The 2022 Guide to Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

School counselors have the unique opportunity to help students in multiple areas of their growth and development. Guiding students through personal, social, emotional and career development, school counselors work alongside other members of an education team to help improve the quality of education. To accomplish all this, school counselors employ a variety of skills including patience, understanding of gender and cultural differences, ethical decision-making, leadership and a commitment to social justice.

Earning an online master’s in school counseling may help you develop these skills and gain relevant knowledge to handle a diverse range of situations and provide the guidance students need. So, why might you want to obtain an online master’s degree in school counseling? For one, you can earn your degree without having to give up your full-time position, commute to campus, or relocate—in a traditional program, that might not be possible. We’ll explore other reasons in detail later in this guide.

One factor to consider when looking at programs is accreditation. The most widely preferred accreditor for online master’s in school counseling programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), as it ensures that coursework meets the appropriate requirements and standards to practice as a school counselor. This, along with state school counseling licensure, will allow you to pursue school counselor positions at different grade levels. It is important to note that while some states require completion of a CACREP accredited master’s program, it is not required in every state to pursue licensure. Students should research these requirements in their state before choosing a program.

School Counselor Job Description

What can you do with a master’s degree in school counseling? School counselor jobs can be found in public and private schools. Counseling professionals help students achieve their educational and personal goals. This means assisting students with behavioral issues, educating them on topics like substance abuse and bullying, and helping them figure out post-graduation plans. 

Becoming a school counselor may be a rewarding career path for you, particularly if you’re interested in helping students reach their full potential and fulfill their dreams. Listening skills, empathy, communication and interpersonal skills may help you on the job. While completing an online school counseling master’s degree, you may explore these common school counselor skills. But it’s important to note that these skills will not necessarily land you a school counselor position.  

Is a School Counselor the Same as a Guidance Counselor?

Ever wondered what is the difference between a guidance counselor and a school counselor? Growing up, your school may have used one or both of these terms. Even though “school counselor” and “guidance counselor” have been used interchangeably over the years, Mandy Savitz-Romer, a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, makes an important distinction between the two in her book Fulfilling the Promise. She notes that “guidance counselor” was coined in the 1900s and used for teachers who provided vocational guidance to students outside their regular scope of work.

School counselor education and training focuses on providing holistic support for students—from academic help to family intervention—and not just on guiding students through the college application process. 

Because “guidance counselor” is generally considered an outdated term by experts in the field, you’ll likely hear graduate counseling degree programs called master’s in school counseling or master’s in school counseling online programs instead of master’s in guidance counseling online.  

Online MS in School Counseling Curriculum

The curriculum and number of credits required to complete an online master’s in school counseling program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. CACREP outlines key standards counseling programs must adhere to  to maintain their reputation and CACREP-accredited status. These standards are based on the inclusion of foundations, contextual dimensions and practices in a program’s curriculum. The key standards used in today’s accreditation process were last revised in 2016. CACREP intends  to review them in 2023. 

These standards are the guidelines for creating a comprehensive school counseling curriculum, one that features a variety of coursework and subject areas. An online master’s in school counseling degree program may include the following courses:

  • Foundations of school counseling: In this introductory course, students receive a broad overview of the field. This often includes learning about the history of school counseling, responsibilities and counseling models. 
  • Ethics and legal issues: This online MS in counseling course helps prepare students for difficult decisions they may have to make on the job, diving into ethical standards in the industry and the counselor’s role in improving students’ lives.   
  • Multicultural counseling: In this course, students explore their own identities and biases to learn how to better serve children and adolescents from an array of backgrounds and identities.
  • Diagnosis and treatment: In this course, you’ll learn about mental health issues students could be dealing with, how to identify them and potential treatment strategies. 
  • Field experience: Even if you’re pursuing a school counseling master’s online, you’ll need to complete a practicum and an internship. These provide a chance to apply knowledge learned in the classroom and typically involve direct counseling hours.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s in School Counseling Online?

One of the benefits of completing a master’s degree online is that you can work at a pace that suits your schedule and learning style. School counseling programs offer a variety of tracks to fit your needs, including full-time and part-time enrollment options as well as accelerated tracks. Depending on which you choose, it could take 1 ½ to 3 years to complete the program.  Every journey is different, so don’t worry if it takes you more or less time to earn your degree.

Bilingual School Counselor Online Programs

Some schools with master’s in school counseling programs offer concentrations in bilingual counseling to help overcome language barriers in schools that might prevent students from getting the help they need. Curricula typically focus on how to aid bilingual student populations from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Master of School Counseling Online Program Admissions Requirements

Each online master’s in school counseling program has its own prerequisites, so you may want to contact your accredited institution for detailed admissions information. Depending on your school, you may be required to submit some or all of the following:

  1. Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find on the website of the accredited institution of your choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
  2. Bachelor’s degree: A bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution is typically required before applying to a master’s in school counseling program.
  3. Transcripts: Request transcripts in advance of the application deadline and upload a copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
  4. Personal statement: Write a personal statement or essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. This portion of the application gives you the opportunity to explain how your academic and personal interests align with the school’s mission. You’ll also be able to highlight professional experiences, your plans and any other unique traits you want the admissions team to know. 
  5. Resume/CV: Upload a copy of your most recent resume or curriculum vitae as part of your application.
  6. Letters of recommendation: The number of letters required varies by school. Be sure to request them well in advance of the deadline.
  7. Test Scores: Some schools may require GRE scores or TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students, but there are also programs with no GRE requirement.

