Counseling FAQ

Is the Master of Arts in Counseling Program CACREP accredited?

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), has granted accreditation to the Counseling Program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

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

Several features distinguish this program from others. One of the most prominent is the unique Preceptor Model of Clinical Training which directly reflects the program's commitment to individualization and personalization during the clinical training process. Other outstanding features include: intensive, carefully arranged and closely monitored field training experiences in quality training settings during each year of every student's enrollment; the innovative Two Plus Curriculum for career-changers; ongoing attention to each student's respective career goals, academic status and learning needs by means of the highly personalized academic advising system; small class sizes; faculty with extensive clinical experience and expertise in the subject of their respective course offerings; and the involvement of program alumni with current students via a networking system to help in the search for jobs and career opportunities.

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

All elements of the application are given equal consideration and viewed together, so weaknesses in one area may be offset by strengths in another. It is recommended that applicants use the essay to explain any elements that do not accurately reflect his/her actual potential to succeed in the program.

Does the program offer evening and weekend classes?

With few exceptions, most classes are held during weekday hours and weekend classes are not offered.

Can I attend a portion of the program on a full-time basis and a portion half-time?

All students must be registered full-time.

Can I begin the program at some point other than Fall Quarter?

All students begin the program in the Fall Quarter as courses and fieldwork experiences are sequenced accordingly.

Will this program prepare me to work with children in a clinical capacity?

The Child and Adolescent specialization, in combination with a youth-focused internship, provides students with the necessary skills and experience to work with youth in a clinical capacity, and graduates of this track enjoy highly successful careers as youth specialists.

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

This program does not have an endorsement to train school counselors; with a degree from this program, additional coursework from another program would be needed to work as a public school counselor, although some private schools have employed graduates of this program in counseling positions.

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

A vast range of jobs are available with this degree. Depending on a student's area of specialization, possible job opportunities include direct counseling or staff positions in such settings as community mental health centers, inpatient/outpatient clinics and hospitals; research positions; university student services, career services and student affairs positions; and independent practice (see "Representative Jobs of Alumni"). Salaries vary with position, geographic locale, work setting and amount of experience; helpful information on this topic is available on the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site under the heading of Community and Social Service Occupations/Mental Health Counselors.

Can I qualify for doctoral programs with this degree?

Approximately 30% of our graduates apply and are admitted to top-quality, highly competitive Clinical or Counseling PhD or PsyD and/or Counselor Education PhD programs immediately upon graduation or after some work experience. Students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree at some time after graduation are encouraged to become involved in research projects while completing the Master's degree.

How do I know if my application has been received?

After you have completed your online application and submitted it properly, you will be given a confirmation message that your application has been received. If you do not receive a confirmation, check with The Graduate School for further information. In addition, it is your responsibility to submit official GRE or TOEFL scores directly from Educational Testing Service to Northwestern University using institution code #1565, and to submit supporting documents to the Counseling program (letters of recommendation, essays, resume and transcripts). While there will be no official confirmation of receipt of these supplemental materials, you may request a confirmation of receipt at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Are there different applications for the Standard and Two-Plus Curricula?

All applicants apply to the Master of Arts in Counseling program. All applicants may indicate the curriculum preference in the Program Specific Application; however, upon reviewing the application, the Application Review Committee will determine the curriculum for which the applicant is best suited. It should be noted that an undergraduate major in psychology and some type of prior relevant human service/social service experience is desirable for admission to the Standard Curriculum. Before recommending an applicant for admission, the applicant will be contacted to ensure agreement with the selected curriculum.

How do I apply for financial aid?

A limited number of program-based assistantships at varying levels of support are available to qualified incoming students on a competitive basis. These assistantships are awarded on the basis of a variety of criteria, including demonstrated financial need and academic performance. Assistantships carry a service obligation and programmatic responsibilities. Additionally, master's students are eligible for all loan programs administered through The Graduate School and many of our students are on some type of loan arrangement. The staff in Student Financial Services determine loan eligibility and process loans for students in The Graduate School. For additional information see the Financial Aid section of The Graduate School Web site at http://www.tgs.northwestern.edu/financial-aid.

What are the Northwestern University benefits for being full-time students?

Students who attend classes at Northwestern University on a full-time basis can receive an Upass that allows them free use of public transportation in the Chicago and its suburbs. Full-time status also allows students to obtain university health insurance and apply for assistantships and other types of financial aid.

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 & Family Therapy?

While different types of mental health professionals often receive the similar training and work in the same environments, there are different trends among each profession. Clinical Psychology programs tend to emphasize testing and assessment practices and the doctorate as the terminal degree. Social workers tend to work in public health, governmental, and medical arenas and receive more administrative and policy development training. Martial & family therapists are trained in systems approaches and tend to work in agencies that focus on the treatment of families. Counseling and Counseling training programs tend to be the most comprehensive, and include training across the lifespan and in individual, group and family/couple modalities. Counselors work in a wide variety of clinical mental health settings, including private practice. In order to explore counseling in more detail, further information can be found on the American Counseling Association website (www.counseling.org), the Illinois Counseling Association website (www.ilcounseling.org), the American Mental Health Counseling Association website (www.amhca.org and the Illinois Mental Health Counseling Association website (www.imhca.org).

What does it mean to become a licensed counselor?

Licensed counselors in Illinois and other states are allowed to practice clinical counseling. While the exact scope of practice varies from state to state, most clinical counselors are allowed to diagnosis and treat mental health concerns. Licensed counselors may work in agencies and other settings. They may also work in private practice and many accept third party insurance reimbursement. Many licensed counselors also provide mental health consultation and supervision.