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Human Development Counseling (M.Ed.)

Department of Human and Organizational Development

Program Overview

Counseling begins and ends with the needs of human beings. Gain experience working with diverse populations in diverse contexts by earning a Human Development Counseling (HDC) degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or School Counseling from Vanderbilt University.

The HDC master’s degree trains you to translate sound theoretical knowledge and research into effective counseling programs as a clinical mental health or school counselor. In a rigorous and integrated program of study, you will acquire a strong theoretical grounding in human development, counseling paradigms, and change strategies.


The HDC program recognizes the dynamic relationship between individuals, environments, and human systems. In order to meet the counseling needs of diverse populations, our students learn to integrate current research and evidence-based practice with sensitivity to social contexts and individual and systemic goals. HDC students employ counseling skills to maximize human potential and the development of individuals, groups, and organizations. They are uniquely qualified to appreciate the life-long nature of human development through the lens of advocacy and social justice.


The objectives listed below represent the major program objectives for all students in HDC. More specific objectives can be found in the syllabi for each course.

  1. To provide students with a thorough and comprehensive knowledge base in those areas of the social/behavioral sciences applicable to the helping profession. This includes a special emphasis on life-span human development.
  2. To aid students in the acquisition of counseling and helping skills such as individual counseling,supervision, testing, consulting, group work, interviewing, diagnosis, and assessment.
  3. To provide students with a knowledge of the organization and administration of human service agencies or schools as well as clarity regarding the role of the professional counselor in each of these settings.
  4. To educate students in research/evaluation tools relevant to the delivery of helping services in either a community agency, school, or corporate setting.
  5. To introduce students to the wide scope of diverse populations they will encounter in their work settings, and to provide students opportunities to work with diverse populations, building cultural competency in order to be able to work ethically with all people they may encounter in their work settings.

Courses offered in the Human Development Counseling program are designed to foster close working relationships between you, our faculty, and community partners. Such a personalized approach results in more productive classroom time and a more valuable field experience.


The Human Development Counseling program offers two curriculum tracks:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling: This track prepares you for a career in various social service agencies, mental health centers, and employee assistance programs, as well as other mental health organizations. Private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is an achievable goal if you pursue this track.
  • School Counseling: This track prepares you to work as a professional school counselor in grades K–12. Program requirements lead directly to licensure as a school counselor by meeting all of the requirements established by the Tennessee State Department of Education. This track is also available online. Students completing the 48-credit hour school counseling degree may also be eligible for licensure in Tennessee as a licensed professional counselor with additional graduate coursework and internship experience. Consult the licensure board website for the most recent qualification information (e.g.,
  • Dual Track Option: Students can meet all requirements for both the School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization in one degree! This option maximizes your employability AND you complete the degree with 1400 clinical experience hours. TN licensure as a school counselor as well as private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) are both achievable goals if you pursue this dual track.


NOTICE: Students must be aware that HDC courses usually take place on Monday through Thursday evenings (4:10-7 pm), although some morning course times and earlier starting times (3 pm) may occur. Also, because there are only four weeknight time spots available, several required and elective courses are offered on weekends, generally Friday afternoon/evening and all-day Saturday. Prospective and current students should plan accordingly as attendance is required.


The master’s degree in Human Development Counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The School Counseling track is also accredited as part of institutional accreditation awarded by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The new online School Counseling degree is currently seeking CACREP accreditation.

Important notes regarding HDC programs for prospective and current students to be aware:

  1. Expedited programs of study are possible with the permission of the advisor for students who transfer graduate credits into the program of study. Contact your advisor for guidance.
  2. Course attendance is required. Prospective and enrolled students must be aware that required or elective HDC courses usually meet after 4pm Monday-Thursday. However, some required and elective courses meet on weekends in a modified format (usually Friday afternoon/evening and all day Saturday of several nonconsecutive weekends). In addition, some morning class options may be available. Students admitted to HDC must maintain a flexible schedule to ensure attendance.
  3. Prospective and current students must be aware that internship sites are located in schools and clinics in the Nashville vicinity and surrounding counties and areas. Students must obtain their own transportation to and from internship sites. While Nashville has some public transportation services, internship sites may not be convenient to public transportation. Please plan ahead for your transportation needs.
  4. Prospective and current students must be aware that internship placements are competitively assigned and are therefore not guaranteed. Vanderbilt facilitates placement sites and interviews but the final decision on internship placement is up to the agencies and schools.
  5. As a comprehensive examination, students are required to take and pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) during their final semester in the program. The cost of this exam is about $150.


Completion Rate

Of the 20 students admitted to the CMHC Program, 18 students (90%) completed the degree in human development counseling in 2019. The other two original CMHC students (10%) completed the degree in human development studies. Of the eight (8) students admitted to the school counseling program, all eight students (100%) completed the degree in human development counseling. The SCDL program is in its second year of development with first graduates expected in May 2020. The withdrawal rate for AY2017-2019 SCDL students was 10% and one SCDL student is completing a degree in Human Development Studies.


