Best Master’s in School Counseling Degrees 2021

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School and career counselors help high school and college students solve problems and plan for the future through one-on-one and small group sessions. They also often collaborate with teachers and administrators. Most of these professionals work at primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for school counselors to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029, which significantly exceeds the projected growth rate for all professions. In 2019, school counselors earned a median annual salary of $57,040, according to the BLS. Workers with experience and those who live in large cities make more.

Typical admission requirements for a master’s program in school counseling include a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA, and recommendation letters. Some programs accept transfer credit from accredited colleges and universities. Other programs limit enrollment to licensed educators with teaching experience.

What Are the Goals of a School Counseling Degree?

A graduate school counseling program’s curriculum spans 2-3 years and emphasizes human development, counseling theories, and legal and ethical issues. Prospective students choose from three degree types: a master of arts (MA), a master of science (MS), or a master of education (M.Ed.). M.Ed. degrees train licensed counselors with professional experience for leadership positions within their school or organization. MS and MA degrees prepare learners for initial licensure.

Graduates’ career path also depends on their specialization. Many top school counseling programs confer a master’s in counseling with a specialization in school counseling. This type of program balances counseling fundamentals with the skills learners need to work with young adults.

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  • What can you do with a degree in school counseling?

    A school counseling degree opens up numerous career paths in and outside of schools. Some graduates work as community mental health professionals or entrepreneurs.

  • Is a degree in school counseling worth it?

    Professionals who excel as a school counselor possess a passion for helping young people realize their full potential and overcome challenges.

  • What is the difference between a guidance counselor and a school counselor?

    Both types of professionals help students create academic and career goals. School counselors’ additional training allows them to identify and remedy underlying issues that impede learners’ success.

  • How much do school counselors earn?

    According to the BLS, school counselors earned a median annual salary of $57,040 in 2019. Counselors with experience earn more. Salary also varies by geographic location.

Why Get a School Counseling Degree?

The school counseling profession conveys multiple professional and personal benefits. See below for just a few reasons why a school counseling degree can lead to a fulfilling career.

Management training
Master’s students gain management skills through their training in organizational behavior, healthcare leadership, and healthcare management. This management training prepares graduates for diverse leadership roles.
Career Advancement
A master’s degree in healthcare administration qualifies graduates for many supervisory roles, including healthcare executive, health information manager, and healthcare financial manager.
During a master’s program, healthcare administration students can specialize their training through courses on topics like financial management, informatics, and human resources management. This training prepares graduates for specialized career opportunities.
Increased Earning Potential
For most professionals, moving into supervisory roles will increase their earning potential. For instance, healthcare executives earn above-average salaries, with a median pay of more than $100,000 per year.
Strong Projected Job Growth
The BLS projects much-faster-than-average job growth for healthcare administrators between 2019-2029.

What Are the Requirements for a School Counseling Degree?

Competitive master’s degree in school counseling applicants possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Other typical application requirements include submitting recommendation letters from professors, responding to a prompt in a short essay, and providing a resume. University admissions counselors answer applicants’ questions regarding requirements and deadlines. 

Like students in other graduate programs, school counseling degree-seekers remain in good academic standing by passing all courses. They also complete practicums and internships. These experiences allow degree-seekers to hone counseling skills in a school setting. Other graduation requirements may include writing a thesis and presenting to faculty members.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for School Counseling Students

Professional organizations help school counseling master’s degree-seekers research scholarships, find a mentor, and network with peers. Some organizations charge student members a low membership fee. They use these fees to advocate for the counseling profession at the local, state, and federal levels. Advocacy ensures that all school counselors possess the tools necessary to help young adults.

  • American Counseling Association ACA serves counselors specializing in different fields. Student membership confers liability insurance, internship opportunities, and an invitation to the annual conference. Other services include continuing education courses. ACA also curates helpful resources for school counselors in training, such as guides covering licensure requirements and the latest school counseling research.

