A master’s in school counseling prepares you for a future career focused on helping children manage the stresses of academics, relationships, and family dynamics. While it is possible to become a school counselor with a general counseling degree, more broadly focused programs will not prepare you in the same way as attending one of the top school counseling graduate programs. More specifically, they may not offer the same level of knowledge about the specific needs of matriculating elementary and secondary school-aged children.
Are All Master’s in School Counseling Program Curriculum the Same?
School counseling degree programs vary from place to place because they are usually customized to meet state-specific requirements. Pursuing a master’s in counseling is an admirable pursuit. If your goal is to become a school counselor, you will need a graduate degree to satisfy most state and local school system requirements. With hundreds of quality programs to choose from, narrowing down your options can be a challenging task.
To assist you in your endeavor, we have compiled a list of schools in various locations that make the grade for providing top-notch preparation for a career in school counseling.
34 Top Master’s in School Counseling Programs
University of Akron – Akron, OH
The University of Akron’s Master’s in School Counseling program has an impressive 90% completion rate and an equally impressive 98% licensure exam pass rate. With a curriculum designed using the standards of both the Ohio Department of Education and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Professions (CACREP), this program allows for 85% post-graduate job placement.
University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, AR
A Master’s of Science in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling offered by the University of Arkansas prepares students for certification as a P-12 school counselor in Arkansas. Students wishing to work outside of Arkansas after graduation will have to contact the school district in their desired location to ensure the program curriculum satisfies their requirements.
Alabama A&M University – Huntsville, AL
Alabama A&M offers graduate students interested in becoming school counselors a Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology. Several concentrations are available within the degree program, including that for school counseling. Upon completing the academic program, internships, practicum, and comprehensive exam, graduates will have a Class A counseling certification.
McNeese State University – Lake Charles, LA
A Master’s in School Counseling from McNeese State University prepares graduate students for a career in school counseling, with the added benefit of earning 48 of the 60 hours required by the State of Louisiana to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). This added benefit gives students a leg up when it comes to potential moves into the private sector.
Adams State University – Alamosa, CO
Completing the Master’s in School Counseling program at Adam’s State University satisfies Colorado’s school counselor licensure requirements. This CACREP program, certified by The Colorado Department of Education, is offered on-campus and online.
Wilmington University – New Castle, DE
Wilmington University offers a Master’s of Education in Elementary and Secondary School Counseling. The program, approved by the State of Delaware, ensures that students are eligible for licensure by the state upon completion.
Bridgewater State University – Bridgewater, MA
Bridgewater State University offers advanced school counseling (PreK-8, 5-12) programs as Master’s and post-master’s licensure. Low student/professor ratio and access to several graduate funding opportunities give this program high grades for completion and affordability relative to schools in the surrounding area.
Florida Atlantic University – Boca Raton, FL
Florida Atlantic University offers graduate students a Master’s Degree in Education with a School Counseling Specialization. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to receive a school counselor certification from the State of Florida. Required fieldwork gives students the hands-on training vital to a successful career and leads to an impressive post-graduate job placement rate.
Concordia University Wisconsin
Many students choose the Master’s in School Counseling program at Concordia University Wisconsin because they are interested in having a choice between courses with an integrated faith-based emphasis and traditional secular coursework. The program offers rolling admissions and an 8-week accelerated format to optimize student efficiency. All adjuncts are actively working in or recently retired from extensive careers in the school counseling field.
Houston Baptist University – Houston, TX
A Master’s of Education in Professional School Counseling from Houston Baptist University has a prerequisite of two years of teaching at a Texas Education Association accredited school (P-12). Additionally, completion of the program requires 400 practical and internship hours.
Spalding University – Louisville, KY
At Spalding University, the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling aligns with CACREP and offers varying specialties based on students’ career goals, including school counseling. Practical experience is even available at the University’s Center for Behavioral Health.
College of William and Mary – Williamsburg, VA
Attaining a Master’s of Education degree with a school counseling concentration at the College of William and Mary requires a significant amount of fieldwork. Sixty credit hours of course work is enhanced with over 700 additional hours of practicum and internship. Additionally, the school’s Project Empower gives students further opportunity to engage with and support a local school district.
Emporia University – Emporia Kansas
Unlike most school counselor graduate programs, Emporia University does not require a teaching certificate or experience to enroll if accepted. This Direct Entry program gives candidates with undergrad degrees in other disciplines a more direct avenue of entry into education and counseling.
Clark Atlanta University – Atlanta, GA
A Master’s of Arts in School Counseling from Clark Atlanta University satisfies the requirements for certification from the State of Georgia. This highly competitive program has a curriculum that meets all of the standards set by CACREP and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA
Undoubtedly, the most competitive program on our list, the USC Rossier School of Education, is a top-notch institution for educators, administrators, and counselors. The Master of Education in School Counseling online degree from USC prepares students to become school counselors in K–12 settings. Also, USC Rossier has a Master of Education in Educational Counseling program for individuals interested in academic counseling at colleges and universities.
