Webinar: Online Graduate Counseling Programs Overview

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Dr. Cerynn Desjarlais, the Program Director and an Assistant Clinical Professor for the University of North Dakota’s online Counseling master’s and post-graduate certificate programs, joins Paul Donaldson, enrollment advisor, to provide an overview of the program.


Paul Donaldson: Hello, and welcome. Thank you for tuning into today’s webinar. We know you are busy and your time is valuable, so we appreciate you fitting us into your schedule. My name is Paul Donaldson, and I am an enrollment advisor with UND. I work with students who are interested in our online graduate counseling programs from research through enrollment. Joining me today to discuss UND’s online counseling masters and certificate program is Cerynn Desjarlais. Cerynn, is the program director for the online graduate counseling programs and a clinical assistant professor in the program where she has taught a wide variety of courses. She completed both her master’s in counseling and PhD in counseling psychology at UND, and is passionate about the counseling and psychology fields. Cerynn, is there anything else you think potential students would want to know about you?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Thanks, Paul. I think that students may be interested in knowing that our program is really a program that supports multiculturalism. And as a Metis Cree woman, I really strongly support that. I do think it’s also important to note that our faculty, including myself, have a really strong desire to help people, and to support our students. And really offer a quality educational program. And so, I’d like to, firstly, thank the students who are attending today, but also let them know that we are here to support you. And if you have any questions, please reach out.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you for that Cerynn. Now, when it comes to quality and commitment, you can be confident in our programs. The university was founded in 1883 and has built a reputation for providing high-quality education on campus and online. UND is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and both the K-12 School Counseling master’s and post-graduate certificate programs are accredited by the council for the accreditation of educator preparation. And approved by the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board for School Counselor Competencies. Additionally, UND has been recognized with numerous accolades, including being ranked among the best national universities and top public schools by US News and World Report.

So, just a few of the perks of being an online graduate student with UND. So, students are assigned a dedicated student success coach who works with you from acceptance through graduation to help navigate online student life, and set you up for success throughout the program. You’ll have unlimited online tutoring available via Smarthinking, 24/7 help desk access for technology issues, access to community events. And transfer credits may be accepted up to one fourth of the total program credits.

We offer four specialized online master’s tracks. So, you can specialize your education based on your passion. We offer addiction, counseling, community mental health counseling, K-12 school counseling and rehabilitation counseling. We also offer a postgraduate certificate in K-12 school counseling for those who have already earned a master’s degree in another counseling specialization, but wish to change their specialization.

Both the master’s and post-graduate certificate are offered 100% online with primarily asynchronous coursework, which integrates a commitment to multiculturalism and social justice. No matter which option you choose, you’ll get practical field experience by completing a practicum and an internship in or near your community.

Cerynn, is there anything else that you think is important to highlight here?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Sure, Paul. I think that what I’d like to add is really just underscoring that our faculty are folks who are very much focused on multiculturalism and social justice. Our faculty are really highly educated and supportive. And so, when they’re working with students, they really take into account their identifying identity statuses, and they also consider that person’s unique needs. And so, we’re a program that really has a strong focus on that. And we offer some smaller class sizes, and it really allows for personalized attention that can really support students in graduate school.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you for that information, Cerynn. So, in the addiction track, you’ll take both core counseling courses and addiction specific courses where you’ll learn to help support those navigating addictions, and substance abuse concerns. The courses allow you to build foundational knowledge, skills, and awareness needed to address work with diverse clients of all ages, and a variety of mental health concerns. You’ll also gain real-world experience through in-person practicum and internship experiences.

In the community mental health track students participate in coursework and practicum internship experiences. Students in this track will learn to provide multi culturally competent care and effectively counsel clients as they navigate a wide variety of mental health concerns. From relatively common stage of life concerns to severe mental illness and disorders including personality disorders.

In the rehabilitation counseling track, students will participate in coursework, and practicum and internship experiences that will help you learn how to help people with a wide variety of mental health concerns that commonly co-occur with rehabilitation and disability factors. Coursework covers topics such as vocational counseling, veteran care, school-age transition and more.

Now, those who choose the accredited K-12 school counseling master’s track are trained to be culturally responsive, social justice oriented, and database licensed or credentialed professional school counselors. Using evidence-based practices, students learn how to effectively counsel school-aged youth and their families addressing academic, career and social-emotional concerns. You’ll also learn how to collaborate and consult with school and community stakeholders to affect positive systemic change in their school communities.

Our post-grad certificate in K-12 school counseling is for those who have already received a master’s degree in mental health or community agency counseling, but wish to [re-specialize 00:07:18] in K-12 counseling. The coursework mirrors the specialized coursework offered in the school counseling master’s program, but without the core foundational counseling courses. The certificate program is capped off with a practicum and internship experience, so you can put your new knowledge and skills to work.

Now, if you decide that you want to apply, here’s [inaudible 00:07:46] at the admissions’ requirement for the master’s counseling program. There is no GRE or GMAT required. And we look for students who are well-rounded and passionate about the field not necessarily those who just check off every single item on the list perfectly. You can see, we require completion of abnormal psychology and developmental psychology courses. However, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t taken those, UND offers an online foundations in counseling course through the master’s program that meets the requirements, or you can take the courses elsewhere before starting the program.

Now, a lot of this should look familiar, similar to what you saw on the last slide, except we require a master’s degree in mental health or community agency counseling. There are a couple of items that are important to note. Now, if you intend to apply for a school counseling credential in North Dakota, but do not have a North Dakota State teaching license, you must complete coursework in the following three content areas: educational psychology, classroom management and instruction methods. Now, if you intend to be eligible for a school counselor credential in any state other than North Dakota, a copy of this state’s school counselor credential, or licensure requirement is needed.

