Prospective MS.Ed. in Counseling Student Frequently Asked Questions

About Applying to the Master's Counseling Program

How do I apply?

Apply through the NIU Graduate School CollegeNet application system to apply to the M.S.Ed. in Counseling program. Make sure to review the application requirements from the program website.

Do I need to take the GRE?

No. The Counseling Faculty removed the GRE requirement for the M.S. Ed. in Counseling program admissions requirements. The web page on how to apply to the M.S.Ed Counseling program lists the current application requirements.

What if I already have a Master's degree in a different field, can I apply?


What are the advantages of a program that is 60 credit hours versus a shorter program?

There are many advantages to earning a degree from a 60 credit hour program in Counseling.  Counselors will be able to take additional classes to become better equipped to work with clients of different backgrounds and dealing with an array of situations. In addition, a 60 credit hour degree allow counselors to practice in other states, with fewer restrictions and/or limitations.

What prerequisite work must I complete before applying to the program?

In order to be considered for admission into the Master's in Counseling program, students must have attained a Bachelor's degree in any field.

Can I apply to both the School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs?

No. Applicants must specify on the application which specialty program they would like to enter. The Master’s degree provided through the Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education Department at NIU is a degree in Counseling. Applicants apply to the program and upon acceptance apply for one Specialization track. Students can choose to complete the course work for both specializations and dual internship experiences if desired. Nevertheless, upon graduation, students’  diploma and transcripts will indicate a degree conferred in Counseling.

Can I check the status of my application?

Yes. Log in to CollegeNet using your username and password. Click on Application Status.

What is the PAW?

After all application materials have been received and reviewed, qualified applicants will receive an invitation to attend the Pre-Admission Workshop (PAW). The PAW is a half-day event offered once per semester that is required of all applicants to the M.S.Ed. in Counseling Program. Workshop attendees have the opportunity to interact with the Counseling faculty, gain more information about the Counseling program, meet students in the program, and interact with other prospective students. At the end of the session, all applicants will meet for lunch and be able to spend time getting to know the Counseling faculty and Doctoral students.

How competitive is entrance to this program?

The Counseling program is quite competitive. Less than 50% of individuals who apply to the Master's program are accepted. The Counseling faculty evaluates each applicant carefully to determine the individual's readiness to enter advanced training.  Two independent reviews are conducted on each applicant's file before a decision is made. The first review is by the Counseling faculty and the second is by the Graduate School. Each individual must be admitted by both review groups to enter the NIU Counseling program.

When will I find out if I am accepted into the program?

After attending the PAW, students will receive a letter within a few weeks notifying them of acceptance.

How do I apply to become a graduate assistant?

Graduate assistantships are available to all full time students. To be a full time student, a minimum of nine credit hours must be taken each semester. There are a variety of assistantships available across campus and many in the counseling department. Assistantships provide a monthly stipend and a tuition waiver. This application must be filled out in order to become a graduate assistant. It is also recommended that students contact professors in their department and inquire about any openings they have or they know of. Lastly, each spring, Northern Illinois University holds a Graduate Student Recruitment and Placement Weekend where students can meet with professors and explore possible assistantship opportunities. For more information, click here:

Do most students commute or live on campus?

The student life at Northern Illinois University is very diverse. At the master’s level, most students commute, while a few live on campus. There are a variety of apartments on and off campus that students can live in. Check out the NIU Housing and Dining site and the Post-Traditional Student site for more information.

About the Master's Counseling Program

Will courses that I have taken at another school or in a different Master's program at NIU transfer to the Counseling program?

It is possible that some courses may transfer to the M.S.Ed. in Counseling program. However, these decisions will not be made until after a student has been accepted into the program.

Will classes I take as a Student-At-Large apply to my graduation requirements if I am later accepted into the Counseling program at NIU?

Yes. Up to 9 credits of relevant coursework attained as a student-at-large can be applied to graduation requirements after the student is officially accepted to the program. Students should note that ALL coursework required for graduation must be completed within a six-year period, regardless of whether those courses were taken as a student-at-large or a Master’s student.