University of Georgia
Established in 1801, the Athens-based University of Georgia is a large institution with close to 10,000 graduate students. Among the 108 graduate programs offered is a Master’s in School Counseling. Students will be able to work with neighboring school districts to get a comprehensive look into integrative behavior health in the school system. This program was ranked #2 in the United States and is accredited by CACREP.
East Carolina University
The Master of Science in Counselor Education at East Carolina University will prepare students for a career in either an educational or human service sector. The program requires a minimum of 60 credit hours and has three specialized areas of study for students to choose from: school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or student affairs and college counseling. It is accredited by CACREP and is approved by the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction.
University of Florida
Located in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida houses more than 16,000 students and offers a School Counseling Master’s program. The program is a dual, 72-credit degree that will prepare students to work with children, teens, and young adults in elementary, middle, or secondary schools. It has been accredited by both CACREP and NCATE.
Texas A&M University
Since welcoming its first class in 1876, Texas A&M University- College Station has become known for being a research-intensive college. A Master of Education in Educational Psychology is offered and has four specialized areas of study: creativity and cognition, developmental sciences, research, measurement, and statistics, and school counseling. The program can be completed on-campus or online and requires a minimum of 36-semester credits.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University is located in Hays, Kansas, and offers a Master of Science in Counseling- School Counseling. The program is accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and will allow students to apply for a school counseling license at the end of their educational requirements for this program.
Since 1863, Boston College has been providing undergraduate and graduate education to students nationally and internationally. The Master of Arts degree in School Counseling consists of 16 classes for a total of 48 credits. While full-time students can complete their degree in two years, part-time students may require three to five years to graduate. The program is accredited by the MPCAC.
University of Maryland
The College Park campus of the University of Maryland is a large institution with more than 10,000 graduate students enrolled in one of the 118 graduate programs. Ranked as #2 in the nation, the School Counseling program provides thorough training and courses that will give students the knowledge and tools needed to work in elementary, middle, or high schools. Graduates will also be eligible for a school counselor certification.
Ohio State University
Ohio State University offers a School Counseling Program that is catered towards students who want to improve the well-being and mental health of students in grades K through 12. This university will also offer the opportunity for students to sit for a school counseling certification in the state of Ohio.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
North Carolina State University at Raleigh is known for being a top university in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math due to being a leading public research university. Another graduate program this institution has received high marks for is its Master of Education in School Counseling program. The program can be completed either online or on-campus and takes about two years to finish. A 100-hour practicum 600 internship hours are required to graduate.
University of Central Arkansas
Founded in 1907, the 356-acre campus of the University of Central Arkansas has 162 academic programs to choose from for their 10,000+ students, including an online Master of Science degree in School Counseling. Two tracks are available for this program: an add-on track for those who want to add this license to their current Arkansas teaching license and a track for those who do not hold a teaching license.
What began as a gift from “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1873 is grown to become a large university that currently has 10 schools and almost 6,000 graduate students in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt University offers a 48-credit online Master of Education with School Counseling Specialization online that can typically be completed in 3 years and will require two on-campus sessions and three internships to graduate.
University of Southern California
The Master of Education in Educational Counseling from the University of Southern California is for those individuals who are looking for a counseling career in a two-year or four-year college or university. The program requires 48 credits and requires full-time students to take three to four courses per semester, while part-time students are required to take two to three courses per semester.
Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Salem College is a private, Moravian graduate school that caters to the educational needs of women from all over the world. The Master of Education in School Counseling is an online program that is comprised of internship opportunities, online courses, and two-weekend seminars. It usually takes students 36 months to complete the degree.
Founded in 1971, Liberty University is a large college that resides on 7,000 acres in Lynchburg, Virginia. The 48-credit Masters in School Counseling is an online program that can take two and a half years to complete. This institution has been ranked highly by several publications, including being named one of the Most Affordable Colleges by the SR Education Group, Best School Counseling Degrees Online by Successfulstudents.org, and Best Online Masters by Best Colleges.
The University of Texas at Tyler
The online Master of Arts in School Counseling from the University of Texas at Tyler will allow students to learn from licensed counselors and certified school counselors. Students will be able to join the American School Counselor Association and will get to work in the field with 500 hours of supervised counseling experience at local schools.
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota- Twin Cities was founded in 1851 and is one of only 5 colleges in the country that has an engineering school, veterinary medicine school, law school, medical school, and agricultural school all on the same campus. A Master of Arts in Counselor Education from this institution will enable graduates to work with students in elementary, middle, and high schools, along with university students. The program takes two years to complete and requires 60 credits to graduate.
As one of the fastest-growing universities in Texas, Lamar University over 100 degree options to its 15,000+ students. An online Master of Education in Counseling and Development with a Specialization in Professional School Counseling is available. This program requires 60 credits and can be achieved in as little as 30 months. It is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Located in Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton University is a private, Catholic college with more than 4,400 students enrolled in one of its 46 graduate programs. One of the programs offered is a Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventative Mental Health. The degree can be earned completely online and takes about 36 credit hours for students to complete if they currently hold a teaching certificate or 48 credit hours for those that do not have that certificate. It was named as one of the Best Online Programs by U.S. News.
