Frequently Asked Questions

What are the degree tracks available in this program? What degree will I earn?

SMHC is organized around two tracks, each with their own emphasis: Mental Health Counseling Licensure (Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC) and School Counseling Certification & Mental Health Counseling Licensure (Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC). In both emphases the degree awarded is an M.S.Ed.

When does the program begin?

All students must begin the program during the summer session.  

What is the weekend schedule of the program?

To see a copy of a sample weekend schedule, please click here.

Can a student attend the SMHC Program on a part-time schedule?

SMHC is a full-time program and does not offer any part-time options.  

Can international students apply to this program?

While the program is open to international students, it should be noted that they may face certain challenges as a result of their visa status, including an inability to work off-campus and attending only three days of classes per month. We have found that the Counseling and Mental Health Services program, with its traditionally structured schedule, is typically a better fit for international students and we encourage all international applicants to investigate this program. However, if you believe that the Executive Program in School and Mental Health Counseling is the best fit for you, please feel free to contact us and discuss your options.

International applicants should also consult Penn GSE’s general guidance on international applications.

Can international students obtain certification and/or licensure?

Please note that we welcome international students into our program, and are pleased to support them in bringing school and mental health counseling services to countries around the world.  It is important to note, however, that certification/licensure options after the completion of the degree, per U.S. regulations, are typically only available to domestic students.  It is possible for international students to take the skills and training they have received and apply them towards certification/licensure in their respective home countries, but we tailor our program to U.S. requirements.  All prospective international applicants to the School & Mental Health Counseling Program will meet with our program directors to review this issue on an individual basis.  Many international students have completed our counseling programs at Penn GSE in preparation both for professional practice and for doctoral work in counseling and related fields. 

Can students who live out-of-state commute to their weekend classes? Does the program provide housing?

Yes, out-of-state students can, and do, commute to their weekend classes. In any given year, the program has students from at least four-to-six states outside of Pennsylvania. Please note that the program does not offer program-specific housing, although all Penn housing options are open to our students. We can also help you to secure favorable rates at several local hotels, including extended-stays to cover the nine-day summer session. 

Is the SMHC program CACREP accredited?

Please note that SMHC, like many counseling programs, chose not to pursue CACREP accreditation because of its rigid standards, which, in part, are designed to separate the counseling profession from psychology, and, in particular, counseling psychology. Not having the accreditation seems not to influence the job prospects for our students because accreditation is useful, primarily, for assuring that graduating students are eligible for counseling licensure. Once licensed or license-eligible, accreditation status has little bearing on career prospects.

Our graduates have always been license-eligible because our program is designed to meet licensure guidelines in PA. In addition, the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) reviewed and approved our counseling programs and granted us status as a National Counseling Exam (NCE) site, which means that students who complete our approved counseling programs, pass the National Counseling Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), and complete the required 3,000 hours of post-graduate supervised field work, are automatically granted National Counselor Certification. This status signals to states and employers that the student or licensure applicant has graduated from a program approved by the NBCC.

Will I be certified in all states for school counseling and licensure?

Each state has their own requirements for both school counselor certification and licensure as a Professional Counselor. Since you are attending a PA university, you will gain certification and/or licensure in PA. We will work with you individually to research your state requirements. The good news is that there is reciprocity in many states; however, some additional requirements may need to be met and the program will do everything in our power to help you meet them.

With my degree, what jobs will I be prepared for? Will I be prepared to be a school psychologist? 

A master’s in School and Mental Health Counseling, MS.Ed, will prepare you for a variety of jobs in the field of mental health and school counseling. You can work as a certified school counselor in elementary and/or secondary school, therapist in a mental health agencies/clinics, residential settings, behavioral health programs, drug & alcohol rehabilitation, private practice, hospital-based programs and many other areas of leadership in both school and clinical care settings. Please note that a school psychologist needs specialized training, which our program does not offer.

What do I need to do to obtain LPC licensure? 

As a first requirement for graduate school student eligibility for licensure, students must complete a 60-credit master’s degree program with 600 hours of supervised field experience, with 240 of those hours coming in direct service to clients. All other requirements for LPC licensure are completed as a post-graduate. However, SMHC is in a program, NCE for Graduate Students, which allows our students to take the required National Counselor Exam (NCE) in April of their second year after completing 48 credits. Students may also choose to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).  You can view your state's LPC licensure exam requirements here.  Along with the licensing exam, all licensure-eligible students must complete the required post-graduate supervised hours in their state.

Do I need a background in psychology or counseling to apply to this program?

The program does not require a background in counseling or psychology. Many of our students are career-changers and come from very different professional or academic backgrounds. We offer suggested readings for those students interested in learning more about this field.

Does the program provide field placement sites? Can I find my own site? 

Yes, our program has created a Site Placement database that is available to all our students. With the help of our faculty site coordinators, students will have the opportunity to choose three sites that are of interest via an online form. We will review these requests individually with each student and match them according to availability. If a student has a particular site of interest, we will certainly reach out to this site on their behalf. Students who live out of state or at a distance from Philadelphia are encouraged to suggest sites of interest in their local area. We will reach out to these sites to check that they meet the site and supervisor guidelines. Students may also use their place of employment as their site placement, as long as these sites meet the required guidelines.  

How many hours of internship are required for school certification? Will I be certified when I graduate? 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires that in order to ensure exposure, understanding, and candidate competence regarding the practice and delivery of academic, career, and personal/social interactions, candidates must obtain experience at both the elementary (Pre K-8) and secondary (7-12) levels during their field experiences, which include pre-practicum, practicum, and internship. Students may satisfy the requirement of field experience at the elementary and secondary levels through their pre-practicum, practicum, or internship placements.  Students will be required to complete a supervised, post-practicum internship experience (a minimum of 420 clock hours in a school setting out of the 600-hour requirement) that provides opportunities for them to demonstrate their ability to design and implement school counseling programs at various grade levels.  This internship leads to a Pre K-12 School Counselor Certification.  

Upon completion of these requirements, you will be certified when you graduate if you have met the following criteria: 

  • Completed 60-credits of coursework
  • 600 hour of internship
  • Comprehensive Examination Capstone
  • Passed the PRAXIS II Exam
  • Completed the PA state TIMS application process

How many hours of internship are required for LPC eligibility? Will I be licensed when I graduate? What are the specific requirements? 

The PA board of Professional Counselors requires that students complete 600 hours of supervised internship hours, with 240 of those hours in direct service to individuals and groups. This is the only programmatic requirement for our students while at Penn. Although you will not be licensed when you graduate, you will have completed the programmatic pre-requisites for licensure that include completing a 60-credit master’s program and having the opportunity to take and pass either the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). After you graduate, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised work in the field.

Can I use my place of employment as my practicum or internship site? 

Yes, students may use their place of employment as their site placement, as long as these sites meet the required guidelines.  

What are the required professional credentials for the practicum and internship supervisors?

Practicum supervisors are not required to have any specific credentials other than their experience in the area they are supervising. The Internship supervisors for school counseling certification must be certified school counselors with at least 3 years of experience. 

Supervisors for LPC eligibility must be mental health professionals with more than 3 years in the field. They can be a licensed mental health professional (LPC, LMHC, psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist), or non-licensed mental health professional with extensive experience (an exception that requires program approval).

What professional organizations should I consider joining? 

Many of our students join ASCA (American School Counselors Association) and/or ACA, (American Counseling Association). These organizations have reduced fees for student memberships and offer various professional resources.