Introduction to counseling, introduction to psychology, human development
Psychology, counseling, social work
Classroom assistant, school administrative assistant, office assistant
Classroom assistants: $24,900 per year
School administrative/office assistants: $36,500 per year
Classroom assistants: 6% job growth between 2014-2024
School administrative/office assistants: 3% job growth
Earning an Online School Counseling Degree
Are you passionate about helping young people cultivate the social and emotional skills needed to be successful? Do you want to truly make a difference in students’ lives? If so, a school counseling degree will set you on the path towards a rewarding career in the field.
The school counseling industry is expected to grow 8% from 2014 to 2024. As enrollment rates rise for elementary, middle, and high schools, demand for school counselors will grow — making an online school counseling degree an especially wise investment in upcoming years.
If you’ve been told that you are a good listener and you like building meaningful relationships, an online school counseling degree program could be a good fit for you. As a professional in this field, you should also be able to empathize with young people from diverse backgrounds and show flexibility, humility, a good sense of humor, and evaluation skills.
School counselors often have demanding yet incredibly fulfilling jobs. If you think you have what it takes to excel as a school counselor, read on. Our guide contains information about different counseling jobs and the types of online school counseling degrees you’ll need to succeed in the field.
Meet our expert
“This is a job that is often misunderstood, and you may find yourself educating not just the kids, but the community, too.”
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Online School Counseling Degree Overview
|Degree||Avg Degree Cost||Avg Loan Default Rate||Time Commitment||Early Career Pay||Mid-Career Pay||Unemployment Rate|
Most jobs in the school counseling field require a school counseling degree at the master’s level. On top of earning a school counseling degree online, practicing school counselors usually need a credential issued at the state level. It usually takes about two years and costs $16,771 to earn a masters in school counseling online, with early career salaries in the field averaging $40,724. There are some school systems and positions in the field that may only require a school counseling degree at the bachelor’s level.
Online School Counseling Degrees
Introduction to counseling I, introduction to counseling II, ethical and professional issues in counseling
Counseling, psychology, education, social work
Teacher, school office manager, case manager, social worker
Teachers (kindergarten and elementary): $54,550 per year
Teachers (high school): $57,200 per year
Office managers: $86,110 per year
Case managers: $63,530 per year
Social workers: $45,900 per year
Teachers (kindergarten and elementary): 6% job growth between 2014-2024
Teachers (high school): 6% job growth
Office managers: 8% job growth
Case managers: 10% job growth
Social workers: 12% job growth
Counseling theories, group counseling, school counseling program development & evaluation, advanced developmental psychology, legal and ethical principles of counseling
School counseling, guidance counseling, community counseling
Elementary school counselor, middle school counselor, high school counselor, guidance counselor
Elementary, middle school, high school, & guidance counselors: $53,660
Elementary, middle school, high school, & guidance counselors: 8% job growth between 2014-24
School Counseling Master’s Degree Rankings
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
University of Missouri
|Columbia||$$$$$||105 Jesse Hall|
Columbia, MO 65211
Online students at U of M Columbia can attain a master's of education in educational, school and counseling psychology with an emphasis in mental health practices in schools (M Ed, EdSp). This 34-hour program (31 for Educational Specialist) is the first online program of its kind in the country. Its focus is the prevention of mental health problems for children and adolescents. Coursework is completed through the Blackboard learning management system. Classes are semester format, with assignments due at specific times throughout the term.
Curriculum coverage includes disruptive behaviors, parent communication, diversity issues, crisis management and resiliency. The degree is appropriate for those working with children and adolescents in school settings, such as:
Topics encompass delinquency, eating disorders, depression, stress and abuse. A capstone integrative paper completes the requirements. The program does not grant school counselor certification or counseling licensure.
|Bethlehem||$$$$$||27 Memorial Drive West|
Bethlehem, PA 18015
An online master’s degree of education in international counseling from Lehigh University prepares students for a career as a counselor in elementary, middle and secondary schools, as well as community mental health agencies and hospitals. The curriculum targets three areas of international issues: school, community and family. Students will learn to provide culturally appropriate interventions and approaches that encompass diversity and international communities.
Admission to the online master degree in school counseling program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work, two letters of recommendation and an essay. Completion involves 30 hours of 400-level courses, plus six credit hours of master’s internship. Most students complete the program in two calendar years, accomplished through a blend of online coursework on the Moodle platform and face-to-face summer sessions.
