Earning a master’s in school counseling online gives you the tools to help students maximize their academic potential, making this a career that is both personally and professionally rewarding. School counselors are a vital part of educational institutions. These counselors support students as they confront academic, social, emotional, and familial challenges. In the long term, school counselors help students develop the skills they need to achieve their educational and career goals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for school and career counselors is $55,410. School counselor positions are projected to increase by 13% between 2016 and 2026, which is nearly double the 7% national average for all occupations.
The Best Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs
Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
1. University of Missouri
The largest higher education institution in the state, the University of Missouri serves more than 30,000 students from its main campus in Columbia. The school also hosts a large selection of online programs, including a master of education in educational, school, and counseling psychology with an emphasis in mental health practices in schools. This program trains candidates to assess, identify, and manage atypical behaviors in students, building the skills needed to implement effective intervention programs, strategies, and student resources. Graduates can work with families, school personnel, and community agencies to facilitate learning in diverse student populations. Faculty members deliver all of the curriculum online, with no required campus visits. The school also offers in-state tuition to online learners, regardless of their location.
The curriculum of this online school counseling degree requires participants to earn a minimum of 34 credits, split between a 25-credit program core and nine credits of electives. The core curriculum explores foundational counseling concepts, including classes like school mental health policy and developmental aspects of human learning. Elective course options include proactive behavior management, bullying and youth violence, immigrant issues in education, and wellness management for school personnel. Additionally, several electives may be applied toward a graduate certificate in multicultural education, which requires students to complete a total of 12 credits. The program concludes with an integrative capstone paper where distance learners demonstrate mastery of key skills and competencies.
Mizzou is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
2. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Established in 1883 in the city of Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota is the oldest university in the state. The school serves as a center of scholarship and research, teaching more than 14,000 students annually. UND offers an online master of arts in counseling with an emphasis in K-12 school counseling. This program trains graduates to promote personal, professional, academic, and social development among primary and secondary school students. Consisting of 50 credits, the degree takes full-time participants around 2.5 years to complete. As one of the more affordable online school counseling programs, UND offers in-state tuition to distance learners, regardless of their residency status.
The program uses a live format that allows students to interact with classmates and faculty through video conferencing and other collaborative tools. These synchronous sessions occur 2-3 times each week, usually in the evenings, and professors work with learners to try and schedule course meeting times that accommodate all students' schedules. All coursework can be completed online, with the exception of two required summer residency sessions held on the UND campus. Lasting four days each, these intensive residencies typically occur in either June or July and run from Wednesday to Saturday. These in-person sessions offer students the chance to participate in a variety of collaborative classroom activities and seminars. Candidates also complete a one-semester practicum and a two-semester internship in a K-12 school.
UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
3. Oregon State University
With a total enrollment of over 30,000 students, Oregon State University is the largest school in the state. The university is also home to one of the largest distance education programs in the region. OSU’s master of counseling with an option in school counseling builds skills in group and individual counseling, leadership, action research, advocacy, and consultation and system change. The 75-credit curriculum prepares graduates to develop and deliver counseling programs to K-12 students of all backgrounds, emphasizing methods to increase college enrollment rates, particularly among underrepresented populations. Courses begin in the summer and operate on a quarter system with four 11-week terms each year.
This program uses a hybrid format, combining online coursework and classroom learning with two campus-based intensive sessions held each term in Salem. These weekend residencies last from Friday to Saturday and allow participants to engage in collaborative classroom learning, workshops, guest lectures, networking, and socialization with classmates and faculty. During their first year, candidates complete a traditional internship in an educational setting, spending 4-6 hours each week on this experience. Additionally, unlike many online school counseling programs, OSU lets students in their second and third years engage in online practicum and internship experiences. These synchronous courses occur in a live, online format, helping distance learners gain professional experience without needing to travel to a K-12 school to complete internship hours.
OSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
4. Vanderbilt University
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt is a top private school that enrolls more than 12,000 students from around the country. The school’s master of education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling can be completed online and combines extensive research, theoretical knowledge, and practical skills to prepare graduates to assist students, families, schools, and communities. The program stresses six key principles: social and cultural diversity, human growth, helping relationships, research and assessment, career development, and ethical practice. This online school counseling degree requires participants to earn a minimum of 48 credits and typically takes 2-3 years to complete. The curriculum includes 33 credits of core coursework, six credits of electives, and nine hours of placement/practicum experiences.
