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.

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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.


Where do school counselors get paid the most? ›

New Hampshire is the best state in the country for school counselor jobs, and New Hampshire has the second-highest median salary in the country.
4. New Jersey.
Total School Counselor Jobs:658
Average Annual Salary:$53,340
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$37,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$74,000
1 more row
6 Apr 2021

Do you need a master's degree to be a school counselor in Texas? ›

Successfully complete a school counselor preparation program. Passed the school counselor certification exam. Hold, at a minimum, a 48-hour master's degree in counseling from an accredited institution of higher education. Have two creditable years of teaching experience as a classroom teacher.

What state has the best student to school counselor ratio? ›

With a 1:350 counselor-to-student ratio for grades K–8 and a 1:250 ratio for grades 9–12, Maine has the lowest mandated ratio of any state.

What is the highest degree in counseling? ›

Master's in Counseling

A master's is the highest level of education required for licensure as a counselor in all 50 states and Washington DC. At the master's level, you will have the opportunity to focus your studies on a specific area of counseling, laying the groundwork for your counseling license and your career.

How can a school counselor make extra money? ›

School Counselor Side Hustle covers seven main areas which include:
  • Creating Resources.
  • Authoring a Book.
  • Public Speaking.
  • Developing Tools.
  • Selling Merchandise.
  • Adjunct Teaching.
  • Private Practice Counseling.

How can a counselor make a lot of money? ›

How to Diversify Your Income as a Therapist
  1. Write a Book. ...
  2. Contribute to a Publication or Blog. ...
  3. Consider Public Speaking. ...
  4. Teach a Class In Person. ...
  5. Teach a Class Online. ...
  6. Create a Website and Blog. ...
  7. Offer Group Therapy Sessions. ...
  8. Become a Consultant.
21 Oct 2016

What is a counselor salary in Texas? ›

How much does a Licensed Professional Counselor make in Texas? The average Licensed Professional Counselor salary in Texas is $54,296 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $49,092 and $61,100.

How much does a school counselor make with a master's degree in Texas? ›

School counselor salary in Texas

How much does a school counselor make in Texas? According to the BLS's Occupational Employment Statistics, the average annual salary in 2021 for school counselors in Texas was $59,560 or $28.64 an hour.

Is a counseling masters 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.

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 are the disadvantages of being a school counselor? ›

These are some disadvantages of being a school counselor:
  • Training and education. Depending on a person's educational path and training, it can take six to eight years to become a school counselor. ...
  • Pace and resources. School counselors may work in fast-paced and challenging environments. ...
  • Compensation.
26 Oct 2021

What is the most challenging for a school counselor? ›

Providing counseling for individual students, monitoring behavior and racist speech and advocating for the elimination of policies (or school systems) that negatively affect students of color will be among the most important responsibilities for counselors.

What's higher than a counselor? ›

Psychologists possess the highest level of education and only see specific cases in their field of expertise. These professionals may also adopt a specific theoretical orientation such as cognitive behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis to treat their patients.

Are counselors high in demand? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow 22 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Which course is best for counseling? ›

List of counselling courses (Certificate/Diploma and PG Diploma)
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Community Mental Health.
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Guidance and Counseling.
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Psychological Counselling (best for people with a Graduate Degree in Psychology/ Clinical Psychology/ or a similar field)
7 Jul 2020

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!

What is your strongest asset as a school counselor? ›

Listening. First and foremost, a school counselor needs to be a good listener. Often, they have several students they work with and may get very few chances to converse with them in a one on one setting. “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood,” said Ralph G.

What is a good side hustle for teachers? ›

Here are four possible side hustles for teachers.
  • House or pet sit. A teacher who's flexible about where they do their lesson plans and grade papers, or who has some free time on the weekends, could consider picking up some house or pet sitting. ...
  • Tutor online. ...
  • Sell lesson plans or resources. ...
  • Be a summer travel guide.
25 Aug 2022

Can I make 100k as a therapist? ›

Yes, you can make $100,000 per year as a therapist. While possible, it is unlikely to earn over $100k as a therapist because even higher-paid positions do not typically earn more than $70,000 per year. The average annual salary for a therapist is $52,984.

