25 Best Online Masters in Educational Counseling Programs [2020 Guide]

An online master’s in educational counseling can be a worthwhile degree for those who are interested in youth education and development.

Masters in Educational Counseling Programs

It’s a fast-growing field with a lot of opportunities, but you’ll need the right qualifications to be competitive, and you’ll need a solid educational background to have the necessary skills for success. The good news is that a master’s degree online in counseling can help with both.

Best Online Masters in Educational Counseling Programs

School and Career Counselor giving advice to a student

A master’s degree in educational counseling is a graduate-level degree for those who are interested in advising and counseling students. It’s usually centered around K-12 students, but it can include college students as well.

An educational counseling degree can lead to a variety of careers, including counselor, teacher, tutor, school administrator, academic program director, admissions specialist and youth program designer.

Typical job duties include talking with students, administering aptitude and assessment tests, evaluating their progress, advising them about their academic goals and working with them to establish things like good study habits and time management skills. You’ll also be expected to work closely with parents, teachers and administrators as needed.

Some jobs are available outside of the usual school setting. For example, you could find work with private tutoring companies and learning centers, or you could work with youth through social service jobs funded by nonprofits and charities.

There are two common paths to a graduate-level educational counseling degree. The first is a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling, and the second is a Master of Arts (M.A.) in School Counseling.

Functionally, these degrees are quite similar. They’ll both have classes devoted to education, administration and childhood development, and they’ll both be accepted by employers as a prerequisite for counseling jobs.

Their difference lies in their focus areas. An M.Ed is usually geared towards educators or counselors who want to develop skills specifically meant for academic environments. On the other hand, an M.A. is a broader degree, and it can be applied to industries outside of education or jobs outside of a school setting.

No matter what career that you’re considering, a master’s degree in educational counseling can be a smart investment of your time. Not only can it help you build specialized skills for the field, but it can also boost your resume and make you stand out against other job applicants with lesser qualifications.

Educational Counseling Careers & Salaries

Educational Counseling Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school and career counselors earn an average of $57,040 per year. However, their full salary range is $34,380 – $96,090 per year.

These figures represent the highest and lowest earners on either side of the spectrum. Salaries can vary drastically depending on things like age, experience, geographic location and overall job demand, so keep that in mind when considering averages.

Schools are the most common work environments for educational counselors. If you pursue this degree, you might find employment in all kinds of K-12 institutions, including elementary, middle and high schools. Colleges are also a possibility.

You could also look for jobs in the private sector as a tutor, teacher, administrator or program coordinator.

Here are a few potential career paths for a master’s degree in educational counseling:

Careers Average Annual Salary
Education Administrators, Kindergarten Through Secondary $100,340
Administrative Services Managers $96,940
Elementary, Middle and High School Principals $96,400
Postsecondary Education Administrators $95,410
Social and Community Service Managers $67,150
Instructional Coordinators $66,290
Educational, Guidance and Career Counselors and Advisors $61,000
School and Career Counselors $57,040
Directors, Religious Activities and Education $50,490

Keep in mind that different fields and sub-fields can have an impact on salary averages as well. For example, you might make more in an educational setting as opposed to a social services setting even with the same job title.

Choosing an Online Masters in Educational Counseling Degree

Masters in Educational Counseling Degree student studying in a cafe

Choosing a degree program is never easy, but there are certain things that you can do to establish your priorities as a student and narrow down your options for grad school.

One of these things is to make a checklist of the most important criteria in picking an educational counseling program:

  • Accreditation: Has the university been regionally or nationally accredited? Has the program itself been programmatically accredited?
  • Degree specifics: How do the M.A. and M.Ed programs compare to one another? Are there any other certificates, licenses or specializations that you can pursue within the program? This can be especially relevant if you’re in a state that requires additional licensure to practice as a school counselor.
  • Admission: Some graduate schools are more competitive than others. Which eligibility requirements do you meet? Which deadlines can you make?
  • Online accessibility: Which schools offer fully online master’s degrees in educational counseling? Which ones have blended or hybrid mixes of classes? Are they synchronous or asynchronous? Will your degree program require any fieldwork?