The program uses a primarily online format, with live class meetings held weekly at set times. These virtual classroom sessions include group discussions, guided learning activities, and Q&A sessions with faculty. Students also complete asynchronous coursework on their own schedule throughout the week. Some of the program’s noteworthy courses include exceptional education and the DSM for school counselors, counseling for college access, and fundamentals of counseling online.
In addition to online courses, degree candidates must attend two campus immersion sessions in Nashville. These campus intensives bring online students and professors together for a weekend of collaborative projects, group activities, workshops, and social events. Immersion sessions also allow distance learners to work on developing their own counseling models.
Vanderbilt is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
5. Liberty University Online
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University enrolls nearly 100,000 students in its online programs. The school’s master of education in school counseling offers a biblical approach to counseling. Participants learn how to help their students undergo personal, social, academic, and professional development in public, private, and Christian school settings. Integrating faith and spirituality with psychology and counseling theories, this degree track prepares graduates to develop and implement school counseling programs.
This online school counseling degree consists of 48 credits and offers eight start dates throughout the year. Courses last eight weeks and use a primarily online delivery format, although Liberty does require degree candidates to attend some intensive sessions on campus in Lynchburg. Typically lasting about a week, these residencies offer students the chance to collaborate with classmates and faculty, complete in-depth coursework, and participate in social activities. The school also offers weekend intensives to accommodate student scheduling.
Along with standard coursework, counseling students complete a six-credit internship/practicum in a professional education environment; many individuals elect to carry out this requirement at their place of employment. This internship gives candidates the opportunity to connect course learning to their own counseling practice, while also building professional experience. Students not employed in the education field can work with Liberty to arrange an internship within their community.
Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
6. Wake Forest University
Winston Salem, NC
A private school based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest University serves around 8,000 students annually. The school’s master of arts in counseling with a concentration in school counseling can be completed online and focuses on both clinical skills and theoretical knowledge, training candidates to serve the needs of children and families. Wake Forest emphasizes academic rigor and professional preparation, and 98% of program graduates pass the National Counselor Examination.
The school counseling concentration stresses key subject areas including professional research, social and cultural foundations, human growth and development, helping relationships, and professional orientation. The 60-credit curriculum includes 12 credits of foundation courses, 18 credits of core school counseling courses, eight credits of beginning practice courses, and 22 credits of advanced practice courses. Some of the degree’s notable classes include lifespan development implications for counseling, cultures and counseling, and addiction counseling.
Along with standard coursework, this online master’s in school counseling includes both a practicum and an internship requirement. The 200-hour practicum serves as preparation for the internship, allowing candidates to build professional experience in a supervised education setting. The internship requires a minimum of 600 hours and offers candidates the chance to develop their own counseling practice in a K-12 school under expert supervision. The program concludes with a two-credit professional identity capstone course where students reflect on and develop their notions of professional counseling.
Wake Forest is regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
7. Indiana Wesleyan University
Affiliated with the Wesleyan Church, Indiana Wesleyan University is a private Christian school based in the city of Marion, located about 85 miles northeast of Indianapolis. With an enrollment of over 15,000 students, IWU ranks as the largest Christian school in the state. The school also features a sizeable online program that serves students across the country. IWU’s online master of arts in school counseling integrates counseling theory and practice with Christian morals, training candidates to serve as professional school counselors who can address each student’s academic and social needs.
The curriculum for this online school counseling degree includes a 27-credit program core, nine credits of specialization courses, a three-credit elective class, a three-credit practicum, and a six-credit internship. Most coursework is delivered online, although IWU does require participants to attend two weekend intensive sessions on campus. Typically held in early May and late October, these campus residencies last from Thursday through Saturday and allow individuals to collaborate with classmates in a classroom setting. The practicum lasts one semester and requires learners to accrue 100 hours of face-to-face experience in an education setting. Additionally, the internship lasts two semesters and features 600 hours of face-to-face experience. Students typically perform these experiences at their place of employment, but IWU can help arrange local placements for those not employed in the education field.
