Overview of Profession
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) are professionals who are dedicated to promoting the mental health of their clients. LPCs counsel clients in a variety of environments including individual and group practices, healthcare systems (e.g., Veterans Administration), and colleges and universities. Students seeking to become LPCs usually obtain a MA or MS in clinical or counseling psychology. Students should look for programs that are CACREP accredited in order to ensure applying to a quality program (http://www.cacrep.org/directory/). The master’s degree in clinical or counseling psychology typically requires 2-3 years of coursework (usually 60 semester hours) beyond the bachelor’s degree. In order to become licensed as a professional counselor, most states also require that individuals complete 2 years in full-time, post-graduate practice (typically 3000 hours of practice) and pass a written examination. The licensure requirements for counselors differ from state to state and those who are interested in working in a particular area should check that state’s requirements. A list of LPC state licensure requirements can be found at http://www.counseling.org/docs/licensure/72903_excerpt_for_web.pdf. The training of professional counselors involves learning treatment techniques, but also developing interpersonal skills that will allow individuals to work effectively with a broad range of people. Developing empathy, acceptance, and an understanding of oneself, among other attributes, will be an important part of the training to become a counselor. Additional information about the profession of clinical or counseling psychology may be found at the American Counseling Association Website: www.counseling.org.
Admission into a M.A. or M.S. program requires a bachelor’s degree. Although master’s programs in clinical or counseling psychology will accept students with a variety of undergraduate majors, most successful applicants will have majored in psychology. For students who have not majored in psychology, graduate programs will usually require applicants to have had at least 18 hours in psychology, with required courses in introductory psychology, statistics, research methods, and abnormal psychology. Courses in personality theories, developmental psychology, counseling techniques, and testing and measurement are also recommended. Prerequisites vary among schools so students interested in specific schools should check those schools’ websites for their particular requirements. Many schools have no GPA requirements; however, an applicant’s GPA is heavily factored into acceptance. The average GPA of accepted applicants is typically 3.4 or higher. Additionally, a grade of C or higher is required in the prerequisite classes to be considered for admission. Please refer to Appendix G: Timeline for Applying to Clinical/Counseling Psychology Master’s Programs for a suggested timeline for applying to M.A./M.S. programs. In addition to course prerequisites, internship experience is important to gaining acceptance into a master’s program. Therefore, students should seek out internship experiences in their undergraduate preparation.
There are several steps involved in applying to master’s programs in clinical or counseling psychology. To apply to programs, it is necessary to complete an individual application for each graduate school. Virtually all master’s programs will require that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and submit the scores as a part of their application. The GRE is composed of questions assessing verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing. Verbal Reasoning is assessed in two, thirty minute sections consisting of approximately 20 questions. There are also two sections of Quantitative Reasoning with 20 questions with each section lasting approximately 35 minutes. The Analytical Writing component consists of two 30-minute essays. Cut-off scores for admission vary among graduate programs though almost all will require scores at or above the 50th percentile. There are a number of print and online guides available for preparing to take the GRE. Additionally, there are in-person courses offered from time-to-time at area colleges/universities. Those interested in learning more about the application process can check out Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology from the EHC library.
Almost all programs will require a personal statement to be submitted with the application. Personal statements typically are 500-1000 words in length and describe applicants’ reasons for wanting to become counselors as well as their academic and practical preparation for graduate school. Because of the strict word limit imposed by many programs, it is important to be clear and succinct. The personal statement is a very important part of the application and should be carefully reviewed by your major advisor or pre-health committee member.
Letters of Recommendation
Applicants will need to request letters of recommendation from three of their professors. It is the student’s responsibility to ask for these letters directly from professors who have taught them and have a good understanding of their work ethic. It is proper etiquette to write a thank you note to the professors that write your letters of recommendation.