School counselors do so much more than just settle playground squabbles. From elementary school to college, school counselors are responsible for supporting the academic, personal, and developmental health of thousands of students across the United States. Finding the right master’s program in School Counseling is no small task, but the easy-to-understand data collected by College Choice will help you settle on a top program that fits your needs.
Depending on the school setting, the primary tasks of school counselors vary. In the elementary school setting, counselors typically interact with kids in grades K-6, either individually or in small groups. Some work one-on-one with classroom teachers to make individualized success plans. Secondary school counselors work with grades 6-12 and take an additional interest in assisting students with transitioning into college or the workforce. Counselors at the collegiate level assist students with emotional needs as well as career advice and direction.
Licensing for school counselors is determined on a state-by-state basis, though all states require at least a master’s degree before someone can be hired as a school counselor. As you’ll see in our ranking, most top programs in school counseling require over 700 hours of a practicum and internship experience, which gives hands-on, supervised practice in the school setting. Though some states require two years of teaching experience before licensing a school counselor, that is not the case for all. Some programs even incorporate education classes into their curriculum.
The median annual salary for school counselors in 2015 was $53,660, with an expected 8 percent job outlook growth rate.1 Typically, school counselors working in elementary and secondary schools, both public and private, earn a higher income ($60,660) than school counselors who work in either government positions or in colleges and universities (46,850).2
Long-term job satisfaction for school counselors is overwhelmingly high. School counselors enjoy the flexibility of the school schedule (summers off!), and experience the full spectrum of interactions in a school environment, from students to parents to teachers. Although the job can be stressful at times, those who stay in the profession beyond two years report some of the highest rates of job satisfaction in any educational field.3
What are the best master’s degrees in school counseling?
At College Choice, we’ve listed the top 15 master’s degrees in School Counseling by compiling and comparing academic reputation, success, and affordability. We first chose programs with the most renowned reputation in Education and then compared the list to specific ratings of School Counseling programs. Finally, we compared this data with programs that provide the most economical accessibility, to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 100
Tuition Per Credit: $831
Ohio State University, a public research institution based in Columbus, Ohio, is the third largest university in the United States with almost 65,000 students enrolled in both its undergraduate and graduate programs. US News & World Report ranked it as the 16th Best Public University in 2016.
Ohio State University offers a Masters of Arts in Counselor Education, which provides two tracks of study for students: school counseling and clinical mental health counseling. The school counseling track consists of 63 credit hours, which includes a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship in an urban school setting. Most students finish the master’s in school counseling degree in two years.
The curriculum consists of three groupings of classes: Foundations (9 credits), Professional Counseling (34 credits), and School Counseling Specialized Studies (19 credits). The classes in the first year provides a basic knowledge of theory and technique in counseling, and the second year incorporates interactive labs and the internship requirement. The school counseling program requires either a final comprehensive exam or a master’s thesis in order to graduate. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
University of Maryland—College Park
College Choice Score: 99.12
Tuition Per Credit: $997.50
Located in a close proximity to the nation’s capital, the University of Maryland—College Park, a public research institution, is the largest university in Maryland and the largest in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Partially for that reason, the university utilizes numerous research partnerships with federal agencies, such as the National Institute of Health, NASA, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The School Counseling master’s program at the University of Maryland offers either a Masters in Education (52 required credit hours) or a Master’s of Arts in School Counseling (64 required credit hours). Students in both tracks complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship in schools within the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and Prince George’s County.
The program at the University of Maryland emphasizes the importance of access, social justice, and equity of counseling services in K-12 educational settings, and a significant portion of the curriculum covers counseling theories and practices for practicing in culturally diverse urban settings. Most full-time students complete this master’s degree in two full years (five semesters). The University of Maryland, College Park is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 97.54
Tuition Per Credit: $569.47
Located in Gainsville, Florida, the University of Florida, is a public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research institution. The university is known for its high ranking among public research universities in the United States. Its College of Education, which houses the Masters of Education in School Counseling (MEd/EdS), was ranked 30th in the nation by US News & World Report, and 6th in Counselor Education.
