Online School Counseling Degree

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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

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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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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


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.

    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

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.

    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

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.

    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
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For the 2016 rankings, 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.

School Counseling Master’s Degree Rankings

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1New York UniversityNew York$$$$$70 Washington Sq South
New York, NY 10012-1091
(212) 998-1212

For over 185 years, New York University (NYU) has been one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. NYU's online master's degree in school counseling prepares graduates for careers as school counselors in pre-kindergarten to grade 12 settings. The 48-credit degree takes 18 to 33 months to complete and combines interactive online coursework with experiential learning. Most online classes are asynchronous and allow for live, face-to-face meetings with peers and professors when needed; however, some courses may require weekly scheduled meetings. There is a three-to-four day on-campus requirement during summer term.

The program’s extensive experiential learning section features classes hosted within NYU's counseling lab, a 100-hour first year practicum, and a 600-hour internship. NYU’s master’s degree in school counseling offers a concentration in bilingual school counseling for those who wish to work with linguistically diverse children, and electives in sexual decision-making and drug- and alcohol-related programs.

2University of Missouri - ColumbiaColumbia$$$$$105 Jesse Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
(573) 882-2121

Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri is a leader in higher education -- on-campus and online. Mizzou Online runs programs for 17 University of Missouri colleges, including the Columbia campus. Housed in the School of Education, the online master's degree in school counseling provides students with a master's degree in education in educational, school, and counseling psychology.

Students select one of the following emphases: the 33 credit focus on educational psychology, student learning, and well-being; the 34 credit focus on mental health practices in schools; or the 30 credit program on positive coaching, ideal for graduates interested in coaching in school systems. Each of these programs require a final capstone paper to graduate. Most online students study part-time while working, and complete the program in approximately two years. Mizzou Online also has graduate-level certificates available in positive psychology and multicultural education. All online students pay in-state tuition costs.

3Wake Forest UniversityWinston Salem$$$$$1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston Salem, NC 27106
(336) 758-5000

First established in 1934, Wake Forest University (WF) draws students from across the country for its top-ranked education. The online master's degree in school counseling is one of the few fully online curriculums offered at WF. Since 1996, the program has administered the National Counselor Exam, allowing graduates of the master of arts in school counseling to work as school counselors from elementary to high school. The 60 credit curriculum requires 18 credits within the school counseling focus. Most students are able to complete the program in less than three years. All courses are run asynchronously, though many feature opportunities for live chats and discussions. WFU also offers concentrations in clinical mental health counseling and human services.

4Lehigh UniversityBethlehem$$$$$27 Memorial Drive West
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 758-3000

Lehigh University, situated on a 2,358-acre wooded campus in Pennsylvania’s picturesque Lehigh Valley, offers robust options for online learning. The master's degree in school counseling online prepares students to help and counsel children in the public and private school system by earning a master's of education in international counseling (M.Ed.). This hybrid program offers fall and spring semesters completely online, while summer semesters require campus visits. The structure of online courses varies, with some fully asynchronous, some synchronous, and others a blend of the two. This 60 credit M.Ed. in international counseling ends with a full-time internship that requires a minimum of 300 hours per semester in a counseling setting. Transfer credits are accepted on a case-by-case basis up to a maximum of six.

5Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(434) 582-2000

Since 1985, Liberty University has been a pioneer in the field of online and distance education. The master's degree in school counseling is a 48 credit curriculum offered mostly online, with students required to take four courses on campus during their program. The degree culminates with a six-credit internship to enhance practical skills. Students who carry a 3.0 grade point average throughout the program are eligible to take the National Counselor Exam during their last semester. Liberty’s program is approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and graduates are prepared to work as K-12 counselors throughout Virginia and many other states. Up to 18 credits may be transferred from an approved master's degree program.

