VCU counselor education program obtains CACREP accreditation
Clary Carleton

Jobs in the counselor education field are becoming more competitive and the VCU School of Education is working to ensure that our students are at the top of employers’ lists by building the strongest programs possible. To that end, the School of Education (CAEP-accredited), the counselor education programs hold an additional accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs (CACREP)

In January 2017, CACREP granted reaccreditation for the VCU SOE counselor education master's program in school and college student development and counseling. The Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in Counselor Education and Supervision received initial CACREP-accreditation. This accreditation provides recognition that the content and quality of the programs have been evaluated and meet the high standards set by the profession. This benefits the school, current students and alumni who receive degrees from VCU SOE.

“The CACREP accreditation ensures we are teaching our students at a high level in order for them to obtain the skills and knowledge that they have to have in order to do their jobs,” said Donna Gibson, the program coordinator for the counselor education master’s and doctoral programs.

In regards to recruitment of students, the accreditation has had a positive impact.

The reaccreditation process of the master’s program and the initial accreditation of the doctoral program concentration started with a self-study and subsequent report that was submitted to CACREP in January 2016. After hosting a CACREP site visit in September of 2016, the CACREP Board made the decision of reaccreditation and accreditation in January 2017. After VCU SOE announced that they were in the process of being CACREP accredited in doctoral programs and reaccredited in masters programs, applications for the program increased three fold.

With a cohort of seven doctoral students in the fall of 2017, the counselor education program will have its largest doctoral class since the program began in Fall 2013. This will bring the total number to 17 doctoral students enrolled currently.

“When we do admission interviews, I will ask students who come in, ‘How many of you were looking for a CACREP program?’ and about half raise their hand,” said Gibson.

Employers are increasingly looking for the high standards of a CACREP accredited program when hiring. This is based on employing those who have standards-based training and new legislative proposals that require degrees from CACREP-accredited counselor education programs.

“We hear from employers that alumni from our program are much more prepared than those coming from non-accredited programs,” said Gibson.”There is some speculation when it comes to whether or not your degree has to be from a CACREP program, which is not the case, but there is an increasing preference for graduates who those who come from an accredited program.”

Another benefit of an accreditation is that all of the professors in the VCU SOE counselor education program have a Ph.D. in counselor education, a CACREP requirement.

The master's program applicants come from many different backgrounds such as psychology, sociology, social work, education, communications, and business. In regards to the doctoral program, the school looks for applicants who have a master's degree in a related area such as counseling.

“The master's program is for students who want to be counselors in schools or in higher education settings like college or student affairs.The doctoral program trains people to be in leadership positions, which can be administrative roles in counseling programs, agencies and schools or as university faculty in counselor education programs,” said Gibson.

With the CACREP accreditation, the counselor education master’s and doctoral program will continue to meet the highest academic standards and produce the industry’s top professionals.