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.

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Lisa Lawmaster Hess School Counseling

“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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Degrees

Online School Counseling Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Bachelor's N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Master's $16,771 9.68% 2 years $40,724 $66,266 3.1%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

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

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Online Associate’s Degree in School Counseling

Although most entry-level school counselor positions require a master’s degree in school counseling, it can be a smart move to earn your associate degree in counseling if you are interested in first exploring the field. You might be able to work as an assistant in the field of school counseling with an associate degree.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Introduction to counseling, introduction to psychology, human development

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Psychology, counseling, social work

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Classroom assistant, school administrative assistant, office assistant

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    • Classroom assistants: $24,900 per year
    • School administrative/office assistants: $36,500 per year
  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    • Classroom assistants: 6% job growth between 2014-2024
    • School administrative/office assistants: 3% job growth

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling

A bachelor’s degree in school counseling will cover the foundational concepts and knowledge needed to continue on towards a graduate degree. Students must typically earn a bachelor’s degree in school counseling or a related field — such as psychology, education, or social work — before earning their master’s in school counseling. With a bachelor’s, you might also might be able to find employment in other entry-level positions associated with the field of school counseling.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Introduction to counseling I, introduction to counseling II, ethical and professional issues in counseling

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Counseling, psychology, education, social work

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Teacher, school office manager, case manager, social worker

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    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

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    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

Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling

A master’s degree is required by most states to practice counseling in a school setting. By earning a masters in school counseling online, you’ll be able to work as a school counselor in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States, although you’ll need to be certified as a school counselor in the specific state in which you want to work. It usually costs about $16,771 and takes two years to earn a school counseling degree online at the master’s level.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Counseling theories, group counseling, school counseling program development & evaluation, advanced developmental psychology, legal and ethical principles of counseling

  • COMMON MAJORS

    School counseling, guidance counseling, community counseling

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Elementary school counselor, middle school counselor, high school counselor, guidance counselor

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    Elementary, middle school, high school, & guidance counselors: $53,660

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Elementary, middle school, high school, & guidance counselors: 8% job growth between 2014-24

Earning an Online School Counseling Degree
For the 2016 rankings, OnlineColleges.net has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

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School Counseling Master’s Degree Rankings

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Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1

University of Missouri

Columbia$$$$$105 Jesse Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
(573) 882-2121

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:

  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Nurses
  • Resource Officers
  • Administrators
  • Substance Abuse Coordinators

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.

2

Lehigh University

Bethlehem$$$$$27 Memorial Drive West
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 758-3000

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.

3

Wake Forest University

Winston Salem$$$$$1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston Salem, NC 27106
(336) 758-5000

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.

4

Seton Hall University

South Orange$$$$$400 S Orange Ave
South Orange, NJ 07079-2697
(973) 761-9000

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.

5

University of Massachusetts - Boston

Boston$$$$$100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125-3393
(617) 287-5000

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).

6

Gallaudet University

Washington$$$$$800 Florida Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20002-3695
(202) 651-5000

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.

7

Oregon State University

Corvallis$$$$$1500 S.W. Jefferson
Corvallis, OR 97331
(541) 737-0123

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.

8

Concordia University - Wisconsin

Mequon$$$$$12800 N Lake Shore Dr
Mequon, WI 53097-2402
(262) 243-5700

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.

9

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks$$$$$264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
(800) 225-5863

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.

10

University of West Alabama

Livingston$$$$$Station One
Livingston, AL 35470
(205) 652-3400

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:

  • Certification requires a total of 48 credit hours, including nine hours of professional courses and 39 hours in the area of certification. These 39 hours cover coursework such as counseling techniques, crisis intervention and multicultural populations, as well as nine credit hours of field experience in practicum and internships.
  • Non-certification requires a total of 39 credit hours, nine in professional courses and 30 in content area courses. Content area covers topics such as counseling techniques, diagnostics, group counseling and includes six credit hours of field experience in internships.

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.

