The Best Online Master’s in School Counseling
| TBS Staff
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School counselors play an integral role in the educational support system by guiding students through critical turning points in their lives.
Common areas where counselors play a role include academic development, career and college development, and social development.
Nearly every state requires school counselors to hold a master's degree and a state license. The best candidates also hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Students who pursue a master's in school counseling enter a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% increase in demand for this role through 2028. Students should note that wages and job availability vary by geographic location. Job availability also fluctuates by industry and target population.
This page provides information about the top online master's programs in school counseling, including how to select one, curricula and licenses, career trajectories, and professional organizations.
|#1||Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC|
|#2||North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC|
|#3||University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA|
|#4||Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA|
|#5||University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA|
|#6||Harding University Searcy, AR|
|#7||Southeastern Oklahoma State University Durant, OK|
|#8||Angelo State University San Angelo, TX|
|#9||University of the Southwest Hobbs, NM|
|#10||University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND|
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs
Founded in 1834, Wake Forest enrolls more than 8,000 students across 45 programs of study.
Wake Forest offers a master of arts in counseling with a school counseling track. The curriculum covers lifespan development, counseling skills and techniques, issues in school counseling. Coursework takes place entirely online, and students complete practicums and internships in school settings to gain hands-on experience.
Applicants must submit proof of an undergraduate GPA that exceeds 2.5 as well as GRE scores, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.
A top research institution, NC State teaches over 36,000 students in hands-on programs emphasizing science, education, and social sciences.
NC State offers an online master of education in counselor education for students interested in working as professional school counselors. Courses include career counseling and development, strategies for clinical assessment, and special problems in guidance.
This program meets course requirements for professional licensure in North Carolina.
Applicants must reside in North Carolina and submit official transcripts, GRE or MAT scores, and three letters of recommendation.
As a top private research institution, USC teaches 46,000 graduate and undergraduate students each year.
USC offers an online master of education in school counseling for students seeking work in K-12 settings. Coursework takes place entirely online and includes classes such as legal and ethical issues in counseling, human development theory, and research methods and data analysis for counselors.
To graduate, students must complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. Graduates qualify for California's Pupil Personnel Services-School Counseling (PPS-SC) credential.
The program prefers applicants with a GPA of at least 3.0.
With origins stretching back 150 years, Lehigh teaches just over 7,000 students each year.
Lehigh offers a master of education in international school counseling for students who work in educational settings outside of the U.S. Most coursework takes place online, but students must attend summer intensives on-campus.
Courses include counseling and therapeutic approaches, culture-centered career intervention, and helping skills in an international setting. Students must also complete at least 100 hours of in-person fieldwork.
U.S. citizens can qualify for Pennsylvania certification as school counselors. International students may qualify for certification in other states.
Applicants must demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
With 80 years of experience educating students, ULM now provides more than 35 online degree programs to support student success.
ULM offers an online master of science in counseling with a school counseling track. Courses include counseling theories, clinical assessment and psychometrics, and principles of administration in school counseling programs. Students may optionally choose a focus area in pediatrics or marriage and family.
To graduate, students must complete 60 credits, nine of which fall under practicum and internship courses.
Founded in 1924 as a Christian college, Harding continues to offer a Christ-based education to nearly 5,000 students each year.
Harding offers a master of science in professional school counseling that meets course requirements for K-12 licensure in Arkansas. Most courses are available online or in a hybrid format. Classes include trauma-focused behavioral therapy, tech-assisted and distance counseling, and legal and ethical issues in counseling.
To graduate, students must complete 60 credits and a practicum and internship.
Applicants must submit official transcripts with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and MAT or GRE scores.
Founded in 1909, Southeastern teachers over 4,700 students each year.
Southeastern offers an online master of education in school counseling in an accelerated and flexible format. The 42-credit program includes courses in social and cultural diversity issues, human growth and development, and psychopathology and treatment planning.
Students must complete a minimum of 100 hours of practicum work, 40 of which must include direct contact with clients.
Applicants must hold a valid teaching certificate and demonstrate a GPA of at least 2.0. The program does not require GRE scores. Depending on GPA, students may need to demonstrate two years of work experience.
Founded in 1928, ASU serves nearly 10,800 students across 85 academic programs.
ASU offers an online master of science in professional school counseling that prepares students to take the Texas Examination of Educator Standards for the Texas School Counselor Certificate. Courses include social and cultural influences, legal and ethical principles, and career and occupational counseling.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 2.75. The program does not require GRE scores.
To be certified in Texas, students must have two years of teaching experience.
Founded in 1962, USW provides a Christian education through online and on-campus graduate and undergraduate programs.