Wake Forest University
|Winston Salem||$$$$$||1834 Wake Forest Road|
Winston Salem, NC 27106
Wake Forest University offers an online Master of Arts in School Counseling consisting of 60 total credit hours: 42 credits in foundational courses and 18 credits hours in school counseling-specific courses. Graduates of this program are eligible to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification. On-campus administration of this exam is available, and 100% of graduating students who have taken the exam have passed.
Completion of this degree prepares students for careers as a school counselor, substance abuse counselor, career counselor or crisis counselor. Coursework is designed to be completed in three years. Classes are accessed through the Sakai learning management system.
Seton Hall University
|South Orange||$$$$$||400 S Orange Ave|
South Orange, NJ 07079-2697
The Seton Hall M.A. in School Counseling program is accredited by the New Jersey Department of education. It prepares students to work as school counselors in K-12 school districts. The program is 48 credit hours, including nine credits of field experience. Coursework covers counseling core studies, assessments, research and psychological and sociological foundations. The supervised field experience is made up of one practicum and two internships.
Core theoretical and clinical curriculum emphasizes the development of skills to provide counseling services, empower students and families, provide crisis intervention, consult with other school staff and advocate for students. All online coursework is completed through the Blackboard platform.
University of Massachusetts - Boston
|Boston||$$$$$||100 Morrissey Boulevard|
Boston, MA 02125-3393
The online master degree in school counseling at U of M Boston is a primarily online degree which prepares students for careers as school guidance counselors. Coursework covers core topics in psychology, cultural diversity, vocational assessment and development and counseling theory and practice. The program is 60 credits, including field experiences. Practicum and internships may be completed in schools local to each student. Supervision for these experiences is accomplished through weekly online chats.
All students start in the summer semester and are required to attend a two-week summer study in person at the UMass Dartmouth campus for completion of two courses. Housing is available for online students. All online work is accessed through the Blackboard platform; enrollees must attend full-time (9 credits per semester).
|Washington||$$$$$||800 Florida Ave, NE|
Washington, DC 20002-3695
The Summers and Online School Counseling program at Gallaudet University prepares graduates to become school counselors with a focus on deaf, hard of hearing and hearing impaired students in K-12 educational settings. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work, letters of recommendation, four essays, two years of work experience and nine hours of psychology credits. Preference is given to prospective students with experience serving deaf and hard of hearing people.
The online hybrid program typically requires three years to complete. Students usually attend classes on campus for three summers and complete online coursework for six semesters. Online classes are accessed through the Blackboard learning management system. Studies culminate in a 12-credit internship which requires students to work five days per week in an educational setting serving deaf and hard of hearing students. During their last semester, students are eligible to take the National Counselor Exam.
Oregon State University
|Corvallis||$$$$$||1500 S.W. Jefferson|
Corvallis, OR 97331
Upon completion of this 75-credit program, students will have earned a Master of Counseling from Oregon State University. Courses are offered in hybrid format, with 50 percent online and 50 percent on-campus. Classroom meetings are held two weekends each term in Salem, Oregon. Other coursework is completed online via the Canvas platform. Online practicum and internships courses are completed synchronously, requiring online attendance at specific times.
Students with this degree are prepared for careers in school counseling. The program emphasizes skills in group therapy, leadership, research and advocacy, with the goals of delivering school counseling services to students and increasing college attendance. Coursework encompasses developmental perspectives, cultural perspectives, special education issues, research methods, group and family counseling, crisis and grief and career development. This is an accredited program, recognized by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The program is not formally approved for professional licensure outside of Oregon.
Concordia University - Wisconsin
|Mequon||$$$$$||12800 N Lake Shore Dr|
Mequon, WI 53097-2402
The Master of Science in Education – Counseling prepares online students for a career as a K-12 school counselor in the public or parochial school setting. Coursework emphasizes personality development, test design and analysis, counseling program creation and implementation, one-to-one counseling and group counseling.
The program requires completion of 36 credits in counseling foundations. Coursework includes tests and measurements, theories of personality, human development, counseling theories and individual and group counseling. Classes are accessed through the Blackboard online learning platform. Students also complete six credit hours of practicum, involving 600 hours of supervised field experience, and submit a completed professional portfolio to finish the program.
