Online Master’s in School Counseling

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The school counseling field encompasses research, analysis, and direct practice with K-12 and college students. School counselors commonly address problems such as substance abuse, peer pressure, bullying, and depression. Other issues may include trauma, mood disorders, and dysfunctional families. School counselors should value compassion, personal growth, social justice, and education.

A master’s in school counseling meets the minimum education requirements for school and career counseling jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school and career counselors earn a median annual salary of $57,040. The BLS projects an above-average growth rate of 8% for these professions from 2019-2029.

Choosing the Right Master's in School Counseling


  • What degree does it take to be a school counselor?

    School counselors typically need a master’s degree in counseling with a concentration in school counseling. Additionally, school counselors usually need state licensure.


  • Do school counselors get paid well?

    Counselor salaries vary based on factors including credentials, employer, and location. According to BLS data, school and career counselors earn a median salary of $57,040 per year, well above the median of $39,810 for all occupations.


  • Is school counseling a good career?

    School counseling careers require problem-solving skills and typically offer above-average salaries. Professionals in the field cultivate meaningful relationships and support the next generation.


  • Do I need a master's to be a school counselor?

    School counselors need a related master’s degree. Some states also require school counselors to hold a licensed professional counselor credential.


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Why Get a Degree in School Counseling?

Earning a school counseling degree can lead to various personal and professional benefits, including stimulating job activities, versatile skills, career advancement, and meaningful contribution to young people’s lives. A school counseling master’s degree meets the minimum education requirements for school and career counselor jobs.

Learners can pursue a school counseling degree online to save money and time. Many schools offer online programs in accelerated formats that can reduce degree completion time. Distance learners often continue working and earning an income while pursuing their master’s degree. Working students can choose online programs with asynchronous course delivery to accommodate their schedules. Additionally, schools may offer discounted tuition rates for online students.

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How Much Does a School Counseling Degree Cost?

Tuition costs vary by location, school, and program. According to a 2020 College Board report, the average tuition at public colleges in Vermont is three times higher than that of public schools in Wyoming. Tuition rates at private universities are typically much higher.

In-state, public institutions typically offer the most affordable tuition rates. However, online learners sometimes qualify for in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency. Distance learning also minimizes or eliminates costs associated with relocation, residency, and commuting to campus. Many online students also maintain full-time jobs, further reducing the financial burden of pursuing a school counseling master’s degree.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Prospective students can use this college affordability calculator to estimate the cost of earning a school counseling degree. Users enter data including their income and living costs, along with the estimated cost of books and fees and anticipated financial aid.

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How Much Do School Counseling Majors Make?

School counseling salaries vary based on factors including role, employer, and employee credentials. Many graduates of school counseling master’s programs work directly with students at the K-12 or college level.

According to the BLS, school and career counselors earn a median annual salary of $57,040. Graduates can also become education, guidance, and vocational counselors, who earn a median salary of $55,410 per year. Additional career options include roles as social workers and social and community service managers, who earn median salaries of $50,470 and $67,150, respectively.

After earning a master’s in school counseling, individuals can become licensed professional counselors and work in private practices. These professionals often earn higher salaries than other counselors. With additional education and experience, school counseling master’s degree-holders may also qualify for jobs as counseling professors, who earn a median annual salary of $79,540.

Courses in School Counseling

Master’s in school counseling curricula vary by state, school, and program. However, most programs include core coursework in counseling ethics, theory, and research. Students cultivate advanced skills and prepare to collect, analyze, and present counseling data. Learners must typically complete a master’s thesis, and most counseling programs include a practicum experience that helps students develop clinical skills.

Learners pursuing a master’s in school counseling typically study diversity in counseling and youth counseling. Degree-seekers sometimes specialize in a field such as special education or addictions counseling. Although curricula vary, the following courses appear in many school counseling master’s programs.

Students in this class become familiar with the American Mental Health Counseling Association’s code of ethics. Learners study ethical principles such as respect, commitment, appropriate boundaries, and confidentiality. School counseling degree-seekers examine case studies relevant to common ethical issues. This core course prepares aspiring licensed counselors to pass their state’s ethics exam.

This foundational course explores counseling theories, strategies, and tools graduates can apply to work with young people. Students learn to assess child and adolescent behavior and to conduct counseling interventions. Coursework often incorporates cognitive, behavioral, social, and developmental perspectives and approaches. This class emphasizes ethical and legal concerns related to counseling minors.

Many school counseling programs offer this class as an elective. Coursework covers counseling strategies for addressing abuse, sexual assault, accidents, and addictions. Learners prepare to provide effective emotional support, refer clients to appropriate resources, and collaborate with social workers and families.

