Center for Psychological Studies

Online Education

M.S. in Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of an online environment?

Online programs enable students to advance their careers, particularly when they are place-committed, do not live near campus based programs, provide services in rural, frontier, or off-shore communities, have positions that require frequent travel or relocation, or who simply enjoy learning through this educational option. The online environment creates a community of learning where learning is dynamic and interactive.

Who should enroll in an online program?

Online programs are best suited to the motivated, mature, and independent learner with basic computer knowledge. Online courses are comparable to traditional courses and therefore, require the same level of work and interactivity. Online courses should not be confused with independent study courses, or be characterized as less rigorous than “live” classes.

Be eligible for consideration, the master’s program requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in psychology, education, behavioral science, or related field and demonstration of scholastic ability and interpersonal skills to be an effective mental health counselor. See additional information below on admissions requirements.

Is the program entirely online?

All course work is offered online; however, the practicum experience requires placement in a qualified agency where the student will provide counseling services under the direction of a qualified supervisor. Students must insure they can complete this required experience(s).

What are the minimum computer requirements?

Note: *As new versions of the web browser become available, we ask students to upgrade. These upgrades are free and the link to the download sites can be found on our Software Downloads page. **Students will be assigned an NSU email account upon admission. *** Students must have their own Internet service provider. The monthly charge is the student's responsibility.

What is a concentration?

The Center for Psychological Studies currently offers five concentrations in the master’s program: mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, substance abuse counseling and education, applied behavior analysis, and advanced applied behavior analysis.

A concentration allows you to focus on a specific area of counseling. Each area is generally aligned to professional standards in the particular field of counseling and/or state certification or licensing requirements. Note that state standards vary from state to state so you should verify the eligibility of this training to those you are trying to meet.

What is a mental health counselor?

A mental health counselor serves the community in a variety of counseling capacities. Training emphasizes prevention of dysfunction, interdisciplinary collaboration, and direct service. Services are typically provided in mental health agencies and clinics, substance abuse clinics, hospices, hospitals, educational settings, and private practices.

Counselors can assist individuals dealing with such issues as stress management, self-esteem, aging, job and career concerns, educational decisions, mental and emotional health, and family, parenting, marital problems, as well as other issues.

Mental health counselors work closely with other mental health specialists, including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and school counselors.

For more information visit the American Counseling Association, 5999 Stevenson Ave., Alexandria, VA 22304-3300. Internet: http://www.counseling.org or the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc., 3 Terrace Way, Suite D, Greensboro, NC 27403-3660.
Internet: http://www.nbcc.org

What is a substance abuse counselor/addictions professional?

Addiction professionals have a unique knowledge and set of skills to assist substance abusers (persons affected by problems related to addictions). They also inform and provide programs to the general public for whom the prevention of addiction is a major issue.
Counselors assist clients in determining whether or not their clients have a substance abuse problem, provide experienced, professional counseling; assist and support clients in developing and/or maintaining a responsible and functional lifestyle, refer individuals to appropriate resources, and assist the abuser’s family and supporters.
What are the training requirements?

Substance Abuse Counseling

States have varied levels of certification and /or licensure requirements for substance abuse counselors, addictions professionals, supervisors and prevention specialists. In addition, there are national and international certifications.

For example, in the state of Florida there are many levels of certification that can be found by visiting http://www.flcertificationboard.org/Certifications_Addiction.cfm.

Florida CAP (Certified Addiction Professional)

This classification is viewed as the title for the addiction treatment professional primarily involved in providing direct treatment services in addictions. The requirements for this classification on the following link:

In addition, there are international and national certifications that can be obtained. Interested students should study the regulations in their particular state and learn about national and international certifications by visiting www.naadac.org and www.icrcaoda.org.

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counselors hold a master’s degree in mental health or a closely related field. Many trained mental health counselors work in a variety of agencies, clinics, schools, etc. and provide counseling services.

Some graduates elect to pursue licensure as a professional counselor or mental health counselor in their particular state. Most states also have specific licensing regulations for individuals wishing to have an independent practice. They typically include educational requirements at the master's level, post master's supervised experience and an examination.

For example, licensure as a mental health counselor in Florida requires "a master's degree with a major related to the practice of mental health counseling or related field. Applicants must also have two (2) years of post-master's supervised experience under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor or the equivalent (64B4-31.007(1)a,b,c,d,e F.A.C.) who is qualified as determined by the Board." More information can be found by visiting
www.doh.state.fl.us/mqa/491/soc_lic_req.html.