The 72-credit-hour master’s degree in School Counseling at Florida University guides students through completing either a Master of Arts in Education (MAE/EdS) or a Master of Education (MEd/EdS), depending on whether or not applicants already have their teaching degree or not. All students must complete 28 credits of what is called the “CACREP Core” classes—which stands for Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs—in addition to school counseling core classes (15 credits), practicum and internship courses (14 credits) and electives (15 credits).
If a student has not yet completed the requirements to be a Certified Florida Educator, this program offers three courses to get them up to speed. Whereas the CACREP core classes focus on general information about counseling, the school counseling core classes hone in on techniques and interventions specific to child and adolescent development. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
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University of Georgia
College Choice Score: 96.89
Tuition Per Credit: $656
The University of Georgia, based in Athens, Georgia, is a public land-grant and sea-grant research university. Although the university ranks high in academics and research, its main campus is also well known for its lush beauty, with extensive gardens, nature walks, and green space.
The College of Education at the University of Georgia offers a Master of Education in Professional Counseling (School Counseling). This 60-credit-hour program is designed to incorporate coursework with clinical experiences and intensive school settings. Students who are interested in integrated behavioral health are especially encouraged to apply. Through partnerships with a number of Georgia school districts and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), students in the MEd in School Counseling receive training that allows them to offer integrated behavioral health services in school environments.
Unlike some other programs, students who are admitted also receive a stipend of $10,000 during the internship year (usually year two) of their studies. Similar to some other programs, students here are required to complete a 100-hour practicum as well as a 600-hour internship at a local K-12 school. The University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
University of Minnesota—Twin Cities
College Choice Score: 95.84
Tuition Per Credit: $1681.34
Ranked among the top 25 research universities in the United States, the University of Minnesota is a public research institution located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Offering 143 undergraduate degrees and 200 graduate degrees, the University of Minnesota is the second-largest institution of higher learning in the Midwest.
The Masters of Arts in Counseling & Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) at the University of Minnesota subscribes to the scientist/practitioner model, and offers school counseling as a track of emphasis among two others: community counseling and higher education/student personnel.
As such, within the 48-53 credits required of the curriculum, the program provides core classes in Educational Psychology and Counseling Theory & Practice before splitting off into emphasis areas. Students who opt for the school counseling track take 14-16 credits in classes such as Child and Adolescent Development and Counseling, Crisis Management and Consulting in Schools, and two different Counseling Practicums.
Successful completion of the Masters of Arts program prepares students to become Licensed School Counselors (K-12), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC). The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
College Choice Score: 94.58
Tuition Per Credit: $858.14
Indiana University Bloomington, known as “IU Bloomington”, is the flagship institution of the Indiana University system, and its largest university with over 40,000 students. As a public research institution, IU Bloomington contains top graduate-level programs in addition to its undergraduate studies, including its School of Education, which houses the Master of Science in Education degree (MSEd) in Counseling and Counseling Education.
This 48-credit-hour master’s degree offers two tracks of specialization: school counseling or community counseling. Students in the school counseling program experience a combination of coursework, lab experiences, practicums, and a two-semester internship. The curriculum consists of four main areas: major field courses (39 credits), research skills (3 credits), human growth and development (3 credits), and non-program electives (3 credits).
The program, which students complete as a cohort in two full years, consistently yields high results in the professional world. In the 2014–15 school year, seven students graduated from the school counseling track and six of them are currently employed as school counselors. Indiana University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.
College Choice Score: 94.23
Tuition Per Credit: $1364
Tucked away in a village just west of Boston, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Boston College is a private, Jesuit Catholic research university. Though the university is relatively small compared to some others on this list, Boston College provides bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees through its nine schools and colleges.
