Counseling Frequently Asked Questions

Counseling Programs

Why is this a three-year program?

The counseling faculty have intentionally designed the NIU Counseling master's and Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral programs delivery to incorporate developmentally scaffolded training curriculum and application experiences. Based on an interpersonal cohort engagement process, advisement, teaching, mentorship, and supervision from authentically present faculty is provided with the goal of graduating counselors and counselor educators of excellence.

During admissions processes, applicants are encouraged to consider holistically if this dynamic three-year program is the right fit at the right time. Admitted students are prepared to engage in the in-depth reflective practices essential for personal and professional development as multiculturally and social justice-oriented practitioners of School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, or Counselor Education and Supervision. Admitted students can also choose a part-time four-year program model if needed.

Is it possible to complete the program in less than three years?

Our counseling programs are designed to be completed in three years. Only in circumstances when someone is transferring in counseling graduate courses from another CACREP counseling program, then as a transfer student might you be with us for less than three years.

How much does the program cost?

The NIU Bursar's Office tuition estimator may be a helpful resource for calculating approximate costs of degree completion. This tool allows you to generate core tuition estimates based-on credit hours of enrollment.

The M.S.Ed. counseling programs are 60 credit hour CACREP accredited programs. The Ph.D. counselor education and supervision program is an 84 credit-hour CACREP accredited program.

The NIU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office provide academic year cost of attendance estimates.

Do I need to take the GRE to apply as part of program admissions?

No, the GRE is not required for program admissions.

The counseling faculty removed the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) requirement from the doctoral Counselor Education and Supervision program admissions requirements as of September 2020.

The GRE requirement for the master's in Counseling program admissions was removed by counseling faculty as of October 2017.

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

M.S.Ed. Students

In order to be considered for admission into the master's in counseling program, you must have attained a bachelor's degree in any field.

Ph.D. Students

In order to be considered for admission into the doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision program, you must have attained a master's degree in a counseling related field. If acceptable applicants have course deficits as outlined by the Counseling and Higher Education Department based on CACREP standards, you may need to add those additional courses to their doctoral program plan.

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

M.S.Ed. Students


Ph.D. Students

If you have a master's degree in a non-counseling related field and you are applying to the doctoral degree program in counselor education, applicants may need to consider additional consultation regarding their career. Please contact for clarification and consultation.

How do I apply for program admissions?

M.S.Ed. Students

Apply through the NIU Graduate School CollegeNet application system to apply to the M.S.Ed. in School Counseling or M.S.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs. Make sure to review the master's in counseling admissions requirements from the program website including the M.S.Ed. applicant essay prompts.

Ph.D. Students

Review the application requirements for the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision program, including the Ph.D. CES applicant essay prompts.

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 year for master's applicants and three times per year for doctoral applicants that is required of all applicants to any of the counseling programs.

PAW attendees have the opportunity to interact with the counseling faculty, gain more information about the program, meet students in the program and interact with other applicants. 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 current students.

How can I check the status of my application?

Yes. Log in to CollegeNet from the link on the NIU Graduate School applicant webpage using your username and password. Click on Application Status.

How competitive is entrance to NIU counseling programs?

The counseling programs are quite competitive. 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 decisions are 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 programs.

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

After attending the PAW, you will receive a notice, typically via email from, within one to two weeks notifying you informally of the counseling faculty recommendation decision for your application to the Graduate School and counseling program.

When will I be assigned an advisor?

You will be assigned an advisor once you have been admitted into a counseling program.

How long does it take to complete the program on average?

M.S.Ed. Students

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

Ph.D. Students

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

What are the graduation requirements?

M.S.Ed. Students

Both M.S.Ed. counseling programs require 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 your areas of specialization (i.e. school counseling or clinical mental health counseling). Internship usually occurs within the last two semesters of program completion.

Ph.D. Students

The doctorate in counselor education and supervision requires a minimum of 84 semester hours, including 30 semester hours from the master's degree, six semester hours of internship, satisfactory completion of candidacy exams and 15 semester hours of dissertation. See the current graduate catalog under the student resources menu of the NIU Graduate School website for additional details.

What is practicum?

M.S.Ed. Students

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

Ph.D. Students

Practicum is a supervised clinical practice course (100 clock hours) in the Community Counseling Training Center, which includes an assessment of practical counseling skills and applied client conceptualization skills.