Can you make a living as a counselor? ›

In summary, earning a strong salary of $100,000 per year or more is doable, and is being done by therapists all over the world right now. You can become one of those therapists this year, too.

What is the highest paying occupation? ›

Highest Paying Occupations
General internal medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Family medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Emergency medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
17 more rows
8 Sept 2022

What state pays counselors the most? ›

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

How much does an elementary school counselor make in Texas? ›

How much does a Guidance Counselor, Elementary School make in Texas? The average Guidance Counselor, Elementary School salary in Texas is $47,653 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $41,466 and $54,194.

How much do school counselors make? ›

Average R 25 791 per month.

Can I be a school counselor with a bachelor's degree in Texas? ›

Complete Degree Requirement

Prospective school counselors must possess a master's degree from an accredited school and complete a state-approved school counselor preparation program.

How much does a high school counselor make in California with a masters? ›

How much does a High School Guidance Counselor make in California? The average High School Guidance Counselor salary in California is $60,920 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $48,817 and $76,835.

How do you become a certified school counselor in Texas? ›

To earn certification, you must:
  1. Successfully complete all coursework.
  2. Complete all required practicum hours and observations.
  3. Complete the degree program.
  4. Have two years of classroom teaching experience in a public or accredited private school.
  5. Hold at minimum a master's degree.
  6. Pass the state TExES certification exam.

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 qualifications do you need to do a masters in Counselling? ›

Entry requirements

Applicants should have: An honours degree of normally 2:1 or above. Knowledge of counselling skills as demonstrated by a formal qualification (e.g., Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills) Some experience of working with people in a helping capacity.

What is the difference between therapist and a counselor? ›

Therapists work to help their patients address similar issues, and often provide the same advice that counselors might. However, a key difference is that therapists often seek to go deeper by helping the patient understand the how and why behind a challenge.

What type of counselors are in demand? ›

10 in-demand therapy jobs
  • Rehabilitation counselor.
  • Mental health counselor.
  • Behavioral therapist.
  • Career counselor.
  • Recreational therapist.
  • School counselor.
  • Substance abuse counselor.
  • Marriage and family therapist.
25 Apr 2022

What type of therapy makes the most money? ›

Psychiatry is one of the highest-paying fields tied to psychology. However, salaries can vary considerably within this field depending upon your specialty area, where you are employed, and the type of work you perform.

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.

Why do counselors quit? ›

In this episode we talk about why therapists quit:

Why therapists don't stay therapists when they wanted to stay therapists. Obstacles and lack of opportunities. The lack of quality of supervision or inadequate training for other elements of the job. The lack of research on therapist workforce issues.

Who should not be a counselor? ›

Here are 5 reasons you should NOT become a therapist:
  • You haven't worked through your own stuff. ...
  • You don't want to work for yourself OR anyone else. ...
  • You don't want to “sell” therapy. ...
  • You take too much or too little responsibility. ...
  • You're only in it for the money OR out of the goodness of your heart.
28 Aug 2019

Which 2 skills or abilities are important for a school counselor? ›

Find out if you have what it takes to help students and earn your master's in school counseling.
  • 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.

What are 3 responsibilities of a school counselor? ›

Duties of a School Counselor

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.

Is school counseling a stressful job? ›

Moracco et al. (1984) suggested that school counselor to student ratios may be higher in these settings and thus the job is more stressful. Both early studies set the stage for recognizing that increased workload, which may include increased caseload size, is a factor related to school counselor stress and burnout.

What are the four types of counselor? ›

There are various types of counsellors depending on their field of specialization.
The following are the most common types of counselling:
  • Marriage and Family Counselling.
  • Educational Counselling.
  • Rehabilitation Counselling.
  • Mental Health Counselling.
  • Substance Abuse Counselling.
28 Aug 2019

What are three types of counselors? ›

Here are some of the most common types of counselors: Marriage and family counseling. Guidance and career counseling. Rehabilitation counseling.