6University of West AlabamaLivingston$$$$$Station One
Livingston, AL 35470
(205) 652-3400

With more than 180 years of history, the University of West Alabama (UWA) has a tradition of providing opportunities to nontraditional students. Today, UWA offers an extensive list of online programs, including a master's degree in school counseling. The master of education with a school counseling certification is 48 credits, with 39 credits required in the counseling certification. Unique courses, such as multicultural populations, and an intensive 600-hour internship, allows UWA to give its students a well-rounded education. UWA has six terms each year, running for eight weeks in the fall and spring sessions, and six weeks in the summer. Students to take 18-30 credits per year and complete the degree in less than 18 months. While up to nine credits are eligible to transfer, all applicants are required to have at least two years of satisfactory educational experience.

7Seton Hall UniversitySouth Orange$$$$$400 S Orange Ave
South Orange, NJ 07079-2697
(973) 761-9000

Founded in 1856, Seton Hall University is one of the top-ranked institutions in the U.S. With 10,000 online students each year, Seton Hall offers a comprehensive list of online degrees including an online master's degree in school counseling. The 48 credit master of arts in school counseling prepares students to counsel children and teens in various settings. In addition to traditional counseling courses, the program features a disaster response course, a nine-credit counseling internship, and a pathway into the education specialist (Ed.S.) degree in professional counseling. Most online counseling courses are taught asynchronously, though some classes require scheduled lessons. A four-day on-campus requirement begins each year. Full-time students can complete the degree in as little as two years. While the program is specifically designed to meet the NJ Department of Education requirements, it is suggested applicants check to see if it qualifies in their home state.

8University of Massachusetts - BostonBoston$$$$$100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125-3393
(617) 287-5000

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) offers a number of programs available to both distant and international students. The master's degree in school counseling online allows students from all over the world to pursue their careers in school mental health. The 60 credit master of education degree in school counseling has an on-campus requirement of nine credits per semester, and meets the licensure requirements for the state of Massachusetts. There are also two week-long clinical courses that must be taken at the UMass Dartmouth campus, which allow students to form a relationship with their instructors and fellow students. While most of the online courses are run asynchronously, some do require a weekly scheduled one-hour meeting. The online school counseling program is only available full-time, and UMass is not currently accepting online students from Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, or Minnesota.

9University of North DakotaGrand Forks$$$$$264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
(800) 225-5863

As North Dakota's oldest and largest university, the University of North Dakota (UND) calls Grand Forks, ND its home. The online master's degree in school counseling is a 50 credit, 36 month MA in counseling with an emphasis in school counseling. Evening classes benefit working students, while live interactive discussions in a virtual classroom encourage student collaboration. Two four-day sessions on UND’s campus are required each summer. The curriculum emphasizes theoretical elements of the field with courses such as social justice and diversity; while a practicum and the two-semester internship provide a practical accent. All online students are eligible for reduced in-state tuition and can transfer up to 12 credits. While the master of arts in counseling is eligible for the North Dakota Department of Education licensure, it may also be eligible in other states.

10Gallaudet UniversityWashington$$$$$800 Florida Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20002-3695
(202) 651-5000

For over 150 years, Gallaudet University has been dedicated to students with hearing impairments, and offers more than 50 degree programs, including the master's degree in school counseling. Current teachers or childcare professionals can earn a master's degree in less than three years, and the hybrid nature of the curriculum means students take online courses during the fall and spring semesters, and visit the beautiful Washington, DC campus during the summer. All applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and at least nine credits in undergraduate psychology courses. Preference is given to those who have completed an educational program serving deaf and hearing impaired populations. In addition to traditional courses, practicum and an internship, Gallaudet University offers coursework in counseling students with special needs and psychopharmacology. Gallaudet is part of the Online Learning Consortium, which provides access to a wealth of resources and support for online students.

