expand the learning opportunities for both sets of students. CACREP does maintain an International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs (IRCEP) (www.ircep.org) which includes international counseling programs as well as CACREP accredited US-based programs that have established connections with international programs. The registry is not the same as accreditation and uses different criteria and processes than are used for CACREP accreditation purposes.

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Does CACREP accredit psychology or social work programs?

CACREP does not accredit any type of psychology or social work programs. CACREP is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling and its specialties that are offered in colleges and universities in the United States and throughout the world. Psychology is a separate discipline from counseling. The purview for the accreditation of psychology programs rests with the American Psychological Association (APA) (www.apa.org) and for social work with the Council on Social Work Education (www.cswe.org).

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Does CACREP accreditation expire?

Yes, accreditation can expire. It is granted for a specified period of time. A full CACREP accreditation cycle is eight years. A program may be accredited for either the full eight year cycle or receive accreditation for two years of the full cycle, necessitating further reporting on standards for which deficiencies were noted. Once a program has been approved for the full cycle, prior to the accreditation expiration date, a program must submit an application and Self-Study Report for reaccreditation and go through a full accreditation review for another cycle of accreditation.

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Some programs in the Directory are listed as having a two-year accreditation and others an eight-year. Are programs with a two-year accreditation on probation of some kind?

Programs with two-year and eight-year accreditations both hold accredited status with CACREP. The full accreditation cycle is eight years. Programs that have a two-year accreditation have received the first two years of the accreditation cycle and need to submit a follow-up report addressing relatively minor standards-related deficiencies. The CACREP Board confers two-year accreditation to a program when there is a belief that the program can meet the specified deficiencies within the two-year period. Many programs begin an eight-year cycle by receiving accreditation for a two-year period.

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Does CACREP accredit online programs and, if so, are there separate Standards?

CACREP does accredit online counseling programs. Most online programs accredited to-date are more accurately described as hybrid programs as they require some degree of in-person instruction. CACREP reviews all programs against the same set of standards. The CACREP Directory includes a search function that will provide a listing of programs that self-identify as online programs. Students should note that licensing boards for counseling may have requirements around on-line education that vary by state. Further information on any such requirements can be obtained through the licensing board for a particular state.

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How does CACREP accreditation ensure student learning?

The CACREP Standards ensure that programs have qualified and professionally engaged faculty, resources to support learning, and curricula determined to be relevant to the work of counselors by the counseling profession. Further, the CACREP Standards include requirements that programs assess key performance indicators (KPIs) in relation to the curricular standards and that programs engage in ongoing program evaluation that include consideration of student learning, including KPIs. The results of these program evaluation activities can then be used to aid in program improvement over time. Student motivation, effort and engagement, however, are key factors influencing the extent to which student learning occurs in any preparation program.

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I graduated from a non-accredited program. Are there courses or tests I can take to become accredited?

While an individual may be a graduate of a CACREP-accredited program, CACREP accredits programs not people. There is no separate process by which an individual who did not attend a CACREP-accredited program can become a graduate of a CACREP- accredited program, other than by completing a CACREP-accredited program.

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About CACREP – Programs

Where can I find information about CACREP and the programs it accredits?

The CACREP website is the most comprehensive source of information. The website includes a Directory that provides information about each accredited program and helps link you to the programs’ websites. Through the website you can also view CACREP’s Annual Report, sign up to receive e-updates, and arrange to follow CACREP on Facebook and Twitter.

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How do I find a CACREP-accredited program in my area?

The Directory of Accredited Programs on the CACREP website allows you to search by state and/or program area as well as by certain program characteristics (e.g., public, private, online).

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I don’t see the program in which I am interested listed in your Directory of Accredited Programs. Why might that be the case?

