25 Best Online Masters in School Counseling Programs [2021 Guide]

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Growing up is stressful, and kids of all ages look to graduates of Online School Counseling programs to help them figure out how to deal with academics, future plans, or personal issues that are keeping them from being their very best selves.

Masters in School Counseling Programs

If you have a Bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and are the type of person who truly cares about helping young people to figure out how to survive and thrive in K-12, and how to prepare for next steps, becoming a school counselor might be a great choice for you.

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Several accredited colleges offer online school counseling programs that can help get you ready for a career and teach you the material you need to attain the state licenses or credentials that are often required.

School counselors are typically well paid, both in dollars and in the satisfaction that comes from working with young people who need solid guidance and support.

Online School Counseling Programs

School Counselor talking to a teenager student

The Online School Counseling Degree can teach you how to help a wide range of students with a wide range of needs. This versatile degree can open doors to careers in counseling kids in many settings.

These range from pre-school to high schools, from community sites to universities. You can work in daycare centers, elementary or high schools, non-profit or government organizations that focus on children and adolescents with special needs, or places that deal with trauma and crisis management.

You are probably aware of employment opportunities in both public and private schools. But your degree can also lead to jobs in charter or private schools, children’s hospitals, or juvenile justice facilities. You can also do research.

There are also many places that work with kids with autism or other learning disabilities. In addition, many government or private settings offer a range of needed services for special children and their families.

The classes in this degree focus on both theory and practical application. They usually cover such areas as individual and group counseling, testing and evaluation, college and career readiness, crisis intervention, child behavior, and meeting the challenges of 21st Century learning.

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As K-12 students advance through primary and secondary school, they often face personal or academic challenges. Within a K-12 setting, the school counselor is the person best equipped to advise them and develop individual strategies to handle each one’s personal or classroom challenges.

Many professors in programs for this degree not only have advanced degrees in school counseling, they also bring years of hands-on experience. This experience can allow them to tell the truth about the situations and communities you may encounter during your career. It’s real education for the real world.

School counselors often concentrate on college or vocational choice. As students prepare to make one of their most important life decisions, counselors can help them identify and narrow down choices, so they can aim for the stars while being realistic about the grades, tests and activities colleges will look for.

Your online master’s degree in counseling can help prepare you to interview students, take case histories, and administer tests and related assessment tools. It can also teach you how to encourage students, explore possibilities and minimize disappointments for students and their families.

In many cases, in addition to online classes, online degrees also offer opportunities to gain practical experience working with children, parents and caregivers in a variety of settings.

School Counseling Careers & Salaries

School Counseling Careers & Salaries

In most states, a school counselor is one of the most common examples that graduates can do with a master’s degree in counseling and a state license or credential.

Once you have met these requirements, you can apply to work in a variety of schools or organizations that focus on childhood or adolescent education or family and children’s services.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median annual wage for school counselors in various specialties is $58,120. Here are national median wages:

Careers Annual Median Salary
Speech-Language Pathologist $80,480
School Psychologist $79,820
Psychology Professor $78,180
Social and Community Service Manager $69,600
School and Career Counselor $58,120
Admissions Counselor $51,660
Marriage and Family Therapist $51,340
Mental Health Social Worker $48,720
Child, Family, and School Social Worker $48,430
Substance Abuse Counselor $47,660

The highest reported salary was $97,910, and the lowest was $35,620. Remember, salaries will vary widely, depending on the state and whether schools or other places of employment are public or private.

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When selecting a location for your career, be sure to compare the cost of living in different locales.

Some salaries listed here are for ten-month positions, giving school counselors the summer off, so they may wish to work in other areas, such as camp counselors or administrators.

Other school counselors work during summer, doing evaluations or creating new programs, while earning additional money. Positive news comes from BLS that projects an annual job growth of 8% for school counselors over the next ten years, which is far better than the national average.

As school enrollments continue to grow, so does the need for trained and committed school counselors who will identify individual needs and create individualized programs that address them.

Choosing an Online School Counseling Degree

School Counseling Degree student studying online at home

There are many choices for students who want to obtain Online School Counseling Degrees. Examples of some counseling programs you should consider are an online masters in educational counseling, an online masters in mental health counseling, and an online masters in marriage and family therapy.