Can I complete my counseling practicum or internship hours at the school/agency at which I currently work?

M.S.Ed. Practicum

Yes, for SC practicum counselors, you must complete 20 hours of direct counseling with school-aged children in a K-12 setting during practicum. These hours can be completed at a school where you work if you are able to schedule blocks of at least three consecutive clock hours in which you provide co-facilitated groups and/or audio-recorded individual counseling. No, for CMHC practicum counselors, all of your practicum hours are completed in the Community Counseling Training Center.

M.S.Ed. Internship

Yes. However, you must schedule blocks of at least three 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.

Ph.D. Practicum

This possibility is rare, only allowed for doctoral students already holding the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Illinois, and must be pre-approved by your assigned academic advising chair; field-experience coordinator; and the CAHC 750 Applied Practicum instructor prior to the start of the semester.

Ph.D. Internship

This possibility is very rare. Most CES internship experiences are designed for you to work with master's students within the NIU counseling program.

Will courses that I have taken at another university or in a different program at NIU transfer to the counseling program?

It is possible that some courses may transfer to your counseling degree program (M.S.Ed. or Ph.D.). However, these decisions will not be made until after you have been accepted into the program. During post-admissions transcript audits, up to 9 credit hours of approved coursework may be transferred in to replace required NIU counseling program coursework requirements.

Will classes I take as a student-at-large apply to my graduation requirements if I am later accepted into a degree program in the counseling program at NIU?

Yes. Up to nine 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.

Note: 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 degree-seeking student.

What is the average classroom size?

M.S.Ed. Students

The maximum number of students allowed in a classroom is 25. However, class size can range from 15 to 25 students.

Ph.D. Students

The maximum number of students allowed in a classroom is 25. The average Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral classes range from six to 15 students depending on the course constructs and learning objectives.

When and where are classes offered?

The majority of classes are offered in the evening starting at 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. Some elective 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 each week, across 16 weeks, for two hours and 40 minutes. Summer courses typically meet two nights each week, across eight weeks, for two hours and 40 minutes. A few courses are offered as online classes or weekend formats. Program courses are offered on a standard curriculum course rotation.

The main site for classes is at the DeKalb campus, but we may offer classes at our Naperville, Hoffman Estates, and Rockford sites as well. Not all classes will be offered off-campus. Satellite campus offerings can be viewed through MyNIU before enrolling in subsequent semesters.

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

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.

Do most graduate students commute or live on campus?

The student life at NIU 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. Learn more about NIU Housing and Residential Services and Military and Post-Traditional Students.

How do I apply for a Graduate Assistantship?

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 (unless you receive an underload approval from the Graduate School). There are a variety of assistantships available across campus and many in the counseling department. Assistantships provide a monthly stipend and a tuition waiver.

You must complete the NIU Graduate Assistant application in order to become a graduate assistant. It is also recommended that you contact professors in your department and inquire about any openings they have or they know of.

Each spring, NIU holds a Graduate Student Assistant Recruitment Program (GSARP) weekend where you can meet with professors and explore possible assistantship opportunities.

How do I request re-admissions if I depart the program after matriculating?

Formerly admitted and enrolled students who have taken time away or were dismissed can submit a request for counseling program re-admissions consideration to the current NIU Counseling program faculty. Online counseling program re-admission forms should be submitted at least two months prior to the semester of re-admissions request.

How do I apply for the Trauma-Informed Counseling Certificate?

Non-Degree Seeking Students (Students-at-Large)

First, apply to be a Student-at-Large (SAL). Once you've been admitted as an SAL, you will receive information on how to register for classes. Complete an application.

Current Doctoral Students and Graduating Master's Students

Complete an application through our departmental program.

When are the Trauma Informed Counseling Certificate courses offered?


  • CAHC 593 Crisis Intervention (first eight weeks)
  • CAHC 715 Concepts in Trauma-Informed Counseling (second eight weeks)


  • CAHC 716 Counseling for Complex Trauma (first eight weeks)
  • Trauma Elective Offered (second eight weeks)


  • Trauma Elective Offered (first four-week intersession)
  • CAHC 593 Crisis Intervention (second eight-week session)

MS.Ed. Counseling Degree (CMHC or SC) Programs Specific

Can I apply to both the master's in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree programs?