IWU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
8. New York University
New York, New York
Manhattan-based New York University offers a master of arts in counseling and guidance that emphasizes social equity and social justice, focusing on both counseling practice and research techniques. This online master’s in school counseling offers two concentrations: general school counseling and bilingual school counseling. The program also uses a rolling admissions system with three start dates per year in January, June, and September. Full-time students can complete this program in as few as 18 months.
The curriculum consists of 48 credits and takes 7-11 academic terms to complete. The program uses a cohort format where participants move through most courses together in a set sequence, creating a collaborative environment and deeper professional connections. Some of NYU’s noteworthy courses include career counseling, cross-cultural counseling, and program development and evaluation. Candidates also compete a six-credit, three-term internship in school counseling where they develop their professional practice in a K-12 school or a similar education environment.
The program curriculum prepares all online learners to complete the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), which is an industry standard that assesses students' psychological and counseling knowledge. Students sit for the CPCE during their final academic term; this exam serves as the program’s culminating experience.
NYU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
9. Fort Hays State University
Based in central Kansas, Fort Hays State University educates about 15,000 students, and more than a third of these participants enroll in online courses. The school offers three options for candidates pursuing a master’s in school counseling online: a traditional program, a parallel pathways program, and a restricted license program. The traditional 48-credit program requires candidates to hold a teaching license, while the parallel pathways program does not require a license but includes six additional credits of coursework. The restricted license program is intended for licensed professional counselors who do not have a teaching license but want to pursue work in the field of school counseling. Curriculum requirements vary based on a student’s previous coursework.
FHSU offers a flexible course rotation system that allows online students to take most required courses in the fall or spring semesters. Many courses can also be taken during the summer, although offerings may vary significantly from year to year. Faculty deliver most classes entirely online, although some (including counseling skills development, group counseling, and professional and ethical issues in counseling) require limited campus attendance. These campus-based sessions typically take place over the course of a weekend and occur twice per semester. Along with online and classroom courses, students complete an internship and a practicum, building professional experience in a supervised education environment. The three-credit practicum lasts one semester, while the six-credit internship lasts two semesters.
FHSU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
10. Creighton University
A Jesuit, Roman Catholic school based in Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton University serves more than 8,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school’s master of science in school counseling and preventative mental health teaches learners a deep understanding of child adolescence and development, preparing graduates to offer effective leadership and guidance to primary and secondary students. The program offers three specialization options: PK-12 guidance counseling, elementary school counseling, and secondary school counseling. Creighton offers all courses entirely online, and most students earn their degree in around two years.
This online school counseling degree requires individuals to earn 36-39 credits, depending on their specialization. All candidates complete the same 30-credit program core, which includes courses in career perspectives for children and adolescents, social justice and diversity, and action research in school counseling. The elementary and secondary school tracks require an additional six credits of concentration courses, while the PK-12 guidance counseling track requires an additional nine credits. Candidates without teaching certification must take nine additional credits of education coursework, including classes in school culture and curriculum, instruction, and assessment. All students complete a 600-hour internship, which helps them develop their professional skills in a school setting.
Creighton offers a generous selection of scholarships to education and counseling students, and the program automatically considers all applicants for these tuition awards. The university gives out scholarships based on experience, academics, personal recommendations, and personal statements. Additionally, Catholic school educators receive special consideration for these scholarships.
Creighton is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
11. University of Louisiana at Monroe
Part of the statewide University of Louisiana System, ULM serves around 8,500 students through campus and online programs. The school’s master of science in counseling with a concentration in school counseling trains degree candidates to facilitate creative and collaborative learning environments for K-12 students, developing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes essential for effective counseling practice. The program prepares graduates to serve in a variety of helping roles, including school counselors, school administrators, career counselors, vocation counselors, and education consultants. Most degree candidates complete the program within two years of full-time study. Applicants to the program must hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a minimum combined score of 290 on the GRE.