Just as you will hopefully one day advise your students to conduct in-depth research before making decisions, you will want to follow your own advice by carefully reviewing the curriculum, cost and character of each school you consider.

The needs of the students you will one day work with will vary. This means your education and training must cover a variety of areas as well.

You should gain professional skills that include more subtle ones, including patience, and sensitivity to gender, culture, and sexual preference. You must also be aware of ethics and legal concerns such as privacy.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the online school counseling program that is right for you:

  • What core courses are required?
  • Are there areas of concentration that match your future career goals?
  • Are there opportunities for hands-on practice?
  • If so, can these internships or clinical experiences be performed online?
  • Are there any bilingual programs?
  • Does the curriculum cover current issues that are prevalent in school settings, such as bullying, or substance abuse?
  • Does your program prepare you to collaborate with community resources?
  • Is the program affordable?
  • Are financial aid, scholarships, loans, and/or work-study programs available?

These are just a few of the many things to keep in mind when comparing programs.

School Counseling Curriculum & Courses

School Counselor doing a therapy with a group of teenagers

Your degree will include both fundamental courses and classes designed to prepare you to work in a specific area of concentration. Here are some sample courses of both types, but be aware that course titles will vary across institutions:

  • Introduction to Educational Research: This course discusses the purpose of research and types of research, as well as methods for conducting qualitative and quantitative research related to students in educational settings.
  • Fundamentals of School Counseling: These classes focus on the theories and practices needed to become a qualified and valuable school counselor, including how to plan strategies to develop, manage and evaluate counseling programs using national and state models.
  • Orientation to Counseling: This course teaches the history, structure, credentialing and public policy related to professional counseling and student advocacy.
  • Human Development and Learning: This course teaches how humans mature from birth to adulthood, focusing on physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive areas and including discussions of diversity in all these areas.
  • Counseling Theories: This curriculum covers major counseling theories, including behavioral, social learning, psychoanalytic and humanistic, and focuses on the best research, approaches, principles and procedures of each.
  • Education and Career Planning: In this class, students can learn theoretical and real-world approaches to the resources and techniques currently used to assist students to select and realize their educational and career preferences.
  • Group Counseling and Research: This class introduces students to group processes and leadership by concentrating on theoretical foundations and strategies for designing counseling programs that meet multicultural standards consistent with national and state models.
  • Assessment: This class teaches how to identify and use various diagnostic tests to ascertain students’ strengths and areas needing improvement, as well as how to understand and interpret test results for parents, students and teachers.
  • Vocational and College Counseling: This course presents theories related to career progression, based on psychological, educational, and social development and explains how to use this material to advise students on their career and college planning.
  • Practicum in School Counseling: A capstone course that requires a number of practice hours in counseling settings under the supervision of a licensed supervisor. In many states, this course, the required hours and passage of a licensing test are required in order to get licensed.

Admissions Requirements

School Counseling Degree students studying together in a library

Each university sets its own admission requirements, so be sure to review them carefully before you apply.

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Many universities no longer require standardized tests for admission to Online School Counseling programs, preferring to look over the entire application so that each student may be evaluated on an individual basis.

  • Completed application and application fee;
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary schools attended, including institution granting Bachelor’s degree;
  • A certain number of letters of recommendation;
  • A personal essay or statement of purpose of your choice (some provide specific questions for you to answer);
  • A minimum, specified grade point average (GPA)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, if required;
  • Resume detailing employment history;
  • Writing sample;
  • Admissions interview;
  • Completion of certain undergraduate courses such as Abnormal or Developmental Psychology;
  • Recommendation from undergraduate advisor;
  • Proof of English-speaking ability if not a native English speaker

Admission criteria differ with each institution, but these can give you an idea of the requirements.

Accreditation

Masters in School Counseling Programs Accreditation

When selecting an online degree program, it is important to choose one that meets the quality standards established by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

CHEA reviews an institution’s curriculum, facilities, faculty and other indicators to decide if accreditation is warranted. It also visits each institution that applies and speaks with students, teachers and administrators before granting accreditation status.

Attending an accredited institution may affect your eligibility for financial funds, aids or grants. It might determine whether you are able to transfer credits from one institution to another and it may impact whether an institution itself receives federal funds.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in School Counseling Programs Financial Aid

You are not the only student who is concerned about the rising cost of college. Nearly everyone worries about how to balance all the demands of an ever-shrinking budget. Many students solve this dilemma by applying to the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).