Certifications and Licensure for School Counseling

School counselors must hold a state-issued license to practice. Requirements vary by state, but licensure candidates typically need a relevant degree and professional experience. School counselors can also obtain certifications, such as the national certified school counselor credential, to improve their job prospects and salary potential.

School Counseling State License


Licensure requirements vary by state but often include two years of professional experience and a school counseling-related degree with coursework in specific areas. Candidates must typically pass an exam.

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National Certified School Counselor


The National Board for Certified Counselors offers this credential for individuals who hold the national certified counselor credential. Candidates must have completed graduate-level coursework in five areas, submit a professional endorsement from a qualified colleague, and pass one of two approved exams. Candidates also need practicum, postgraduate, and professional experience.

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Licensed Professional Counselor


Requirements vary by state, but LPC candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in counseling, then a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or family therapy. Additional requirements generally include 3,000-4,000 hours of professional experience, including supervised practicum and internship experience. LPC candidates must pass a licensing exam.

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Scholarships for School Counseling

School counseling master’s students can qualify for scholarships based on academic achievement, financial need, and membership with a special-interest group. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment. Master’s in school counseling degree-seekers may qualify for the following scholarships.

  • Ruth G. and Joseph D. Matarazzo Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The American Psychological Foundation awards this scholarship to students pursuing interim master’s degrees. Applicants must be nominated by a psychology department with membership in the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology. Application requirements include a recommendation letter, a CV, and an outline of the applicant’s research project.

    Amount: $3,000

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  • AKA EAF Graduate Merit Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation offers this scholarship to full-time master’s and doctoral students with a history of community service. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must attend an accredited school. Applicants submit a resume, recommendation letters, and a description of their studies and goals.

    Amount: Varies

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  • AKA EAF Graduate Financial Need Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: This award supports full-time graduate students who demonstrate financial need and a history of community service. Candidates need a minimum 2.5 GPA. Application materials include three recommendation letters, a financial needs analysis, a resume, and a description of the student’s scholarly pursuits.

    Amount: Varies

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Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs 2021

  1. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Distance learners at Liberty University can earn a Master of Education in School Counseling entirely online. Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), students in this program prepare for careers in K-12 as school counselors in Christian, public and private schools. The curriculum focuses on psychology skills, ethics, instructional techniques, family counseling and career guidance. Liberty students learn how to provide emotionally safe environments for students based on students' holistic needs. As a Christian school, online learners can expect their professors to employ a Biblical perspective when teaching course content. Students complete a total of 48 credit hours to be eligible for graduation. Liberty students take 15 credits of advanced education courses such as Understanding Educational Research and Assessment and Foundations of Exceptionality. Additionally, online learners explore a 24-credit school counseling concentration including classes like Professional, Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling; Structured Groups; Counseling Theories and Techniques and School Counseling Program Development and Evaluation. This master's degree includes 3 mandatory counseling practicums or "intensives" that require students to be on-campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, for weeklong or weekend-long sessions. Incoming students may be eligible to transfer up to 50% of the required credits for this degree. While most Liberty students complete this degree in under 2 years, all students must complete degree requirements, including a 6-credit internship, in under 7 years. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher and must submit their official transcripts. No GRE score is required for admission.

  2. Missouri Baptist University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students may earn an online Master of Arts in School Counseling at Missouri Baptist University. This degree prepares students to meet the Missouri certification requirements for elementary and secondary school guidance counselors. With a valid certification, graduates of the program can work as guidance counselors in K-12 environments. Students who enroll in this degree take courses through an online learning platform called Canvas and have access to a variety of online learning resources. Online learning tutorials, academic support staff and a help desk are all available to students throughout the program. For an optimal online learning experience, students are encouraged to have a desktop or laptop that is 5 years old or newer, a minimum internet speed of 512 kbps and the latest version of Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox. This 51-credit-hour degree is taught from a Christian perspective and requires students to take core courses such as Ethical, Legal and Professional Issues in Counseling, Multicultural Counseling and Child and Adolescent Counseling. Students who are interested in this program are encouraged to apply by submitting their official undergraduate transcripts and by working with an enrollment counselor who can guide them through the application process. To graduate with a Master of Arts in School Counseling from Missouri Baptist University, students must earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. In addition, they are only permitted to earn one "C" in their coursework while completing this degree. Although most students graduate in 3 years, this program is flexible and designed to fit with the schedules of working professionals.

