Education Counseling Degrees: PhD, Master's & Online Course Info

About this article
Master's and PhD programs in education counseling can lead to careers as a school counselor. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your education counseling degree.
View available schools

Education Counselor: At a Glance

Education counselors work in schools or private practices to assist students in developing social and academic skills. Counselors who work in schools are required to be licensed to do so by the state in which they practice. Private practice counselors may need a counseling license instead of an educational license. Obtaining these licenses requires extensive hours of supervised clinical training.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career prospects for education counselors working in public schools are expected to grow slowly during 2010-2020. The BLS attributes any growth to increases in student population (

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking a credential qualifying them to work as an education counselor Individuals who want to work in academia as professors or researchers; individuals looking to expand their current education counselor credentials or who are interested in supervisory positions in their current education counseling careers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - School counselor ($54,000)*
- Private practice education counselor ($68,000)*
- Psychologist ($68,000)*
- Academic administrator ($87,000)*
- University education professor ($59,000)*
Time to Completion 2-3 years full-time 3-5 years full-time, after earning a master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 16-20 graduate-level courses
- Internship/practicum
- Roughly 25-30 graduate-level courses
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
- Internship
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Master's degree in education counseling or related field
Online Availability Some available Hybrid

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Master's in Education Counseling

There are two types of master's degree programs that prepare you to work as an education counselor. The first is a Master of Education in School Counseling which leads to your earning a state-issued license to counsel students in a school setting. The second is a Master of Science in Counseling, which leads to a career as a private counselor. In these programs you may be able to concentrate in education counseling.

Coursework requirements and preparation varies in the two programs. Licensed counselors must complete annual continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

Pros and Cons


  • Degree program prepares you to enter the workforce as a counselor
  • Many programs prepare you for professional licensure
  • These programs are professional and not general academic program; therefore, there is a clear progression of coursework that leads you to a career in the field


  • Requires three years of study, in contrast to other types of master's degree programs, which typically only require two
  • Even after completing a program, you must complete annual continuing education requirements to maintain licensure
  • Availability of public school positions may be contingent on public funding, and not only on clientele needs; funding cutbacks may make it difficult to find a job

Courses and Requirements

Usually, the coursework in either type of program provides an introduction to the many different types of counseling theories. Programs specific to education counseling may include classes that teach how to work in an academic environment. Coursework in either master's degree program might include:

  • Career development
  • Clinical assessment
  • Counseling and diversity
  • Counseling theory and methods
  • Development theory for counseling
  • Elementary or secondary school counseling
  • Group counseling methods
  • Individual counseling methods
  • Mental health ethics
  • Psychopathology

In addition, you may need to complete an internship or practicum. Some programs may also require that you write a master's thesis or conduct a research project.

Online Degree Options

Online master's degree programs in education counseling are available. Usually, the curriculum and other requirements in these programs are the same as their on-campus counterparts.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with your degree, ensure that any program you attend is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Graduating from an accredited program may increase employment opportunities and can demonstrate your expertise to employers, which can help you stand out against your competition.

You might also consider completing a course in research design and statistics. Even if your program does not require you to complete a research project, being able to gather and interpret statistical data is a skill that employers may prefer.

Finally, consider joining professional organizations, such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). These groups can provide you with networking and continuing education opportunities. The former might help you find a job, and the latter helps you stay abreast of developments in the field.

Doctorate in Educational Counseling

For individuals with a master's degree in education counseling and professional work experience, a doctorate in educational counseling may lead to administrative or research positions or to a career teaching positions at a university.

Doctoral-degree candidates complete coursework and write a dissertation. It is common for these programs to require an oral defense of the subject-matter of the dissertation, as well as qualification or comprehensive exams on general information in the field.

Pros and Cons


  • The completion of a doctoral program opens up additional career options in education counseling, such as in administration and post-secondary teaching
  • A PhD program is the highest credential available in the field, and thus adds to the reputation of a education counselor
  • Doctoral research may give candidates the opportunity to address specific aspects of their own work in novel ways with the support of professionals in the field


  • Curriculum includes significant research components
  • Program requires significant time and financial commitments
  • Is more of an academic degree program, and does not necessarily lead to counseling licensure

Courses and Requirements

Coursework in doctoral programs focuses on advanced counseling theories and practices, as well as leadership in the field. The majority of courses focus on preparing you to conduct research in the field. Additionally, you must write and defend a dissertation. Classes you might take include:

  • Principles and procedures for individual appraisal
  • Counseling supervision and leadership
  • Counseling theory
  • Multicultural perspectives on counseling
  • Psychoeducational consultation
  • Psychodiagnostics
  • Research methods in counseling

Online Degree Options

Entirely online programs are not available at this time, but hybrid programs are offered. In these programs, some of the coursework is completed online, while other parts take place in the classroom. The curriculum of these programs is the same as or similar to that of on-campus programs.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider completing a minor in a technical subject related to the field. For example, studying the uses of technology in classrooms or in educational inquiry, which relates to researching in the field, provides you with knowledge of how to use the most up-to-date research and technology developments in practice. This knowledge may make you more attractive to employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Regent University

    Program Options

      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Grief Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services/Student Affairs
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - International
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Research Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

      • Ed.D. - Higher Education Leadership
      • PhD in Education - Educational Leadership
      • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Huntsville, TX

    Sam Houston State University

  • Cincinnati, OH

    University of Cincinnati

  • Mississippi State, MS

    Mississippi State University

  • Rochester, NY

    University of Rochester

  • Greensboro, NC

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Featured Schools

Regent University

  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Grief Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services Counseling

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Higher Education Leadership
  • PhD in Education - Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

University of Rochester

University of North Carolina at Greensboro