University of North Dakota
|Grand Forks||$$$$$||264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193|
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
This Master of Arts in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling prepares online students for a career as a school counselor in the K-12 setting. The program is 50 credits, requiring two years to complete. Classes are synchronous, held in the evenings with live interaction through the Blackboard platform. Students must also attend two mandatory four-day campus visits each summer (four total.) Upon completion of coursework, students are eligible for North Dakota department of education licensure. The program may also be compatible with requirements in other states.
The program emphasizes diversity, working with underserved populations and promoting social justice. Coursework follows the American School Counselor Association’s National Model. Skills developed include educational and career planning, assessments and evaluations, special needs and life skills. To graduate, students must complete a two-semester supervised counseling experience as well as an independent research project.
University of West Alabama
Livingston, AL 35470
The University of West Alabama offers two options for its Master of Education in School Counseling. Students may follow the track for certification or non-certification:
All online coursework is completed through the Blackboard learning management system.
For admittance to the certification program, students must hold a valid baccalaureate level certification in a teaching field or master’s level professional educator certificate in another field. The non-certification program’s admission requirements include attainment of a bachelor’s or master’s level degree in a teaching field or instructional support.
Missouri Baptist University
|Saint Louis||$$$$$||One College Park Dr|
Saint Louis, MO 63141-8698
Missouri Baptist offers three options for students seeking an online master's degree in school counseling:
All tracks meet Missouri Certification requirements for an elementary and secondary school guidance counselor position. Coursework encompasses counseling techniques, human development, group counseling, multicultural studies and professional portfolio development.
Online classes are offered year-round in an 8-week, asynchronous format. Coursework is accessed through the Canvas learning management system. Students can complete the program in two years.
University of the Cumberlands
|Williamsburg||$$$$$||6191 College Station Drive|
Williamsburg, KY 40769
The University of the Cumberlands Master of Arts in Education offers a School Counseling Concentration attainable through online studies. The online master degree in school counseling program prepares graduates to become a school guidance counselor. Program completion requires 45 credit hours. Coursework covers subjects such as diverse needs; group and individual counseling; grief and loss; ethics; research methods; and assessments. Students must also complete a counseling practicum or internship. Total hours of required field experience is dependent upon prior experience and teacher certification.
Students complete online coursework via the Blackboard learning management system.
|Virginia Beach||$$$$$||1000 Regent University Dr|
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
An M.A. in School Counseling from Regent University prepares graduates for a career as a counselor in the K-12 school system. The program emphasizes counseling techniques with a biblical foundation. Completion of the degree requires 60 credit hours: 39 in core coursework and 21 in school counseling major courses. Core classes cover research, theories of counseling, family systems, group counseling, assessment and multicultural counseling. Two 3-credit internships are included as part of the coursework.
Courses are offered online through the Blackboard platform. Online students must also fulfill three residency requirements, which consist of three week-long on-campus sessions during which students begin a course that will be completed throughout the rest of the semester. The entire program can be completed in two years and may be started in fall or spring.
Our Lady of the Lake University
|San Antonio||$$$$$||411 SW 24th St|
San Antonio, TX 78207-4689
This Master of Education in School Counseling is a 48-credit program students can complete in two years. Upon graduation, students are prepared to take the Texas Examinations for Educator Standards School Counseling Exam (TExES), as well as the Licensed Professional Counselor Examination and the National Certified Counselor Examination. Graduates are qualified for school counseling at the primary and secondary levels. Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Coursework for the online master's degree in school counseling covers topics such as counseling theories and services, assessments, ethics, multicultural issues and psychological development. Skills emphasized include career development planning, psychological guidance, problem assessment and ethical conduct. Coursework includes two practicum field experiences with a total of 500 required hours. Online courses are completed via MyOLLU Campus Connection.
Angelo State University
|San Angelo||$$$$$||2601 W. Avenue N|
San Angelo, TX 76909
Those interested in pursuing careers in public school counseling or college counseling can complete Angelo State University’s online M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling. Program requirements include 36 total credit hours. All courses are offered online through the Blackboard platform. Classes are delivered in an 8-week format, allowing students to complete the program in less than two years. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.75.
Student coursework will cover the breadth of counseling topics, including cultural issues, testing, development, research, ethics and individual and group counseling. Students also select six credit hours of electives. Graduates are prepared to take the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES).
