Preparing school counselors and mental health professionals for licensing, certification, and career advancement.

The M.Phil.Ed. Program in Professional Counseling prepares students to become Certified School Counselors and/or Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). This two-year program is designed to provide the highest level of counselor preparation for work in schools, community mental health agencies, universities, and private practice. Many of our graduates elect to go on to doctoral level study in counseling or clinical psychology, human development, or a related field.

Previously, Penn GSE offered a one-year M.S.Ed in Counseling and Mental Health Services, followed by a one-year M.Phil.Ed. in Professional Counseling to prepare students for licensure, but these have been combined into this new two-year program beginning in Fall 2024. 

What Sets Us Apart

  Students can prepare for both Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and School Counselor Certification credentials
94% pass 94% of our graduates pass the National Counselor Exam on their first attempt.
20 20 hours per week gaining practical experience in a field internship that shapes their professional development

About the Program

The Professional Counseling Program is a two-year (20 course) master’s degree program that prepares graduates to be eligible for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. In addition to the LPC, students have the option to pursue School Counseling Certification.

Application deadline
Closed for Fall 2024. The application for Fall 2025 will be available September 1, 2024.
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
20 courses
Typical course load

Year 1: Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 Courses; Summer: 2 courses; 8-10 hours of field experience per week throughout the year.

Year 2: Summer: 2 courses; Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 courses; 20 hours of field experience per week throughout the year.

Practical experience componentField internship (20 hours per week)

Culminating experienceOral clinical comprehensive exam AND written report of oral exam

  • Full-Time

The Professional Counseling program offers two study options: Track 1) the M.Phil.Ed. only, and Track 2) the M.Phil.Ed. + School Counseling certification. Students in Track 1 are preparing to become Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) and will be able to work in any mental health setting. Students in Track 2 are preparing to become Licensed Professional Counselors in addition to earning certification in School Counseling, which allows them to work in school settings. Track 2 requires the successful completion of national exams, internship hours, and other requirements.

LicensurePrepare graduates to be eligible for Licensure in Professional Counseling (after successful completion of the NCC Exam and all post-graduate internship hours)

Certificate offeredAfter finishing internship hours and passing the PRAXIS, students have the option of seeking certification in School Counseling

STEM OPT eligibleEligible F-1 students who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT (often for 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension (for 24 months).  


Our school and mental health counseling coursework and training emphasize three primary themes: social justice, diversity in its many forms, and a person- or student-centered counseling orientation.

For course descriptions, visit the Professional Counseling M.Phil.Ed. program in the University Catalog.


An integral part of the learning experience is the completion of an internship in a counseling setting. The nature of the internship will vary based upon the student’s interests. The purpose of the internship is to provide the student with practical clinical experience on an ongoing basis during the course of their M.Phil.Ed. studies. The internship is arranged by mutual agreement of the student, the student’s advisor, the Professional Counseling internship course instructor, and the supervisor at the field site (who must be at least a licensed master’s-level mental health professional). Typically, students are not compensated for services rendered under the internship experience. Performance in the internship experience must be satisfactory following the first semester evaluation process, based upon the assessment of the student’s progress by the field site supervisor, the student’s academic advisor, and the Professional Counseling program faculty. Satisfactory performance in the first half of the student’s coursework is a prerequisite for the oral clinical examination for the M.Phil.Ed. degree. 

Oral clinical comprehensive examination

The oral clinical comprehensive examination process for the M.Phil.Ed. program is designed to assess the student’s active, working knowledge of the three major themes of the program: (1) applied counseling/clinical services; (2) understanding of clients’ cultures and contexts; and (3) lifespan human development. The examination assesses the student’s competence in using and integrating applied skills in the setting where counselors work. The oral clinical examination uses a case presentation format to evaluate the student’s level of competency as a counselor.

Our Faculty

Penn GSE Faculty Michael J. Nakkula
Professor of Practice
Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Marsha Richardson
Senior Lecturer and Director, School and Mental Health Counseling Program
Psy.D., Widener University
Penn GSE Faculty Kyle Schultz
Lecturer in Educational Practice and Director, Counseling and Mental Health Services Program
Psy.D., Widener University
Penn GSE Faculty Jeanne L. Stanley
Adjunct Professor, Penn GSE
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Howard C. Stevenson
Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education
Ph.D., Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Penn GSE Faculty Ariane Thomas
Lecturer in Educational Practice and Director, Professional Counseling Program
Psy.D., Widener University
Penn GSE Faculty Caroline L. Watts
Senior Lecturer
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Diana Wildermuth
Lecturer in Educational Practice
Ph.D., Temple University
Araya Baker, Penn GSE Alum

“The most important lesson that I learned from this experience was that my work at the micro-level is connected to larger social systems and structures. I graduated from the program extremely connected to the kids at my internship, and concerned for them as people, not just students on my caseload.”

Araya Baker

Professional Counseling M.Phil.Ed, 2016

Our Graduates 

Graduates of the Professional Counseling program become mental health counselors working at mental health clinics, schools, and rehabilitation centers. Some graduates enter doctoral programs.

Alumni Careers

  • Psychologist B, Thomas Jefferson University Narcotic Addiction Rehabilitation Program (NARP)
  • Outpatient Mental Health Therapist, Intercultural Family Services Inc.
  • School Counselor, School District of Philadelphia
  • Outpatient Counselor, NHS Human Services
  • Doctoral student, Counseling Psychology, University of Oregon
  • Doctoral student, Counseling Psychology, University of Miami
  • Doctoral student, Counseling Psychology, University of Georgia

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415

Program Contact

Elizabeth Mackenzie
Adjunct Associate Professor, Program Manager
(215) 898-4176

Maryetta Rowan
Administrative Coordinator
(215) 573-6851

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.

Licensure & Certification Information

State Counseling Licensure & National Counseling Certification

Currently, toward the end of  the Professional Counseling (Year Two) program, students sit for the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE), which the program administers at Penn GSE. Passing the NCE exam grants students the status of eligibility as a PA Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC) once their 3,000* hours of post-master’s supervised counseling work is completed. The NCC credential signals to licensing boards and employers that the program from which the student has graduated has been approved by a national credentialing board. The NBCC defines the credential as such: “National Certified Counselors (NCC) are board certified counselors who offer the highest standards of practice because they have met stringent education, examination, supervision, experience, and ethical requirements.” However, the NBCC has recently made changes to this program, so the last application cycle for our students will be the fall of 2026. Following this date, students will sit for their licensure exam after graduation but without the NCC designation.

* Each state has its own licensing requirements so please check with your state board for both the internship licensing requirements and exact number of required post-master's hours.

State School Counselor Certification: PreK-12

Toward the end of the program, students sit for the PRAXIS School Counselor Exam (5422). Students can choose from a variety of testing sites both in and out of Pennsylvania. Students who pass this exam and complete all the coursework and internship requirements are eligible for certification as an Elementary and Secondary (PK-12) School Counselor (Education Specialist I) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and can be certified as PreK-12 school counselors. Students living outside of Pennsylvania are well positioned to earn similar certification in other states but must confirm their state’s requirements in advance of their internship field experiences.