It is also worth noting that some schools with master’s in counseling programs have prerequisites, such as coursework in psychology, biology and statistics. However, it is up to the discretion of each individual program to set these requirements. 

Just as it’s important to consider the admissions requirements of the schools you’re applying to, you may want to take some time to research and think about tuition cost. Price varies significantly from program to program. 

Getting your degree can cost thousands of dollars, but don’t let the master’s in school counseling cost deter you from pursuing your passion. When in search of an affordable online master’s degree in school counseling, keep an eye out for scholarship opportunities

In addition to master’s in school counseling scholarships offered by nonprofit organizations and businesses across the country, you may want to consider choosing a school that offers financial assistance specifically for students entering a helping profession like education or counseling. It may also be helpful to research school counseling program rankings and compare tuition costs from there, to determine whether obtaining the degree is worth it for you. 

Don’t forget that those who choose to complete an online master’s in school counseling instead of an in-person program may be able to work toward their degree while maintaining full-time employment. Working while you’re enrolled in school might help to make the journey to becoming a counselor more financially feasible. 

Do You Need a Master’s to be a School Counselor?

In most states, completing a master’s degree is an entry-level requirement to becoming a school counselor. The master’s degree in school counseling is also required for a state-issued license, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Since completing a school counseling program is typically part of obtaining a license, it’s important to do your research before getting an online master’s degree in school counseling. 

Do You Need a Master’s to Transition from Teacher to School Counselor?

In the same way that master’s in school counseling degrees are typically required of individuals seeking a school counselor license, they are also usually required for those switching careers from teaching to school counseling. This degree may help teachers make the transition by allowing them to build on existing knowledge, grasp new concepts and develop a new skill set before becoming a licensed school counselor.

Why Become a School Counselor Online?

There are a number of benefits associated with completing a graduate degree in school counseling online. One of the reasons you might choose to pursue school counseling master’s programs online is flexibility. The online classroom allows professionals working toward becoming a counselor to maintain a full- or part-time job. Depending on your lifestyle needs and goals, you may find there are other reasons that make an online degree a good fit for you.

Online School Counseling Programs Accreditation 

In searching through the online school counseling programs available, one factor that might help you narrow your search is program accreditation. CACREP, the widely preferred accrediting body for school counseling programs, has rigorous standards programs must uphold to maintain accreditation. CACREP ensures that school counseling programs have up-to-date coursework and are properly setting up aspiring counselors for careers in the field. For these reasons, it’s best to check that the programs you’re considering are CACREP-accredited online school counseling programs. It is also best to check if the state you wish to practice in requires you to complete a CACREP-accredited program, as it is not required in every state.

Why Attend an Accredited School Counseling Program Online?

There are various reasons why you might consider an accredited online master’s in counseling program over programs that have not yet obtained accreditation. A few of them are listed below:

School Counseling Jobs for Master’s in Counseling Graduates

After earning your online master’s in school counseling degree, the next step is to get a school counseling license.  In order to do so, you may be required to complete additional steps, such as complete a background check and pass your state examinations.  Every state has its own licensure requirements to become a school counselor, so it is best to check on the exact requirements with your state board. Once you obtain this license, you will be able to work in the school counseling career of your choice. 

Once properly licensed, school counselors can begin practicing in a variety of educational settings, working with students from a wide range of age groups. Jobs in school counseling are commonly available at elementary, secondary and college-level public and private schools

Interested in hearing about school counseling directly from experts in the field? Check out our interviews with these two school counselors:

If you are interested in working in a school setting but are still wondering whether school counseling is right for you, you can learn more about the differences between school counselors and school psychologists. On the other hand, if you are interested in counseling but not sure if a school setting is a good fit for you, consider other jobs in counseling, including in healthcare private practice or government agency settings. 

Types of School Counselor Careers

Not sure which types of school guidance counselor jobs are right for you? The BLS provides some common work settings and roles for school counseling professionals—and you’re not limited to that list. There are a number of potential jobs you may seek after completing your degree and obtaining a state-issued license. They include:  

  • Elementary school counselor jobs: Elementary school counselors often help students develop foundational educational skills they can use throughout their lives, including studying, decision-making and social skills. Another responsibility is working with students and parents dealing with behavioral problems. 
  • High school counselor jobs: As a high school counselor, you’ll assist students through a range of obstacles and educate them on topics like substance abuse and bullying. These counselors also help students prepare for college or employment after graduation, coaching them through application processes. These positions may be referred to as guidance counselor jobs. 
  • College counselor jobs:  College counselors, or career counselors, explore career paths with students and provide tips and pointers for pursuing post-graduation goals. They are often experts on writing resumes, drafting cover letters and interviewing with potential employers. 
  • Graduate school counselor jobs: Undergraduate and graduate students often need help with the job search process. If you work at a university, you may help graduate students through the process of applying to jobs and interviewing alongside undergrads.   