National Counselor Exam (NCE) and Praxis

Because the HDC on-campus programs are accredited by CACREP, students are eligible to take the National Counselor Exam (NCE) the semester before graduation. The NCE is not a program requirement but the majority of students in both tracks sit for this exam before graduation. Of the 17 CMHC students and 6 SC students who took the NCE exam in 2018, 22 (96%) passed the exam. School counseling students are required to take the Praxis exam as part of the requirements for Tennessee licensure as a school counselor. Pass rate for this exam was 100% (6 of 6).  


Job Placement Rate

Of students pursuing full time employment after graduation, 100% (8/8) of SC 2019 graduates obtained full time employment in counseling within three months of graduation and 100% (18/18) of CMHC 2019 graduates obtained full time employment in clinical mental health counseling within three months of graduation.


Average Class Size

On-campus class sizes ranged from 3-24 students with an average of 12.7. SCDL class sizes ranged from 5-14 students with an average of 8.8.




New admissions for Fall 2019 include 36 CMHC on-campus students, 15 on-campus school counseling students, and 16 school counseling digital learning students. Total enrolled students across the three programs now number 81 students enrolled in the CMHC program, 28 students enrolled in the on-campus SC program, and 54 students enrolled in the SCDL program.


On Campus Program Demographics

The following graph shows the on campus gender proportion of the Fall 2018 incoming students compared to the new Fall 2019 incoming students. HDC’s attempts to recruit more males led to a substantial increase in the proportion of male students.



The racial characteristics of the 2019 class (current) also was more diverse than the 2018 (previous) class, primarily due to an influx in international students from China and India, but also new students of Hispanic descent.

 Racial characteristics

Finally, the average age of the 2019 (current) class increased to 25 years of age from 23.7 years for the 2018 (previous) class.


SCDL Program Demographics

Demographics for the school counseling digital learning program are presented below.

The ages of SCDL students range from 22-49 with a median age of 29 and an average of 31 years of age. Student gender held steady at 87% female, similar to the on campus percentage. The SCDL students demonstrate greater racial diversity than the on campus students. Only one international student has been enrolled in the digital learning program at this point and he completed a previous degree at Vanderbilt.



In the 2019 U.S. News and World, Peabody was ranked #6 in the nation as a college of education (, and Vanderbilt University was ranked #15 ( We are pleased to report that the HDC program was in a three-way tie for 10th place in the national rankings for counseling programs ( Importantly, HDC is the only program ranked in the top 20 without a counseling doctoral program, so this national ranking is due solely to the strength of the master’s programs. For AY2018-2019, HDC hired two full-time core faculty instructors to support the school counseling digital learning program. One of those faculty members was offered a continuing contract into 2019-2020. Fall 2019 represents the beginning of the third year of the SCDL program and we anticipate about 15 graduating students in May 2020. As a pleasant surprise, after its first year of operation, SCDL debuted as #1 in the national rankings for online school counseling programs by ( and #4 in the rankings (


The school counseling and CMHC programs agreed to change the names of the clinical experiences from a 100-hour practicum to a 200-hour Internship I and also change the name of the two-semester 600-hour internship to Internships II & III (300 hours completed in each semester). These changes took effect immediately after being accurately reflected in the Peabody College Graduate Catalog. The 200-hour Internship I (formerly known as practicum) was enacted for two primary reasons: (a) to allow students more time to develop and practice basic counseling skills with real clients and students, and (b) to make students more competitive for site placements. This change was in response to increasing preference for our interns over practicum students when making placement decisions coupled with increasing comments by site supervisors that supervising a practicum student for only a 100-hour experience was a great deal of effort for little return to the school or agency. Program faculty also made the name change to allow for the possibility that monetary stipends might be available for site supervisors. Previously, monetary stipends were available only for internship supervision. We continue to review data and supervisor feedback to better incentivize our current site supervisors and recruit more excellent sites for our interns, especially in light of increased program enrollments.


After many years of outstanding service as HDC program director and CACREP liaison, Dr. Gina Frieden has earned a well-deserved respite from these administrative responsibilities. Dr. Brad Erford assumed these roles in August 2019. Dr. Andy Finch continues to coordinate the SCDL program. Dr. Nicole Cobb was assigned to a new position as Associate Chair of the Department of Human and Organizational Development. She will continue to teach courses in HDC as she fulfills these new administrative responsibilities. The CACREP self-study report for the school counseling digital learning program is due in October 2019. The full program CACREP re-accreditation self-study (CMHC, SC, and SCDL) is due in June 2020. The faculty continue to collect, analyze, and use program outcome data to make continual adjustments to all HDC programs, as needed.



Program at a Glance

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Human Development Counseling

Department of Human and Organization Development

Program Director: Bradley T. Erford
For more information:
Admission Term: Spring and Fall
Credit Hours: 48-60
Priority Application Deadline: December 31* for fall entrance

* We will continue to accept applications after this date, but applications will be evaluated for admission and scholarships on a space-and-funds-available basis.

