Best Online Master's in School Counseling Programs (2023)

Overview of an Online School Counseling Program

For many young students, navigating the education system can be daunting. They are faced with social issues, challenging coursework, and tough decisions regarding the direction of their lives after grade school. School counselors are hired by institutions to guide students through these issues by offering advice and mentorship. If you're interested in this career path, you'll need to earn a master's degree in school counseling.

Online school counseling programs at the master's level can take students one to three years to complete, and they require 30 to 75 credit hours.

Before applying to school at the master's level, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a similar subject, such as teaching, counseling psychology, social work, or simply counseling. Some students earn their bachelor's in school counseling before going on to study for a master's in secondary education in order to work at the university level.

Earning a master's degree online is a valuable option for your future career prospects as a counselor. It's also considered a well respected degree in line with traditional on-campus learning. By attending an online school counseling program, you'll learn important skills in interventionism and behavioral assessment techniques, and you'll study the detailed history of the U.S. education system. You'll use data to drive your counseling studies and look at modern counseling strategies for an increasingly diverse student body.

Common Courses for a School Counseling Major

Coursework in school counseling online programs cover the specific skills and knowledge you'll need to become a licensed counselor. You'll study social and cultural issues, human growth development, career development, and how to apply research and data to your profession.

Below is a list of five courses that are commonly found among the best masters in school counseling programs:

Ethics and Legal Issues in School Counseling

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This course covers the ethical standards of modern-day school counseling while also looking at this field through an historical, philosophical, and cultural lens. You'll discuss the trends of school counseling as well as the profession's ethical standards put forth by prominent organizations in the education industry.

Lifespan Development

Lifespan development looks at the emotional, social, and cognitive processes of human growth. This course provides insight into basic developmental phases in order to provide a better understanding of what young students go through at a biological level.

Research in School Counseling

Here, students will take a data-driven approach to counseling by investigating and analyzing research in school counseling. They are introduced to the scientific practice of research and the relevant terminology, before being assigned their own research projects, where they'll write their findings in a report.

Child Therapy and Assessment

This class takes the proven methods of adolescent psychology and applies it to an education environment. You'll look at intervention techniques and assessment practices while keeping in mind a student's home environment, cognitive issues, and family structure to provide constructive therapeutic techniques.

School Counseling Techniques

This course covers the hard skills needed to be an effective and ethical school counselor, including interview best-practices, observation techniques, data collecting, and writing comprehensive reports.

School Counseling Concentrations

Some online master's in school counseling degrees offer concentrations that allow you to more closely study a niche within the field or create additional skills that will better your employment opportunities.

For example, some programs may offer a bilingual extension, which looks at education practices and theory in a commonly spoken language, such as Spanish.

(Video) School counseling: online master’s degree

Others offer mental health concentrations that focus on the practice of addressing cognitive and behavioral issues that many young students face during their education.

Career Outlook

School counseling degrees are designed to teach students the skills to operate as a professional counselor in an educational institution. School's are unique environments, especially when compared to psychologist offices, rehabilitation centers, or social work agencies.

Professionals in this field are hired by both public and private schools, where they monitor student behavior, provide academic and social guidance, and administer aptitude tests.

School counselors earn an annual median salary of $60,510 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When you compare this to the $58,260 average salary for all occupations in May of 2021, you can see that school counselors earn only slightly more each year.

There were 322,000 school counselors working in the U.S. as of 2020. The BLS projects that there will be 37,000 more jobs added before 2030, giving school counselors an 11% job outlook. This is faster than the average occupation's growth rate which sits at around 8%.

Do You Need a Master’s To Be a Guidance Counselor?

Typically, you are required to obtain a master's degree in school counseling before applying to become a licensed guidance counselor. Additionally, the skills and knowledge you'll gain from a graduate program are necessary to be an ethical, fair, and effective counselor for young students.

Public school counselors, specifically, are required to have a state-issued credential in order to practice. Unfortunately, this credential's title varies from state to state. Some states call it a certification or a license, others call it an endorsement.

What Licensure and Certification Do You Need?

States generally require a master's degree — along with a license — to work as a school counselor in grades K-12. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is an excellent resource for each state's requirements when it comes to working as a certified counselor.

