The next step forward for college counseling

By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

As relatively new professions head toward maturity, they tend to find themselves enwrapped in what one might best characterize as a ‘midlife crisis’ in establishing a unique identity. This rings particularly true with those in which the ends of the continuum are quite well defined but the middle far less so. Such was the topic of conversation at a recent presentation by four University of California campuses at the annual conference of the Independent Educational Consultant’s Association (IECA) this past November.

College counseling/independent educational consulting are not professions in which a fairly standardized set of courses are approved by a state agency serve as precursors to entry (as is the case, let’s say, with the licensure of teachers). In point of fact, academic preparation through certificate, credential or degree is not required to practice—although many postsecondary institutions have identified and codified a body of knowledge useful in providing counsel to families and others.

The original intent of the IECA presentation was to provide information to the field about the types of training and certificates available—but also to cull feedback to guide future academic pathways and professional development offerings. The discussion opened up into a larger deliberation about the ‘professionalization’ of college counseling and independent consulting, with pointed questions about the differences between certificate and certification, and the entities that might offer their sanction to those programs and providers best fitting the bill.

Parallel discussions related to foundational and advanced trainings were fodder for deeper exploration of the discipline and academic development. It was suggested that following a model similar to that of teachers and administrators (foundational training followed by contextually grounded professional induction) may have value in preparing prospective counselors for working with diverse groups of students and their families. Other recurring themes included:

  • The need to preserve both academic rigor and practitioner utility in the context of professional certification

  • The internationalization of the profession and the concomitant need to keenly differentiate coursework and programming

  • The need to provide additional guidance in working with linguistically and socioeconomically diverse populations

  • The importance of offering an integrated and holistic curriculum that includes cutting-edge professional development opportunities not part of a certificate or credential

  • The importance of professional networking and establishing practica that are reflective of circumstances and challenges in the field

Taking these ideas to heart, the Education Department is working with top-tier instructors in our College Counseling program to establish a two-tier certification that includes foundational training and advanced work that closely mirrors induction in other professions. This second tier will address the enhanced sophistication of the practicing counselor, working to more finely hone abilities and skills in the field.

We envision that the development of new coursework will be developed after the new year and piloted in the spring. For more information about the IECA conference or College Counseling programming available through UC San Diego Extension, please contact Morgan Appel at

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