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Can I Use an MA in Counseling Psychology When I Graduate (Part 2: CACREP Accreditation)

One concern with deciding whether to attend a university is whether or not it is accredited. Bowie State University and University of Maryland University College are regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. However, I found out that another accreditation is important in counseling, CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs), and the Department of Defense requires one to hold a degree from a CACREP accredited university in order to qualify to work as a Tricare Certified Mental Health Counselor. While there is a grace period through the end of 2014 for people who don’t have the requirements to obtain them, I needed to know if Bowie State University is in the process of getting CACREP accreditation and, if so, when they expect to receive it, since the DoD is the most likely place for me to seek employment after graduation, especially as long as we live overseas.

Before contacting the school, I went to CACREP’s site and looked up some information. On their Student FAQs page, I found out that as long as the school receives accreditation within 12 months of me graduating, then I will still be considered a CACREP graduate, even if the program is still in the process when I actually graduate. I also learned the process can take up to two years, which would make it kind of tight depending on when I graduate and when they are accredited.

Then, I contacted the school using the Contact Us link on UMUC-Europe’s page of required courses for my degree. I mentioned I had seen in the description for the counseling programs: “The DoD has recently confirmed that in order to qualify for employment with the DoD in a counseling position, a degree from a CACREP-accredited institution is required.” I had not seen any mention that Bowie State University is CACREP accredited, but I had seen in the course catalog that the counseling degrees follow the standards published by CACREP. I asked if Bowie State University was in the process of seeking CACREP accreditation and if, so, if there was a projection for how long their process might be.

Someone responded the next day that the director would contact me when he returned, about a week later. When I had not been contacted a few days after that date, I wrote them again and asked if they could have him contact me or provide an email where I might be able to directly contact him. Later that day, he emailed me saying, “Thank you for your interest in our graduate programs. The new DoD rules concerning CACREP do not go into effect until 1 January, 2015. Our Stateside program at Bowie State University is in the initial stages of pursuing CACREP accreditation. The self study and approval process can be quite lengthy, but if all goes as planned, BSU hopes to have CACREP approval by 2014.”

This seemed like good information to have, but I noticed that word “Stateside”. I am not Stateside. So, I asked if the Stateside program being awarded CACREP accreditation would apply those those going through the program through UMUC-Europe. He responded that it was his understanding that once the Stateside program secures CACREP accreditation, it could extend to the overseas program in Europe and that he would learn more as the process progresses.

With this information, I figured the best thing to do would be to just go ahead and apply to the program. If, as they stated, they are following the guidelines from CACREP accreditation already, then hopefully they will have no problem getting approved. The other option would have been to put off grad school, but since we have no guarantee of where we will be next or what educational opportunities might be available there, I could have ended up in the same position again, but a few years older. I figure it is better to expand my education, even if I may not qualify for certain positions, than to spin my wheels and do nothing…and still not qualify.

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6 Thoughts on “Can I Use an MA in Counseling Psychology When I Graduate (Part 2: CACREP Accreditation)

  1. Kathleen Petersen on January 10, 2013 at 6:43 am said:

    you might want to visit with the behavioral health staff at landstuhl medical center on your next visit. the director can guide you to someone who had done similar. feel free to email me for additional direction.

  2. This one is also helpful for me because I didn’t even know about this new accreditation procedure coming in effect so soon (well, two years from now). I wouldn’t really worry about it too much, though. Bowie State has a pretty reputable notion as far as I can tell (sure, not among the Harvards and Columbia Unis out there but still!) and it must be great to be offered the chance to complete an English Master’s abroad while stationed in Germany, no?

    • Yeah I wouldn’t have known about it if UMUC-Europe hadn’t been kind of enough to mention it on their page. Then I was like wait, what? I better read up on this lol. I am not too stressed since they already follow their procedures and are at least attempting to get the accreditation. Plus depending on where we are next and if it’s feasible in that location and at that point I may pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology, and then it’ll be an APA accreditation that matters. It is definitely great to be able to complete a Master’s over here. I would never be able to hold my own if classes were taught in German lol.

  3. Before Bowie was awarded the program, University of Maryland, College Park administered the counseling program in Germany. Some of the stateside programs were CACREP – however, it did not extend to overseas (something that was not well publicized, for good reason). Essentially, the overseas programs are separate campuses and therefore are not automatically included in the parent institution’s CACREP accreditation. Plus, Bowie kept the instructors from UMUC/UMCP Europe. The school could not guarantee the number of credit hours delivered by noncore faculty would not exceed the number of credit hours delivered by core faculty or that it would meet the CACREP faculty/staff credentialing minimum.

    I hope you don’t get screwed like we did. I went to get my doctoral degree (counselor ed and supervision) from a longstanding reputable brick and mortar institution, but DoD and VA will only recognize CACREP master’s level programs. I wasted my money, time, and GI Bill benefits. Live and learn. The other slap in the face was when I applied to APA doctoral programs, some rejected my application because of the quality of the master’s degree and others required additional leveling courses to overcome the shortcomings of my master’s degree. Seriously?!? My program required 48 hours, and I completed 79 hours (electives to mirror what psych programs in the states offered/required to graduate) and my GPA was 3.97 and my GRE scores were outstanding based on the cohort numbers for that year.

    So, if you are still overseas, IMO, your best bet is to look into Capella or Walden. Capella was accredited during my final year with UMCP (when BSU took over the contract), so transferring was not a feasible economic decision. Because UMCP was one of three highly touted counseling programs in the nation, I foolishly thought it would be beneficial to have a degree from UMCP rather than BSU to bolster my federal employment search as a mental health clinician – NOT. I will say there are other opportunities (e.g., readjustment counselor, substance abuse counselor, social services assistant, psych tech, work/life specialist or consultant, and possibly the education center as a guidance counselor) in the federal sector related to counseling that the degree would allow you to meet the minimum requirements. However, these other opportunities were not what I envisioned or were the selling points of the program when I applied.

    • Yeah that was the way it was explained to me also. Our program couldn’t get the CACREP accreditation independent of BSU stateside getting it. Once they would have it, then we had a possibility but not a guarantee of getting it. What ended up happening was that BSU did get the accreditation but it was for a Mental Health Counseling program NOT their Counseling Psychology program, so we were a not go. They ended up dropping our program in favor of a social work program.

      The CACREP thing has changed slightly with the DoD and VA. Apparently instead of only allowing for CACREP, there is now the option for those with regionally accredited institutions that don’t have CAREP to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) and the deadline for meeting the requirements has been extended to January 1, 2017. So hopefully that’ll help you out. You can read more about it here. http://www.counseling.org/about-us/about-aca/our-history/aca-presidents/2014/07/18/final-tricare-rules-more-beneficial-to-licensed-professional-counselors

      That stinks that your application was rejection due to the quality of the degree, especially with having taken so many hours and having a high GPA and GRE scores. I’ll have 60 when I graduate though only 48 are required and have a 4.0. I am likely going to put a little time in between finishing this degree and pursuing a doctoral program so hopefully that’ll help.

      I have a friend with Walden who seems to really like it and I did consider them, but they require doing the onsite hours in conferences that would not have been convenient to get to while stationed in Germany, and their classes were a lot more expensive. Although I’m doing the program through UMUC-Europe the degree will actually come from Bowie State University. That’s good that this degree as it is would meet the requirements for at least some jobs. I just started an internship in an addiction treatment facility, so if that turns out to be an area I like, that’s good to know. But yes it would be good to have a wider range of opportunities and I’m sure it would be disappointing to have doors closed that you thought would be open.

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