Every state has their own requirements in education, practical experience, and even background checks. Some states, such as Alaska, may also require you to take cultural coursework related to their region, including a specific set of credit hours dedicated to multicultural and Alaskan studies. Once you meet said requirements, you'll be eligible to apply for a state license in school counseling. From there, you can begin applying for full-time employment in both state-funded and private schools.

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If you're looking for more professional accolades, a certification provides a designation for an individual's achievements in the field. You can choose to earn a National Certified School Counselor certificate or complete the National Counselor Examination from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). These will help boost your credibility and knowledge through additional coursework in trauma, abuse, addiction, and family counseling, as well as program evaluation and human development.

Choosing an Online Master's in School CounselingProgram

Accreditation verifies the legitimacy and efficacy of an institution. Verifying your school's accreditation status should be your first step in choosing the right program.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the main institution that accredits graduate programs in school counseling. Their rigorous standard looks at everything from a program's learning environment to how a program evaluates its students. Furthermore, all of OnlineU's recommendations for master's degrees in school counseling come from accredited institutions.

Aside from accreditation, there are other facts to consider as well. If you have credits from another university, you should ensure they will be properly transferred to the new program. Credits are a valuable asset for master's students, so it's important that you check your school's transfer policy before committing to said program.

Another thing to think about is how the application of online learning differs from on-campus learning and what requirements there might be for your online degree. Most school counseling master's degrees require in-person practicums or internships. So while the majority of your coursework will be online, you will also need to gain on-site work experience from an approved employer. For those studying out-of-state, you'll need to ensure there are local institutions where you can complete your internship.

If you are looking to graduate from your master's fast, see our article about accelerated learning options and how to graduate from college early.

Is a Master's in School Counseling Worth It?

There are several things to think about before choosing an online master's in school counseling. With so many hoops to jump through, and a hefty cost along the way, you might be asking yourself if it's worth it.

Let's take a look at the various pros and cons of earning a master's in school counseling:

Potential Benefits

School counseling can be a very fulfilling and satisfying career. This is primarily because your responsibilities revolve around assisting and guiding children and young students through their most formidable years.

Teachers and counselors receive more time off than other occupations. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, teachers work approximately 185 days per year compared to the average occupation which works around 230 days per year.

Some school counselors are eligible for federal loan forgiveness plans. Once you're employed as a school counselor, you may qualify to have your master's degree loan forgiven by the federal government through Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

(Video) Schools with online masters programs

Potential Drawbacks

Grade school counselors are often considered underpaid. Even though their role in public schools is vitally important, counselors receive only a modest salary of $60,510, which is even less than the $61,820 salary of high school teachers.

School counseling can be a stressful undertaking. According to recent research compiled by NBCC's academic journal, The Professional Counselor, school counselors report that stress and burnout contribute to "a negative influence on the services they provide to students."

A growing ratio of students-to-school-counselors could mean your job becomes less effective. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) reports that the national ratio of students-to-school-counselors in 2021 was 415-1, which is much higher than their recommendation of 250-1.


As a graduate student, you may look for assistance in a variety of ways — from student loans to scholarships. As mentioned above, there are several organizations that offer helpful resources to school counseling graduate students.

ASCA provides a list of state requirements for certification and membership opportunities for master's graduates, where you can receive professional liability insurance coverage, among other benefits.

NBCC offers two professional certificates which are relevant for aspiring school counselors.

CACREP offers resources for accredited educational programs in the field of school counseling.

At the American Counseling Association (ACA), you can apply for a membership that offers career and continuing education resources, discounts for relevant services, counseling-related content, and advocacy projects on behalf of professionals in the field.

Bottom Line

Earning a master's degree in school counseling is a costly endeavor that can take years to complete. The subject matter deals with sensitive topics related to adolescent behavior and the corresponding therapeutic techniques that are used in a school environment. There are plenty of support networks and organizations that are designed to help students with their studies and career steps thereafter. Upon graduation, you'll likely find yourself earning a modest salary, which can feel more balanced when considering all the days-off you receive and the help you're able to provide your students.

If you're unsure about pursuing a master's in guidance counseling online, you may also look into graduate programs in educational leadership, elementary education, special education, or health education.


Is an online masters in counseling worth it? ›

Yes, a masters in mental health counseling is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 12% job growth in community and social service occupations over the next 10 years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Are online counseling degrees respected? ›

In summary, if your online Master of Psychology program is housed within a reputable, brick-and-mortar institution that is regionally accredited, the degree you earn should be just as readily accepted as any degree earned through an on-campus program.