No. You must specify on the application which specialty program you would like to enter. You can choose to complete the coursework for both specializations and dual internship experiences if desired. Nevertheless, upon graduation, your diploma and transcripts will indicate a degree conferred in on counseling specialty area.

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

Yes. You can change specialties after being admitted. You should contact your advisor as soon as possible to outline a new plan of study. Finalized degree program changes must be completed before the start of counseling internship.

After meeting with your program advisor, a change of major request form must be submitted to the NIU Graduate School.

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 allows counselors to practice in other states, with fewer restrictions and/or limitations.

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

Because the NIU M.S.Ed. counseling programs are accredited by CACREP, as a master's student you 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 an internship or post-graduation. You must apply approximately six months prior to the examination to qualify.

Master's students in the school counseling degree program may apply for licensure entitlement through NIU to be eligible for the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Professional Educator License (PEL) with School Counselor Endorsement. This license allows you to work as a K-12 school counselor in the State of Illinois. You must also take the School Counselor Content 181 test prior to applying for counseling internship in pursuit of this license.

Is there any additional training required for licensure, that is not included in the M.S.Ed. Counseling degree coursework?

No, for the National Certified Counselor credential and Illinois Licensed Professional Counselor credential.

Yes, for the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Professional Educator License (PEL) with School Counselor Endorsement if candidates do not have prior teacher certification/licensure. ISBE requires non-teacher, school counseling endorsement candidates to have completed coursework in diversity of Illinois students and the laws and programs that have been signed to meet their unique needs, effective management of the classroom, and effective management of the learning process. These courses do not have to be completed at NIU, but they do need to be completed prior to the final semester of internship enrollment and counseling faculty encourage students to take these courses prior to sitting for the School Counselor Content 181 test. If you decide to take these courses at another institution, you must receive approval from your advisor. If you decide to take these courses at NIU, they must be taken at the graduate student course level. The respective NIU courses are:

  • EPS 550x – Classroom Management (elementary and middle school)
  • EPS 552 – Classroom Management (adolescent students)
  • TLCI 500 – Curriculum, Instruction, and the Community
  • SESE 557 – Systems for Integrating the Exceptional Student in the Regular Classroom

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 if you have earned a degree in Illinois to practice in another state. You can learn more about the state licensing requirements through the American Counseling Association State Professional Counseling.

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 through the American School Counselor Association State Certification Requirements webpage.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision (CES) Program Specific

What is the average weekly time commitment for doctoral studies?

The doctoral student experience is an intensive learning journey. While there is some flexibility between part-time and full-time student status and how individualized program plans are structured, you should expect to devote an average of four to six hours of outside of class time, per course, per week.

Some doctoral internship experiences may require six to ten hours of additional time on high flow weeks such as grading for co-teaching, midterm/final evaluations for supervision, and other types of high work-flow periods.

What are the doctoral internship requirements for counselor educator and supervisor training?

Approved internship experiences, comprised of teaching, supervision, research, advanced clinical counseling, and professional leadership are a required part of the doctoral program. You will enroll in one credit hour of internship each semester. The specific divisions of internship experiences are determined in consultation with your program committee.

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

Because the NIU doctoral program is accredited by CACREP, as a doctoral student you are eligible to sit for the National Counselor Examination and submit an application as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Illinois.

Can I pursue school counselor licensure during my doctoral program and if I'm not already a certified teacher?

Yes. The State of Illinois no longer requires school counselors to hold a teaching certificate/license. Ph.D. students who are sub-specializing in school counseling who do not have an Illinois Teaching Certificate will need to complete an additional three courses in order to gain a Professional Educator License with endorsement in School Counseling while completing the program. These courses would be in addition to the Ph.D. degree requirements.

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.

Can my counseling work during the doctorate program count toward my LCPC licensure hours?

Yes. We strongly recommend that you review the current licensure applications for the state(s) in which you hope to pursue licensure and secure supervision verification as you complete/terminate certain supervisory relationships.

Would my work in the NIU doctoral program count toward Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) requirements?

Yes, your internship work related to your doctoral program and supervision academic course can count toward your ACS application requirements. Learn more about current requirements and application details.