USW offers an online master of science in education - school counseling for students pursuing licensure in a K-12 setting in New Mexico. Courses include psycho-educational assessment, child and adolescent counseling, and crisis and trauma intervention.
To graduate, students must earn 42 credits through core courses, electives, and practicum and internship experiences.
Applicants must demonstrate a 3.0 GPA for all undergraduate coursework.
Founded in 1883, UND teaches more than 13,600 students across 225 online programs.
UND offers an online master of arts in counseling - K-12 school counseling that can be completed in as little as three years. Courses include foundations in counseling, group theory and process, and trauma and crisis counseling.
To graduate, students complete 60-65 credits include a practicum and an internship.
Applicants must submit transcripts demonstrating a 2.75 GPA or higher and the completion of undergraduate courses in abnormal psychology and developmental psychology.
Established in 1909, A-State teaches more than 14,000 students through over 150 academic programs.
A-State offers an online master of education in school counseling with a focus on K-12 settings. Courses include techniques and instructional school counseling interventions, program development in professional school counseling, and psycho-social aspects of development.
Students also complete practicum and internship placements in a site local to them.
Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 and propose a site supervisor for internship placement.
Founded in 1909, SAU now offers more than 80 academic programs in on-campus and online formats.
SAU offers a hybrid master of education in school counseling that meets licensure requirements in Arkansas. Courses include foundations of school counseling, assessment procedures for counseling, and counseling children and adolescents.
To graduate, students must earn 48 credits and complete a practicum and internships in both elementary and secondary settings. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program.
Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 and submit GRE, MAT, or GMAT scores.
With origins stretching back 100 years, ECU now enrolls nearly 28,800 students across more than 170 degree programs.
ECU offers an online master of science in counselor education with a school counseling specialization. Courses include research methods and design, analysis of the individual, and social and cultural issues in counseling. Students also complete counseling internships.
The curriculum satisfies North Carolina requirements for school counselor licensure.
Applicants must demonstrate a 2.75 undergraduate GPA and GRE or MAT scores in the 30th percentile, as well as significant leadership or work experience.
Founded in 1839, Mizzou now enrolls more than 31,000 students from all over the U.S. and
Mizzou offers an online master of education with a school counseling emphasis. Courses last eight weeks each and cover tpoics like theories and techniques of counseling, foundations of career psychology, and counseling children and adolescents.
Students take one course at a time and typically complete the program in three years. The program also requires a 12-credit counseling psychology practicum.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credits of coursework.
Established in 1960, MBU continues to provide a Christian education to more than 5,500 students each year.
MBU offers a master of arts in school counseling with traditional and licensure tracks. Only students in the traditional track may take courses online. Students typically complete the program in three years.
Courses include counseling skills and techniques, advanced human development, and assessment and testing. Students also take lab, practicum, and internship courses to provide experience in elementary and secondary settings.
With origins stretching back 150 years, OSU offers more than 200 academic programs as a highly ranked public research university.
OSU offers a master of counseling in school counseling for Oregon and Washington residents. Courses include developmental perspectives in counseling, leadership of school counseling programs, and group counseling procedures. Students also complete two practicum courses and a 600-hour internship to provide hands-on experience.
This program takes place in a hybrid format, combining online coursework with intensive weekend courses twice a semester.
Applicants must hold a four-year bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Founded in 1978, Regent teaches 11,000 students across 150 areas of study rooted in a Christian perspective.
Regent offers a master of arts in school counseling that can be completed largely online with some residency requirements. Courses include counseling children and adolescents, program development and evaluation, and principles of school counseling. Students also complete an internship.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and submit GRE or MAT scores.
Honoring the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, LMU teaches more than 30 different academic programs, some of which are available online.
LMU offers an online master of education in counseling and guidance - PreK-12 school counseling that meets licensure requirements in Tennesse. Courses include school law, foundations of American education, and motivational theory and classroom management.
Applicants must submit official transcripts, three recommendation forms, a background check, and GRE, MAT, or Praxis scores.
Founded in 1971, Liberty now enrolls more than 100,000 students each year.
Liberty offers an online master of education in school counseling. Courses include foundations of education, principles of school counseling, and program development and evaluation. Coursework takes place entirely online, but students must also complete internship and practicum experiences.
Applicants must submit official transcripts, two recommendations, and an agreement to the mission and diversity statements. Students may transfer up to half the 48 required credits.
With origins as a school for girls stretching back to 1772, today Salem College teaches 1,100 women in a private liberal arts setting.
Salem offers an online master of education in school counseling with a research-driven curriculum. Courses include ethics and legalities in education, student advocacy and the school counselor, and culturally relevant counseling.