University of Central Arkansas
|Conway||$$$$$||201 Donaghey Ave|
Conway, AR 72035-0001
The University of Central Arkansas Master's of Science in Professional School Counseling offers two available tracks of study:
The master's in school counseling online program requires completion of 48 credit hours, including practicum and internship experiences. Coursework includes interventions, careers, assessments, multicultural studies and individual and group counseling. The curriculum aligns with the American School Counselor Association National Model.
Online coursework is delivered in a synchronous format, requiring students to be online at a specified day and time. Classes are accessed through the Blackboard platform. Occasional in-person sessions at the main campus in Conway, Arkansas are also required.
Fort Hays State University
|Hays||$$$$$||600 Park St|
Hays, KS 67601-4099
Fort Hays State University offers a 45-credit Master of Science in Counseling program. The core curriculum includes educational research, lifespan human development, foundations of counseling, group counseling and social and cultural foundations. Students must also complete a practicum and an internship in elementary or secondary education school counseling. These field experiences encompass nine of the required credit hours.
The program is online with the exception of three, 4-day, on-campus courses. The remainder of online coursework is completed through the Blackboard learning management system. Faculty and students also use Google apps, blogs, YouTube, Facebook and other technologies to enhance the distance learning experience.
The University of Tennessee - Martin
|Martin||$$$$$||544 University Street|
Martin, TN 38238-0002
The University of Tennessee, Martin offers the opportunity to pursue an M.S. in Counseling with a school counseling concentration. The program requires 48 credit hours for completion, including a practicum and internship completed over 10-week terms with a minimum of 100 clock hours. Curriculum focuses on several core areas of study:
Admission requirements include a minimum GPA of 2.7 and minimum GRE scores: combined verbal and quantitative of 300 and writing 3.5. The application process also involves submission of an essay, letters of recommendation, documentation of teaching experience and a background check. Online courses are completed using the Blackboard learning management system.
University of the Southwest
|Hobbs||$$$$$||6610 North Lovington Hwy|
Hobbs, NM 88240
This fully online Master of Science in Education prepares students for a career in primary, elementary, middle or high school counseling. The program comprises 42 credits, including a practicum and internship. The practicum requires 60 clock hours of field experience, and the internship is 16 weeks long, requiring 300 hours of supervised field experience. Classes are completed online via the Blackboard platform.
Core coursework emphasizes counseling theories and techniques; career development; counseling ethics; and group, family and child/adolescent counseling. Graduates are prepared for licensure as a school counselor in New Mexico. Out-of-state residents should check with their state’s department of education to determine if the program meets their licensing requirements.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Waxahachie, TX 75165
SAGU emphasizes the integration of biblical values in all academic disciplines. Through their Master of Education in School Counseling program, students can prepare for a career in counseling at the primary or secondary school level. The online master's degree in school counseling program consists of 36 credit hours, made up of five components:
The practicum accounts for six of the master's in school counseling online program credit hours and requires 160 clock hours of field experience. Topics covered by courses include learning strategies, classroom management, crisis intervention, play therapy and career development. All online coursework is accessed through the Blackboard learning management system.
Research methods, program evaluation, assessment in counseling and education
DBA and PhD
School counseling researcher, professor of school counseling, counselor educator
Professor/counselor educator (postsecondary): $72,470 per year
Professor/counselor educator (postsecondary): 13% job growth between 2014-24
Online School Counseling Find Accredited Degrees
Online School Counseling Choose Your Career
Average School Counseling Salaries
|Growth Rate 2014-2024||Number of Jobs: 2014||Degree||Certifications|
|19%||168,200||Masters||State Specific Licensing Requirements|
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people with relationship problems and mental and emotional disorders. They help clients identify problematic behaviors and figure out strategies to manage or overcome them. Some job duties in this field include diagnosing, treating, and managing mental health and emotional disorders, helping clients develop skills and plans for the future, and referring clients to other resources. If you are a good listener, enjoy helping people, and have a calm, authoritative demeanor, you might consider an online school counseling degree.
|Growth Rate 2014-2024||Number of Jobs: 2014||Degree||Certifications|
|22%||94,900||Bachelor's||State Specific Licensing Requirements|
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help people recover from problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, and other behavioral disorders. A person in this position is responsible for evaluating behavior, developing treatment plans, helping clients develop skills for recovery, and connecting clients and their families with other resources. Character traits useful for a career as a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor include good communication skills, empathy, evaluation skills, and the desire to help others.
|Growth Rate 2014-2024||Number of Jobs: 2014||Degree||Certifications|
|8%||273,400||Masters||State Specific Licensing Requirements|
School counselors help students cultivate the social and emotional skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help students figure out careers for which they are most suited. School and career counselors also help people evaluate their abilities and interests, identify behavioral issues, develop skills needed for academic and career achievement, work with teachers, parents and other family members, and identify and report cases of abuse. If you have skills in evaluation, relationship-building, listening, and empathy, an online school counseling degree is the first step to getting started in this career.
