Master’s degree in school counseling program guide

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Introduction master’s degree in school counseling

We all know that your school years can be a turbulent and complicated time in your life. There are so many choices to make, things to adapt to, and plenty of new responsibilities. That is why the school counselor plays a vital role within the school environment. This person is an essential link in the chain that keeps the education system running smoothly. Counselors are there to make sure that the transition between school and home is seamless. 

Counselors not only help students decide which career to pursue, but also help them deal with academic, social, and personal problems. They work with the teachers to ensure that pupils have the proper resources available to achieve their goals. The school counselor acts as a bridge between school life and the outside world. You’ll almost always need a master’s degree if you want to enter this fulfilling profession. This will give you the tools and knowledge you’ll need to be an effective counselor.  


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  • University of Southern California

    University of Southern California

    USC Rossier School of Education – Master’s in School Counseling online




    $10k scholarships are now available for the Master’s in School Counseling online program from top-ranked USC Rossier. In as few as 20 months with no GRE required, bachelor’s holders graduate equiped with the foundational and practical skills to create positive change in diverse and high-need environments.

  • University of Denver

    University of Denver

    University of Denver – Master’s in School Counseling




    Advocate for P-12 students and become an agent of change in your community. With no GRE required, earn your Master’s in School Counseling online in as few as 24 months from the University of Denver. Gain valuable skills through a curriculum centered on social justice and designed to adhere to the standards set by CACREP.

  • New York University

    New York University

    New York University – Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance



    New York

Study requirements 

The 4 main requirements for becoming a certified school counselor are:  

  1. Bachelor’s degree  
  2. Master’s degree  
  3. Internship 
  4. Licensing exam  

Requirements for admission to the master’s program typically vary by institution. However, many of the top choices have 3 prerequisites in selecting applicants who have the best chance of making a positive impact in the school counseling field. 

The first requirement needed to enter the master’s program is an undergraduate degree, preferably in the counseling field. Some universities do not have a grade point average cut off. That said, having a high GPA is recommended if you want to have a competitive edge against other applicants. 

They will also require several recommendation letters with your application. These can be from your professors or even your work supervisor. Ideally, these need to be completed by people in some way connected to the graduate program you apply to. 

Which program is right for you? 

There are various options when choosing a master’s program. Numerous circumstances need to be considered when looking at all the possibilities.  

One of the most crucial considerations is the location. Many schools require you to be on campus. Distance from the school and your ability to attend classes are determining factors when choosing where to study. In-class learning is ideal for collaborating with fellow students and learning and improving social skills.  

If traveling is difficult, an alternative is to study an online course. Learning in this way offers many benefits, such as independence, time management, and critical thinking. This option is best for people with a high level of self-motivation and discipline. 

A third option is hybrid degree programs. These programs offer a unique type of study that can allow you to enjoy the flexibility of online learning while still permitting you to work, with instructions given during the in-person components of the course. Be sure to see our top schools for master’s in school counseling for more information.


When looking at the various places that offer a master’s degree in school counseling, you also need to make sure that they have the correct accreditation. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) ensures that the standards of the counseling field are met by all the accredited programs throughout America. 

CACREP is there to ensure that students in the counseling program receive high-quality, relevant education that prepares them for licensure and professional practice success. Studying at a school with this accreditation will help ensure that your master’s degree is widely recognized and accepted. As such, accreditation can be of great benefit to any counseling student.  


It would help if you also considered the subjects that are covered in the program. A school counselor needs to have a master’s in school counseling as this syllabus covers specific topics that are relevant to students. This course can take up to 2 years to complete if studying full-time or 3 years part-time. 

Attending and finishing school are not the only issues students have to deal with. There are a multitude of physical, emotional, and social components of education, not just academics. The school counselor needs to have the tools and knowledge to help pupils navigate smoothly through their formative years.  

Most master’s programs have courses in psychology, counseling, professional practice, group counseling, and program management. These programs can help you assist students in developing their academic and social skills. The variety of subjects covered can give you the tools you need to help children resolve conflicts, deal with bullying, and handle parental or even sexual abuse.  

The master’s program also requires practical hours and a supervised internship. This allows you to use the theories and concepts learned in the classroom in an authentic setting. This will help you to meet the specifications needed for the program and accreditation, and may also give you confidence and experience for the future. 

Career opportunities 

Your next consideration is your future career and salary. Once you have completed your studies and have been properly certified, you can begin working in various educational and counseling settings. You may even have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of age groups and communities. 

Being a school counselor is the first way of using a master’s degree in school counseling. In this role, you’ll most commonly be working with the students and teachers to enhance the educational process. Learners who are struggling with various issues will be able to seek assistance and guidance from you.  