Careers in Human Development Counseling


The Human Development Counseling program offers two curriculum tracks:

With two distinct tracks as part of the graduate program in Human Development Counseling, there are two common career paths for our alumni:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling students often seek licensure and enter positions as Licensed Professional Counselors in for-profit or nonprofit agencies, private practice settings, or at private or charter schools as a mental health counselor on staff. Some go on to doctoral study in counseling or related fields.
  • School Counseling students often obtain licensure and work as school counselors in public or private K-12 settings.
  • Dual Track Option students meet all requirements for both of these specializations.

2019 Program Outcomes Report

HDC Program Evaluation Summary 3 Year 2018

HDC Program Outcomes Report Fall 2018

100% of job-seeking Human Development Counseling graduates were employed or attending graduate school within four months of graduation.

Click here to see a list of recent career placements:

Recent graduates of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling track have gone on to the following positions, among others:

  • Child and Adolescent Therapist, Thrive Counseling, Fayetteville, N.C.
  • Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Oasis Center, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Counselor, Rogers Behavioral Health, Chicago, Ill.
  • Mental Health Clinician, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Clinical Psychology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Recent graduates of the School Counseling track have joined the following institutions:

  • American Academy of Innovation, Daybreak, Utah
  • Golden Gate Middle School, Naples, Fla.
  • Marist School, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Nashville School for the Arts, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Oklahoma City High School, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Field Experience

Both tracks in the Human Development Counseling program include a practicum and full-year internship placement in a mental health, social service agency, or school setting under supervision.

You’ll develop fundamental counseling skills such as relationship building, basic assessment, goal setting, selecting interventions, and evaluation of client outcomes. Field experiences are designed to be supervised placements that are practice-oriented and provide a safe place to explore new skills.

The sites below represent a partial list of the opportunities available:

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practicum and Internship Sites

  • Hope Clinic for Women
  • Integrative Life Center
  • The Next Door
  • Vanderbilt Employee Assistance Program
  • Vanderbilt University Counseling Center
  • Vanderbilt School Based Therapy
  • Youth Opportunity Center
  • JourneyPure
  • Centerstone
  • Mental Health Co-op
  • Sexual Assault Center

School Counseling Practicum and Internship Sites

  • Cameron College Prep Charter School
  • Cheatham County Public Schools
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Pope John Paul II High School
  • Rutherford County Public Schools
  • St. Henry’s Elementary School
  • Sumner County Public Schools
  • University School of Nashville
  • Valor Collegiate Academy Charter School
  • Williamson County Public Schools

Program Curriculum

Through an experiential and humanistic training model, you’ll develop a strong theoretical grounding in human development and evidence-based practices within either program track: Clinical Mental Health Counseling or School Counseling.

This theoretical base is then shaped and honed through a 1-year internship experience that provides opportunities to apply your knowledge and skills.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The Clinical Mental Health Counseling track requires a 60-credit-hour program of studies. Included in this curriculum is a full-year internship placement in a mental health or social service agency setting under supervision.

Required Courses: 51 credit hours

You are required to choose two of the three following courses:

Elective Courses: 9 credit hours are required. Program electives are listed below.

School Counseling

The School Counseling track includes a 48-credit-hour curriculum with a full-year internship placement in a school setting. This curriculum includes 42 credit hours of required courses and an additional six semester hours of elective courses.

Required Courses: 42 credit hours                                                            

Electives: 6 hours are required. Program electives are listed below.

To qualify for graduation, degree candidate must:

  • Meet all curriculum requirements
  • Pass all prescribed examinations
  • Carry a minimum 3.0 grade point average
  • Achieve a P (Passing score; B or better) in both Practicum (now called Internship I in the school counseling tracks) and Internship
  • Pass comprehensive examinations
  • Be free of debt to Vanderbilt University


Program Curriculum


All core and affiliated faculty are engaged in a variety of interdisciplinary teaching and professional activities.

Nicole A. Cobb
  • Associate Professor of the Practice and Associate Department Chair, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Kelly J. Duncan
  • Core Faculty, Human Development Counseling
  • Lecturer, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Karen Enyedy
  • Lecturer, Department of Human and Organizational Development
  • Lecturer, Human Development Counseling
Bradley T. Erford
  • Program Director, Core Faculty, Professor, Human Development Counseling
Andrew Finch
  • Core Faculty, Human Development Counseling
  • Professor of the Practice, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Gina Frieden
  • Core Faculty, Human Development Counseling
  • Assistant Professor of the Practice, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Maury Nation
  • Core Faculty, Human Development Counseling
  • Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Nancy Nolan
  • Lecturer, Human Development Counseling
  • Lecturer, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Heather L. Smith
  • Core Faculty, Human Development Counseling
  • Assistant Professor of the Practice, Department of Human and Organizational Development