Prospective applicants should determine the eligibility of this program with the state requirements they are seeking. Generally states provide several options for meeting their standards.

What type of salary do counselors earn?

According to the 2008 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, counselors held about 600,000 jobs in 2008. About 100,000 were identified as mental health counselors and about 80,000 were substance abuse counselors. The demand for counselors is expected to be better than average for mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors, and marriage and family therapists.

Median annual earnings of mental health counselors in 2008 were $40,270. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,930 and $48,580. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,100. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of mental health counselors in 2008 were as follows:

Local government
$ 47,550
Mental Health Hospitals
$ 32,340
Outpatient Care Services
$ 40,540
Individual and family services
$ 39,170
Offices of other Health Care Practitioners
$ 44,660
Home Health Care
$ 48,550
Elementary and Secondary Schools
$ 49,970
Junior Colleges
$ 59,730


Median annual earnings for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in 2008 was $39,670. The middle percent earned between $29,410 and $47,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,240 and the highest percent earned more than $59,460.

More information can be obtained in the National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (Community and Social Services Occupations) at the site http://www.bls.gov, as well as web sites for professional counseling and substance abuse organizations.

Applied Behavior Analysis

An Applied Behavior Analyst is someone who has in-depth knowledge of the field and methods of the study of the science of behavior. Behavior analysis services help people learn new behaviors, increase or reduce existing behaviors, and teach individuals when to use specific behaviors in specific instances. The scope of these services ranges from addressing challenging behaviors of an individual person to changing the behavior of an entire organization or community.

Behavior analysts provide services to individuals, families, group homes, schools, mental health agencies, hospitals, industrial and business settings, and other agencies working with individuals who require intensive behavioral training and / or consultation. Training and consultation are performed in the areas of educational and adaptive living strategies, challenging behaviors, and staff management. Special populations such as individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities have been shown to benefit greatly from ABA services. ABA is also frequently used in the field of education from typical students to students with disabilities.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) has outlined 2 levels of certification. The Board Certified Behavior Analyst has a master’s degree or higher in counseling, education, psychology or a related field and can work as an independent practitioner but may also work as an employee or independent contractor for an organization. They assess behavior, evaluate the results, and develop and implement strategies for making behavior changes across a wide variety of settings. They have completed at least 225 classroom hours of graduate level instruction and have had extensive supervision in the application of ABA services. The BCABA typically has a bachelor’s or a master’s degree and works under the supervision of a BCBA. The BCABA is able to provide services in assessing and modifying behaviors across a more limited scope of settings. The BCABA has completed 135 classroom hours of graduate or undergraduate level instruction in applied behavior analysis and has less supervised experience than the BCBA. Both the BCBA and the BCABA must pass the certification exam developed and administered by the BACB. For more specific and in-depth information about the certification process and specific skills of certified individuals, please see www.bacb.com.

What type of salary do behavior analysts earn?

Recently reported salary ranges for master’s level graduates who are certified as BCBAs are from $40,000 to $60,000 per year. Jobs are abundant at this time and demand far outstrips the supply of trained and certified practitioners. More information about careers in behavior analysis can be found at http://www.fabaworld.org and http://www.bacb.com.

How do the master’s of science in counseling and the certification in applied behavior analysis combine?

Students seeking certification at the BCBA level are required to have a master’s degree in education, psychology, counseling, social work, or another related field. The master’s of science in counseling with a concentration in advanced applied behavior analysis will allow students to meet the academic criteria for certification. In addition, ABA is frequently used in the field of counseling by private practitioners and counselors working in schools.

Do I have to take the master’s program to take the courses to meet the certification requirements for the BCBA or BCABA?

No. Students are able to take the ABA concentrations alone without completing the master’s program in counseling. Note that a master’s degree in psychology, education, counseling or a related field is required for the BCBA certification.

Do the ABA concentrations meet all the requirements for the certifications in applied behavior analysis?

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board has indicated that students may be advised that the course work sequences meet the BACB’s coursework eligibility requirements. Applicants who provide verification that they have completed this approved course sequence will not have to provide course work documentation. The academic course work is offered through the concentrations. Experience requirements for certification can be met through elective practica in the program or the student can seek supervision on his or her own. Following completion of academic coursework and supervision, students will still need to pass the certification exam offered by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. More information about certification requirements can be found at www.bacb.com.

Do you limit the number of students who can enroll in the program?

We do not limit the number of qualified students who can enroll in the master’s of science program. Class size, however, is limited.