FAFSA has an easy-to-follow online form where you can enter all the information you need to apply for financial aid. Their website is user-friendly and should simplify the complex aid process. It also has a great deal of useful information about grants and programs such as work-study.

In addition, all colleges and universities have financial aid offices where trained staff members can answer your questions and direct you to other possible funding sources like work-study, and both public and private scholarships. Check out these valuable resources early in your search for the place that is right for you.

What Can You Do with an Online Counseling Degree?

Elementary School Counselor talking to young students

An Online Master’s in School Counseling can give you the credential you need to work in a variety of educational environments from pre-school to college. As a school counselor, you can be an important part of the team that assists students of all ages and abilities to prepare for their next steps in their lives.

Your Online Counseling Degree can also qualify you to work in non-profit and government settings in programs such as Child and Family Services. In these positions, you can work with those who need assistance in order to meet the challenges that are hindering the educational progress of their children.

How Much Does a Master’s in School Counseling Cost?

Tuition will be different depending on whether you want to attend a public or private institution and whether the public college or university is in the state where you live. Many times, out-of-state tuition is higher, but not always.

Online Master’s Degrees in School Counseling typically require 48 units of courses. A few require slightly more units. Costs range from $4,162 to $39,600 for the entire program which works out to about $87 to $825 per unit.

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Although costs may be high, they can be reduced or defrayed through financial aid, scholarships, work-study and other assistance programs.

How Long does it Take to Get an Online Master’s in School Counseling?

Master’s in School Counseling Student researching online

The length of time it will take you to obtain an Online Master’s in School Counseling will depend on how many units you take per semester or quarter in order to reach the number of units needed for graduation.

Normally, full-time students taking 15 units per semester can complete their degrees in two-years, while part-time students often finish in 3 years.

Sometimes, courses have to be taken in a specific order and other times, students have more ability to select classes that fit their schedules. Academic advisors can be very helpful as you design your schedule.

Are There Any Affordable Online School Counseling Programs?

Master’s in School Counseling degree student studying online

Yes, there are affordable programs. Many higher education institutions of all types recognize that the high costs of graduate education may impede talented students from entering much-needed professions.

As a result, the number of excellent online programs has escalated in recent years. Doing research that compares the cost of your Master’s in School Counseling can help you figure out which program is best for you.

Choosing to pursue an online degree alone can save you the cost of room and board, travel, and other expenses associated with regular college attendance.

Can You Be A Counselor with a Master’s in Education?

School Counselor talking to a young child

A Master’s in Education prepares students for careers in a wide variety of educational fields such as curriculum, student affairs, elementary or secondary education, or educational administration as well as school counseling. It leads to many careers within the educational realm.

On the other hand, getting a Master’s in School Counseling can show future employers that you have studied for and earned a degree in the exact specialty they are looking for.

A Master’s in School Counseling is the degree that can best prepare you to advise students of all ages and abilities and make you part of the educational team that creates success strategies that match each individual’s interests, needs and talents.

How do You Get a Master’s in School Counseling?

School Counselor working on her laptop

To get a Master’s in School Counseling, you have to be admitted to an accredited college or university, complete the required number of core and specialized coursework units, pass an exam and receive a license from the state where you wish to work.

You could also be required to work for a number of hours under the supervision of a licensed school counselor. If you become a full-time student, you can complete the required coursework in two years, while it usually takes part-time students about three years.

Is a School Counseling Degree Worth It?

Yes, an Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 12% job growth in community and social service occupations over the next 10 years.

Common school counseling careers in this field facilitate interpersonal connections with children and adolescents. They include elementary and secondary school counselors, junior college counselors, child and family service workers, and a variety of positions in educational support.

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If you really love working with children and believe that you can genuinely make a difference in their lives as they try to navigate through all the obstacles that can keep them from reaching their full potential, this may be a great career choice for you.

When you ask successful adults to name one person who believed in them, guided them and was always there to answer questions and give support, they will often name their school counselor. In the future, that could be you.

Universities Offering Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Angelo State University

Angelo State University campus

Students enrolled in Angelo State University’s Master of Science in Professional School Counseling program benefit from the numerous opportunities for professional internships and hands-on field experiences. The program consists of 48 credit hours taught in a series of 8 week sessions. Graduates should be able to easily pass the TExES exam.