  3. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A hybrid Master of Education in College Counseling and Student Development is offered at North Carolina State University. This program prepares students who desire to work as counselors or advisers in counseling centers, diversity offices, advising offices and other student service agencies in college and university environments. Prospective students can apply by submitting their official undergraduate transcripts, GRE or MAT scores and 3 letters of recommendation. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs and includes core courses such as Career Counseling and Development, Introduction to College Counseling and Student Development, and Theories and Tech in Counseling. This is a 3-year, part-time cohort degree that requires students to take courses in the fall, winter, spring and summer semesters. During their final year, students must attend campus to complete some courses. Online courses consist of video lectures and promote interaction with the instruction and all classmates. They are easily accessed from WolfWare, a proprietary North Carolina State University website. In the event students experience technical difficulties while taking an online course, they can contact the help desk via email or phone and receive prompt assistance. Students are also paired with a program coordinator and adviser who can answer any questions and ensure they are on track to graduate. Upon completion of this degree, many students apply for licensure in the state of North Carolina. Those who don't live in North Carolina are encouraged to speak to a program adviser regarding licensure in their particular state.

  4. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus
    Location

    Magnolia, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Southern Arkansas University offers a Master of Education in School Counseling that can be completed through an online or hybrid format. It was created for students who hope to pursue careers as school counselors and to fulfill the K-12 school counseling requirements in Arkansas and the majority of other states. Admission requirements for this degree include a minimum GPA of 3.0 and GRE or MAT scores. This 48-credit-hour program allows students to select the add-on licensure or initial licensure route. The K-12 add-on license is for students who hold a valid Arkansas teaching license and would like to earn this credential. Those in the add-on licensure program must complete a 600-hour internship, 300 hours in an elementary school setting and 300 hours in a high school environment. The K-12 initial license is for students who do not have a teaching license but satisfy the requirements of the program. Regardless of whether students pursue the add-on licensure or initial licensure, they will take a variety of core courses, such as Foundations of School Counseling, Counseling in a Diverse Society, and Ethical, Legal and Professional Issues in Counseling. Students must also complete a practicum and internship in an elementary and high school setting. To graduate, students are required to earn a minimum GPA of 3.0. After graduation, students have the training they need to address the developmental needs of children and teens. They'll also be able to implement the Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Programs that are consistent with the American School Counselor Association's National Model and National Standards.

  5. North Carolina Central University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At North Carolina Central University, students may enroll in an online Master of Arts in School Counseling that is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and endorsed by the International Registry of Counselor Education Programs. This program prepares students for licensure in North Carolina and work as professional school counselors. Students who would like to pursue this degree are required to hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 as well as submit their GRE scores, an application essay and 2 letters of recommendation. In addition, they must undergo an interview with the admission committee. During the interview, the committee will determine whether they show signs of maturity, flexibility and an ability to handle feedback appropriately. Students who are currently enrolled in a master's program but would like to transfer into the Master of Arts in School Counseling program at North Carolina Central University may be able to transfer 12 credit hours. In order for credit hours to be transferred, they must be approved by the program advisers and be less than 2 years old. All courses in this program are taught through Blackboard, a platform that can give students the opportunity to access assignments, take exams and participate in discussions. To graduate, students must complete 51 credit hours and 700 hours of field experience. After graduation, students will have the knowledge and skills necessary to assist K-12 students with their academic, career and personal development.

  6. Angelo State University
    Location

    San Angelo, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Angelo State University gives students the chance to earn an online Master of Education in Counseling and Guidance. This program is intended for students who are interested in pursuing careers as counselors in public schools, colleges, universities and other academic environments. All courses are 8 weeks long, giving students the opportunity to complete the program in less than 2 years if they wish. Although the GRE is not required for admission, students who are interested in this program must submit their official college or university transcripts and hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75. Those who hope to become certified in Texas must have 2 years of teaching experience in a public school setting. Carr graduate scholarships are available to students and are based on students' undergraduate GPAs. All students are considered for these scholarships once they are admitted into the Master of Education in Counseling and Guidance program. Students who enroll in this degree are encouraged to work with an academic adviser to determine their plan of study. They must complete 36 credit hours, including courses such as Social and Cultural Influences, Professional Writing for Educators and Career and Occupational Counseling. Once they have finished all their coursework, students must apply for and complete a Comprehensive Program Review. Upon completion of the master's degree, many students sit for the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES) for the Professional Certificate for School Counselors.