The curriculum of this online school counseling degree includes 60 credits, divided between 48 credits of core counseling courses and 12 credits of specialty coursework. The school counseling concentration includes three key courses: school counseling, principles and administration of school counseling programs, and an internship in a school setting. The internship requires participants to complete a minimum of 600 supervised field work hours in an approved education setting. Candidates typically perform the internship at their own place of employment, although ULM can help learners find internship placements at other organizations. Additionally, ULM is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, providing students with access to a wider selection of online courses through affiliate institutions.
ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
12. Emporia State University
Founded in 1863, Emporia State University is one of the oldest higher education institutions in Kansas. The school serves around 5,700 students. ESU’s hybrid master of science in counseling degree offers about half of its course materials online, with the remaining credits completed at ESU’s main campus or at ESU-KC in Overland Park. The program has start dates in the summer, fall, and spring.
ESU offers multiple pathways to admission for candidates pursuing a master’s in school counseling online. Certified teachers with at least two years of teaching experience can enter through the traditional admissions path. Prospective students with counseling degrees can enter through the alternative route to restricted licensure program, while those with bachelor’s degrees in any field can enroll through the parallel pathways program, which forgoes teaching certification and experience requirements in favor of additional education and field experience courses.
The traditional program requires students to complete 48 credits, while the parallel pathways program may require as many as 54 credits (depending on a student’s academic and professional experience). Some of ESU’s notable counseling courses include psychosocial development and disability, multicultural counseling, parenting and parent consultation, and group process in counseling. All pathways offer thesis and non-thesis options. Students must also perform an internship and a supervised practicum in counseling.
ESU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
13. The University of Tennessee-Martin
Based in western Tennessee, UTM is a public university that offers a master of science in education in school counseling. This primarily online degree builds students’ technical skills, personal awareness, cultural sensitivity, and empathy. UTM’s counselor education model focuses on two major concepts: a commitment to diverse learners and the use of technology to enhance communication and student learning.
This online school counseling degree consists of 48 credits, divided between a graduate core, concentration courses, and a culminating experience. The six-credit graduate core includes courses in education research and multicultural issues in education and counseling, laying a foundation for advanced work. The 36-credit counseling concentration features classes in career development and counseling, group dynamics, and principles of crisis intervention. Candidates select three advanced elective classes, allowing them to pursue specialized study in areas such as psychopathology, educational statistics, and human sexuality. The concentration curriculum also includes a three-credit practicum, which leads into the program’s culminating experience: a six-credit, two-semester counseling internship that requires individuals to engage in at least 600 hours of supervised practice.
While UTM offers all counseling coursework online, candidates must attend a four-day residency session on campus, in either January or June. This residency offers classmates and faculty the chance to interact and collaborate through a variety of group and individual meetings and learning activities. Each residency focuses on specific counseling concepts and includes presentations, discussions, and counseling role playing activities.
UTM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
14. University of Central Arkansas
Founded in 1907, the University of Central Arkansas is one of the oldest schools in the state. UCA has always served as a center of teacher education in the state, and the school’s master of science in professional school counseling trains candidates to create, implement, maintain, and assess developmental counseling programs that adhere to national and state standards. The program’s curriculum is aligned with both the American School Counselor Association and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education Standards. Graduates serve as leaders, advocates, and collaborators, both in schools and in communities at large. UCA offers two degree pathways: initial licensure for candidates without an Arkansas teaching license and add-on licensure for candidates with an Arkansas teaching license who want to move into counseling.
The program uses a primarily online, synchronous format with virtual class meetings held at scheduled times. Some courses also feature asynchronous components. UCA requires counseling degree candidates to attend occasional face-to-face sessions held on campus in Conway, although these residencies usually occur during weekends to accommodate working professionals. At most, students may need to attend one or two Saturday sessions per semester.
This 48-credit online school counseling degree includes a total of 16 courses, covering topics such as developmental guidance, school-based organizational leadership, and education programs for the mildly handicapped. All candidates also complete a one-semester practicum and a two-semester internship. These experiences allow students to draw connections between coursework and counseling practice while developing their professional skills.
UCA is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
15. University of Massachusetts
The third-largest member of the University of Massachusetts System, UMass Boston is home to more than 16,000 students, many of whom attend classes online. The school’s master of education in school counseling uses a cohort model that requires all learners to move through the same course sequence as a group. This format allows for deeper connections and collaboration between students, but it also means that online learners can only enroll in the program full-time (by taking nine credits per semester). Part-time options may be available to students who can enroll in some on-campus courses.
