School of Education Counseling & Psychology in Education

Counseling Program FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions                           

FAQ Fact Sheet

1. What is a Professional Counseling Specialty?
  • A Professional Counseling Specialty is narrowly focused, requiring advanced knowledge in the field founded on the premise that all Professional Counselors must first meet the requirements for the general practice of professional counseling (Adopted by the ACA Governing Council, October 17-19, 1997). Community Counseling, College Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling, and School Counseling are some examples of Professional Counseling Specialties.
2. What is the primary organization of Professional Counseling?
  • The American Counseling Association (ACA) is the publicly recognized organization for professional counselors. The mission of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.
3. What are the benefits of attending a counseling program accredited by CACREP?
  • The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits counseling programs. CACREP's purpose is to ensure excellence in counselor preparation. Although not a specific requirement for counselor licensure, graduation from a CACREP accredited program makes state licensing easier (2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook).
4. What do graduate programs in Professional Counseling look like?
  • Most graduate programs in counseling are composed of two parts. The first part is academic and classroom-based. These classroom experiences are designed to provide and develop the basic knowledge and skills of the professional counselor. The second part of the program is clinical. Clinical experiences are designed to place counselor-trainees in supervised clinical settings to practice and refine entry-level counseling knowledge and skills. The clinical aspects of a counseling program are composed of practica and internships. A counseling program accredited by CACREP indicates that the highest standards for counselor education are being met across all aspects of the program.
5. How long will it take me to complete my program?
  • School counseling programs are around 48 semester hours nationally and clinical mental health counseling programs are required to be a minimum of 60 semester hours by the year 2014.  The length of time to complete programs varies by student and program, but USD's counseling programs may be completed in less than three and a half years.  Summer coursework is typical.  USD counseling programs can be completed part time and online courses are available.  USD offers a 48 hour school counseling degree and a 60 hour clinical mental health degree.  Many states now require a 60 hour training program for mental health counseling licensure.
6. What is Practicum?
  • Practicum is the clinical experience prior to internship. Practicum sites may be on or off campus, depending upon the type of counseling program chosen. During this time, counselor-trainees enhance basic counseling skills, and integrate theory and practice into actual counseling sessions while under close faculty supervision.
7. What is Internship?
  • Internship is a 600-clock hour supervised clinical experience. The purpose of the master's level internship program is to provide students an entry-level professional experience, under supervision, in a setting appropriate for their chosen program option that offers opportunities to perform a variety of counseling activities carried out by professional counselors. Of the required 600 clock hours of internship, 240 clock hours are in the form of direct service to clients. Most internship sites require day and evening time commitments within the regular work week.
8. How is Professional Counseling regulated?
  • All 50 states require a license to practice as a professional counselor. Any person wishing to practice professional counseling must meet and adhere to the regulations of the state(s) in which he or she intends to practice.
9. What are the basic requirements for the Professional Counseling license (LPC) in South Dakota?
  • Professional Counselors are licensed at the master's level.  As with most states, the State of South Dakota requires at least a 48 credit hour master's degree in counseling from an accredited institution, 2000 hours post-graduate supervised counseling experience, 100 hours clinical supervision with a board approved supervisor, and passing scores on the National Counselor Examination.  However, many states, including South Dakota are adding or moving toward a license that requires a 60 credit hour master's degree in counseling and more than 2000 hours post-graduate work.  In South Dakota, this additional license is entitled Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health (LPC-MH).  Please contact your state licensing body for more information.
10. What is the job outlook for Professional Counselors?
  • According to the 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook, employers are likely to hire counselors at higher rates than average for all counseling occupations through 2020. Job opportunities for counselors should be very good as job openings are expected to exceed the number of graduates from counseling programs and numerous job openings will occur as many counselors retire or leave the profession. In South Dakota, the 2014 projected employment for counselors is expected to increase 16% from 2004 and the job outlook for the counseling occupation is favorable. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, Counselors, on the Internet at (visited September 28, 2013).
11. Where are Professional Counselors employed?
  • Professional counselors work in community agencies, private practice, hospitals, drug and alcohol treatment centers and in prison settings.
12. Is your program available online?
  • At the present time, none of our counseling program specialties offer a degree online. Selected courses are currently offered online and information on these courses can be found by contacting Continuing Education.
13. What is your application deadline?
  • All application deadlines for the M.A., Ed.S., and Ph.D. program are listed here. We have multiple deadlines for Spring semester so that applicants receive a response more quickly.
14. How can I register for classes if I am not a Counseling student?
  • Students interested in taking courses that are not going to be applied to a degree program (such as students taking additional coursework for licensure or certification), must follow the procedure for non-degree seeking students. More information can be found on our admissions requirement page.