The Directory of Accredited Programs is a comprehensive listing of all programs that CACREP accredits. If you are sure that the program is accredited but do not see it in the Directory, please contact the CACREP office so we can determine if there is a problem. If you do not see a program listed in the Directory, please check the listing of “Programs in the Application Process,” available on the Directory page. Please be aware that the CACREP accreditation process is a voluntary one, unless there is some sort of state mandate for programs in a particular state. Questions regarding why a program has not applied for CACREP accreditation or the status of an application should be directed to a program representative.

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Some of the programs in which I am interested say they are “CACREP equivalent” or “CACREP aligned.” What does this mean?

Programs that use terms such as “equivalent” or “aligned” are generally referring specifically to the curriculum in place. Such statements do not indicate an accreditation status. The CACREP Standards address many areas other than curriculum, including institutional support resources for the program, faculty and supervisor qualifications, core faculty course delivery, supervision ratios, practicum and internship requirements, and program evaluation and assessment. The programs that use terms such as “equivalent” or “aligned” have not gone through an external, multi-stage review process validating adherence to the CACREP Standards and are not accredited by CACREP. Additional information on this topic can be found in http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/The-fallacy-of-equivalency-November-2009.pdf.

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Are there CACREP accredited programs designed for working professionals?

Many CACREP-accredited programs offer options for both full-time and part-time students. In addition, some programs offer a portion of the curriculum in an online format. Questions about which options are available from a particular program should be directed to program representatives at the institutions in which you are interested in attending. The Directory of Accredited Programs on the CACREP website includes program contact information under “Details.” You can locate additional contact and other information by visiting a program’s website.

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What are the admissions requirements for a CACREP accredited program?

While the CACREP Standards include some criteria programs must consider in making admissions decisions, each program establishes its own particular admissions requirements. Prospective students should visit a program’s website or contact a program representative to learn the admissions requirements for a particular program. Contact and website information is available in the Directory on the CACREP website.

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If a program has applied for accreditation, when will I know if it has been accredited?

CACREP publishes a list of new programs in the review process in the Directory section of the CACREP website. The CACREP Board renders accreditation decisions twice a year at meetings held in January and July. The Directory of Accredited Programs is generally updated within 45 days following a Board meeting.

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Do all CACREP accredited programs offer the same courses?

The CACREP Standards do not stipulate particular courses that programs must offer. Instead, the Standards include curricular standards that must be addressed within the required curriculum for a program. Each program designs its own curriculum. While the curricula for different CACREP-accredited programs at different institutions may vary, they are all designed to meet the same applicable curricular standards in the CACREP Standards.

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Does CACREP accreditation mean that the credits I take will automatically transfer if I transfer to another institution?

Each institution has its own policies and procedures concerning the transfer of credits from one institution to another. Programs may or may not accept credits from other programs. A program representative will be the best source of information as to whether or not the program will accept transfer credits, what type of credits will transfer, and the procedures for seeking approval for a transfer of credits.

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The program in which I am interested indicates they are an applicant for accreditation. What does this mean?

This should mean that the program has applied for accreditation and is currently progressing through the review process. CACREP maintains a list of programs currently in the accreditation review process on the Directory page of the website. The accreditation process generally takes 12-18 months for completion from the time a program applies for accreditation.

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What if I am about to graduate and my program is still in the accreditation review process? Can I be considered a graduate of a CACREP accredited program?

As per CACREP Policies Governing Recognition of Graduates 5.a.- Program Graduate Qualifications for Initial Accreditation, students in a program seeking accreditation shall be considered graduates of a CACREP program if they receive their degree within eighteen (18) months prior to when accreditation is conferred, and if the program can verify that the student completed the CACREP program requirements. Therefore, if a program is accredited in July 2017, graduates of the program who completed the requirements of the program that was put forward for accreditation review would be considered graduates of a CACREP-accredited program if they graduated between January 2016 and July 2017.

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My program’s accreditation is going to expire and the program will not be applying for reaccreditation. What does this mean for me as a student?