Online School Counseling Degree in Action
Lisa Lawmaster Hess School Counseling
Lisa Lawmaster is a retired school counselor who spent 27 years as an elementary school counselor before retiring four years ago. She is currently working as an adjunct professor of psychology.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into school counseling.
I earned a BA in Psychology at Bucknell University and opted to stay there to earn my MSEd. I live in Pennsylvania, where school counselors earn an Educational Specialist certification, and have a level 2 ES certification. Were I to graduate now, I believe my certificate would look a bit different, as I know the levels for teaching certificates have changed.
Upon graduation, I took a position at Fairfield (PA) Area School District, where I created and implemented an elementary guidance program, working with students in grades K-8 (small district). I taught classes, ran small groups, worked with students individually, and consulted with parents and staff.
After four years at FASD, I took a similar position at Central York School District, where I worked with children in grades K-3. This was a much larger district, and although my responsibilities were essentially the same, the sheer number of classes I had to teach with a 1:1100 ratio squeezed out small groups. I ran some, but it was much harder to fit them in. In addition, I shared my office with a speech therapist in one building, so scheduling of the confidential pieces (small groups and individual meetings) was a little trickier.
After four years at CYSD, I moved to the smaller York Suburban School District, where I worked in one building for most of my tenure. I built on the existing program in a building housing students in grades 2-5. Once again, I taught classes, ran small groups, worked with students individually, and consulted with parents and staff.
What factors should a student take into account when considering a degree in counseling?
While the potential to help and effect change is great, so is the potential to take home the burdens of families and staff. One of the reasons I chose this position, though, rather than something more clinical, is that working with a broad spectrum of kids and families means you get to see a wide range of abilities and successes. Every day was a mix, as opposed to a revolving door of clients with each one bringing a new problem. I liked that I dealt with a typical developmental range, not just the sad stuff. Classes meant I got to be proactive, teaching the kids life skills and focusing on positive things.
What was the most fulfilling part of a career like this?
Building relationships. This job works best when trust exists between not just the counselor and the kids, but also the counselor and the staff and the counselor and parents. Lots of tricky situations arise, and, without trust, managing them becomes unnecessarily difficult. In addition, building relationships leads to enduring connections. I recently had several students in my general psychology class who had been my students in elementary school. It was so much fun to see them again, and have the opportunity to teach them as young adults.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while earning your degree?
There is never enough time. My tenure at CYSD was the most difficult from this perspective. Great staff and principals, but there were just too many kids for me to be able to develop the relationships described above. This job, like many others, expands to fill -- and exceed -- the time available. There is always another kiddo to see, another phone call to return, another class to teach, another small group to run. And, because school counselors rarely have counterparts in their own buildings or answer to administrators with counseling background, it is sometimes hard to convey the importance of not splitting a counselor between buildings. As financial pressures rise in school districts, non-mandated elementary school counselors may find their jobs at risk.
What type of person would excel in this career?
Someone caring and compassionate who truly believes kids are worthy of the same respect as adults. Someone who wants to become a fabric of the building in which s/he works, and is willing to spend the time creating relationships with not just the kids, but also the adults who impact them. A level of creativity helps, too, in developing small groups and classroom lessons.
What other advice can you give to someone pursuing a career in school counseling?
Make a plan for how you'll manage the stress of the job. It's so fulfilling most days, but overwhelming on others. If you take the kids' problems home with you on a regular basis, you'll burn out quickly and be of no use to anyone. Learn how to practice compassion without becoming so involved that every kiddo follows you home, so to speak. Some inevitably will, but if they all do, you'll never make it. Also, be willing to be an advocate -- for your kids, for the parents, for staff and for yourself. This is a job that is often misunderstood, and you may find yourself educating not just the kids, but the community, too.