The Lynch School of Education offers a Master’s of Arts in Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology (MA), with an emphasis on school counseling. This two-year program trains students in contemporary counseling, specifically emphasizing the importance of integrating a social justice perspective into professional counseling work.
The school counseling track requires 48 credit hours of coursework, which covers foundational counseling classes, statistic and research classes, and two 3-credit practicums in a PreK-8 or 5-12 school setting. The master’s degree at Boston College culminates in a comprehensive exam. In addition to the master’s degree in school counseling, the Lynch School of Education offers a unique dual degree MA in Pastoral Ministry/MA in Counseling Psychology. Boston College is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Pennsylvania State University—University Park
College Choice Score: 93.8
Tuition Per Credit: $1093
Pennsylvania State University, commonly called Penn State, is a public, research-intensive university, with campus spread throughout the state. Its University Park campus is the flagship campus of the system. Penn State holds claim as a land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant, and sun-grant university, which proves its status as a high-research institution.
The Counselor Education master’s program—from which students graduate with a Masters of Education degree (MEd)—provides five emphasis areas: Career Counseling, Elementary School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Schools and Communities, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Secondary School Counseling.
The Department of Educational Psychology, which houses the degree, also runs the CEDAR Clinic, a dual-purpose clinic environment that is used for both research and community counseling. Students in the Counselor Education master’s program utilize the CEDAR Clinic for their supervised clinical practicum.
All tracks require 55 credit hours to graduate, though each track contains classes that are unique to its focus of study. Students in all tracks must complete an internship in their final year of the program. The evaluative data for the Counselor Education degree at Penn State demonstrates its high quality as a program. The job placement rate for the school counseling cohort in 2014–15 was 97 percent, with a 100 percent certification pass rate. Pennsylvania State is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
University of Missouri
College Choice Score: 93.5
Tuition Per Credit: $482.75
The University of Missouri is a well-established public research university located in Columbia, Missouri. The campus, home to over 35,000 students, is located on the historic Francis Quadrangle district and its grounds are maintained as a botanical garden.
Students who choose to study at the University of Missouri may earn a Master of Education in Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology (MEd) with an emphasis in one of the following: elementary, secondary, or elementary and secondary. Based on the scientist-practitioner model as well as the comprehensive school guidance and counseling program model, this 42-credit-hour program fully prepares students in theory, research, and practice.
Students in all three tracks must take General Psychology core classes (6 credits), Counseling Psychology core classes (15 credits), and a 9-credit-hour practicum in a public school setting. In addition, students must take 12 credit hours of Specialty Requirement classes, which include Multicultural Issues in Counseling, School Guidance Programs, Parent Counseling and Consultation, and Program Evaluation for School Counselors. The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Texas—Austin
College Choice Score: 89.2
Tuition Per Credit: $673.89
The University of Texas at Austin, colloquially known as UT Austin, is a public research university and the flagship of the University of Texas system. UT Austin is known as a “Public Ivy” school, and stands as a major academic research institution in the South.
The College of Education at UT Austin provides a Master of Education in Counselor Education (MEd), with specializations in Higher Education Counseling & Student Affairs and School Counseling. Texas requires two years of teaching before getting a certification in school counseling. However, teaching experience is not required at UT Austin, which allows for the possibility for students to complete this requirement during or after getting the master’s degree.
Students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework for the MEd; however, students who opt to graduate with a Master of Arts in Counselor Education (MA) must take 60 credit hours in classes and complete a master’s report or a master’s thesis. Unique to some other programs in this list, students may choose between a Practicum in Counseling or a Practicum in Spanish for the Helping Professionals. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
University of Iowa
College Choice Score: 86.35
Tuition Per Credit: $2226.96
Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa—a flagship public research institution in Iowa City—is the oldest university in Iowa. The university provides over two hundred areas of study within its eleven different colleges.
The Masters of Arts in School Counseling (MA) program at the University of Iowa prepares students for K-12 licensure in Iowa. The 54-credit-hour curriculum requires three years to complete, however the time varies depending on students’ backgrounds in psychology and education. Students who enter the program without previous experience or licensing in education must take three additional courses in education to meet the state requirements.
