Online Master’s Programs In School Counseling

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Purse an Online Master’s in School Counseling

Students seeking a master’s in school counseling are no doubt drawn to the field for altruistic purposes, but a bonus is that the field is expected to grow at a higher than average rate between 2016 and 2026. A quality online master’s program will give you the tools to help students face the variety of unique challenges that crop up in today’s world and to become fully developed human beings. Find out what you’ll learn in a school counseling master’s program, the top programs and ways to pay for your education.

Top 10 Best Online Master’s in School Counseling

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Best Online Master’s in School Counseling

  • Methodology


    Best Online Master’s in School Counseling 2018-2019

    Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factorsData Sources:

    Eligibility Criteria:

    • Each college must be accredited
    • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
    • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
    • Each college must have at least one online program 1
    • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000

    Ranking Factors:

    • Affordability
    • Quality
    • Flexibility
    • Program

    Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

    1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

    2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.Notes:

    • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
    • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.

We’ve created the following list of the best online master’s in school counseling programs by compiling data gathered from the US Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and information provided by the included colleges and universities. All of these schools are accredited, which helps guarantee a higher degree of quality and trustworthiness for these programs.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?

Coursework in master’s in school counseling programs will prepare students to sit for licensing exams, as well as meet individual state requirements (which can vary). Master’s programs also prepare individuals for the transition from student to working professional through internships, assistantships and other practical applications of classroom material in a clinical setting, under direct supervision.

Typical coursework will focus on fostering diversity, easing students through rough transitions and helping individuals flourish academically. Students who earn their master’s in school counseling degree will emerge with the following skills:

  • Understanding in how to develop and run counseling programs designed for students
  • Thorough knowledge of child development and how it relates to counseling services
  • Knowledge of the legal and ethical requirements of a school counselor role
  • In-depth data surrounding the socio-economic issues related to counseling

What common courses are offered in a master’s in school counseling program?

While specific coursework will vary by institution, there are many common courses across all school counseling master’s programs. Expect to see some of the following coursework in an online master’s in school counseling program:

Introduction to School Counseling

This course is to be the foundation of a student’s education and the development of a future career as a school counselor. Students learn everything from program management to the responsibilities and professional guidelines that provide structure to this field. Students should walk away from this course understanding the factors affecting modern education and students in K-12 schools and the role of school counselors as an integral part of providing a quality education to students of all backgrounds.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling

Consisting mainly of lecture and discussion, students taking this course prepare to become school counselors by understanding the complex framework of legal and ethical issues that structure this profession. Students should emerge from this course with the foundation to begin creating an individual professional identity, and the ethical and legal responsibility they hold to their clients.

Advanced Child Development and Play Therapy

Students will explore child development and how it relates to the ability to grow and learn in an educational setting. Curriculum will provide the theories and historical context of play therapy and will explore the practical applications of these principles.

Career Counseling in School Settings

Exploring topics as they relate to aiding students in career, education and life planning, students will get a sense of the common resources and theories behind career exploration. Students will be exposed to current theory behind developing curriculum and get a sense of the issues that affect students of different backgrounds as they move forward toward college and a professional life.

Child Maltreatment

This course is a detailed look at the scientific theories, research and the legal and social consequences of child maltreatment, including abuse and neglect. Students will learn the legal and ethical issues behind reporting child abuse, intervention and advocating for patients as it relates to maltreatment. It is primarily a lecture and discussion course.

Organization of School Counseling

An overview of the ASCA National Model (Foundation, Delivery, Management and Accountability), students will familiarize themselves with the role of the school counselor as a part of the educational system, and the role of school counselor as an advocate for social justice. Utilizing data-based evidence to guide decisions in planning, evaluating and implementing an effective and well-rounded school counseling program, students will learn how to improve schools to respond to current education reform issues.

Social Justice, Multicultural and Diversity Issues in Counseling

Course objectives focus on helping students develop a theoretical and skill-based foundation for being an effective advocate, cultivating cultural competency and the techniques for working with individuals, families and communities of diverse backgrounds. Coursework was developed to increase student awareness of one’s own perceptions and biases and their ability to effectively render aid to all clients in need, with a focus on ELL communities.

What exams or projects should I expect?

For a master’s in school counseling, students should expect a capstone or thesis project that should reflect the concentration or research that the student is involved in. Upon graduation, students will have to pass a licensing exam and licensing requirements vary by state. Licensing requirements, the amount of exams and type of exams also vary from state to state. A master’s program of this type typically involves field work in the form of practicums and residencies, with requirements ranging between 200-700 hours (depending on the state), as well as supervised internships.

What specializations are available in a master’s in school counseling program?