The program begins in the summer, kicking off with its only in-person requirement: a two-week residency session held in Boston. This intensive residency includes opportunities to meet with classmates and faculty along with two clinical courses that build hands-on counseling experience. The school offers housing accommodations for all participants, although students must make their own travel arrangements. This summer residency typically takes place from late June to early July.
This master’s in school counseling online program requires candidates to complete a minimum of 60 credits and typically takes about two years to finish. The curriculum covers key topics, featuring courses in career development facilitation and training, college readiness counseling, family therapy theories, and collaborative consultation in schools. All candidates complete a three-credit practicum in school counseling and a six-credit advanced internship seminar.
UMass Boston is regionally accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
16. University of the Cumberlands
A private Christian school affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, University of the Cumberlands serves around 7,600 students from a main campus in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Many individuals also take classes through the school’s online program. Among these online offerings is UC’s master of arts in education with a concentration in school counseling. This degree track trains candidates to design and develop support programs for K-12 schools. Although this online master’s in school counseling does not lead to initial teaching licensure, graduates gain certification in school counseling that can be added to a teaching license. UC offers curriculum pathways for both current teachers and non-teachers.
This 45-credit degree is available entirely online, with most courses offered in an asynchronous format with no set class meeting times. Notable courses include theory and practice of multicultural counseling, introduction to addiction counseling, and legal and ethical issues in counseling. UC requires both teachers and non-teachers to earn substantial professional experience in an education environment, although these requirements vary greatly between the two tracks. Current teachers complete 30 pre-practicum clinical hours followed by a 125-hour practicum, while non-teachers complete 100 field hours followed by a 500-hour internship.
UC’s online students can access the school’s graduate advising center, which assists with registration and academic planning. Graduate advisers work with students to explore course options, go over UC’s academic standards, and help learners use other school resources.
UC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
17. Gallaudet University
Based in the District of Columbia, Gallaudet University is one of the country’s only higher education institutions dedicated to the deaf and hard of hearing. The school’s master of arts in school counseling is a hybrid program that mixes campus-based and online learning. Candidates typically take online courses during the regular school year and campus courses during the summer. The curriculum emphasizes support for deaf and hard of hearing students, and applicants with professional experience serving these populations receive preference during the admission process. Prospective students must demonstrate proficiency in American Sign Language through a live interview with program faculty. Applicants must also hold at least nine undergraduate or graduate credits in a field related to psychology, such as developmental psychology or abnormal psychology.
Candidates pursuing this online school counseling degree complete a minimum of 63 credits, covering topics such as play therapy, substance prevention for children and youth, psychopharmacology for counselors, lifespan development, and assessment for counseling. The curriculum also includes a significant component dedicated to American Sign Language; deaf studies; and hearing, speech, and language sciences. Gallaudet is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, and students can enroll in additional elective courses offered by affiliate colleges. All candidates must also complete a practicum and an intensive, 12-credit internship. This internship forms the program’s final semester. Most students earn their degree within three years.
Gallaudet is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
18. Southern Arkansas University
Based near the Louisiana border in the city of Magnolia, Southern Arkansas University is a public school that serves a student body of around 4,700 individuals. The school’s smaller size allows it to maintain a student-to-faculty ratio of 17-to-1, offering personalized instruction to both on-campus and online students. SAU’s master of education in school counseling can be completed online or in a hybrid format. This program integrates theoretical knowledge and the practical application of skills, preparing graduates to meet the developmental needs of K-12 students. The program offers two degree pathways: add-on licensure for applicants who hold a valid Arkansas teaching license and initial licensure for applicants without a teaching license. Students seeking initial licensure typically complete additional courses, which vary depending on their professional and academic experience. By taking two classes per semester, most candidates complete the program in 2.5-3 years.
This 48-credit degree includes a three-credit professional education core, a 36-credit counseling core, and nine credits of supervised experiences. The counseling core covers foundational and advanced topics, including counseling theories, ethical and professional counseling practices, human development for helping professionals, and counseling in a diverse society. The supervised experience component requires candidates to complete a three-credit practicum and six internship credits. The internship lasts two semesters; students perform 600 hours of supervised work, split evenly between elementary and secondary school environments. Online learners can also pursue a graduate certificate in school counseling. This certification requires participants to complete 12-18 credits, all of which can also be applied toward their graduate degree.
