What is accreditation? Accreditation is the certification of quality and competence by an external body. For mental health counseling programs, that external body is the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP sets minimum standards that counseling programs must meet if they are to be “CACREP accredited.” For example, CACREP sets the number of client contact hours for students.
Although attending an accredited program streamlines the licensure process, accreditation is not a legal construct. Accreditation is based on minimal standards that are established by experts in the industry, but, unlike licensure, those standards are not written into law. Therefore, attending an accredited program does not mean automatic licensure. You will still have to go through the same steps students from non-accredited programs go through in order to obtain licensure.
Nonetheless, if you are considering a career in counseling, attending an accredited masters program can be advantageous in many ways:
- Accreditation sets minimum standards, therefore accredited programs are generally of better quality, and tend to attract better students and faculty.
- Because of these higher standards, your chances of finding employment are better.
- Accreditation is often the standard used by licensing bodies, therefore an accredited program is more likely to fulfill licensure requirements.
- It may be easier to enter a doctoral program if your masters degree was accredited.
- Some third party payers (ie. TRICARE) are beginning to reimburse only those counselors who graduate from accredited programs.
- Research shows that students graduating from a CACREP program perform better on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
For more information, please visit the CACREP website.
(Source: Does program accreditation matter? (Counseling Today, September 2012 Part I, p. 16)