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An online master’s in school counseling prepares people to work as licensed counselors. These programs also often include specializations, such as college readiness, career guidance, and mental health counseling.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 5% (faster than average) for school and career counselors and advisors from 2022 to 2032, with a median annual salary of about $60,000. Most full-time programs require 30 to 60 course credits, and some require field study. While the exact cost per credit varies by school, the average graduate school tuition is $20,513 per year.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is offered in several different formats, including Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Education (MEd). Each type of degree program has a somewhat different theoretical and practical orientation, but all will prepare you for a career as a school counselor.

The first step in choosing an online master’s in school counseling program is deciding on your specific goals. Some schools offer concentrations such as substance abuse or mental health, covering the behavioral and cognitive issues that typically affect young children, adolescents, and adults. Other programs have a bilingual extension, allowing for certification in another language, such as Spanish.

People with this degree can work in both public and private schools and can also find work as social workers, mental health counselors, juvenile justice counselors, or community services managers. Those who would like to work in a school should know they’ll need state-issued credentials or a license, which the school should advise on how to obtain. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that are a good fit for this career path.

Research schools and programs

You should only consider institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your master’s in school counseling program will also be accredited by a respected industry group like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). This programmatic accrediting organization has particularly high standards for counseling education.

Also, even an online master’s in school counseling will require in-person supervised experience or an internship with individual students. Research how the school facilitates this requirement for online students. Ask the following questions:

  • Is there a campus counseling center or another site nearby where students can gain in-person experience?
  • What other support services for online students does the school offer, such as career coaching or mentoring?
  • Are there networking opportunities, such as an alumni association?

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. However, most online master’s degree programs in school counseling require:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field, such as social work, teaching, or psychology
  • Transcripts from previous colleges
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from academic and professional references
  • A resume or record of employment history
  • A personal essay or statement of purpose describing your achievements and plans

Applicants also likely need to submit standardized test scores like those from the GRE. If you need to take the GRE, prepare and sit for the exam while researching schools.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

Some students apply to a single program that aligns with their needs and interests, while others target multiple schools to improve their chances of acceptance. Be aware that the application fees that most schools charge can add up. If you need financial assistance with these fees, contact the school to ask about a fee waiver.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online master’s in school counseling program should specify the financial support students can receive, including scholarships, grants, assistantships, fellowships, and work-study. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal student loans and need-based institutional aid. Moreover, some school counselors can have their master’s degree loan forgiven through the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Also, students already working in a related field can check whether employer tuition assistance benefits can offset their costs. Talk with your school’s financial aid office for more detailed information about how to pay for your degree.

The Top 40 Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Best Online Master's in School Counseling Degree Programs

Liberty University

NC State University

NYU Steinhardt

Seton Hall University

Campbellsville University

University of West Alabama

University of the Southwest

Wake Forest University

University of North Dakota

University of Missouri

Lehigh University College of Education

University of the Cumberlands

Angelo State University

University of Southern California

Oregon State University

Concordia University Irvine

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Concordia University Wisconsin

Arkansas State University

Lamar University

Emporia State University

Creighton University

UMass Boston

Southern Arkansas University

Mercy College

Valdosta State University

ECU College of Education

Chadron State College

Fort Hays State University

Regent University

Our Lady of the Lake University

Missouri Baptist University

Monmouth University

Salem College

Arkansas Tech University

Ottawa University

Concordia University, Nebraska

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

This list concentrates on master’s degrees in school counseling. Degrees available in this field include Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Education (MEd).

All of the programs reviewed are offered by regionally accredited institutions. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP).

We evaluated programs based on their reputation, flexibility, affordability, faculty, and coursework. Then, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?

Online master’s in school counseling programs vary based on the school. Still, students can expect a core curriculum about human growth development, social and cultural issues, career development, and applying data and research to their work. Students also might encounter additional coursework related to family counseling, trauma, addiction, and abuse.

Some states require that school counselors take coursework related to specific issues or demographics in their region before applying for a state license.

In addition, students will likely need a certain amount of in-person fieldwork or an internship, which can interfere with other obligations such as a full-time job. Talk with a school admissions counselor about in-person requirements and whether a part-time program or other accommodations can help you balance your education with other responsibilities.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in school counseling degree program

  • School Counseling Techniques. A course like this covers the essential skills an ethical and effective school counselor needs. Expect to learn best practices for interviews, observation techniques, how to collect data, and how to write detailed reports.
  • Legal Issues and Ethics in School Counseling. Students will discuss historical, cultural, and philosophical issues surrounding school counseling while also learning current ethical standards for counselors.
  • Assessment and Child Therapy. Students will learn how to apply adolescent psychology’s proven methods in an educational environment. A course like this also examines intervention techniques and how counselors can offer constructive therapeutic approaches while considering a student’s family structure, home environment, and cognitive issues.
  • Lifespan Development. School counselors need a thorough understanding of what students experience on a biological level. Expect a detailed look at human growth and developmental phases.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in School Counseling?

Career outlook

Earning an online master’s degree in school counseling prepares individuals to make a profound impact on the academic, social, and emotional well-being of students.

Indeed, this degree opens the door to a rewarding career and positions individuals at the forefront of shaping students’ development, fostering positive school environments, and guiding students toward success. Here are a few of the job options available to those with a master’s in school counseling:

  • School or career counselor — School counselors help students develop academic and social skills, while career counselors assist students with choosing an occupation and taking the steps needed to reach their career goals.
    • Median annual salary: $60,140
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New job openings projected: 26,600 annually
  • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor — Evaluate the mental and physical health of clients, recommend treatment plans, and monitor progress.
    • Median annual salary: $49,710
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 18%
    • New job openings projected: 42,000 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, behavioral, and financial issues.
    • Median annual salary: $55,350
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually

Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in school counseling degree program?

Check the application for each school of choice, and be sure you have electronic versions of all the required information, such as college transcripts, work experience, test scores, and letters of recommendation. Some schools have an online portal to accept applications through their website, while others still use traditional mail. The Common Application, or Common App, is a streamlined admissions application system that enables students to apply to multiple schools. Before you start your application, talk with a school admissions counselor to verify you have everything the school needs.

How much does an online master’s in school counseling degree cost?

The average graduate school tuition is $12,596 at public institutions and $28,017 at private institutions. You should expect other expenses as well, including the cost of textbooks and technology fees. Also, consider how hands-on experience, such as an internship, might take away from your earning time at your current job.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in school counseling degree?

Most schools estimate that their online master’s program in school counseling takes about one to three years to complete. The total number of credits affects the program’s length, as does attending full-time or part-time. Some schools offer asynchronous learning, where students can meet assignment deadlines while studying at their own pace, and some offer accelerated learning options as well.

Is an online master's in school counseling worth it?

Earning an online master’s in school counseling is a worthwhile investment for individuals passionate about making a positive impact on students’ lives. These programs equip graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to address the diverse needs of students and clients and contribute to the overall success of educational institutions.

One of the key advantages of earning an online master’s in school counseling is the potential for career advancement. Graduates are prepared to take on leadership roles, contribute to shaping school policies, and advocate for the importance of comprehensive school counseling programs.

An online master’s in school counseling enhances professionals’ counseling skills and provides the tools to create a positive and inclusive school culture. Graduates are well-positioned to guide students through academic and personal challenges, foster a supportive learning environment, and contribute to the holistic development of the next generation.

Read More about Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees