Study School Counseling: Master's Degree, Training & Online Program Info

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Master's degrees and training programs in school counseling can lead to a career as a school counselor. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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School Counseling Master's Degree and Training Programs: At a Glance

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school counselors help students succeed in school by assisting them in the development of important social and study skills (www.bls.gov). As a school counselor, you may advise students, report abuse of a student to authorities or refer students for additional help, if necessary. The BLS indicates that most states require school counselors to have a master's degree. Additionally, you may also have to be licensed, the requirements for which typically include passing a criminal background check and earning a state-issued credential.

The BLS projected that employment opportunities for school and career counselors would grow 19% during the 2010-2020 decade. One factor of this anticipated growth is the expected increase in school enrollment. Note, however, that job outlooks vary by the school level. For example, the BLS indicated that school and career counselors would see a 30% increase in employment opportunities in the field of career and vocational services during 2010-2020, but that, during that same time, employment opportunities at the elementary and secondary school level would increase only 8%.

Master's Training Programs
Who is this degree for? Individuals looking to earn their school counselor certification Individuals who already have a master's degree who are looking to work as school counselors
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - School counselor ($54,000)*
- Career counselor ($31,000 - $58,000)**
(These same careers are available to individuals who complete training programs)
Time to Completion Two years, full-time Varies, but is usually around two years
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Field experience
- Coursework
- Field experience
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree
- GRE scores
- Master's degree
Online Availability Hybrid Hybrid

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **PayScale.com (December 2012 figures).

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degrees in school counseling are typically offered as a Master of Education or Master of Arts. These programs can be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The curriculum of these programs teaches you how to design and implement effective counseling programs, as well as interact with parents, teachers and school officials. Individuals who aren't certified teachers may still enroll in certain graduate school counseling programs. These programs may have additional admission requirements for non-certified teachers, such as completion of a series of educational foundation and theory courses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs usually prepare you to earn state licensure after graduation
  • Some programs may admit non-certified teachers, allowing individuals not currently in the teaching profession to enter the field
  • Attending an accredited program may ensure that you are adequately prepared to work in the field after graduation

Cons

  • Some programs may only admit certified teachers
  • Some programs require that applicants pass the Basic Skills test prior to admission
  • You may need to maintain a high GPA, such as at least a 3.0, to earn your degree

Coursework and Requirements

In addition to lecture-based learning, master's degree school counseling programs include hands-on experiences. Through these experiences, which may include internships, a practicum or both, you gain experience counseling and working with students in a school setting. Course topics may include:

  • Developmental counseling
  • Evaluation techniques
  • Group dynamics and counseling
  • Multicultural counseling
  • Interviewing skills

Online Programs

Although not available entirely online, accredited master's degree programs in school counseling are available in hybrid formats. These programs allow you to complete coursework online, but they also require that you meet some residency requirements. Similar to a traditional, in-person program, in these programs you complete clinical experiences. However, prior to beginning one of these programs, you might ensure that its curriculum meets your state's requirements for licensure so that you can work as a school counselor after graduation.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

To stand out against your competition, consider specializing your studies. Some master's degree programs allow students to focus on counseling a specific type of student, such as a special education or deaf student. Being able to counsel these types of students may make you more attractive to employers seeking counselors able to handle special student populations in their schools.

Training Programs

If you already have a master's degree in counseling but would like to specialize in school counseling, certificate programs are available to help you achieve this goal. Similar to master's degree programs, post-master's certificate programs are accredited through national organizations and state boards. Depending on your academic background, you may need to complete some prerequisite coursework prior to being admitted into a program. Sometimes, these programs offer flexible attendance options for working professionals.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Post-master's training programs can prepare you for certification in school counseling
  • Flexible options, such as weekend or hybrid classes, may be offered
  • Training programs can be accredited, resulting in your being prepared to become certified after graduation
  • Coursework from your previous master's degree program may be counted toward training program requirements, thereby shortening the length of time it takes for you to graduate

Cons

  • Some programs may require you to complete prerequisite courses prior to being able to begin working on the program's core curriculum
  • You might be required to pass a certification test prior to being admitted to a program
  • Significant field experience is still required for admission to these programs

Coursework and Requirements

The coursework and requirements of training programs are similar to those in a master's degree program. Typically, these programs include core and elective classes. Additionally, they include field experiences of varying length. Some of the topics you may study include:

  • Counseling in schools
  • Parent education
  • Community resources
  • Learning theories

Online Programs

Online post-master's certificate programs are available in hybrid formats. These programs allow you to complete coursework online, but they also require some on-campus commitments, such as workshops. Field experiences in these programs must be completed in person. Note, however, that some programs may require you to already be a certified, practicing school counselor for admission.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider using technology, such as video or audio equipment, to record your practice counseling sessions. These recordings, which you can show potential employers, may make it easier to find a job after graduation.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
      • MS in Educational Psychology
      • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
      • M.A. in Psychology - Career Management & Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Higher Education Leadership
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • M.Ed. - Educational Leadership
      • MEd - Accelerated Educational Leadership
      • MEd - Accelerated Leadership in Higher Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Special Education
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Trident University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master's - Education
  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt University

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
  • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership

Which subject are you interested in?

University of the Rockies

  • MA Counseling
  • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
  • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Professional Counseling
  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
  • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • M.Ed. - Higher Education Leadership
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.Ed. - Educational Leadership

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring

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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Special Education
  • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Trident University

  • Master's - Education

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