11Creighton UniversityOmaha$$$$$2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
(402) 280-2700

Founded in 1878, Creighton University serves more than 8,000 students across its nine schools, colleges, and online programs. Their online programs offer students the same experience as the on-campus counterparts, with the added benefit of flexible schedules. Most online courses in Creighton’s online master's degree in school counseling are taught asynchronously. However, some classes do require real-time meetings with instructors and peers. Creighton’s online master of science in school counseling and preventive mental health offers concentrations in elementary, secondary, and pre-kindergarten to grade 12 guidance counseling. Online courses run for eight weeks and requires 36 credits, allowing students to complete the degree in two years, including a nine-month internship. The program is designed for students with teaching certificates, though Nebraska residents require social or behavioral sciences courses. Financial aid and special scholarship consideration is given to educators on behalf of the Catholic school board. Additionally, all online students are enrolled in a program-specific Distance Student Orientation to ensure success.

12Missouri Baptist UniversitySaint Louis$$$$$One College Park Dr
Saint Louis, MO 63141-8698
(877) 434-1115

For more than 50 years, Missouri Baptist University (MBU) has provided Christian-based degree programs. Today the school offers 11 graduate degrees online, including the online master's degree in school counseling. The master of arts in counseling (MAC) degree is offered asynchronously, giving working students the flexibility to complete their courses at anytime. Designed for prospective elementary and secondary school guidance counselors, the master of arts in counseling degree requires students complete 48-54 credits over approximately two years. In addition to the traditional counseling courses, students take courses on children, adolescents, and families. Blending theory and practice, students work with different testing and evaluation methods. Classes typically begin every eight weeks, and students may begin the program at any time.

13Oregon State UniversityCorvallis$$$$$1500 S.W. Jefferson
Corvallis, OR 97331
(541) 737-0123

Founded in 1868, Oregon State University (OSU) has grown into an international research institution respected around the world. OSU’s Ecampus offers over 50 online degrees, including several hybrid programs which blend the online experience with on-site coursework at their Salem, OR campus. The master's degree in school counseling online is a 75 credit hybrid program completed half online and half on campus. The Master of Counseling (M.Coun.) program requires students be on campus two weekends in each of the four terms, while the online component is asynchronous in the first year and run in real-time during the second and third years. This school counseling curriculum is designed for graduates to boost success rates in higher education among underrepresented populations. Other classes in special education and the legal and ethical issues in counseling round out the degree. Since the M.Coun. is designed to meet Oregon state licensure requirements, out-of-state applicants should check with their state's licensing board.

14Angelo State UniversitySan Angelo$$$$$2601 W. Avenue N
San Angelo, TX 76909
(325) 942-2555

As a member of the Texas Tech University System, Angelo State University (ASU) offers more than 25 master's degrees, with several available 100% online. The master's degree in school counseling is a 36 credit hour master of education (M.Ed.) in guidance and counseling program. Students complete the degree in less than two years, and are prepared to work in any school setting. Courses are offered during eight-week terms and most are asynchronous, although some real-time meetings may be required. Students have the option of an additional School Counselor Certification, which requires a course in the role of the school counselor and a practicum in school counseling. Graduates are eligible to take the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES), though ASU encourages students contact their own state licensing body to learn how the degree fits with their requirements.

15Mercy CollegeDobbs Ferry$$$$$555 Broadway
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(800) 637-2969

With a main campus in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and satellites in Manhattan, Yorktown Heights the Bronx, and online, Mercy College has a large footprint. The online master's degree in school counseling allows students from anywhere to complete their degree 100% online. The 48 credit master of science degree in counseling prepares students to work as counselors at various school levels. Mercy College also offers a bilingual school counselor track for those interested in linguistically diverse schools. Prior to the program’s culminating 12 credit internship, students complete child abuse workshops and courses in violence prevention. Some states have 60 credit requirements for their counseling licenses, therefore out-of-state applicants should check with their state's licensing body for specific requirements. While the type of online study varies in the curriculum, most courses are taught asynchronously to allow for schedule flexibility. Student transcripts are reviewed individually, but usually a maximum of six transfer credits are permitted.