How do I become a school counselor in MA? ›

Steps to Becoming Licensed
  1. Get your bachelor's degree.
  2. Get your master's degree.
  3. Pass the Communications & Literacy sections of the MTEL.
  4. Apply for your Initial License through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). ...
  5. Move your Initial License to a Professional License.

What is the best degree for counseling? ›

Counselors must earn a four-year undergraduate degree, and typically a master's degree, in order to begin their practice.
Doctoral Programs
  • PhD in Counseling Psychology.
  • PsyD in Counseling Psychology.
  • EdD (Doctor of Education) in Counseling Psychology.
  • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy: General Family Therapy.

Are Online Masters less respected? ›

So are online masters programs respected? Generally speaking, an online degree is just as credible as a traditional degree. The key is to make sure that you choose an accredited online program from an accredited institution.

What is the difference between a MA and a MS in counseling? ›

An MS degree is best suited for students who have earned a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field, while a master of arts in counseling is ideal for students with a general bachelor's degree, such as English. These programs are designed to incorporate lab work, scientific research, analysis, and evaluation.

What is the fastest growing field in counseling? ›

Employment of relationship therapists, clinical social workers, mental health counselors and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners is projected to grow 23% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations overall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What's the best online school for counseling? ›

Best Online Master's in School Counseling Degree Programs
RankSchool NameSchool Logo
1University of the SouthwestHobbs
2University of the CumberlandsWilliamsburg
3University of West AlabamaLivingston
4Wake Forest UniversityWinston Salem
16 more rows

Which is considered as the fastest field in counseling? ›

Family counselors must have a doctoral degree and state licensing. In review, the psychology field of counseling offers distinct careers for students who want to help others overcome problems. Industrial-organizational, school, career and family psychology are the fastest growing fields in the counseling profession.

How much does a high school counselor make in Massachusetts? ›

The average School Guidance Counselor salary in Massachusetts is $66,139 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $54,614 and $80,951.

What certifications do school counselors need? ›

Requirements for earning a school counselor certification

Graduate-level Master's or Doctoral degree in Psychology, Counseling or another related field. A minimum number of supervised clinical hours as required by your state. Passing score on state licensing exam. State license.

How much do LPC make in Massachusetts? ›

How much does a Licensed Professional Counselor make in Massachusetts? The average Licensed Professional Counselor salary in Massachusetts is $59,980 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $54,230 and $67,499.

What is the highest-paying counselor? ›

Five of the hottest and highest-paying counseling jobs today
  • School Counselor. ...
  • Career Counselor. ...
  • Mental Health, Marriage, and Family Counselor. ...
  • Rehabilitation Counselor. ...
  • Gerontological Counselor.

What type of counselors are in demand? ›

10 in-demand therapy jobs
  1. Rehabilitation counselor. National average salary: $43,574 per year. ...
  2. Mental health counselor. National average salary: $43,574 per year. ...
  3. Behavioral therapist. ...
  4. Career counselor. ...
  5. Recreational therapist. ...
  6. School counselor. ...
  7. Substance abuse counselor. ...
  8. Marriage and family therapist.
Apr 25, 2022

Is a Masters in counseling hard? ›

To Work or Not to Work, That Is the Question…

A master's program in counseling is challenging, time consuming and most easily conquered with single-mindedness of purpose. However, if you must work while attending school, then by all means work.

Do people take online masters seriously? ›

As many as 83% of business leaders see an online degree at a “well-known” institution as having the same value as an on-campus degree. If they are not familiar with a school, however, or the institution isn't known for producing prepared graduates from its programs, your degree may not be seen as having the same value.

Is Capella University respected by employers? ›

Capella University is very well respected by employers, especially those who know that not all online schools are diploma mills. The online school is regionally accredited. It means that its programs and degrees are recognized as they meet standards, just like most traditional schools.

How does an online degree look on a resume? ›

These students simply list the name of the university or school they attended, omitting the term “online” from the education section of the resume. Using this strategy can help you bypass the issues you may face as a graduate of an online degree program.

Is it better to have an MSc or MA? ›

An MA is a terminal degree

The MA is a terminal degree while an MSc isn't. A terminal degree is usually the highest type of degree that an individual can receive in his or her field. While an MSc is usually a degree that prepares students for working on doctoral degrees,” writes Nikita Das for

Is it better to study Counselling or psychology? ›

Generally, a psychologist is paid a higher salary than a counsellor due to their level of education. According to SEEK (as at July 2022), a counsellor salary sits at around $80,000 a year, whereas a psychologist's salary averages just over $93,000 a year.