While coursework takes place entirely online, students must also complete a 100-hour practicum, a 600-hour internship, and two weekend seminars on the Salem campus.
Applicants must demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and submit writing samples, a background check, and writing samples.
As the third largest university in Arkansas, ATU enrolls over 10,000 students each year.
ATU offers a master of education in school counseling and leadership in a hybrid format. Most coursework takes place online, but students also complete a 600 hour internship and attend monthly face-to-face meetings.
Courses include school organization and leadership for the counselor, principles of curriculum development, and group counseling strategies in schools.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or teaching license with an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5.
Founded in 1894 with a Lutheran foundation, Concordia offers more than 100 programs on-campus and online.
Concordia offers a master of arts in school counseling in a flexible online format. Courses last eight weeks and include counseling diverse populations, research evaluation and design, and fundamentals of assessment. Students without a teaching license must take additional courses to meet state requirements.
To graduate, students must complete a 100-hour practicum and a 450-hour internship, as well as a capstone portfolio.
Founded in 1887 as a school for teachers, MSU now teaches more than 210 academic programs each year.
MSU offers an online master of arts in school counseling. Courses include theories of counseling, group counseling, and philosophy and practice in school counseling. Students must also complete a practicum.
Upon graduation, students qualify for a provision school counseling certificate for grade P-12.
Applicants must demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5 and meet GRE or MAT requirements.
Founded in 1902, FHSU now enrolls more than 15,000 students each year.
FHSU offers an online master of science in counseling - school counseling that prepares students to apply for licensure as a school counselor in Kansas. Courses include research and evaluation in counseling, lifestyle and career development, and management of counseling programs.
Students complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship. Students must gain experience with both elementary and secondary school populations.
Applicants must demonstrate a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework.
With origins reaching back to 1900, today UT Martin offers numerous online programs through UT Online.
UT Martin's master of science in education in counseling prepares students for licensure as a school counselor for grades P-12. Courses include research in education and counseling, principles of crisis intervention, and mental health and psychopathology.
Coursework takes place entirely online, but students must also complete a three-day on-campus residency as well as internships in elementary and secondary school settings.
Online Master's in School Counseling Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:
The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.
To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!
If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.
Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
Choosing an Online Master's in School Counseling Program
Colleges and universities create their own curricula, so students pursuing an online master's in school counseling need to research prospective programs to determine if coursework satisfies local licensure requirements. Students should also consider other factors that may influence their own personal goals. Some factors to consider:
- Program Cost: School counseling programs vary in cost. For instance, students may want to consider in-state programs over out-of-state programs, as out-of-state students often pay higher tuition rates.
- Transfer Policies: Students who have transfer credits from previous graduate-level study should be sure to thoroughly research the transfer policy at any possible school. Being able to transfer credits can save you time and money in a master's program.
- School Size and Type: When selecting a program, students should consider their learning style. The size and structure of a school can influence the student experience. For example, students who need more individualized attention may prefer a smaller school.
- Program Length: Online school counseling programs vary in length. For instance, some institutions may follow traditional semesters, while others offer year-round accelerated programs.
- On-Campus Requirements: While fully online programs do not require in-person attendance, except for internships and field experience, hybrid programs may require in-person attendance for coursework.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: An online master's in school counseling usually requires a thesis, and the best programs typically require field experiences to satisfy licensure requirements.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?
Each university creates unique programs based on its own core educational values, so school counseling master's programs often emphasize different aspects of the field. For instance, focus areas may include college and career readiness, restorative justice, or trauma-informed practice.
In addition to specialzations, accredited school counseling programs cover fundamental knowledge and skills students need to qualify for licensure. While actual titles vary, courses usually include legal and ethical issues in counseling, human development theory in school counseling, research methods and data analysis for counselors, and the counseling process.
Aspiring school counselors can earn certificates through organizations like the National Board for Certified Counselors, which reinforces their professional credibility and create a competitive advantage. National certification can also lead to higher wages and professional advancement.
Online Master's in School Counseling Curriculum
This course explores counseling techniques and theories that apply to children and adolescents. Student outcomes include identifying common emotional and behavioral disorders, evidence-based interventions, cultural and environmental factors that impact treatment, and emerging trends. This course may include a final exam or special project. Students can use this opportunity to focus on their ideal target population.
School counselors often provide career development. This course emphasizes development theories and strategies for decision-making. Topics include relationships between roles of life and career development, cultural influences, and relevant assessments. Course objectives include identifying a healthy work-life balance. This course often requires a comprehensive final exam.
