Top School Counseling Graduate Programs
School counselors help K-12 and college students meet personal, professional, and academic goals. A master’s in school counseling helps learners gain the skills and experience necessary for this field.
All master’s in school counseling programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. Some programs require a background in psychology or education. Others accept all undergraduate majors. Counseling programs usually focus on broad psychology and counseling concepts. Students pursuing a school counseling degree also take specialized classes in school counseling practice.
Our guide lists the best school counseling programs. Read on for information on degree costs, common classes, and how to become a school counselor.
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Questions About School Counseling
What does a school counselor do?
School counselors help students with academic and social problems. They also work with other educational professionals to improve students’ school experience.
What are the requirements to be a school counselor?
All school counselors need at least a bachelor’s degree. Some states require a master’s degree. Counselors also need either national or state school counselor licensure.
Are school counselors in high demand?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects school counselor jobs to grow 11% from 2020-2030, which is higher than the national average.
Why Get a Degree in School Counseling?
A school counseling master’s degree builds advanced skills in student counseling practices. Degree-seekers gain comprehensive knowledge of counseling theories and techniques. Most school counseling degrees also build the hands-on experience necessary to obtain counselor certification.
The BLS reports that school and career counselors earn an annual median salary of $58,120. The top 10% of school counselors earn more than $97,910 annually.
Many master’s in school counseling programs run either fully or partially online. These programs help working students continue their careers while earning their degree.
How Much Does a School Counseling Degree Cost?
A master’s degree costs an average of $66,340, according to EducationData.org. However, cost varies by school type, learners’ residency status, and program length. Full-time enrollees can complete a master’s in about two years. Part-time students may take longer. Students attending public, in-state schools typically pay the most affordable tuition.
Many colleges offer school counseling master’s degrees online. An online format helps learners save money on relocating or commuting to school.
How Much Do School Counselors Make?
Graduates with a master’s in school counseling often work as K-12 school counselors. They may also work as counselors at colleges and community colleges.
Counselors who work at K-12 schools earn a median salary of $64,960 annually, according to the BLS. Counselors at colleges and universities earn $51,660.
Most school counseling jobs only require a master’s degree. However, earning a Ph.D. or Ed.D. can help counselors pursue more advanced careers. Doctoral graduates may find jobs in academia, educational psychology, or educational leadership.
Courses in School Counseling
Master’s in school counseling programs include general counseling topics along with specialized classes in school counseling. Students build broad knowledge in psychology, counseling, and research. Specialized classes may cover topics such as career counseling and the psychology of learning.
Most programs also require candidates to complete an internship and practicum. These in-person hours build hands-on experience and may meet state requirements for counseling licensure.
See below for three common classes in master’s in school counseling programs. Please note that not all schools offer the exact classes below. Students should check with their prospective schools to learn specific offerings.
Issues in School CounselingThis class addresses the role of the counselor in school settings. Students explore the general framework for school counseling practice, including common issues and intervention strategies. This class may also focus on techniques for counseling program development. Learners gain the skills to collaborate with other educators in a K-12 school setting.
Legal and Ethical Issues in CounselingSchool counselors address sensitive problems and may encounter ethical issues. This class focuses on major ethical and legal regulations for counselors. Topics may cover confidentiality, student records, and communicating with families. Degree-seekers may also receive an overview of ethical standards from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).
Multicultural CounselingSchool counselors serve a diverse body of students and families. This class explores the theories and practices of counseling diverse clients. Enrollees may learn about cultural assumptions, counselor credibility, and cultural values. Many classes now focus on a social justice framework for counseling.
How to Become a School Counselor
Most states require school counselors to hold a master’s degree in a relevant field, such as counseling, school counseling, or psychology. Public school counselors also need state licensure or certification.
These professionals spend their workdays counseling students on social and academic problems. They may also work with teachers and administrators to create new school practices that better serve students.
School counselor duties vary by school level. At elementary schools, counselors may focus more on general social development. At high schools, they often focus more on preparing students for college or work.
Licensure for School Counselors
School counselors need licensure or certification to work at public schools. Specific licensure requirements vary by state. However, counselors generally need a master’s degree in a relevant field. The degree must include approved coursework in counseling and education topics.
Counselors must also complete practicum and internship hours at an approved K-12 school. These required hours build hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed school counselors. Practicum requirements vary by state. Most states require candidates to complete a set number of hours.
After gaining education and experience, candidates must also complete a licensure exam. Some states administer their own tests, while others accept national exams such as the Professional School Counselor. The ASCA lists each state’s licensure requirements.
Best Master’s in School Counseling Degrees
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.
California State University-Long Beach
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.
San Diego State University
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.
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.
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.