Is an MA better than a PhD? ›

After earning a master's degree, the next step is a PhD, which entails both working and performing research at an institution. A PhD is an abbreviation for “Doctor of Philosophy.” It is the highest academic degree one can achieve. As such, it is a time-consuming pursuit that requires a lot of studying and research.

What state needs counselors the most? ›

We found that Maine is the best state in the nation for licensed professional counselors, and people in New York earn the most in the field.
1. Maine.
Total Licensed Professional Counselor Jobs:383
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$91,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$133,000
2 more rows
Apr 6, 2021

What is the hardest part of being a counselor? ›

Some of the hardest things about working as a counselor include the often painful process of working through problems itself, the slow rate with which change and healing happen, the emotional toll the work takes on a counselor and factors like the abundance of paperwork and comparatively low rates of pay.

What is the highest-paying job in therapy? ›

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for counselors of all types was about $45,200. School counselors are the highest-paid counseling jobs on our list, with a 2021 median salary of about $63,500.

How much do school counselors make? ›

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a school counselor is $56,310. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $33,610 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $94,690.

Do you need to take the GRE for masters in counseling? ›

No GRE Required. Bachelor's Degree Required. Minimum GPA 3.0. CACREP accredited program prepares you to work as a counselor in schools, private practices and mental health clinics.

Is online counseling legal? ›

Act in accordance with the more restrictive jurisdiction where possible. The most obvious way that online counseling might be illegal is if someone unlicensed is doing it. Indeed, the unlicensed practice of psychology, or social work or any other licensed profession is illegal in most states.

What are the 3 types of Counselling? ›

The techniques are: (1) Directive Counselling, (2) Non-Directive Counselling, and (3) Eclectic Counselling.

What are the three levels of counseling? ›

The first stage, exploration, involves helping the client examine his or her thoughts and feelings. The second stage, insight, helps clients understand the reasons for these thoughts and feelings. The third stage, action, involves the client making changes.

What are the 3 scope of counseling? ›

Scope of counseling
  • Interaction between counselor and counselee.
  • Professional setting is relevant.
  • Problem solving or behavior modification.
Jun 6, 2020

Where do school counselors get paid the most? ›

1. New Hampshire
Total School Counselor Jobs:159
Average Annual Salary:$57,263
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$40,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$80,000
1 more row
Apr 6, 2021

How much do high school counselors make in Hawaii? ›

The average salary for a school counselor in Hawaii is $59,500 per year.

How much do high school counselors make in New York? ›

How much does a School Guidance Counselor make in New York, NY? The average School Guidance Counselor salary in New York, NY is $73,129 as of September 26, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $60,387 and $89,508.

What are 3 responsibilities of a school counselor? ›

Duties of a School Counselor

Developing, implementing and managing school guidance programs. Working with students in individual, small group and classroom settings. Assisting students with creating an academic plan for their education. Helping students plan for college and a successful career after graduation.

What are the five important qualities associated with a school counselor? ›

Markers of a Great School Counselor
  • Communication. A big part of being a school counselor is listening to students, and then responding thoughtfully and effectively. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Friendliness. ...
  • Understanding of diversity. ...
  • Knowing when to act.

How can a school counselor stand out? ›

School counselors: Take a photo with the sign – "As a school counselor, I have learned…”
  1. Connect with the other counselors in your district, not just your department. ...
  2. Grow as a professional and submit a session proposal to speak at a conference. ...
  3. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!!! ...
  4. You see a need and you fill it.
Jan 23, 2019

Can you make 6 figures as a counselor? ›

But it turns out that it's more than possible to generate six figures as a private practice therapist. In this article, I'm going to take it a step further and share how I generate six figures a year while working part-time as a private practice therapist. … it can be done!

How much do school adjustment counselors make in MA? ›

How much does a School Adjustment Counselor make in Massachusetts? The average School Adjustment Counselor salary in Massachusetts is $60,621 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $52,521 and $69,905.

Which state pays mental health counselors the most? ›

Top-Paying States for Mental Health Counselors
StateEmployment (May 2019)Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey10,130$60,120
1 more row

Do online master's degree have value? ›

“It depends”

Quality, in online classes, in technical support, and in networking opportunities, appears to be key in whether or not experts, and students, believe an online master's degree is worth the price tag.