School counselors need to understand interpersonal influences on behavior, developmental stages of a group, and theoretical approaches for counseling groups. This course emphasizes group leadership skills. Learning outcomes include demonstrating knowledge and competence in both advanced and fundamental counseling skills. This course often includes a group project.
This course explores the relationship between ethical standards and legal regulations in counseling. Students also explore regulations for professional counseling practices, identify professional issues that impact counselors, and study ethical and legal standards in school counseling.
School Counseling Certifications and Licenses
An accredited master's in school counseling is required to earn a state license. Students must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors, which includes 200 multiple-choice questions. Topics include social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, group counseling and group work, and research and program evaluation.
Requirements vary by state. Students should visit their local department of education website to determine specifics. Requirements typically include logged contact hours. For instance, states may demand a specified number of practicum hours acquired under a licensed practitioner, or two or more years of teaching or counseling experience.
Students should also consider reciprocity guidelines if their career goals include moving to a different state. Professionals may need to complete additional coursework for applied experiences before earning reciprocity. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards also offers a voluntary certification that recognizes K-12 professionals who demonstrate skill with standards-based evidence.
School Counseling Careers
Students who earn a master's in school counseling have multiple career options. For instance, this degree can prepare graduates for a career in school psychology, where they can address learning and behavioral disorders. Depending on the school, students may need to also earn a doctorate.
Similarly, a master's in school counseling can also prepare students for a career as a substance abuse counselor, especially when working with adolescents. These counselors may work in mental health treatment facilities, where their responsibilities include educating patients' families on intervention methods. A few more job options are explored below.
School counselors help students establish and reach academic goals. These professionals usually work in elementary and secondary schools. For instance, high school counselors may examine students' career interests to help them identify what they should study in college.
School counselors also help students apply for financial aid, write essays for scholarships, write resumes if they're immediately entering the workforce, and find internship opportunities. School counselors may also administer aptitude tests or collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and other team members. This role typically requires a master's degree and an unencumbered state license.
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Career counselors primarily work with adolescents and young adults to make career or academic decisions that help students reach their career goals. Typical duties include small group or individual counseling, mock interviews, and classroom instruction. These professionals may also administer aptitude tests, advise clients on how to address conflict, or build professional networks.
Career counselors often work in high schools, colleges, or universities. However, placement firms or alternative schools also hire career counselors. This role requires a master's degree and an unencumbered license. Practitioners need to earn continuing education credits periodically to keep their licenses.
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Projected Growth Rate
Accreditation for Online Master's in School Counseling Degree Programs
Accrediting agencies establish a minimum standard of quality for educational institutions. Other universities, licensing boards, and employers use these standards to verify that students have been trained properly. Regional accrediting agencies are generally considered more prestigious than national accrediting agencies, which typically only accredit trade and specialty schools.
Transferring to another institution may prove difficult if your school is not regionally accredited, so it's important to check the accreditation status of your institution. There are six regional accrediting agencies. Additionally, students may want to compare state licensing requirements to ensure they qualify to take the exam upon graduating.
Students should also consider programmatic accrediting agencies to verify the quality of a particular school counseling master's degree. For school counselors, these agencies include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and the Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.
School Counseling Professional Organizations
The counseling field demands ongoing research to solve modern problems. School counselors benefit from memberships in professional organizations, which provide active global networks and access to cutting-edge research and practices. Additionally, professional organizations allow graduates to collaborate with seasoned practitioners and receive mentorship.
ASCA outlines ethical standards for school counselors. Membership allows access to cutting-edge resources and statistical data, professional development opportunities, and annual conferences. Professional members also have voting power. However, students earning a master's or doctorate may apply as nonvoting members.
ACA advocates for culturally diverse and ethical practices that improve counseling services. It also provides information regarding policy changes and government affairs. Members can access online publications, career advancement resources, continuing education credits, and job opportunities.
ACAC advocates for equal access to mental health services for children. It also provides resources for professional counselors working with youth and helps develop innovative prevention and intervention methods. Membership perks include networking opportunities and research grants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Earning a master's in school counseling prepares graduates to help students develop social and academic skills in school. Professionals often work in K-12 schools or postsecondary institutions.
BLS data indicates that school counselors earn a median annual salary of $56,310. However, students should survey local rates to identify their true earning potential.
Both K-12 and postsecondary schools typically require school counselors to hold an unencumbered state license, which requires applicants to earn a master's degree.
Students can earn an online master's in school counseling in two years with full-time attendance. Part-time students should anticipate earning their degrees in four years.
School counselors typically need to hold a master's in school counseling or education psychology. It is also often acceptable to earn a master of education with a school counseling specialization.
Students need to earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field from an accredited institution, then go on to earn a master's degree in school counseling. Most states also require specialized state licensure.
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