If you are interested in becoming a counselor, you’re in luck: The demand for such a position is increasing, with the need expected to grow 23% over the next decade. This increase comes as more and more people acknowledge the need for mental health support and as rates of substance abuse and mental illness continue to rise.
However, to get the training you need – and the salary you deserve – you will need some sort of professional accreditation. There are many options. Two such examples are the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Both of these accreditations can allow you to fulfill the educational requirements you need to become a professional counselor, but there are critical differences between the two.
MPCAC vs. CACREP
Understanding the difference between MPCAC and CACREP requires a closer examination of each.
What is MPCAC?
MPCAC is a specialized accreditation program specifically geared towards master’s level counseling and psychology courses. It describes itself as a science-based accreditation program that works with basic principles of psychology and counseling. It also notes that MPCAC-accredited programs are designed to be culturally sensitive and incorporate the importance of recognizing different cultural and societal values into their science-backed approach.
What is CACREP?
CACREP is another accreditation that is given to counseling programs. It places an emphasis on working to ensure that educational programs help individuals obtain their maximum potential and reach “optimal human development.” It specifically concentrates on the development of standards, program development, and accrediting educational programs. It also lists a variety of curricula that a program must meet to earn CACREP accreditation. This includes a slew of counseling educational programs and standards.
Key Differences Between MPCAC and CACREP
While both MPCAC and CACREP work with a variety of academic programs to ensure that they are meeting certain standards, there are a number of differences between them. This includes:
- The most critical difference is the level of education: MPCAC accreditation applies only to master’s level programs, while CACREP applies to master’s and doctor’s levels.
- The programs clearly have different values: CACREP appears geared towards ensuring that programs meet standards that are licensure-driven, while MPCAC is more geared towards ensuring that programs teach students an appropriate mix of counseling and psychological services.
- There are differences in terms of meeting the necessary curriculum.
- Both also have different standards when it comes to what educational programs are offered: CACREP requires 60 semester hours of training and instruction, while it is possible to earn an MPCAC accreditation with 48 hours of education.
Why is MPCAC Accreditation Important?
Like any professional accreditation, an MPCAC accreditation shows that a program meets a minimum professional standard. It guarantees a degree of legitimacy from a professional body which can help give students who take such programs the confidence that they need to know that their program meets appropriate requirements. Furthermore, individuals can review MPCAC accreditation standards and ensure that any MPCAC-accredited program will align with their career goals and counseling philosophy.
MPCAC Accredited Programs
There are dozens of MPCAC accredited programs throughout the country, and they are all available online. Examples include:
- Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Denver
- Masters in Psychology, Clinical Track, Augusta University
- Masters in Counseling Psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
- Masters in Clinical and Counseling Psychology Program, William Patterson University
Do graduates from MPCAC-accredited programs qualify students for licensure and counseling jobs?
Not automatically, no. As noted specifically on the MPCAC website, licensure is a separate issue and one that varies from state to state. The issue of licensure is further complicated by the fact that there is no standard that allows one person to carry a license from one state to another. As a result, the issue is a complicated one.
However, this much is clear: Earning a degree from an MPCAC-accredited program will unquestionably prepare someone for meeting the necessary licensure requirements and passing any licensure exam. Indeed, countless individuals from MPCAC-accredited programs have done just that.
Psychology and Counseling Career Options
There is no question that earning a degree from an MPCAC-accredited program offers a wide range of potential career options for individuals who are looking to advance their educational careers. Careers that you can start with an MPCAC-accredited program include:
- Mental health or substance abuse counselor: Provide direct therapy to individuals who are experiencing mental health or addiction issues.
- School counselor: Provide mental health or other support services to individuals in some school or educational environment.
- Academic/guidance counselor: Provide support to school students looking for assistance in determining and meeting educational goals. This often works in conjunction with an educational background.
- Social worker: Work for a social service agency to provide support to individuals who may otherwise lack the resources to access it.
The salary earned by individuals who are involved in the above careers can vary widely. For example:
- Mental health or substance abuse counselor: Median salary of $44,700.
- School counselor: Median salary of $51,500.
- Academic/guidance counselor: Median salary of $54,000.
- Social worker: Median salary of $49,600.
As you can see, the career options that you will have as a result of earning a degree from an MPCAC-certified educational program are very broad. It can also position you well to earn solid financial compensation, with the potential for future growth later down the line.