You probably have experience with some of these things if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree. However, graduate school can be a completely new world, so consider it a fresh start and a new challenge.

Masters in Educational Counseling Curriculum & Courses

School Counselor talking to a student with her mother

Coursework for an educational counseling degree can combine many different subjects and disciplines. Each curriculum is as unique as the school that offers it. If you want a general idea of what you can expect from graduate-level educational counseling classes, however, here are a few names that you might see again and again:

  • Introduction to Counseling: This is a basic, entry-level course that will familiarize you with the world of counseling. You might be allowed to waive it if you’ve already completed similar courses on the baccalaureate level.
  • Management of School Counseling Programs: Focused on the administrative side of counseling, this class will teach you about the infrastructure of K-12 educational programs.
  • Multicultural Counseling: In today’s increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to develop skills related to diversity and sensitivity. These classes will teach you all about inclusion.
  • Psychology: Expect to take multiple classes that dive into the minds of children. They could include everything from Childhood Growth and Development to Abnormal Psychology.
  • Instructional Design: Also known as “instructional systems design,” this skill is about creating, developing, distributing and implementing various educational tools and systems.
  • Evaluations and Assessments: What makes a good test? As a school counselor, you might be expected to administer everything from behavioral evaluations to academic aptitude exams, and this class will teach you how.
  • Societal Issues in the Schools: Often given as a “special topics” course that changes by the year, this class will cover current, contemporary issues in school settings.
  • Dissertation: Depending on your program, you may or may not need to complete a dissertation. If you do, it could require multiple semesters of work for planning and presenting it.
  • Fieldwork: Many educational counseling programs will require clinical hours or other real-world practicums or classroom experiences. With an online degree program, these are usually arranged locally, but be sure to learn the specifics before you make any commitments.

You might also find specialty courses or certification programs within the field of counseling. For example, many states require completion of the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to become licensed as a professional counselor, so your university might offer preparation programs for it.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Educational Counseling Degree student studying online

No matter if you are pursuing an online school counseling program or an online masters in mental health counseling, every graduate program is different when it comes to admission requirements. But, there are a few things that you can expect to see in many admission guidelines.

  • Transcripts: You’ll need to submit transcripts for all of your baccalaureate-level work. High school records are no longer required.
  • Test scores: It’s traditional for grad schools to want GMAT or GRE scores. That said, there are a growing number of “test-optional” schools where these requirements can be waived for some or all students.
  • Resume or CV: If you have a work history, submit a resume. If you have an academic history, submit a CV.
  • Statement of purpose: This is the graduate equivalent of a personal essay, and it can be used to talk about any goals or achievements that you couldn’t fit in the rest of your application.

You might also be asked for financial information, letters of recommendation and other college application staples. It all depends on your chosen university, so make sure to talk to their admissions department.

Accreditation

Masters in Educational Counseling Degree Accreditation

Choosing an accredited school is more important than ever when you’re on the graduate level.

For starters, master’s degrees can take awhile. You’ll want to make sure that your credits are transferable if you ever need to relocate, change programs or otherwise switch tracks during your time as a student.

Another thing to consider is that some states have additional licensure requirements for school counselors. Unaccredited schools aren’t usually recognized within this framework.

Last but not least, financial aid can be heavily dependent on accreditation. You won’t even qualify for FAFSA funding if you attend an unaccredited school, and this isn’t getting into all of the private grants, loans and scholarships that can require accreditation.

At the end of the day, it’s worth the effort of finding an accredited school for your educational counseling degree. Visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website to learn more.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for Masters in Educational Counseling Degree

There are many financial aid opportunities available to graduate students. The most well-known is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You won’t qualify for the grants and loans that are earmarked for undergrads, but you might be eligible for things like the Direct PLUS Loan for Graduate/Professional Students.

You can also look into other forms of state or federal aid, including the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. It can be applied to both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Scholarships can pay for some of your schooling. If you need a starting point, try looking into ones that are meant specifically for education-related majors; they’re usually open to future counselors and administrators as well as future teachers. You can also look for general scholarships for graduate students of all types.

If you’re currently employed, you can see if your company offers tuition reimbursement as well.

What Can I Do With a Masters in Educational Counseling?

