An online master’s in school counseling gives you the skills to support children and adolescents as they manage their academic lives, plan their careers, and build relationships. With 71 online master’s in school counseling programs to choose from, you shouldn’t have any issue finding a school that suits your needs and schedule. To fully understand the value of an online master’s in school counseling, read through our program guide to learn about the curriculum, employment outlook, and the financial aid available.

What Is a Master’s in School Counseling?

The American School Counselor Association states that “school counselors work to create a future world where all students thrive.” To do this, they support and advocate for students at the elementary, middle, and high school level. This can include helping them plan for their future and achieve success. School counselors also provide non-academic support, such as providing short-term counseling and helping students learn interpersonal skills. A master’s degree in this field ensures you have the specialized training to provide this support.

An online master’s degree in school counseling teaches learners about general counseling theories and techniques, and provides insight into child development, responding to trauma, and academic and career counseling. The degree meets the requirements for a school counseling license in many states, though counselors may also need a teaching license or teaching experience. This is why many people starting a master’s in school counseling have an undergraduate degree in education. Despite this, many institutions accept students with bachelor’s degrees in any field.

Employment Outlook for School Counselors

MEDIAN SALARY: $58,120 per year

CAREER OUTLOOK: Expected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029

TOP PAYING: California, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maryland

Who Should Pursue an Online Master’s in School Counseling?

It’s common for people to study for their master’s in school counseling while also teaching during the day since teaching experience is a requirement for certification in many states. Online education allows students the flexibility to schedule their coursework around their teaching load and other commitments.

Online study also offers accessibility. Nearby colleges may not have school counseling courses, but an online program allows students to access a world-class education without needing to travel long distances or move to a different city. But before deciding how to pursue your study, consider whether school counseling is the right career choice for you.

Common personality traits and interests of school counselors

A desire to help young people reach their potential is the primary requirement of any school counselor. In addition to this, there are other skills and attributes needed to succeed in this field:

  • Communication skills. Good communication skills let you listen to and assess the problems of your students and help them formulate an effective response.
  • Empathy. Being able to empathize with the problems of young people helps you treat them compassionately, encouraging students to continue coming to you for help.
  • Friendliness. Students are less likely to seek assistance from someone they perceive as cold or unfeeling. A friendly, approachable demeanor inspires confidence in students, their parents, and your colleagues.
  • Decisive. As a student counselor, you’ll come across students dealing with abuse, neglect, trauma, or risky behavior. It’s important to recognize potentially harmful situations and act quickly and decisively to protect these students.
  • Assessment skills. One of your roles as a school counselor will be assessing students’ abilities to help them prepare for life after they graduate. Being accurate in your assessments can help your students reach their full potential.

What Will I Learn in a Master’s in an Online School Counseling Program?

An online master’s in school counseling offers courses that teach learners how to counsel children and adolescents. Graduates have an understanding of how to provide career and academic counseling and learn about childhood development, abnormal psychology, and counseling techniques. Some colleges give students the opportunity to specialize in a particular type of counseling, such as addiction counseling or crisis and trauma.

Most programs require a practicum or internship so that students gain hands-on experience. Online learners generally undertake this experience at an approved site in their nearby area. Some programs also require the completion of a capstone project or thesis.

Below is a sample master’s of school counseling curriculum. Each program has different courses, and schools that allow concentrations generally offer a broader range of subjects.

Introduction to School Counseling. This introductory course explores the history of school counseling, and the roles and functions of modern school counselors. In many programs, it also introduces students to current issues and directions in the industry and the challenges of being a school counselor.

Ethical and Legal Issues in School Counseling. Courses that delve into ethics explore the profession’s ethical standards and look at codes of ethics and ethical decision-making. These courses also explore legal issues that arise when counseling children and adolescents, such as mandatory reporting of abuse. Learners may also look at the counselor’s role as a change agent in the school.