So, let’s chat quickly about tuition and financial aid. There are a lot of options to consider when financing your education. The total cost of tuition and fees for the master’s program ranges from 52,300 to 56,700, depending on whether or not you take the foundations and counseling course with us. We always recommend students look into Federal Student Loans, McNair Scholars, employer tuition reimbursement, GI Bill/Post 911/ military tuition assistance and private student loans. UND also offers tuition reduction waiver to a few students each semester and has a great online resource called Scholarship Central.

Now, as you can see, the expected job growth across the counseling field is quite large. And, actually, outpaces the average job growth expected for all industries. In addition, to what’s listed on screen, other potential job titles include youth counselor, social and community service manager, addictions counselor, student affairs administrator. In addition to these career paths, after completing our program, students may become excellent candidates for counseling PhD programs, or other doctoral programs that specialize in school counseling, addiction and recovery, rehabilitation, or psychology to name a few.

Now, Cerynn and I will answer some of the common questions we get from potential students. Cerynn, would you please tell us a little bit more about what is the online experience like for students?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Absolutely. So, our faculty from the online program have been teaching online processes for quite a while. We used to have a synchronous program model with our school counseling program, and it was actually ranked as one of the best in the country. And so, now, we’ve adapted into more of an asynchronous online format, so that our students can watch the lectures at a time that is convenient for them throughout the week. So, we very realize that a number of our students have professional roles, occupations, they may have personal roles and families to attend to. And so, we really want to make sure that our students are able to manage their work-life balance and engage in graduate school successfully without having to sacrifice other roles and responsibilities that they have.

I would also say that our coursework tends to be very user-friendly in terms of the software platforms that we use such as Blackboard. I really feel as though our students are also well-prepared because they take an orientation course, and it looks really identical to the courses that they take throughout the program. And so, as a result of that, those students are prepared to be successful students in our program moving forward.

Something else that I should also mention is that our students are really involved in a program that is very well paced, I would say. So, for instance, typically our students take about two 14 week courses throughout the semester and, as I mentioned, most of those courses are asynchronous. Now, there is an exception in that our practicum and our internship course are not asynchronous. They are, in fact, synchronous meeting that the students will meet with an instructor via Zoom, or another platform to discuss with them their weekly progress in practicum and internship.

Now, our practicum and internship typically lasts about three semesters. And so, as a result of that, students are able to engage in in-person experiences under the supervision of a counseling professional, and they’re able to acquire the clinical hours that they need to get licensed. And so, these practicum and internships are really integral parts of our programs experience. We really want to make sure that our students have the counseling skills, and techniques, knowledge, and awareness that they need to be successful future counselors. It’s also important to note that our students, at that time, will meet with a small group of peers to review their progress as well. And so, there’s a lot of resources that we provide to the students to be able to be successful.

One thing that I should mention is that quite a few students always ask the question, “Can you provide assistance to secure an internship?” And the answer to that is yes, absolutely. So, we do provide an internship and practicum coordinator, who oversees that process. And that person really guides the students in being able to research practicum and internship sites that will meet their needs for licensing. And so, those practicum and internship sites are typically in their geographic area and we ensure that they meet the expectations of their specialized track of study. And so, it’s really important that we assist our students in finding those locations that are appropriate for their licensing needs.

Paul Donaldson: That’s definitely a great added bonus to have a dedicated person help guide students through that process. Now, Cerynn, does the program prepare students for licensure?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Absolutely, we do. So, licensure is a really important component of this process. So, it’s really important that we help assist our students and understanding the requirements for the licensure in the state that they wish to be licensed in. And it’s really important that we investigate that early and understand what those components are, because every state has slightly different requirements for their licensure. So, it’s one of the first things that we meet with our students about. We have advising meetings to discuss licensure for the state or states that they wish to get licensed to, and carefully go over the criteria together. So, it is important for students to check into their state’s requirements themselves, but they should also know that that is something that we assist them with.

Paul Donaldson: I see. So, with four unique tracks, how does a student choose which track is right for them?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Oh, that’s such an excellent question. I think it really depends on the student figuring out what they’re passionate about. It’s really important for them to consider what excites them about the field. And it’s also important for them to really do their research. I would say that students should really look online and compare different career outcomes, and options and see what they like that. In addition to that, I would also say that they should consider what kind of work setting they would like to be at in the future. And then, if they’re still unsure, definitely reach out to resources, ask an expert. That could mean asking somebody who’s already in the field, or even asking one of our faculty members for assistance.

Paul Donaldson: That’s great advice, Cerynn. Thank you. And speaking of finding a track, that’s a good fit for you, how might a student know if they are a good fit for the program and for the counseling field?

Cerynn Desjarlais: Another great question. I would say that in order to be an effective counselor, it really requires somebody who is socially perceptive. Someone who has good, strong, active listening skills and communication skills. I would also say that it would be somebody who is emotionally astute, interested in psychology, and someone who has likely completed some psychology coursework in the past. Although, having said that, there are a lot of students from other fields, or closely related behavioral fields that also have a really good foundation to move into the counseling field in general. But, overall, I would say that having a strong desire to help other people is likely the most important.

Paul Donaldson: I agree. And taking a step back to quickly self-evaluate motivations and desires is important. Now, I know we covered a lot today, but if you have any additional questions about the program, admissions requirements and materials, financial aid or something else, we are always happy to help. Reach out via the phone number or email address listed in the slides. And either I or one of my fellow enrollment advisors will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Paul Donaldson: Now, Cerynn, I do want to thank you for joining us today, and taking the time to share this valuable information. And thank you all out there for tuning in and spending this time with us today.

Cerynn Desjarlais: Yes, thank you, Paul. And thanks everyone for being here today. And have a great day.