St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure University is located at Saint Bonaventure, New York, and has been ranked #2 in New York and #3 in the North by U.S. News & World Report. The online Master of Education in School Counseling program will give students the experience and education needed to connect with youth at a deeper level. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Why Should I Get a Master’s in School Counseling?
If you envision a future career as a school counselor who offers guidance and support to students, you will need a master’s degree in school counseling. Qualifications for school counseling positions differ by state, but a master’s degree is a nearly universal requirement. Attending one of the best school counseling graduate programs may also help qualify you for other related positions.
Working as a school counselor can be both professionally and emotionally rewarding. If you enjoy working with children and want to enter an expanding field, a position as a school counselor may be a good match. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth for school and career counselors over the next several years is faster than average.
Benefits of Attending an Online Master in School Counseling Program
While it isn’t the right choice for everyone, there are several advantages to completing an online master’s degree in school counseling. One of the primary reasons for enrolling in an online program is flexibility. By completing your degree online, you can tailor your schedule to other aspects of your life, like family obligations. You also won’t have to travel to and from campus, which can free up time for other things. In addition, online courses generally give you more control over the pace of your work. As long as you meet assigned deadlines, you can choose whether you prefer to complete a week’s worth of work in one sitting or spread it across several days.
Another benefit of attending one of the best school counseling master’s programs online is that you can maintain a career while working toward your degree. It can be a challenge to work while attending an in-person program because of the obligation to be on campus at specific times. When studying online, you can more easily create a balance between your education and career.
Online education can also help you to develop highly desirable skills like time management. Because you work more independently as an online student, you must hold yourself responsible for allocating periods of time to complete your assignments, review for exams, and read or watch lectures.
What Can I Do with a Master’s in School Counseling?
The natural assumption is that a student who receives a master’s in school counseling will pursue a career as a school counselor, but this viewpoint can be rather limiting. There are different kinds of school counselors as well as other career options available to graduates of these programs.
If you decide to work in an elementary school, you might focus on helping students develop their social skills and learn how to succeed in a school environment. As a middle school counselor, you could offer students guidance as they navigate adolescence and their developing interests in academic subjects. Finally, if you become a high school counselor, you may offer recommendations about college applications or a future career path.
After completing your degree, you may also want to consider a position as a:
- Career counselor
- Substance abuse counselor
- Behavioral disorder counselor
- Community mental health counselor
- Social and community services manager
- School psychologist
Most counselors earn average or above average salaries, but the specific kind of counseling that you do affects how much money you earn. For example, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that, on average, a school or career counselor makes $60,510, while a substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor earns $48,520. Your specific salary also ultimately depends on your location and level of experience.
Many graduates of the best school counseling programs also seek licensure so that they can open a private practice. This makes it possible to earn more money while serving both within the school and in the broader community. Finally, you may choose to continue your education by pursuing a doctoral degree or completing a related certificate program. Obtaining a Ph.D. or certificate can open additional doors for your future career.
Average Master’s in School Counseling Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current average salary for a school counselor is $60,510. Keep in mind that there are significant variations in the pay that counselors receive. Your salary may be higher or lower based on whether you work in a public or private school, in addition to the state, city, and district where the school is located.
Online Master’s in School Counseling Program Requirements
Degree program requirements are very specific to the school you attend. However, many online school counseling master’s degree programs have similar criteria. You will need to complete 30-60 credit hours in core courses and electives. Possible subjects include:
- Counseling theories, methods, and techniques
- Human growth and development
- Group counseling
- Relationship counseling
- Career development
- Assessment and testing
Some online master’s degree programs in school counseling allow you to choose a specialization. Additional coursework might be tailored to the area that you choose as your primary focus. Most programs also require that you complete a practicum or internship, which gives you the opportunity to gain experience in the field, network with other professionals, and receive specific feedback on your performance.
How Long Will It Take to Earn a School Counseling Master’s Degree?
The length of time required to complete a master’s in school counseling depends on several factors. These include the college you attend, whether you have any transfer credits, and how many courses you take each semester. There may also be differentiation in the time to complete an online degree when compared to a traditional, campus-based program.
Most school counseling graduate programs require between 48 and 60 credit hours, which typically includes an internship or clinical experience. A full-time student can generally complete the degree in two years, but it may be possible to shorten this completion period by enrolling in summer courses. In contrast, a part-time student may need three years or more to graduate from a master’s in school counseling program.
Several factors go into deciding which graduate school will be right for you. To help make your decision easier we collected the data on yearly tuition (in-state/exclusive of fees) and acceptance rates. A point system was attributed based on a scale of 1-15 and each school received an overall score based on those points and was then ranked accordingly.
We welcome representatives from any of the schools listed above to contact us with corrections or inquiries. Also, if you’re representing a school and would like the school or a particular program reviewed please reach out to us as well.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors