Choosing the right counseling ms graduate program

How to Choose a Master’s in Counseling Program

Individuals interested in human behavior and personal growth with a desire to help others often pursue a Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. This is a excellent career path, given employment for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors is expected to grow eighteen percent by 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As a result, with an average of about 42,000 job openings projected each year, many candidates choose to invest time and effort in a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Yet, with so many Counseling Master of Science (MS) programs out there, prospective students often wonder how to choose a Counseling MS program in the first place.

So below, we’ll unpack the basics and discover the process of choosing the right counseling graduate program for you.

What is a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program?

Firstly, a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program prepares students to become mental health counselors by teaching and training them to work with patients on healthy communication, coping mechanisms, and interrupting trauma cycles.

Students in these typically sixty-credit degree programs take foundational courses in psychopathology, addiction treatment, clinical skills, and psychotherapeutics.

Common course titles include:

  • Appraisal Processes
  • Career and Lifestyle Development
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Research Methods
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Theories of Counseling
  • Topics in Behavioral Medicine
  • Trauma and Crisis Intervention

Students should also expect to complete supervised training through internships which are typically completed over two semesters (or the course of a full academic year). In addition to these two 300-hour semester internships, students are required to complete a 100-hour practicum.

While the amount of time it takes to complete a Counseling MS program varies, it generally takes four academic semesters or two years of full-time enrollment. Part-time students generally complete this degree in three or more years.

How to choose a Master’s in Counseling program

There are many different Master’s in Counseling degree programs, each with its own approach and curriculum. So, how can prospective students know how to choose a Master’s in Counseling program? We’re glad you asked!

Consider asking yourself the following questions when researching and choosing a Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

1. Is the degree program reputable/accredited?

In order to become a licensed counselor, candidates must earn their degree from an accredited Counseling MS program. These programs are accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

The CACREP develops and maintains standards and procedures that ensure students in counseling and related programs receive the highest-quality education. This ensures that they are fully prepared for their state’s licensing exam and find success in their professional careers.

Additional benefits include:

  • An advantage when applying to doctoral degree programs
  • A program focused on professional counseling (not psychology or education)
  • A wider range of employment opportunities
  • CACREP-accredited programs are professionally and financially stable

Counseling programs seeking CACREP accreditation must complete a self-study process, submit a comprehensive report demonstrating how it meets each CACREP standard, and undergo an on-site visit.

University of Bridgeport’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling MS degree program in the College of Arts and Sciences is accredited by the CACREP.



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2. Does the program specialize in Clinical Mental Health counseling?

Though all accredited programs must cover mandated topics, every college and university’s Counseling MS program will vary.

For example, some programs integrate spiritual perspectives in their coursework, while others offer opportunities for students to specialize in topics like drama therapy, grief counseling, and wellness counseling. So students should consider opportunities to integrate personal and professional interests and goals when choosing a Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

If you are passionate about helping others navigate life’s mental and emotional challenges, look for a program that offers courses and internships focused on mental health. At University of Bridgeport, for example, students intern in mental health and substance abuse clinical settings, including hospitals, intensive outpatient programs, outpatient programs, and residential treatment facilities.

3. What format is the program offered in (online, on-campus, hybrid)?

The amount of time it takes for someone to complete a Clinical Mental Health Counseling program varies depending on the area of counseling an individual is interested in, where they want to work, and the state’s requirements.

Moreover, when choosing the right counseling graduate program, candidates should consider what program format will best fit their needs and schedule. Do you thrive in an in-person environment where you can ask questions of the professor directly? Or, do you need a more flexible program, and choosing a Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is online is the best option? Or, maybe you want a combination of the two, and enrolling in a hybrid program is the way to go?

University of Bridgeport’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program offers daytime and night courses to fit students’ specific needs and schedules.

4. What is the flexibility of the program?

Similar to the learning format, the flexibility of the program is another important factor in determining how to choose a Counseling MS program. Online pathways or flexible options for MPH programs can be vital if you plan on working during the semester or need flexibility for other reasons.

Students should contact their chosen university directly or visit its official website as part of their research. Note that depending on the program’s design and flexibility, full-time Counseling MS students typically take between three to five courses per semester, and part-time students can expect to take one to three courses per semester.

5. Does the program promise strong career outcomes?

Counseling and other mental health care careers are in high demand as these jobs are available in various settings, including inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, correctional facilities, hospitals, residential treatment centers, and private practices.

Students should look for programs that will prepare them for a personally and financially rewarding career in mental health. Graduates of Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs, including the one at University of Bridgeport, go on to counseling careers as:

  • Chemical dependency counselors
  • Crisis counselors
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Mental health counselors
  • Private practice mental health counselors

6. Does the curriculum, faculty, and clinical experience align with your goals?

Students should be sure that their chosen Clinical Mental Health Counseling program’s curriculum, faculty, and clinical experience align with their goals. Coursework should cover the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, techniques and methods for conducting assessments on clients, and the step-by-step process of developing clients’ individualized treatment plans.

For example, at University of Bridgeport, we use evidence-based practices, comprehensive, collaborative coursework, and relevant hands-on learning experiences to turn students’ dedication to helping diverse patient populations into meaningful work.

And lastly, ensure that your school’s faculty consists of counseling experts with decades of experience in the field, and that students can take advantage of connections with mental health care providers locally as well.

Apply to the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at University of Bridgeport

Choosing the right counseling graduate program is not easy, but these questions should help you make the right decision. At University of Bridgeport, we are committed to helping students in our Counseling MS program get through college and into a great career with our comprehensive support services.


Review our admission requirements and apply today. Or, contact us for more information. Your future starts today!