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.

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 (2014-2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook).

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.

How long will it take me to complete my program?
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.

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.

Professional counselors are licensed at the master's level. As with most states, 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.

What is the job outlook for professional counselors?
According to the 2014-2015 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 job outlook for the counseling occupation is favorable.

Professional counselors work in community agencies, private practice, hospitals, drug and alcohol treatment centers and in prison settings.