Unique to this program, the University of Iowa was the first to provide additional curriculum on counseling gifted students, which earned the program a regional award for “most innovative counselor education program” in 2007 by the North Central Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Similar to other programs on the list, students enter a practicum in the fall of their second year, and continue into an internship at a local school setting that spring. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of North Carolina—Greensboro
College Choice Score: 80.15
Tuition Per Credit: 1386.32
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public, liberal arts research university. Although it is part of the University of North Carolina system, UNC Greensboro is also its own stand-alone university, offering more than 100 undergraduate and 90 graduate programs.
The graduate school at UNC Greensboro offers a dual degree in a Masters of Science and Educational Specialist in Counseling, which gives students a level of professional expertise that is a notch above the rest. The program give students the option of four different concentrations—clinical mental health counseling, college counseling and student development, couple and family counseling, and school counseling—all of which require 72-credit-hours.
The curriculum for the school counseling track covers seven core areas: Human Growth and Development (3 credits), Social and Cultural Diversity (3 credits), Professional Core (21 credits), Research (3 credits), Specialized and Environmental Curricular Studies (15 credits), Electives (9 credits), and the Supervised Practicum and Internship (18 credits). Finally, students demonstrate their collective knowledge across all of these areas in a capstone comprehensive exam. North Carolina at Greensboro is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
University of Central Florida
College Choice Score: 75.94
Tuition Per Credit: $650.50
The University of Central Florida, based in Orlando, Florida, is a public research institution that originally opened as an opportunity to provide personnel for the United States space program. Since then, it has grown to become the second largest university in the United States in total enrollment, with over 60,000 students.
Offered through the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida, the Master’s of Arts in Counselor Education provides concentration tracks in both Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. This 60-credit-hour program is designed for students who completed their bachelor’s degree in something other than education. Beyond the six credits of core classes, students take thirty credits in specialization courses, nine credits of DOE-required certification courses, nine credits in professional clinical experiences and six credits in electives.
All students fulfill their required nine credits of clinical hours at the UCF Community Counseling and Research Center, which provides the student body and community with counseling services. This program gives the option of either a non-thesis or a thesis capstone project. The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
College of William & Mary
College Choice Score: 73.61
Tuition Per Credit: $850
Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, the College of William & Mary is a public research university that was royally founded in 1693. After Harvard University it remains the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.
The counseling program at the College of William & Mary offers Master’s of Education in School Counseling (MEd), as well as in Marriage & Family Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Full-time students go through the curriculum, which requires 60 credit hours, in two years and one summer. The curriculum integrates core coursework with field-based practicum and internship opportunities, in hopes of developing skills in planning, implementing, and evaluating in K-12 school settings.
Like other programs in this list, students complete a 150-hour practicum followed by a 600-hour internship in the third and fourth semester. The coursework vacillates between theory and technique, and often groups similar classes together for a holistic approach to learning. For example, in first semester, students take both Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy and Techniques of Counseling. The College of William & Mary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Kentucky
College Choice Score: 71.71
Tuition Per Credit: $1020
Known as the largest university in the state, University of Kentucky is a public, co-educational university based in Lexington, Kentucky. Within the state, the University of Kentucky is a leading research hub, specifically as a land-grant university.
The Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology (EdS) is a three-year program that also awards a Master of Science degree (MS) after the first year of coursework. The program at the University of Kentucky emphasizes social justice perspectives, and focuses on evidence-based learning. The master’s degree requires 36 credit hours, while the EdS degree requires 69 credit hours.
The coursework is divided into five major areas: Psychological Foundations, Scientific Foundations, Professional Practice Foundations, Educational Foundations, and Supervised Experience (practicum and internship). At the end of year three, students must complete an oral Case Study exam, in which they demonstrate their professional skills in a real-life scenario. The University of Kentucky is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).