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.

Is it hard to get hired as a school counselor? ›

Applying for those hard to find school counseling positions can likely be a challenging process. As an applicant, you have obtained your Master's degree, passed state exams, and survived the grueling state licensure process. Now, the greatest feat since licensure will be landing a job.

Where are school counselors paid the most? ›

New Hampshire is the best state in the country for school counselor jobs, and New Hampshire has the second-highest median salary in the country.
3. California.
Total School Counselor Jobs:1,966
Average Annual Salary:$60,650
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$43,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$84,000
1 more row
6 Apr 2021

How much do counselors make a month? ›

Average R 11 940 per month.

Can you become a counsellor with an online course? ›

It is possible to complete a certificate in counselling via online learning, which is a flexible and cost effective option for those who are interested in moving in to this area of work. The diploma in counselling is the next stage and is viewed as one of the most essential qualifications in this industry.

How do you become a school counsellor? ›

In India, one must have a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology to become a school counselor. Most Public and Private Schools prefer a candidate with a Post Graduate Diploma in Child Guidance and Counseling. Some of the schools accept a Master's Degree, along with proper work experience in the field.

Are counselling jobs in demand? ›

Paid counselling work is in great demand, as the number of qualified counsellors continues to steadily increase. This is mainly due to the caring and nurturing aspect of the profession, that attracts and encourages individuals already working in caring professions to re-train to become counsellors.

How much do high school counselors make in Utah? ›

How much does a School Counselor make in Utah? The average School Counselor salary in Utah is $45,052 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $42,800 and $52,606.

How much does a school counselor make in Missouri? ›

The average School Counselor salary in Missouri is $45,317 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $43,052 and $52,915.

How much do high school counselors make in NC? ›

The average salary for a school counselor in North Carolina is $51,500 per year.

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

How much does a School Guidance Counselor make in Massachusetts? The average School Guidance Counselor salary in Massachusetts is $66,292 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $54,740 and $81,137.

What do you need to be a school counselor in Utah? ›

Applicants must have a minimum of a master's degree or higher in school counseling as well as meet the requirements outlined under the School Counseling Licensing Requirements tab. Related master's degrees (i.e., Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), etc.)

How much are school counselors paid in Florida? ›

The average salary for a school counselor in Florida is $52,000 per year. School counselor salaries in Florida can vary between $27,500 to $75,000 and depend on various factors, including skills, experience, employer, bonuses, tips, and more.

What is a teachers salary in Utah? ›

The average Entry Level Teacher salary in Utah is $39,749 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $33,201 and $48,471.

What degree do you need to be a school counselor in Missouri? ›

Educational Requirements: (Option 1) Completion of a master's degree with a major emphasis in school counseling from a college or university meeting approval of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

How much does an LPC make in Missouri? ›

The average Licensed Professional Counselor salary in Missouri is $52,694 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $47,644 and $59,297.

How do I become a school counselor? ›

Steps to Becoming a School Counselor
  1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree. ...
  2. Find a Master's in School Counseling Degree Program. ...
  3. Complete Internship or Clinical Experience. ...
  4. Pass Your State's School Counselor Exams. ...
  5. Apply for School Counselor Certification. ...
  6. Start Your Job Search.

How much do elementary school counselors make in NC? ›

The average Guidance Counselor, Elementary School salary in North Carolina is $46,296 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $40,285 and $52,651.

How much does a licensed counselor make in NC? ›

The average Licensed Professional Counselor salary in North Carolina is $52,750 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $47,694 and $59,360.

How much do licensed professional counselors make in NC? ›

As of Oct 15, 2022, the average annual pay for a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina is $64,429 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $30.98 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,239/week or $5,369/month.

How do I become a school adjustment counselor in MA? ›

School adjustment counselors need to complete a master's degree in counseling to receive their initial license. The initial license qualifies them to begin work in the role.


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