16Concordia University - WisconsinMequon$$$$$12800 N Lake Shore Dr
Mequon, WI 53097-2402
(262) 243-5700

The Concordia University System consists of 10 colleges operated within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) tradition, and learning centers throughout Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan, and online. The master's degree in school counseling online at prepares graduates to work in a number of school counseling settings. The master of science in education has a school counseling option and a professional counseling option available. The school counseling option focuses on areas such as test design and analysis, mental health counseling, and learning to work with at-risk children. Concordia matches potential online students with a personal online student success advisor who guides them through the entire application process, from transfer credits to financial aid.

17Salem CollegeWinston-Salem$$$$$601 S Church St
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
(336) 721-2600

Salem College, based in Winston-Salem, NC, began in 1772 and is one of oldest educational institutions for women in the nation. Salem offers an affordable and rigorous online master's degree in school counseling. The master of education in school counseling (M.Ed. -- SC) program provides students with culturally and socially relevant counseling practices, alongside traditional and contemporary assessment and evaluation techniques. All courses are accessible online at any time, except for two weekend-long seminars hosted on the Salem College campus. Salem’s master’s degree in school counseling begins each year in the fall. Students usually complete the 48 credits, including the 600-hour internship, in approximately 36 months. While this program meets the requirements for school counseling licensure in North Carolina, students should check the requirements of their home state.

18University of Central ArkansasConway$$$$$201 Donaghey Ave
Conway, AR 72035-0001
(501) 450-5000

Established in 1907, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) is a leader in 21st-century education. The master's degree in school counseling is a 48 credit master of science (MS) in professional school counseling. The degree provides two tracks for students -- an initial licensure track for those who don't yet have a teaching license, and an add-on track for those who do. Both tracks are taught primarily through scheduled and real-time virtual classes, with occasional asynchronous courses. Two weekend on-campus requirements are required at UCA's main campus in Conway, AR. UCA's program also offers courses in working with mildly disabled students, and for working within multicultural and diverse settings. Though the program meets the requirements for Arkansas licensure, the curriculum is modeled on the American School Counselor Association.

19Edinboro University of PennsylvaniaEdinboro$$$$$219 Meadville Street
Edinboro, PA 16444-0001
(814) 732-2000

Established in 1857 as a private teachers school, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania has become the largest university in Northwestern Pennsylvania and one of the most prestigious universities in the country. With robust online options, students from all over the world can complete their degrees at Edinboro. The 30 credit master of education in educational psychology program focuses on elements of education and psychology and boasts approval by the National Association of School Psychologists. Graduates are prepared to work with students with exceptionalities, and students with mild to moderate disabilities, among others. While the degree can be completed part-time over two years, it requires graduates have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 within the program's courses and achieve a 70% on the comprehensive exam. For all online programs at Edinboro, online orientations, academic support, and 24/7 technical support are readily available.

20University of the SouthwestHobbs$$$$$6610 North Lovington Hwy
Hobbs, NM 88240
(575) 392-6561

For over 60 years, the University of the Southwest (USW) has been molding leaders in and around the state of New Mexico. Every one of USW's graduate degree programs are available online, including the master's degree in school counseling. The 42 credit master of science in education with a school counseling concentration prepares the next generation of counselors in primary, secondary, and high school settings. The program offers course options in play therapy and sexuality, as well as traditional intervention and counseling courses. All online courses are run asynchronously, allowing students the flexibility to study when it suits them. Online courses begin every eight weeks and students may start at any time. Since the majority of graduate students at USW study online, the institutional support includes online tutoring, financial aid, and technical support.