  • American School Counselor Association Graduate degree-seekers enrolled in a school counseling program pay a membership fee. This fee pays for two years of membership. Some of the many benefits student members enjoy include subscriptions to counseling publications, professional development courses, and the organization's monthly newsletter. Members unable to attend in-person training sessions can register for a webinar.

  • National Association for College Admission Counseling NACAC accepts undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a career in college counseling. Members enjoy numerous professional resources, such as NACAC publications, discounts on professional development courses, and in-person and online seminars. The association's job board and recruitment drives give degree-seekers an advantage as they plan for life after graduation.

Scholarships for School Counseling Students

The strongest school counseling degrees require investing time and money. Graduate degree-seekers can help fund their education by applying for scholarships. Use the links below to explore some scholarships for school counseling learners.

Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Melanie Foundation awards this scholarship to master’s and doctoral students training for any mental health-related career. Application materials include two recommendation letters and an essay of 2-3 pages. Applicants need relevant professional or extracurricular experience.

Amount: $2,500

National Association of Junior Auxiliaries Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students preparing for a career working with children may apply. Prospective applicants must live in one of the seven states that host a NAJA chapter. Other application requirements include U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

Amount: $2,000

Grungo Colarulo Giving Back to the Community Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students majoring in any academic subject may apply. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit a 750-word essay detailing their community service involvement.

Amount: $1,000

Best Master’s in School Counseling Degrees 2021

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL



    A public university based in Gainesville, UF offers a dual masters and specialist degree in school counseling.

    The 72-credit program offers counseling-focused courses such as counseling children and adolescents, trauma and crisis intervention, multicultural counseling, and professional identity and ethics in counseling. Students learn about counseling principles in both individual and group settings and complete a supervised internship and practicum to gain hands-on experience.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's in education with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on upper-division education courses. Students must also send GRE scores to pursue the education specialist distinction.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  2. California State University-Long Beach

    Long Beach, CA



    Based in Long Beach, CSULB offers a master of science in counseling with a concentration in school counseling. Participants receive the pupil personnel services school counseling credential.

    Students complete the 51-credit curriculum during weeknights. Course topics include career and academic counseling in K-12 settings, law and ethics for counselors, current issues in professional school counseling, and an introduction to educational research. Students must also complete an on-site internship and practicum. To demonstrate skills mastery, students can choose between a comprehensive exam or thesis.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with a minimum overall GPA of 2.85 to qualify for admission. CSULB is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  3. San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA



    Based in San Diego, California, SDSU offers a master of science in counseling with a school counseling concentration. Students earn a concurrent pupil personnel services school counseling credential.

    The 64-credit program includes courses such as foundations of the professional school counselor leader, cross-cultural counseling communication skills, theoretical foundations of school counseling, and social justice and holistic school. Participants learn the basics of helping students through crisis or trauma and plan for college or careers, as well as how to engage in family counseling.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit GRE scores to apply. SDSU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  4. Auburn University

    Auburn, AL



    Based in Auburn, Alabama, Auburn offers a master of education in school counseling. Students can complete the 60-credit program in person or online.

    Students take core courses such as career development and vocational appraisal, counseling applications and lifespan development, counseling diverse populations, and crisis intervention in counseling. Students apply skills during internships and practicums and choose from three electives to finish program requirements. Students must also satisfy Alabama's clear background check to complete the program.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to qualify for the program. The school does not require GRE scores. Auburn is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  5. University of Georgia

    Athens, GA



    A public research university located in Athens, UGA offers a dual-degree program that combines a master of education and an education specialist degree in professional counseling (school counseling).

    Course topics in the 66-credit program include foundations in school counseling, theories of counseling and human development, introduction to group counseling, and counseling children and adolescents. The program leads to licensure as a professional counselor in the state of Georgia. Students receive at least 240 internship hours of direct counseling with either groups or individuals in service-learning settings. Students must complete 100 hours of practicum work and 660 total hours of internship experience to qualify for the degree.

    Students must first apply to the graduate school, which requires the submission of GRE scores. To apply to the counseling program itself, students must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 in undergraduate coursework and a satisfactory GACE score.

    UGA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

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