  • MS in Professional School Counseling

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

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University campus

Arkansas State University’s CAEP-accredited Master of Science in Education with a school counseling concentration consists of 48 credit hours that can be completed in 16 to 18 months. Courses are personalized to provide students with plenty of advanced practical experience. No teaching certifications are required for admission into this program.

  • MS in Education – School Counseling

Arkansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Brandman University

Brandman University campus

Brandman University offers an integrated Master of Arts in Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in school counseling. Courses are designed to help participants learn state and federal laws regarding counseling and advance their counseling skills.

The program’s layout reduces the steps students must take to become school counselors.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential – Counseling

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University campus

Campbellsville University is ranked among the most affordable Christian colleges in the nation by Christian Universities Online, and its Master of Arts in Education, School Guidance Counseling program is popular among graduate students.

The program combines highly-qualified faculty, an intense, comprehensive curriculum and Christian values to teach participants to change the lives of students.

  • MA in Education – School Guidance Counseling

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

Concordia University – Irvine

Concordia University - Irvine campus

Students pursuing Master of Arts in Education degrees with school counseling concentrations can enroll in Concordia University – Irvine’s online program. The program requires 48 credit hours and usually takes a little over two years to complete.

Some notable courses include psychopathology, human communication, counseling exceptional children, and educational assessment.

  • MA in Education – School Counseling

Concordia University Irvine is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Creighton University

Creighton University campus

At Creighton University, students can pursue their Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health degrees at a student-centered, Jesuit university.

The program teaches participants pursuing counseling careers in K-12 schools about childhood and adolescent development, cultivating counseling skills, leading group sessions and becoming advocates for social justice.

  • MS in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health

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

East Carolina University

East Carolina University campus

Students at East Carolina University can enroll in the school’s 100% online Master of Science in Counselor Education program through its College of Education. There are several relevant professional tracks students can pursue, including school counseling, college counseling, student affairs and clinical mental health counseling.

Scholarships and fellowships may be available.

  • MS in Counselor Education

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

Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University campus

Fort Hays State University’s Master of Science in Counseling, School Counseling program has 11 main objectives for participants.

These include preparing them to differentiate between social and cultural characteristics across diverse groups, to relate theories of human development to counseling and to effectively assess students’ social, academic, and behavioral needs.

  • MS in Counseling – School Counseling

FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University campus

The online master’s of counseling at Gwynedd Mercy University is a 60 credit hour program that consists of 30 core curriculum classes and 30 certification-specific classes. Students can transfer up to six credits, and after graduation, they should be prepared and able to apply for school counseling positions anywhere in Pennsylvania.

  • Master’s in Counseling – School Counseling

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

Lamar University

Lamar University campus

Lamar University’s Master of Education in Counseling and Development program allows students to choose a concentration in professional school counseling. The program consists of 60 credits, and courses are modeled after the ASCA’s National Model for School Counseling.

Adolescent suicide, identifying bullying, and substance abuse prevention are key curriculum components.

  • MEd in Counseling and Development

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

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Students in Liberty University’s Master of Education in School Counseling program can transfer up to 50% of the degree’s required credits. The program is CACREP accredited and NCATE accredited through CAEP. The program usually takes two and a half years to complete, and students gain a firm grasp of theoretical and practical knowledge.

  • MEd in School Counseling

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

Regent University

Regent University campus

Regent University is a Christian college in Virginia, and its Master of Arts in School Counseling program is popular with students looking for a religious-based counseling program intertwining fundamental counseling concepts with core Christian values and beliefs.

There are plenty of hands-on experience opportunities and a required residency component.

  • MA in School Counseling

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

Salem College

Salem College campus

Salem College’s Master of Education in School Counseling is research-driven and consists of courses in assessment, evaluation, career and personal development counseling, advocacy and ethics.

Courses are online, but there are two weekend seminars held on-campus.

  • MSEd in School Counseling

Salem College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University campus

The 48 credit Master of Arts in School Counseling program at Seton Hall University is CAEP-accredited and prides itself on its expert faculty and its ability to teach students the key components of counseling, prevention, early intervention and advocacy. Participants also learn the importance of family outreach and disaster response.

  • MA in School Counseling

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

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Southeastern Oklahoma State University campus

Students enrolled in Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Master of Education in School Counseling program can potentially finish the education component of the 42 credit program in as few as 12 months. The practicum adds an additional 14 weeks. Core courses include psychopathology, ethical practice and social and cultural diversity issues.

  • MEd in School Counseling

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

St Bonaventure University

St Bonaventure University campus

The Master of Science in Education program with a school counseling concentration at St. Bonaventure University teaches students to work one-on-one and in groups with primary, middle and high school students on key areas of their social, behavioral and academic development. A premium is placed on compassion, ethics and professionalism.

  • MSEd in School Counseling

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

University of Massachusetts – Boston

university of massachusetts boston campus

The University of Massachusetts – Boston’s online master’s in counseling covers counseling fundamentals in general and school counseling in particular.

It’s an advanced degree that leads to state licensure, and students have the option of adding an adjustment counseling concentration to the degree which could give them even more career opportunities.

  • MEd in Counseling

The University of Massachusetts Boston is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.

University of Nebraska – Kearney

University of Nebraska at Kearney campus

Students in the Master of Science in Education program at University of Nebraska Kearney can select the school counseling elementary or school counseling secondary concentrations.

Both programs require 43 credit hours for completion, and courses are offered in either blended or online format. Both concentrations are nationally accredited by CAEP.

  • MS in Education – School Counseling Elementary PK-6 or Secondary 7-12

UNK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

University of Southern California’s Master of Education in School Counseling program focuses on the ever-changing landscape of school counseling.

Course topics cover relevant challenges impacting 21st-century schools, the holistic approach to counseling adolescents and supporting the wide range of students’ needs. Though based in California, any U.S. resident can apply.

  • MEd in School Counseling

USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi campus

The Master of Education in School Counseling program at the University of Southern Mississippi is designed to teach students the importance of being ethically and culturally competent counselors. The NCATE accredited course requires 48 credits to complete. All fall and spring courses can be taken online; summer courses are campus-based.

  • MEd in School Counseling

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

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

The University of the Cumberlands offers a Master of Arts in Education with available concentrations in school counseling, literacy specialist, school principal and teacher as leader.

The school counselor concentration covers diverse topics including group counseling, grief and loss counseling, personality and psychological assessment and counseling individuals with diverse needs.

  • MA in Education – School Counseling

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

University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest campus

The University of the Southwest’s 42 credit Master of Science in Education program allows students to choose a concentration in school counseling. It’s a fully online program, and courses are taught with the goal of passing licensing exams in mind. The program is accredited by New Mexico’s Public Education Department.

  • MS in Education – School Counseling

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

University of West Alabama

University of West Alabama campus

Students hoping to enroll in the Master of Education program at the University of West Alabama must first obtain a valid Alabama teaching certificate. Once enrolled, students can select the school counseling concentration. Two of the most popular courses in the program include lifespan development and learning and crisis intervention.

  • MEd in School Counseling

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

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University campus

At Vanderbilt University, students can enroll in the Master of Education program and select school counseling as their concentration. There are two, required, on-campus immersions, but the rest of the coursework is done entirely online. Students must also undertake three internships, which should give them plenty of hands-on, real-world experience.

  • MEd in School Counseling

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

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University offers a 37 credit, CACREP accredited Master of Science in School Counseling degree. Students can choose the general program or one of four concentrations including marriage, couple and family counseling, military families and culture, crisis and trauma or addiction counseling.

Graduates can become school, academic or college and career counselors.

  • MS in School Counseling

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your School Counseling Degree Online

School Counselor working online in a cafe

Are you ready to enhance your career by moving into a field that lets you help children and families achieve their goals? If so, an Online School Counseling Degree can help give you the education you need to gain personal and financial success while making a real difference.

As students advance through school, they face many academic and personal challenges. Their futures will be hard to navigate, and they will need smart and caring guidance from trusted advisors.

If you want to be one of them, start your educational journey today by exploring Online Degrees in School Counseling from accredited universities.

Ready to start your journey?
Maureen Rubin
WRITTEN BY
Maureen Rubin
Maureen has a Juris Doctor, Master's in Public Relations, and a Bachelor's in Journalism. She is an Emeritus Professor of Journalism at California State University, Northridge and enjoyed a career working in public information at nonprofits, and in Congress & the White House. She welcomes an opportunity to share educational or uplifting information with readers.