  7. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At Fort Hays State University, students may complete a Master of Science in Counseling online. Students who are interested in earning this degree must submit GRE or MAT test scores, proof of a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their last 60 hours of undergraduate credit, 2 letters of reference, a professional goals statement and official transcripts of all of their college coursework. Those who enroll in this program will learn how to assist students in developing the academic and social skills necessary to succeed in today's ever-evolving world. This program can be completed in 3 years and consists of 48 credit hours as well as a practicum and internship. Students will work with a faculty adviser to plan a program of study that is right for their particular needs. Although most courses are offered in the spring and fall, there are some courses that are only offered once a year. A few examples of the core courses in this program include Foundations of Counseling, Lifestyle and Career Development, and Management of Counseling Programs. In order to graduate with a Master of Science in Counseling, students must pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. This exam covers 8 core areas, including human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career and lifestyle development, appraisal, research and program evaluation, and professional orientation and ethics. To pass the exam, students must achieve a score greater than 1 standard deviation below the national average. After graduating with a Master of Science in Counseling, most students obtain a school counselor license in Kansas.

  8. Chadron State College
    Location

    Chadron, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students can earn a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in school counseling at Chadron State College. This degree is offered in a hybrid format and designed for students who hope to work as school counselors at public and private elementary, middle or high school environments. Those who are interested in enrolling in this program must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and submit their official undergraduate transcripts. In addition, they are required to complete an interview process and attend the counseling program orientation. This degree offers three paths for students who seek to work as school counselors in Nebraska. Path 1 is for students who hold a valid teaching certificate and involves the completion of 39 credit hours and the passage of the Praxis Professional School Counselor Subject Assessment. Path 2 is for students who do not have a bachelor's degree in education or a valid teaching license but wish to become school counselors. These students are required to complete 39 credit hours and 12 hours of counseling alternative option coursework as well as meet the Nebraska State Human Relations and Nebraska State Special Education Training requirements. They must also pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor Subject Assessment. Path 3 is for students without a 4-year degree in education or a valid teaching license who hope to work as clinical mental health counselors. These students must complete 60 credit hours, an internship in a school setting, 12 hours of counseling alternative option coursework and the Nebraska State Human Relations and Nebraska State Special Education Training requirements. Passage of the Praxis Professional School Counselor (5421) Subject Assessment is also mandatory. Students can work with an academic advisor to determine which path is right for them.

  9. University of Tennessee at Martin
    Location

    Martin, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Tennessee, students have the opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Education. Students can concentrate in school counseling or clinical mental health or pursue a school counseling endorsement. Those who complete any of these programs can obtain licensure as a clinical mental health counselor or school counselor. To gain acceptance into the program, applicants are required to submit GRE scores, a 2-page essay that explains relevant school counseling experience, a resume and 3 letters of recommendation from teachers, principals, professors, supervisors and/or employers as well as pass a background check. Students who are interested in the school counseling concentration are also required to submit documentation of teaching experience. The school counseling and clinical mental health concentrations involve core courses such as Theory and Techniques of Counseling, Principles of Crisis Intervention and Practicum in Counseling. They also include an internship that gives students the opportunity to gain supervised experience in their profession of choice. To meet the internship requirement, students must complete 300 hours and submit a final log of those hours that is signed by their internship supervisor. Of these hours, 120 must involve direct client contact. Direct client contact includes activities such as individual counseling, group counseling or intake assessments. Indirect client contact refers to keeping records, meetings or other administrative tasks. In addition to completing a practicum and internship, all counseling students must attend a 4-day residency program, which is offered in January and June. This residency program allows students to participate in individual and group meetings while learning about specific counseling topics and role-playing techniques. It's intended to give students the chance to meet face-to-face and expand their counseling knowledge.

  10. University of West Alabama
    Location

    Livingston, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of West Alabama offers a Master of Arts in Teaching that is certified by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Current teachers who would like to further their education, enhance their teaching skills and advance their careers are encouraged to consider the certification option where they earn an Alabama master's level teaching certificate. Teachers who are not in Alabama are encouraged to check the teacher requirements in their state to determine whether this program will approve them for certification. Those who hope to change the subject they currently teach or change their career to education can opt for the non-certification route. The non-certification curriculum consists of 33 credit hours, while the certification curriculum involves 37 credit hours. Both curriculums include a variety of core courses, such as Techniques of Educational Research and Advanced Educational Psychology. Students in the certification and non-certification program must complete 3 courses from a field of concentration, such as biology, history, English language arts, mathematics, physical education, science and social science. Once enrolled, they will gain access to a personal success coach who will be there to answer any questions and ensure they are on the right track to graduate. University of West Alabama offers 5 terms per year that are each 8 weeks long so that students can complete 30 credits in 1 year if they choose to take a full load. While students are encouraged to take courses at a pace that works for them, most earn a Master of Arts in Teaching in about 1 year. Transfer students may transfer up to 9 semester hours of graduate credit from an accredited institution.

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