When will I be assigned an advisor?

Every student is assigned an advisor once they have been admitted into the program.

Can I change my area of specialization after I am admitted into the program?

Yes. Students can change specialties after being admitted. Students should contact their advisor as soon as possible to outline a new plan of study.

How long does it take to complete the program?

Students may decide whether they wish to be a full-time or part-time student. For a full-time student, the length of the program is around two and a half years.All students have a six-year time period to complete all coursework and requirements for graduation.

What are the graduation requirements?

The M.S.Ed. in Counseling Program requires 60 hours of coursework including 600 hours of supervised internship experience. Coursework includes a common core of counseling courses as well as courses related to students’ areas of specialization (i.e. school counseling or clinical mental health counseling). Internship usually occurs within the last semester of the program.

Will completing this program allow me to become licensed and certified in Illinois?

Because the NIU M.S.Ed. program is accredited by CACREP, master’s students are eligible to sit for the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) examination in Illinois. These exams can be taken during internship or post-graduation. Students must apply approximately six months prior to the examination to qualify.

Master’s students in the school counseling area of specialization may apply for and take the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) examination to be eligible for Type 73 School Counselor certification. This certification allows students to work as a K-12 school counselor in the State of Illinois. Students must also take the Basic Skills Test and the School Counselor Test.

After completing the program, can I work outside of Illinois?

Yes. Each state has its own requirements to become a licensed counselor, but your 60 credit hour degree from NIU will make the switch a lot easier. Illinois has an extensive list of requirements, which makes it easier for students who have earned a degree in Illinois to practice in another state. You can learn more about the state requirements by clicking here.

To work as a school counselor, states also have a variety of requirements that need to be met. You can learn more about the state requirements by clicking here.

When and where are classes offered?

The M.S.Ed program offers the majority of classes in the evening starting at PM. Some classes are offered during the day, but in order to adhere to the working population nearly all of the classes are at night. Most classes meet one night a week for two hours and forty minutes. A few courses are offered as online classes.

The main site for classes is at the DeKalb campus, but we do offer classes at our Naperville, Hoffman Estates, and Rockford sites as well. Not all classes will be offered off-campus. Please click here: to search for classes offered at the satellite sites.

Can I complete coursework for the program at NIU's satellite sites?

Yes. Some courses may be offered at NIU’s satellite campuses in Naperville, Rockford or Hoffman Estates. However, it is not possible to complete all coursework at satellite sites.

What is the average classroom size?

The maximum number of students allowed in a classroom is twenty-five. However, class size can range from ten to twenty-five students.

What is the average time for completing the program?

For full-time students (3 to 4 courses per semester) the minimum time for completing the program is 8 to 9 semesters or 3 years (including internship). Part-time students must fulfill all requirements for a degree within the six consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the student’s graduation from that degree program. This time limit applies to enrollment in all graduate course work in the student’s program including work for which transfer credit is allowed. 

What is practicum?

Practicum is a supervised 5-hour course (100 clock hours) that includes a hands-on counseling experience in the Community Counseling Training Center. It is an opportunity for students to gain practical experience in an educational setting, while also learning more about their career concentration of school counseling or clinical mental health counseling.

Can I complete my practicum and internship hours at the school at which I currently teach?

Yes. However, you must schedule blocks of at least 3 consecutive hours during which you perform your internship duties. Scheduling one hour of internship at the beginning of your day and two hours at the end of the day, for example, would not be acceptable.

About the Counseling Profession

Can I become a school counselor if I'm not already a certified teacher?

Yes. The State of Illinois no longer requires school counselors to hold a teaching certificate. However, students who are specializing in school counseling who do not have an Illinois Teaching Certificate will need to complete an additional 3 courses in order to gain Type 73 School Counselor certification upon completion of the program.

Can I become a school counselor if I have a Master's in Clinical or Community Counseling?

Currently, individuals holding a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health or Community Mental Health Counseling can become school counselors in Illinois through specially designed course options. Learn more about the School Counselor Institute at NIU.

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