21Fort Hays State UniversityHays$$$$$600 Park St
Hays, KS 67601-4099
(785) 628-4000

For more than 20 years, Fort Hays State University (FHSU) has brought its degree programs to the world via its virtual college. Today FSHU offers more than 40 online degrees, including the master of science in school psychology and the specialist in education with a major in school psychology. This dual program allows students to earn a master of science (M.S.) and a specialist in education (Ed.S.) in two years. All courses are offered through the FHSU's virtual college, though there is a required five-day workshop hosted on the main campus in Kansas each year. Students are not required to take both programs. To enter the 30 credit master of science in school psychology, applicants must have at least 12 credits in undergraduate-level psychology courses. While completing the master of science in school psychology enables students to continue with the 36 credit specialist in education degree, students from other institutions with a master's degree in school psychology are also eligible. A 600 hour internship is required for students who wish to complete both degrees.

22Our Lady of the Lake UniversitySan Antonio$$$$$411 SW 24th St
San Antonio, TX 78207-4689
(210) 434-6711

Since it was established in 1895, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) has provided education to students with limited access to higher learning. OLLU offers six online degrees, including a master's degree in school counseling. The 48 credit online master of education in school counseling prepares graduates for primary and secondary school environments. In two years of study, students take a variety of courses in counseling, assessment, treatment, and the personal and professional development of children and teens. All online courses at OLLU are asynchronous, giving working students the flexibility to complete coursework on their own schedule. Students enroll in two online classes per semester, and graduates are prepared for three licensure exams, the Texas Examinations for Educator Standards, the National Certified Counselor Examination, and the Licensed Professional Counselor Examination. While the master of education degree is commonly accepted in other states, OLLU suggests applicants check their individual state requirements.

23Hampton UniversityHampton$$$$$E Queen Street
Hampton, VA 23668-0099
(757) 727-5000

With more than 140 years of rich tradition and history, Hampton University values a diverse and inclusive educational environment. The university’s online component, Hampton U Online, offers degree programs to students all over the world. The online educational specialist degree in counseling is designed for graduates of a master of arts degree in counseling. This 30 credit program can be completed in 16 weeks and prepares school counselors to advance in their careers. The program provides courses in advanced counseling, abnormal behavior, and leadership training. Designed as the ideal complement to an online master's degree in school counseling, Hampton U's online educational specialist degree in counseling has start dates each spring and fall semester. Asynchronous coursework provides flexibility for students. And the university provides online support and access to students, such as personalized career services assistance, academic support, and financial aid.

24Lamar UniversityBeaumont$$$$$4400 MLK Blvd
Beaumont, TX 77705
(409) 880-7011

As one of the fastest growing colleges in Texas, Lamar University boasts some of the nation's best online programs. Lamar University's online programs, such as the master's degree in school counseling online, provides students with multiple start date options and combines the flexible online experience with face-to-face instruction. In the master of education in school counseling online, students can complete the degree in 22 months, which includes a 15-week practicum. The 48 credit master's degree has five and 11-week long courses, and a five-day on-campus requirement each year (two in total). These residency requirements make up the program's 45 contact hours the university provides for student supervision and evaluation. Contact hours are split between live on-campus meetings and live online web-conferencing. The master's degree in school counseling program also utilizes powerful online portfolio software.

25Indiana Wesleyan University-MarionMarion$$$$$4201 S Washington St
Marion, IN 46953-4974
(765) 674-6901

Since 1985, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) has prioritized educating adults and working professionals. As a part of this mission, IWU offers several online degrees, such as the online master's degree in school counseling. The 48 credit master of arts with a major in school counseling is one of six specializations offered within the master of arts at IWU. The school counseling degree integrates Christian principles throughout the curriculum. While the degree can be completed in two years online, it features two weekend-long on campus requirements (hosted at the end of October and beginning of May). Applicants require at least six undergraduate credits in psychology -- including three from abnormal psychology -- and six credits in bible studies. Students without credits in bible studies may be admitted on a conditional basis. Applicants are eligible for up to nine transfer credits and have access to specific counseling program scholarships. Students near IWU's campus benefit from two counseling centers for graduate work experience.

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.

    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 Choose Your Career

Average School Counseling Salaries


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 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.

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?


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?


How long will it take?