Career Counselor helping a college student

As you might expect, many people who earn a master’s degree in educational counseling go on to become counselors. School counselors are the most common type, but there are also trade, guidance and vocational counselors. You could even become a religious or cultural counselor with an emphasis in education.

You could also go the private route if you don’t want to work in a traditional school setting. There are many educational companies and social assistance groups that need counselors.

Aside from counseling, you could also consider a career as a principal, administrator, academic advisor, instructional coordinator, nonprofit director or community program leader.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that school counseling jobs will grow by eight percent in the next decade. That’s twice as fast as the national average, so job demand is high across the board.

How Much Does an Online Masters in Educational Counseling Program Cost?

Masters in Educational Counseling student studying online at home

Although tuition varies, you can expect to pay between $300 – $900 per credit hour when pursuing a master’s degree in educational counseling. Speaking very generally, the most affordable colleges will offer classes for under $500 per credit while the more expensive or prestigious ones will ask for $700 or above.

It should be noted that most tuition costs hinge on credit requirements. A master’s degree can require anywhere from 30 – 60 credits, so even if two schools charge the same per credit, one program might be more expensive than the other if it asks for more credits.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Masters in Educational Counseling?

A master’s degree usually takes around 2 – 3 years to complete. You’ll only need a fraction of the credits of a bachelor’s degree, but the courses are more demanding, and educational counseling studies are also supplemented with clinical and classroom hours.

At the master’s level, full-time is considered to be nine credits per semester. To estimate your total time until graduation, find the number of credits required by your program and divide it by nine. That’s the number of semesters that it will take for you to complete your M.A. or M.Ed.

Are There Any Affordable Online Masters in Educational Counseling Programs?

Masters in Educational Counseling student studying in a cafe

Yes, there are many affordable programs for an online master’s degree in educational counseling. Low-cost tuition starts at just $300 – $350 per credit. By contrast, the most expensive tuition can reach $900 per credit or more. Getting your degree online is one potential way to lower the cost of school.

Not every online program is cheaper than its campus-based counterpart, but it’s common. Universities might subtract student activity fees and other extras that aren’t needed by distance learners, and some will also charge flat tuition rates for online students regardless of residency.

This could save you a lot of money if you enroll in an out-of-state college online.

Can You Become a Counselor With a Masters in Education?

School Counselor talking to a student

There are many types of counselors with many different licensing requirements, so this answer depends on what you’re trying to do and where you’re trying to do it.

For example, if you want to become a school counselor, the eligibility requirements will vary by state. California will want you to earn a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) certificate along with completing at least 48 credits of master-level education courses.

Texas will require two years of classroom experience and the completion of an Educator Preparation Program (EPP). Montana will ask for 200 supervised clinic hours. Check with your state licensing boards to learn what’s expected of you as a prospective educational counselor.

Is a Masters in Educational Counseling Program Worth it?

Educational Counselors attending a seminar

Yes, a master’s degree in educational counseling is likely worth it. With an average salary of $57,040 and 8% job growth, a degree in educational counseling can help you launch a career in this fast-growing field. Common educational counseling careers include counselor, teacher, academic administrator and youth program director.

Another benefit of an educational counseling program is the diversity of what you’ll study. With classes that range from psychology to technology, it’s a broad-spanning discipline with a lot of practical applications in the real world, so you’ll be learning valuable skills no matter what your career goals might be in the field of education.

Universities Offering Master’s in Educational Counseling Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer educational counseling master’s degree online.

#1  Adams State University

Adams State University campus

At Adams State University, students can earn their Master of Arts in School Counseling in this 60 credit program accredited by the Colorado Department of Education, CACREP, and the Higher Learning Commission. With the exception of two one-week residencies, the program is entirely online.

  • MA in School Counseling

ASU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#2  Angelo State University

Angelo State University campus

The Master of Science in Professional School Counseling program at Angelo State University prepares students to become licensed school counselors in the state of Texas. The program is administered 100% online in intensive, 8 week courses.

There are also ample opportunities for field experience and internships through various, flexible practicum appointments.