SAU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
19. Mercy College
Dobbs Ferry, New York
Located in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Mercy College is a private, Roman Catholic-affiliated school that serves around 12,000 students annually. The school’s online master of science in counseling program offers two tracks: a general counseling certification and a certification with a bilingual extension. Both degree pathways prepare graduates to serve as counselors in urban or suburban school settings, teaching them to devise and implement effective assistance and outreach programs for students and families.
Both degree tracks feature the same general curriculum, including a 33-credit counseling core, a 12-credit internship component, and a three-credit course in college planning and preparation counseling. The bilingual extension features an additional course in theory and practice in bilingual education as well as a course in multicultural perspectives and the teacher learning process. The program core covers counseling ethics, human development, multicultural perspectives, and research methodology. The internship lasts two semesters, allowing students to gain professional experience by completing hands-on counseling work at a K-12 school. Bilingual extension candidates perform this work in a bilingual school setting. The program also prepares graduates for school counselor certification from the New York State Education Department. To obtain bilingual counseling certification, candidates must also pass the Bilingual Evaluation Assessment Examination.
While most coursework is available online, Mercy does require counseling students to attend a two-week residency on campus. This extended classroom session ties together key program topics and offers learners the chance to interact with classmates and professors.
Mercy is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
20. Hampton University
Based in coastal Virginia and founded in 1868, Hampton University is a historically black college. Today, the school serves around 4,600 students through on-campus and online programming. The school’s hybrid master of arts in counseling with a concentration in school counseling is a career-focused program that prepares graduates to receive professional counselor licensure upon graduation. Online learners at Hampton gain access to support in the form of library services, writing tutoring, academic counseling, technology support, career services, and military and veterans services.
Hampton offers this program as an online completion degree, meaning that candidates complete 31 credits of general counseling coursework online before transferring into the school counseling concentration, which requires learners to enroll in mainly on-campus courses. The general counseling concentration builds foundational knowledge by covering assessment and appraisal, group process, and career development. Candidates then move onto advanced courses, such as counseling with diverse populations, curriculum design and instructional technology, abnormal psychology and psychopathology, and crisis intervention and grief counseling.
Degree candidates also perform a professional practicum and an internship, worth three credits each. These supervised experiential activities offer students the chance to develop their own professional counseling practice with guidance from experienced school counselors and faculty members. Many candidates fulfill the practicum and internship requirements at their workplace. This online master’s in school counseling program concludes with a comprehensive final exam.
Hampton is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Choosing an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program
Online school counseling programs typically address subjects including human development, educational research methods, and the social, emotional, and environmental factors that affect student wellbeing. By becoming familiar with these topics, aspiring counselors acquire the knowledge and skills they need to assess student needs, respond to school crises, and maintain ethical practices within diverse educational settings.
While some online school counseling programs provide a general overview of the field, others encourage students to focus their studies. Degree concentrations grant students specialized knowledge of particular counseling issues or school populations. Some programs offer concentrations in career or academic counseling, while others prepare aspiring counselors to address the needs of groups such as bilingual students or military family members.
Another common feature of an online school counseling degree is a field experience component, such as a practicum or internship. The lengths and formats of field experiences vary. Most programs also prepare future counselors for licensure according to national standards, state requirements, and individual student goals.
Although the length of a program differs between schools, students pursuing a master’s in school counseling online typically earn the degree in two to three years.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?
Although the specifics vary by school and program, students completing an online master’s in school counseling must usually fulfill similar requirements. Curricula typically include research, theory, and fieldwork components related to school and career counseling.
Students earning a master’s in school counseling online may take courses comparable to those listed below.
The Curriculum for an Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling
- Psycho-educational assessment: In this course, aspiring school counselors discuss various assessment theories, methods, and interpretations related to learner achievement and well-being. Students practice writing evaluation reports and providing curricular adjustment recommendations. Coursework addresses the applications and ethical considerations of observation methods, clinical interviews, and mental status exams within diverse educational settings.