Child and Adolescent Counseling. These courses provide in-depth instruction on working with children and adolescents through the counseling process. Students learn about empirically supported techniques for assisting young people. In many programs, the focus is on interventions that improve individual or family function and take into account cognitive, behavioral, developmental, and environmental issues.

Academic and Career Counseling. Academic and career counseling courses give learners the skills to support diversified student bodies as they make decisions about their academic and career planning. It provides insight into academic and career development from elementary school to college and explores intelligence, multicultural issues, and the needs of learners.

Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Response. Unfortunately, most school counselors will encounter students who have experience with trauma, crisis, or a disaster of some sort. This course gives graduates the skills to support students through these events. It also provides information about crisis assessment, advocacy, and trauma-related diagnoses.

How to Finance Your Online Master’s in School Counseling

When deciding whether to pursue an online master’s in school counseling, the cost of graduate studies is an important consideration. Students often find that online studies are more economical than on-campus education, as many schools provide discounts for fully online students. Online learners can also save on transport, childcare, and housing, which makes online learning an attractive option.

Although an online master’s of school counseling is more affordable than on-campus study, the costs can still be daunting. To help alleviate the financial burden, see if you’re eligible for federal student aid (FAFSA), which can be used for online degrees. You can also explore scholarships available for school counselors.

School counseling scholarships

There are a variety of scholarships available for people pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling. Most are for master’s or doctoral candidates, and some scholarships aimed at psychology or general counseling students are also available to future school counselors. Scholarships may be recurring or renewable each year until you graduate while others are a one-time award.

You can find available scholarships on CareerOneStop. Just use “school counseling” as the keyword and filter by degree type. You’ll see all the scholarships available for master’s of school counseling programs and their deadlines to apply. Many state-based school counseling associations offer scholarships for master’s students, and other notable scholarships can be found below.

National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation
Amount: Up to $8,000
Deadline to Apply: May

The NBCCF provides the Rural Scholarship to award students up to $8,000 for pursuing master’s degrees in professional counseling. To be eligible for the Rural Scholarship, you must live in a rural-designated area. You must also be enrolled full time in a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited program. Those who are awarded the scholarship must commit to taking a job in a rural area for at least two years.


Future School Counselors Essay Competition
Amount: Up to $2,000
Deadline to Apply: January

The American Counseling Association holds an annual essay competition for future school counselors. The topic changes each year, and winning entries are published in Counseling Today. The grand prize is a $2,000 honorarium, with smaller prizes for runners-up. The competition is open to people enrolled in counseling-related graduate studies who are also student members of the ACA.


The Melanie Foundation Scholarship
Amount: $2,500
Deadline to Apply: March 5

The Melanie Foundation Scholarship is available to students pursuing master’s or doctoral studies in a mental health field, including school counseling. The scholarship is for one year, although recipients may reapply for additional years. Applicants must be currently enrolled in an accredited graduate program in the United States, majoring in the mental health field.


Betty W. Robbins Endowed Scholarship
Amount: $2,000
Deadline to Apply: February 1

The Betty W. Robbins Endowed Scholarship is offered by the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA). It awards grants to people who are pursuing graduate studies in fields that address the special needs of children and youth, including counseling and mental health. Recipients must be working or planning to work directly with children. The award is for one year, but students can reapply if they require more scholarship years to complete their studies.


Master’s Degree Scholarship in Psychology and Counseling
Amount: $500
Deadline to Apply: April 1

Offered by, the Master’s Degree Scholarship in Psychology and Counseling is available to students who are pursuing master’s degrees relating to counseling. Students of a wide range of graduate programs are considered for the award, which is granted based on academic history, extracurricular activities, and employment history.

Learn More About Financial Aid

Whether it’s online or in-person, financing a master’s degree is a complex process. To learn more about planning financial aid for your master’s degree, read these resources:

Student Loan Best Practices

Should You Refinance Your Federal Student Loans?

How Student Loan Interest Works