The following examples are areas of specialization and are available to students in a master’s of school counseling program:

Addiction Counseling

Substance abuse is one of the fastest growing problems facing youth today. Addiction counseling paired with school counseling gives professionals the skills to assist students faced with addiction issues, such as living with an addicted family member or having substance abuse issues themselves.

Career Counseling

Whether helping students get the most out of their high school years, assisting individuals in searching for or applying to college, or helping students discover their professional selves, career counseling is a natural pairing with a school counseling degree.

Crisis and Trauma Counseling

Students looking to specialize in crisis and trauma counseling will be prepared for assisting students, mostly individuals but in some cases entire student bodies, to cope with and recover from traumatic events.

Military Families and Culture

Military families have many specific needs and face challenges unique to military culture. Specializing in this area will help school counselors gain insight into the dynamics of military families, both active and veteran, and to better relate to the emotional needs of students with a military background.

What Can I do with a Master’s in School Counseling Degree?

A master’s in school counseling degree can be used in several different ways when paired with specializations that enable graduates to serve greater numbers of students.

School Counselor

School counselors play a lot of roles in student success in schools, whether they are helping students cope with issues affecting their academic life or are helping an individual plan for future academics or career, school counselors play a pivotal role in guiding children forward and helping them to develop into well-rounded adults.

Mental Health Counselor

A certified mental health counselor diagnoses and treats mental health issues. In a school setting, a mental health counselor may work with students with mental health issues or with students who face the challenges of living with a parent or guardian with mental health issues.

School Psychologist

Recognizing the need in modern times to facilitate the mental well-being of students at every age, school psychologists are members of the faculty who specialize in helping determine a particular student’s needs, often working one-on-one with students utilizing talk or play therapy.

For recent graduates entering the counseling field, it can be a daunting task to determine the best way to start out. Professional organizations offer tools for beginners, networking opportunities, access to the latest developments, career advice and much more.

American School Counselors Association (ASCA)

The ASCA is dedicated to bringing working professionals together to create a collaborative effort to provide students with the very best of support. Membership with the ASCA provides access to the latest publications, guidance on creating and achieving career goals, and a community for professional networking. They publish a journal and a newsletter, offer discounted rates on professional publications as well as insurance opportunities and other free resources to members.

International School Counselors Association (ISCA)

Through the ISCA, professionals from around the world can collaborate through their online forum in order to bring the very best theory and practice to schools and children. Member services include professional networking, monthly newsletter and access to free resources.

American Counseling Association (ACA)

The ACA brings counselors of different disciplines together with the goal of continuing education, to foster professional development by focusing on culturally-inclusive practices and an ethical treatment of clients. Membership services include free online education, access to publications, a professional network of peers and much more.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

Founded in 1937, NACAC provides educational standards for college admission counseling, as well as a network of professionals united in the goal to educate and continue to maintain the highest ethical standards for the profession. Membership includes e-learning, advocacy groups, publications and a network of over 16,000 professionals.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in School Counseling?

Here are a few examples of the possible careers a graduate with a master’s in school counseling may be prepared for and their median salaries. As noted above, additional licensure or certification may be required to be eligible for these positions.

Mental Health CounselorLess than $30,000$43,300More than $56,000+23%
Career CounselorLess than $43,000$55,410More than $60,000+13%
School CounselorLess than $36,000$55,410More than $71,000+13%
Occupational TherapistLess than $55,000$83,200More than $120,000+13%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for various disciplines relating to the field of school counseling is higher than the national average for other occupations. The industry as a whole is expected to grow 13 percent each year between 2016 and 2026. A contributing factor to this increase is that student enrollment is expected to continue growing over the years and with it the need for school counselors and other faculty. Most school counselor positions require a master’s degree before starting in that position, and some positions also require an additional doctorate degree to advance.

Online Master’s in School Counseling Program Accreditation

Students looking to enroll in an online master’s in school counseling program should look for programs certified by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Additional accrediting bodies may vary by individual state. Graduation from an accredited program is one of the prerequisites when applying for professional licenses. Students should be sure that accreditation comes from an organization recognized by the Department of Education.

How to Pay for a Master’s in School Counseling Degree

One of the most stressful areas individuals struggle with when deciding to continue their education is how to foot the bill. Below are a few options available to master’s in school counseling students:

Federal and State Student Aid
Students may be eligible for subsidized and unsubsidized student loans and other federal grants through FAFSA, based on need. Some states may offer need-based grants based on additional criteria, such as area of study and employment at a non-profit post-graduation. Graduates who choose to work for a non-profit may be eligible for student debt forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Potential students should also research merit-based scholarships through specific institutions at which they intend to study. Additionally, some students may find scholarships for pursuing graduate level studies through private organizations who advocate for diversity in education. Students who are female or who have a military background may find scholarships through organizations dedicated to promoting professionals from those groups. Prospective students should start their scholarship search at the American School Counselor Association.

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