  • MS in Professional School Counseling

Angelo State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#3  Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University’s Master of Science in School Counseling program is accredited by both CACREP and CAEP. It features theory-based, online coursework, live or pre-recorded lectures, and hands-on experience via in-person learning.

All core faculty members hold doctorates, and classes are designed specifically to help students pass their state licensure exams.

  • MS in School Counseling

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Creighton University

Creighton University campus

Creighton University offers a Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health program that’s created specifically to prepare students for a K-12 school counseling career.

Students will learn all about childhood and adolescent development in courses infused with Jesuit values like compassion, self-reflection, cultivating strong relationships, and humility.

  • MS in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health

Creighton University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#5  Edinboro University

edinboro university campus

Edinboro University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling encompassing many concentrations in the field including art therapy, clinical rehabilitation, college counseling and school counseling.

The college and school counseling concentrations are CACREP accredited and focus on preparing students to be competent counselors fluent in clinical skills, theory, ethics, and advocacy.

  • MA in Counseling – School Counseling

Edinboro University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#6  Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

Indiana Wesleyan University’s Master of Arts in School Counseling is perfect for students seeking a high-quality, accredited education that features Christian values and student-centered learning.

The program teaches students to deliver mental health services to diverse populations, facilitate group counseling sessions, integrate faith-based principles, and more. Scholarships may also available.

  • MA in School Counseling

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#7  Lamar University

Lamar University campus

Students interested in counseling can enroll in Lamar University’s 60 credit hour Master of Education in Counseling and Development program with a professional school counseling concentration.

It puts heavy emphasis on the ASCA’s National Model for School Counseling, which includes education in suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention, and positive youth development.

  • MEd in Counseling and Development

Lamar University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#8  Mercy College

Mercy College campus

The Master of Science in Counseling at Mercy College has several specializations from which students can choose including school counseling and bilingual extension and advanced certificate courses in substance abuse counseling and retirement counseling.

Programs accept both full-time and part-time students, with full-time students finishing in about three years.

  • MS in Counseling – School Counseling

Mercy College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#9  Missouri Baptist University

Missouri Baptist University campus

Missouri Baptist University offers a Master of Arts in School Counseling taught by Christian faculty ready to impart Christian values and a comprehensive understanding of school counseling. The program is flexible and prepares students to continue on to earn their doctoral degrees or go to work in K-12 schools.

  • MA in School Counseling

Missouri Baptist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#10  National University

National University campus

Students at National University have two options to earn their educational counseling degrees. They can earn their Master of Science in Educational Counseling or they can earn it with a Pupil Personnel School Counseling Credential. The program adheres to national standards and prepares graduates to become K-12 or college counselors.

  • MS in Educational Counseling

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

#11  North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University campus

North Carolina Central University’s 51 credit hour Master of Arts in School Counseling program prepares graduates for working in K-12 schools all across North Carolina.

Graduates should have the skills, professional knowledge and practices needed to promote the personal, social, academic, and career development of young people. The program is CACREP accredited.

  • MA in School Counseling

North Carolina Central University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#12  Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University campus

Our Lady of the Lake University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with three specific specializations, one of which is school counseling. This specialization teaches participants to assess students and find creative solutions to common behavioral and learning problems. It usually takes two and a half years to complete.

  • MA in Counseling – School Counseling

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#13  Regent University

Regent University campus

Students seeking a Master of Arts in School Counseling program that puts God first and exemplifies Christian values often enroll at Regent University. The program is CACREP accredited, puts a focus on collaboration and networking, and provides students with a great deal of hands-on experience. It’s fully online aside from a residency component.

  • MA in School Counseling

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#14  Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University campus

Students at Seton Hall University can earn their Master of Arts in School Counseling after only 48 credit hours. The focus of the CAEP accredited program is teaching participants to maximize the potential of all students, develop comprehensive counseling skills, and to be effective advocates and leaders as K-12 school counselors.

  • MA in School Counseling

Seton Hall University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

#15  Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Southeastern Oklahoma State University campus

Southeastern Oklahoma State University offers a 42 credit hour Master of Education in School Counseling program that students can complete in as few as 12 months, not including practicum experiences. Tuition is affordable and pay-as-you-go, and financial aid is available to qualifying students.

Course topics include child development, diversity, and psychopathology.