Students may also be able to identify potential career paths and suitable college courses with your help. School counselors may consider providing teachers with important tools and strategies that will help them manage their classroom environment.  

A school psychologist is another career opportunity for people with a master’s degree in school counseling. Taking on this role you may be able to work with students who are struggling in the school environment. Some students have learning, behavioral or educational difficulties, and it is up to this person to develop plans and coping strategies for them.  

By working together with the pupils, parents, and teachers, you may be able to create a learning environment conducive to their needs.  

Being a postsecondary teacher is another possibility within the educational system. With a master’s degree, you have the opportunity to work with college students and help organize courses in your field. This also includes leading class discussions, administering tests and exams as well as assigning homework and projects.  

Another avenue that can be explored with a master’s degree, is as a marriage and family therapist. This may not be in the school environment, but you can still assist your clients to overcome difficulties and problems.  You can help them understand their emotions and give them ways of coping with their stress. 

A very rewarding and satisfying area you can use a master’s degree is as a substance abuse counselor. Offering support and guidance to people who are struggling with addictions is the main role of this person. Working with families and various support groups, the counselor is able to help the addict get their lives back on track and on the road to recovery. 


Program concentrations 

Your choice of career will impact which concentration you choose. The vocation you decide on will determine which area you will need to specialize in. There are many possibilities within the master’s degree in counseling program. Many offer opportunities in clinical mental health and counseling, college or school counseling, and clinical rehabilitation. 

Licensing and Certification 

The end goal for anyone pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling is to work in the public or private education system. The degree is just the first step. After earning it, the next step is to get your licensure and certification. This will enable you to work in the field of your choice officially.  

The state permit allows you to practice as a counselor in that particular region. Different laws apply nationwide. Some have a single license, while others have a 2-tiered system. All require a master’s degree, several hours of counseling experience, and a period of supervision. 

Certification, by the National Board for Certified Counselors, is a voluntary credential that shows your employer and clients that you met the counseling profession’s national standard. This requires 3,000 hours of practical experience and 100 hours of supervision for over 2 years. 

Certificate opportunities 

If you’re looking for a specialized role, then a more particular certification may be necessary. For example, you can become a certified clinical health counselor if your coursework included clinical diagnosis and treatment.  

To be a nationally certified school counselor, you are required to have covered general and child counseling and program development. A certified master addiction counselor needs to have some educational knowledge as well as experience in addiction counseling.  Nationally certified, you may need to demonstrate that you can meet high education, examination, and ethics standards. 


Another crucial consideration is cost. A master’s in school counseling may cost you between $19,000 and $30,000 in total tuition for an online program, and possibly more for on-campus programs. Most require 48 credits, some costing $1,795 each. 

Financial aid 

Because many counseling programs are at the graduate level, student loans may be the main source of federal financial aid for all students. Both subsidized and unsubsidized options are offered.  

Many states offer assistance to college students in the form of grants and scholarships. Note that many universities have their own programs for providing financial support to students. For counseling students at the graduate level, it is worth contacting the admissions department to find out what they have to offer. 

There are also a variety of scholarships available from many different types of organizations and businesses. Many of these may require students to meet specific criteria.  

For general information about all types of student financing, check out the Federal Student Aid website. You’ll also find the FAFSA form on the site, which is a potential financing option for eligible graduate students.  

Continuing education 

To maintain your license and certification, you are obligated to complete a certain number of continuing education modules. These requirements are in place so that counselors remain up-to-date on the current theories and approaches in their field. As the needs of students and the therapeutical approaches to address these needs change over time, it is important to remain current as a school counselor.

It can also be beneficial for counselors to be academically involved with their peers, thereby helping one another learn more. This style of connecting creates a fantastic support system that can be used if you need to ask for advice or suggestions.  

The state, your employer, or the association that issued your certification are the ones that set the number of units you need to complete. Continuing education, in the field of counseling, is not only beneficial for you mentally, emotionally, and socially, but also professionally. It maximises your work potential, encourages team-work, and improves staff morale.  


Becoming a school counselor requires dedication and commitment.  For many people, it is a passion, not just a job. Choosing to work in this field is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you want to make a difference, then it could be the career choice for you.  

It is a rewarding job, but one that requires a heart of gold and nerves of steel.  A master’s degree in school counseling could open the door to a life-changing, fulfilling, and satisfying career.  

There are many options and considerations for anyone who decides to pursue this path. So, your best weapon is knowledge. Doing some research and finding out as much as you can about this vocation is the best way to make the right choice.  

National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) is a non-profit that shares resources and information for current and aspiring professionals 

American School Counselor Association – brings together a community of specialists to connect, learn, and share their experiences 

Elementary School Counseling – a helpful blog for counselors. The mentioned page lists a few other resources to explore  

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