How Much Does a School Counselor Make?

As you consider school counselor career options, you may stop to wonder about the average school counselor salary. According to the BLS, the median annual pay for school and career counselors was $58,120 in May 2020. Different factors can influence school counselors’ pay, including the state or city in which they are working, their years of experience and whether the school is public or private. 

What about job outlook? Employment of school and career counselors is expected to grow 11% over the next decade—and that’s faster than the average for all occupations. 

Find the Best Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling For You

In searching for the best online master’s in school counseling program for you, it’s important to take into account the instruction method, the program length and the credit requirements necessary to complete the program.

USC Master's in School Counseling online — No GRE

The University of Southern California Rossier School of Education offers a Master of Education in School Counseling online for aspiring K-12 school counselors. The program can be completed in less than two years and there is no GRE requirement.

  • No GRE required 
  • Prepares you for school counseling credential 
  • Bachelor’s degree required

info SPONSORED

Master’s in School Counseling Online from the University of Denver

With no GRE required, earn your Master’s in School Counseling online in as few as 24 months from the University of Denver. Gain valuable skills through a curriculum centered on social justice and designed to adhere to the standards set by CACREP.

  • No GRE required  
  • Live, online classes   
  • Complete in as few as 24 months 

info SPONSORED

Prepare to Become a School Counselor at NYU Steinhardt

Learn more about NYU Steinhardt’s online MA degree that prepares you to become a school counselor in as few as 18 months. Graduates can pursue certification and employment in pre-K–12 schools. Bachelor’s req.

  • Complete in as few as 18 months.
  • Pursue school counselor certification.
  • Study bilingual school counseling (optional). 
  • GRE scores are not required. 

info SPONSORED

One or a few of these factors might help you determine which master’s in counseling program is worth your investment. As you continue to think through and plan your path to becoming a school counselor, take advantage of the breadth of school counselor resources available online and elsewhere.

Online Master’s Programs in School Counseling

Whether you’re hoping to obtain an online Master of Education in School Counseling or transition from teaching to a school counseling position, you’ll want to know what program options are available. We’ve compiled a list of master’s in school counseling programs, the delivery method and credit requirements. The difference between asynchronous and synchronous programs is that synchronous coursework takes place in a live online classroom as opposed to a video lecture recording.

Adams State University

Department of Counselor Education and Family Therapy

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Alamosa, Colorado

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelors degree
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Official transcripts
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from Adams State University

Bradley University

College of Education and Health Sciences

Master of Arts in Professional School Counseling

Peoria, Illinois

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Professional School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Two short essays
  • Virtual interview
  • Complete basic skills courses
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Professional School Counseling from Bradley University

Edinboro University

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Edinboro, Pennsylvania

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: N/A

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Three letters of reference
  • Official transcripts
  • APA formatted writing sample
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from Edinboro University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Marion, Indiana

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2+ years

Credits: 48

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor degree from a regionally accredited institution or by the Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • GPA of 3.0 for undergraduate degree
  • Six credit hours of psychology coursework
  • Six credit hours of Bible coursework
  • GRE scores achieved in the last five years
  • Writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University

North Carolina Central University

School of Education

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Durham, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 51

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • Essay 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from North Carolina Central University

North Carolina State University

College of Education

Master of Education in School Counseling

Raleigh, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Education in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Part-Time

Length of Program: 3 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • Bachelors degree
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL (for international applicants)
Learn more about the Master of Education in School Counseling from North Carolina State University

Regent University

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Background survey
  • Unofficial/official transcripts
  • Three references
  • Valid ID
  • Interview
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from Regent University

University of Massachusetts in Boston

College of Education and Human Development

Masters of Education in Counseling

Boston, Massachusetts

Name of Degree: Masters of Education in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

 Adjustment Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts 
  • CV/resume 
  • Statement of purpose 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • MTEL test (for licensure in MA) 
Learn more about the Masters of Education in Counseling from University of Massachusetts in Boston

University of Louisiana Monroe

College of Health Sciences

Masters of Science in School Counseling

Monroe, Louisiana

Name of Degree: Masters of Science in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • CV/resume 
  • Letter of interest 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
Learn more about the Masters of Science in School Counseling from University of Louisiana Monroe

Wake Forest University

The Graduate School

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Enrollment Type: Part-Time

Length of Program: 3 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Personal statement
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
Learn more about the Master of Arts in School Counseling from Wake Forest University

Last updated January 2022.