  • MEd in School Counseling

Southeastern Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#16  Southern Arkansas University

Southern Arkansas University campus

Referred to as “one of the most affordable universities in the nation,” Southern Arkansas University offers a Master of Education in College Counseling and Student Affairs. The program helps prepare students for counseling positions in higher education.

The curriculum places emphasis on developing leadership skills and practical aspects of counseling.

  • MEd in College Counseling and Student Affairs

SAU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#17  University of Central Arkansas

University of Central Arkansas campus

At the University of Central Arkansas, students earning Master of Science in School Counseling degrees should be equipped with the skills needed to become K-12 counselors.

Students can enroll in the program with or without a valid teaching license. Some courses include multicultural counseling, counseling intervention strategies, and career guidance.

  • MS in School Counseling

The University of Central Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#18  University of Louisiana – Monroe

University of Louisiana Monroe campus

The Master of Science in Counseling at the University of Louisiana Monroe offers specializations in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling.

Both program concentrations are CACREP accredited, and the school counseling concentration prepares students for jobs as school counselors, career counselors, education counselors, and school administrators within any K-12 school.

  • MS in Counseling – School Counseling

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#19  University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

The University of North Dakota is unique in that it only offers its Master of Arts in Counseling degree in K-12 school counseling online. On-campus students must choose from other specializations. The program is designed to teach participants about interventions and monitoring the social, emotional, and academic well-being of students.

  • MA in Counseling – K-12 School Counseling

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#20  University of Texas – Tyler

University of Texas at Tyler campus

The University of Texas – Tyler’s master’s degree in school counseling provides participants with the fundamentals needed to counsel students from diverse, multicultural backgrounds.

The university also has a 100% pass rate for UT Tyler students taking the TExES School Counselor certification exam. There are also multiple opportunities for internships.

  • MA in School Counseling

The University of Texas at Tyler is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#21  University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest campus

The Master of Science in Education, School Counseling degree at the University of the Southwest is a fully online, 42 credit hour program geared towards making sure students pass their school counselor licensure exams.

Some course topics include developing a counseling plan, group counseling, child and adolescent counseling, and counseling ethics.

  • MS in Education – School Counseling

The University of the Southwest is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#22  University of West Alabama

University of West Alabama campus

Students with a valid teacher’s certificate can enroll in the University of West Alabama’s online Master of Education, School Counseling program. The program is 48 credit hours and takes between one and two years to complete. Despite the online setting, students are paired with one-on-one mentors for extra educational support.

  • MEd in School Counseling

The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleg0es and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#23  Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University campus

Vanderbilt University offers an online Master of Education degree with a specialization in school counseling. Students in the program focus on six main areas of instruction: social and cultural diversity, research and assessment, ethical practice, career development, helping relationships, and human growth.

There are field experiences and weekly online classes.

  • MEd in School Counseling

Vanderbilt University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#24  Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University campus

The Master of Arts in Counseling program at Wake Forest University offers concentrations in clinical mental health and school counseling. Students undertaking the school counseling concentration are taught to be child advocates and to practice compassionate service to all.

Program courses help students prepare for their certification and licensing exams.

  • MA in Counseling – School Counseling

Wake Forest University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.

#25  West Texas A&M University

West Texas AM University campus

The Master of Education in Counseling, School Counseling program at West Texas A&M University allows students to transfer up to 12 credit hours from another university. Courses include theories of counseling, cross-cultural counseling, and diagnosis and treatment.

Course objectives are to prepare participants to promote healthy development of school-aged children.

  • MEd in Counseling – School Counseling

West Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Masters in Educational Counseling Degree Online

Masters in Educational Counseling Degree student studying online

If you feel the call of guiding today’s youth, you might enjoy a career in educational counseling. You can work in a variety of settings, and you can enjoy perks that include a high salary and an occupational growth rate that outstrips the national average.

You’ll also have your choice of careers, including teacher, counselor, administrator, instructional coordinator and more. School counseling isn’t for everyone, but it can be a worthwhile pursuit for those with a passion for it.

Start looking at universities to find the master’s degree program that will help you take the next step in your education and career.

Tony Stewart
WRITTEN BY
Tony Stewart