- Ethics and legal issues in school counseling: This course offers students an overview of school counseling. Future school counselors examine the historical and philosophical foundations of their field. They discuss the role of counselors in student advocacy and social change, considering the impacts of cultural dynamics and counseling trends on schools.
- Career development and counseling: Students study theories, techniques, and decision-making models related to career development. Students learn strategies for coordinating job searches, assessing learner interests, and developing career plans. Coursework emphasizes the effects of environmental factors on decision making. This course is especially relevant to aspiring career counselors.
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in School Counseling Prepares For
- National board certified school counselor: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) recognizes the competence and expertise of K-12 education professionals. The NBPTS school counseling certification demonstrates a counselors' commitment to student learning and core education principles. Online school counseling programs may prepare graduates for NBPTS certification, which includes portfolio and exam requirements.
- National certified school counselor: The National Board for Certified Counselors offers general and specialty certifications for counseling professionals. Counselors must possess the national certified counselor credential before becoming national certified school counselors. Both certifications incorporate supervised practice, professional endorsement, and exam components. Students pursuing a master’s in school counseling online may begin the NCC certification process prior to graduation.
Online Master’s in School Counseling Careers
Earning an online master’s in school counseling prepares students to support children, families, and communities as academic, guidance, or career counselors. These professionals help students and graduates achieve their goals in public and private schools.
After earning an online school counseling degree, graduates are usually prepared for the careers listed below.
Elementary or Middle School Counselor: These professionals help children develop foundational skills for academic and social success. They assess and address students' strengths and weaknesses. School counselors work with teachers, parents, and administrators to create supportive environments that meet children’s developmental and learning needs. They typically hold a master’s degree and state licensure or certification.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,410
- Projected Growth Rate: 13%
High School Counselor: These counselors support adolescent students as they plan their academic and professional futures. They help learners select classes, set career goals, and overcome personal challenges. High school counselors assist students with college, financial aid, and job training applications. Most of these professionals possess a master’s degree and a state-issued credential.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,410
- Projected Growth Rate: 13%
Career Counselor: These professionals evaluate people’s qualifications and help them set and achieve career goals. Their clients may include students selecting a college major, employees seeking advancement or a career change, or laid-off workers looking for work. Career counselors advise clients on job search strategies, interview etiquette, networking practices, and workplace conflict resolution.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,410
- Projected Growth Rate: 13%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees
Before enrolling in an online school counseling program, students should consider its accreditation status. Meeting external accreditation standards represents school or program quality. Many students pursue graduate education to advance their careers, and most employers prefer to hire candidates with credentials from an accredited school.
Although national accreditation is common among career-based and for-profit colleges, it is less prestigious than regional accreditation. Regionally accredited schools must pass a more rigorous evaluation process and are therefore more highly regarded.
The U.S. has six regional accreditation bodies, each of which oversees the quality of colleges and universities within a specific geographic area. Institutions that focus on academics are usually regionally accredited and do not accept credits from nationally accredited programs.
Students interested in earning an online master’s in school counseling should also seek a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs or Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council. These organizations evaluate counseling graduate programs for their commitment to professional standards and research-based practices.
Professional Organizations for School Counseling
School counselor professional organizations can benefit students and graduates of online school counseling programs. Professional organizations grant school counselors access to resources such as conferences, continuing education programs, research publications, and networking events. Additional member benefits often include online communities, product discounts, insurance benefits, and opportunities to obtain grant funding.
Students completing a master’s in school counseling online may seek membership in one of the organizations listed below.
- American School Counselor Association (ASCA): ASCA supports the research-based improvement of counseling programs in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. It promotes ethical practices, sponsors research initiatives, encourages legislative advocacy, and encourages strategic partnerships between schools and stakeholders.
- American Counseling Association (ACA): ACA provides leadership opportunities, career resources, and research information to professionals in diverse counseling disciplines. Members participate in legislative outreach, professional training events, ethics consultations, and information exchange within specialized divisions.
- Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC): ACAC advocates for improved understanding of children and adolescents among counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health workers. It encourages continuing education and research dissemination to improve counselor training, raise professional standards, and advance developmentally appropriate practices.