11

Missouri Baptist University

Saint Louis$$$$$One College Park Dr
Saint Louis, MO 63141-8698
(877) 434-1115

Missouri Baptist offers three options for students seeking an online master's degree in school counseling:

  • Elementary Counseling, K-8 – This option is for certified teachers. Program completion requires 48-58 credit hours, 33 in core coursework, 9 in school counseling, and 6-7 in elementary counseling.
  • Secondary Counseling, 7-12 – This track is also for certified teachers. Program completion requires 48-57 credit hours, 33 in core coursework, 9 in school counseling, and 6 in secondary counseling.
  • Elementary and Secondary Counseling, K-12 – This option is for certified teachers as well as those without teacher certification. Completion of the program requires 51-61 credit hours, 33 in core coursework, 9 in school counseling, and 9-10 in K-12 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.

12

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg$$$$$6191 College Station Drive
Williamsburg, KY 40769
(606) 549-2200

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.
Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA, as well as three written essays.

13

Regent University

Virginia Beach$$$$$1000 Regent University Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
(757) 352-4127

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.

14

Our Lady of the Lake University

San Antonio$$$$$411 SW 24th St
San Antonio, TX 78207-4689
(210) 434-6711

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.

15

Angelo State University

San Angelo$$$$$2601 W. Avenue N
San Angelo, TX 76909
(325) 942-2555

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).

16

University of Central Arkansas

Conway$$$$$201 Donaghey Ave
Conway, AR 72035-0001
(501) 450-5000

The University of Central Arkansas Master's of Science in Professional School Counseling offers two available tracks of study:

  • Initial Licensure Track – This option prepares students without an Arkansas teaching license for a career in school counseling.
  • Add-on Licensure Track – This is the option for students who possess an Arkansas teaching license and would like to obtain additional licensure in school counseling.

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.

17

Fort Hays State University

Hays$$$$$600 Park St
Hays, KS 67601-4099
(785) 628-4000

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.

18

The University of Tennessee - Martin

Martin$$$$$544 University Street
Martin, TN 38238-0002
(731) 881-7000

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:

  • Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice
  • Social and Cultural Diversity
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Career Development
  • Helping Relationships
  • Group Work
  • Assessment
  • Research and Program Evaluation

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.

19

University of the Southwest

Hobbs$$$$$6610 North Lovington Hwy
Hobbs, NM 88240
(575) 392-6561

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.

20

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Waxahachie$$$$$1200 Sycamore
Waxahachie, TX 75165
(888) 937-7248

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:

  • Research Component
  • Professional Component
  • Core Component
  • Resource Area Component
  • Practicum Component

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.

Online Doctorate Degree in School Counseling

A PhD in school counseling is required if you are interested in doing research about school counseling or teaching about school counseling, usually in a university setting. With a PhD in school counseling, you can help shape the education of future school counselors or do research that contributes to new understandings of the field. Earning a school counseling degree online at the doctorate level will also increase your average income.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Research methods, program evaluation, assessment in counseling and education

  • COMMON MAJORS

    DBA and PhD

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    School counseling researcher, professor of school counseling, counselor educator

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    Professor/counselor educator (postsecondary): $72,470 per year

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Professor/counselor educator (postsecondary): 13% job growth between 2014-24

Online School Counseling Choose Your Career

Average School Counseling Salaries

$43,190
$39,980
$53,660

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Salary: $43,190
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.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Salary: $39,980
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.

School and Career Counselors

Salary: $53,660
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 Professional Requirements

National Certified Counselor

Counselors can be certified by the National Certified Counselor (NCC) program when they meet national standards for education, training, and experience set by the profession. To apply, you must provide proof that you have completed a school counseling degree at the master’s level, have 100 hours of counseling supervision, and at least 3,000 hours of counseling experience. It will take six to eight weeks once documentation is received. The National Counselor Exam takes four hours. You must also pass the the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

4 hours

Certified School Counselor

School counselors are certified at the state level and each state has different certification requirements. Most public school systems in the United States require school counselors to have completed a school counseling degree at the master’s level. Some school systems will accept a bachelor’s degree. Many systems also require completion of a counseling practicum or internship and teacher licensure.

Is it required?

Varies

How long will it take?

Varies