How long will it take to complete my degree?

Total credits will vary depending on the concentration. Typically two courses are offered per term. There are four terms each year. Students will likely complete in two–three years depending on the concentration.

How many classes do I need to take to be considered a full-time student?

A student who is registered for a minimum of 2 courses is considered to be a full-time student.

How many classes can I transfer towards the master’s degree?

Students may transfer a maximum of six equivalent graduate level credits taken in the past five years in which grades of A or B were received.

What are the admissions requirements for the master’s in counseling at NSU?

To be considered for admission to graduate study, you are required to present evidence of scholastic ability, interest in the area of psychology and counseling, personal stability, and interpersonal sensitivity, and sound moral character.

  1. Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  2. An undergraduate or masters degree in psychology, education, behavioral science, social work, or related field with a). a grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher in last 60 semester hours of undergraduate coursework, or b) a master’s degree with an overall GPA of 2.5 or better or c) a total score of 950 or higher on the combined verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within the past five years, or other similar measures.
  3. A two page typed statement of interest articulating career plans, capabilities, special achievements, etc.
  4. Two professional letters of recommendation.

Applicants who do not meet the criteria indicated in #2 above, may be considered on the basis of relevant academic, professional, or exceptional experience or accomplishment.

Students will be admitted to graduate study and accepted for degree candidacy after successful matriculation.

What is the cost of tuition?

Current cost of tuition is $628 per credit hour. You can find more information on our Tuition and Fees page.

What type of financial aid is available to students?

There are a number of student loans available for students. Financial aid is available in the form of guaranteed low interest loans through the federal government. For additional information, please contact the office of Student Financial Assistance (800) 541-6682, ext. 23380 or email finaid@nova@edu or visit the web site at http://www.nova.edu/financialaid.

How will my performance for degree candidacy be evaluated in the mental health counseling program?

During the formal review for matriculation, students’ academic performance and professional functioning in the first four courses completed will be examined. Students need a grade point average of 3.0 or above in the four courses to be matriculated and cannot have two grades below “B” or a grade of “F” in matriculation courses.

Additional requirements can be found in the student handbook.

Do I have to write a thesis or take a comprehensive examination?

The mental health counseling concentration requires a comprehensive examination at the end of the program.

What is Practicum/Internship?

Mental health counseling and substance abuse: The mental health counseling and substance abuse practicum experiences are designed to provide students with a sequential, supervised field experience in an appropriate counseling setting. Students will be required to complete the designated clinical training experiences in their concentration.

Students outside Florida are responsible for providing information on appropriate agencies in their local or surrounding areas. An NSU representative will contact the agency on behalf of the student. While many students can complete the requirement while working, they should be prepared to make whatever arrangements are necessary to complete this requirement including a leave of absence, adjustment of the work schedule, etc. Prospective students should determine in advance of their enrollment their ability to access appropriate practicum training.

Applied Behavior Analysis: The ABA practicum experiences are designed to meet the supervision requirements for the certification process. They are provided as electives in the concentration so that students have the option of getting their supervision through the concentration practica or on their own at their workplace. The BCBA requires completion of supervised fieldwork (1500 hours), practicum (1000 hours) or intensive practicum (750 hours) using the principles of applied behavior analysis with supervision from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). A list of practicum sites will be provided to students when they enroll and they can choose from these sites or identify their own. If students identify their own practica sites (e.g., a work place), they will be responsible for outlining their practicum experience with their supervisor and obtaining permission from their employer or on-site supervisor. Students will be required to meet with their supervisors at least weekly. Alternatives to on-site supervision will be developed for distance students.

International students are required to complete their clinical training experience in the USA.

Is this a full or part-time program?

Classes may be taken on a full or part time basis. A minimum of six credits per term is required to be considered full-time.

Is this program also offered in a “live” format?

In addition to the online program, the master's degree in mental health counseling is offered in classroom settings throughout Florida.

Regional Campuses (field based format)

The program is offered at NSU Regional Campuses in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa in the State of Florida with classes scheduled on weekends.

Main Campus (traditional semester format)

Classes are held on the university’s main campus in Ft. Lauderdale. Courses are offered during three semesters each year. Classes are typically held Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm and from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

See Mental Health Counseling.

Is the university accredited?

Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097: Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award associate's, bachelor's, master's, specialist, and doctoral degrees. Nova Southeastern University was first accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as Nova University in 1971.

Nova Southeastern University admits students of any race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, non-disqualifying disability, religion or creed, or national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school, and does not discriminate in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.