Students who graduate in the term in which the accreditation expires will be considered graduates of a CACREP accredited program. Similarly, as per Policies Governing Recognition of Graduates 5.b.- Graduates of Withdrawn or Denied Programs, students in a CACREP-accredited program for which accreditation is withdrawn or denied must graduate before or in the academic term during which accreditation is withdrawn or denied to be recognized as graduates of a CACREP program.

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What if I have questions about the curriculum or student policies of the school in which I am enrolled?

Curriculum, policy, or procedural questions specific to your program should be directed to your faculty advisor or another program representative at your institution.

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What if I have a complaint about my program?

Most areas of contention between a student and a program are appropriately addressed via the policies and procedures in place to handle such disputes at the institution in which the program is housed. CACREP does have a formal complaint policy (Policies Governing Complaints 12.a – CACREP Complaint Policy: Processes and Procedures) whereby students, faculty and other interested parties may submit written, signed complaints to CACREP for consideration. An ‘appropriate’ complaint is one that directly relates to a program’s compliance with the CACREP Standards, Policies and/or procedures. Both the CACREP Standards and Policies are available on the CACREP website.

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Accreditation, Licensure, and Certification

What are diploma or accreditation mills? Aren’t all counseling programs legitimate?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Prospective students are encouraged to be wary of diploma and accreditation mills. Diploma mills or degree mills award academic degrees with substandard, limited, or no academic study. An accreditation mill claims that it awards accreditation to a higher education institution or program but has no authority or recognition to do so and either subpar or no educational standards are involved in the process. These types of organizations do not have recognition as legitimate accreditors through any sort of organization empowered to provide such recognition, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the US Department of Education, or ministries of education in other countries. The motivation for both diploma and accreditation mills is most often profit on the part of the organization. The danger for prospective students is that they commit their time and money toward a degree that could potentially turn out to be worthless and not lead to licensure and employment in their chosen field or not provide a legitimate pathway to further educational opportunities. Prospective students are encouraged to consult resources such as CHEA, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), or even Wikipedia for more information on diploma and accreditation mills. CACREP holds its recognition as an accreditor through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

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Will attending a CACREP-accredited program guarantee that I will be eligible for licensure or certification as a counselor?

Each state has its own set of rules and regulations for the licensure or certification of counselors in that state. While attending a CACREP-accredited program will not guarantee eligibility for licensure or certification as a counselor in all states, the extensive curricular and clinical training requirements included in the CACREP Standards help maximize the chances that you will have met the majority of the educational requirements required for licensure or certification as a counselor in all states. You should contact your state licensing board with any questions you may have regarding licensure eligibility. While it may not be in your plans now, moving to a different state is often in peoples’ futures. Given that licensure and certification requirements vary across the states, maximizing the potential that you will have met the majority of the educational requirements required for licensure or certification as a counselor in all states is an important consideration in choosing a counselor preparation program.

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Questions about CACREP Standards

What clinical work will I do in a counseling program?

After students have completed skill development preparation, they generally begin the clinical experience portion of a program. In a CACREP-accredited program, this consists of a minimum of a 100 hour Practicum with a minimum of 40 hours of Direct Service with clients and a minimum of a 600 hour Internship with a minimum of 240 hours of Direct Service with clients. Internships are completed in a student’s program emphasis area; so, for example, students in School Counseling programs complete their internship in school settings. Students are supervised throughout their clinical experiences by qualified faculty and site supervisors. The clinical experience portion of a counseling program is time and effort intensive so students should plan accordingly.

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The Clinical Standards for Practicum and Internship specify a minimum number of Direct Service hours. What is meant by Direct Service?

Direct Service is the supervised use of counseling, consultation, or related professional skills with actual clients (can be individuals, couples, families, or groups) for the purpose of fostering social, cognitive, behavioral, and/or affective change. These activities must involve interaction with others and may include: (1) assessment, (2) counseling, (3) psycho-educational activities, and (4) consultation. The following would not be considered direct service: (1) observing others providing counseling or related services, (2) record keeping, (3) administrative duties, (4) clinical and/or administrative supervision.

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