Are online masters valued? ›

The answer is NO!

The value of the degree depends upon the accreditation of the university. It does not matter whether the mode or studying was online or physical, as long as you have pursued it from a well-known and prestigious institute because both the modes provide the same end result of an educational degree.

How do online counselors make money? ›

Online counseling is convenient and provides you with the flexibility to explore a variety of additional revenue options.
6 Ways to Make Extra Income with Online Counseling
  1. Licensure in Multiple States. ...
  2. E-Courses. ...
  3. Podcasting. ...
  4. Consulting. ...
  5. Writing. ...
  6. Speaking Engagements.
Apr 10, 2019

Is online counseling as effective as in-person counseling? ›

Online platforms also provide opportunities for individuals to connect to therapists within their networks. Virtual therapy appears equally effective as in-person therapy for treating mental health needs.

What is the average cost of an online masters degree? ›

Of the 25 most affordable online schools offering master's degree programs, the cost per credit hour will be in the range of $500 to $625. This brings the average annual tuition (of the 25 most affordable online schools) to approximately $5,362 per year.

Is online masters same as masters? ›

If your online master's degree is from an accredited university that offers the same program and curriculum as the on-campus program, there really is no difference. If you do choose to disclose this information, or are asked by a potential employer, you can mention what you learned from the online experience.

Are online masters easier to get into? ›

The good news is that there's a very clear answer here, and the answer is YES! Your chances of getting into grad school and attaining an easy online Master's degree is greater than their on-campus counterparts. And it's not because the programs themselves are easier. It's for one main reason, and that's space.

What Masters are worth getting? ›

Here's a list of the best master's degrees for 2022.
  • Data Science – A 21st Century Choice. ...
  • Cybersecurity – A Timely, In-Demand Master's. ...
  • Business Administration (MBA) – The Pick for Managers. ...
  • Healthcare Administration – The Business of Healthcare. ...
  • Project Management – Best for Project Leaders.
Jul 15, 2022

Do online degrees say online on the diploma? ›

The short answer is no, there will be no mention that you took your degree online. Your diploma will look the same as a traditional student attending the brick and mortar institution. Online is only the format you would be taking your education.

Are coursera Masters worth it? ›

1 Answer. Yes, a Coursera master's degree is worth it. At Coursera, you earn accredited master's degrees and bachelor's degrees, and postgraduate degrees at a fraction of the cost of on-campus graduate programs. Let me tell you more about Coursera's master's degree.

Where do counselors get paid the most? ›

Highest-Paid Counselors By State
RankStateAverage Counselor Salary
3New Jersey$39,911
46 more rows
Aug 2, 2022

How do I get clients for online Counselling? ›

Seek out interviews on podcasts, in facebook groups, or even via writing a guest blog post where you're able to share your expertise with someone else's audience and get in front of new people. You might even want to ask local health and wellness facilities if you can host a workshop for their clients.

How can a counselor make passive income? ›

10 Best Passive Income Ideas for Therapists
  1. Write and Sell an Ebook. ...
  2. Create Online Training Courses and Workshops. ...
  3. Write a Blog. ...
  4. Vlog on YouTube. ...
  5. Start a Podcast. ...
  6. Offer Online Therapy Sessions. ...
  7. Create a Psychology App. ...
  8. Try Public Speaking.
Feb 8, 2022

What are the disadvantages of online Counselling? ›

Some of the Disadvantages of Online Counseling Include:
  • Typing speed can limit the conveyance of information in chat based sessions. ...
  • People may find it difficult to put complex thoughts and emotions into written words. ...
  • There is a greater chance of miscommunication between client and therapist.
Apr 6, 2011

Who is not suitable for online Counselling? ›

If you experience severe or long-term mental health problems. If you are suffering from a psychiatric disorder and/or experiencing psychotic episodes such as hallucinations, paranoia or delusions. If you engage in potentially risky behaviour, e.g. heavy alcohol or drug use.

Who is not suitable for online therapy? ›

Online psychotherapy may not be suitable for all patients, clinical conditions, psychiatric disorders, and problems; it may sometimes be contraindicated, especially in the case of severe mental disorder, or for patients who are highly dysfunctional and/or pose a threat to themselves or others [see (16)].


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