Complete Guide to an Online Degree in School Counseling

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: CACREP
Degree Levels: Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $20,418

The 52 schools on this page offer online degrees in school counseling at the master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. School counseling requires a graduate level degree, as well as a state license or certificate. Graduates of a master's program in school counseling will be prepared to work in K-12 counseling positions, while graduates of a doctoral program will be qualified for positions as counselor educators, counselor supervisors, crisis center directors, mental health counselors, therapists and other jobs.

Students interested in pursuing a degree in school counseling should look for programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). School counseling students should also consider which state they plan on working in after graduation as each state has different licensure and certification requirements.

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Comprehensive List of Schools for an Online School Counseling Degree (46)

Online Master's Degrees in School Counseling

Students who are enrolled in school counseling master's programs will typically complete 72 credit hours of coursework over the course of two years. Graduates will be well prepared to assist K-12 students by gaining the skills to make significant contributions to their well being as well as their educational and social needs. These specific skills are gained through courses such as Survey of Research in Human Development, Life Planning and Career Development, Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations, Contemporary Issues in School Counseling, Crisis Intervention and Emergency Management, and school counseling internships. School counseling graduate programs are offered at the university level and will require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Some universities will also require letters of recommendation from professionals who can asses the applicants ability for an education in counseling as well as an admissions essay written by the applicant. Graduates from a master's program often go on to work as counselors at the elementary, middle, and high school level, or become student life counselors, guidance counselors, and school counseling coordinators. 

Online Doctoral Degrees in School Counseling

Graduates who have a master's degree in counseling or a related discipline will be eligible for doctoral programs. Other enrollment requirements include letters of recommendation as well as a cita ve that demonstrates career progression, leadership skills, and other professional achievements. Doctoral programs consist of 96-150 credit hours and typically take two and a half to three years to complete. Credit hours from a master's degree are typically granted toward doctoral programs. Studies in doctoral school counseling programs are made up of research, practicum, internships, and dissertations. Students can expect to take courses like Advanced Research in Human Development, Advanced Counseling Theories, Counselor Supervision, Qualitative Methods for Counselor Education Research, and Dissertation Course. Through the knowledge and skills gained in a doctoral program graduates often go on to hold job titles such as counselor educator, counselor supervisor, crisis center director, mental health counselor, and therapist. 

Online Certificate Degrees in School Counseling

A variety of colleges and universities offer certificate programs in school counseling. The post-masters graduate certificate can be earned by completing 12-credit hours of studies over the course of a year and is eligible for applicants who hold a master's degree within the counseling field. Students can expect to take courses like Consultation and Case Management in Schools and Community, The Professional School Counselor, as well as Administration and Leadership of School Counseling Services. A minimum of 300 hours of advanced internships per semester are also required, although, additional hours may be necessary depending on the student's clinical training and experience in previous academic programs. Once students have completed all required course work they will take the PRAXIS II exam, which will prepare them for licensure. It is important to note that licensure and certification requirements vary from state to state which needs to be considered prior to enrolling in a school counseling certificate program. Upon graduating with a school counseling certificate participants will go on to hold job positions as student counselors at the K-12 level.   

The Importance of an Accredited Online Degree in School Counseling

Before an applicant enrolls in a program at any institution of higher education it is important to research the school's accreditation. Accreditation is important because it measures the standards and quality of the institution.  It is also always important to factor in the possibility of having to transfer credits in future academic plans. Accreditation can make the transferring process faster and easier for students interested in moving on to different schools or programs. This can also play a role in job searching post graduation, as many employers require degrees from accredited schools. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs  (CACREP) is a organization that accredits masters and doctoral degree programs in counseling offered by both national and international colleges and universities. CACREP is dedicated to setting a standard for counselors and counselor educators that will ensure that students receive exceptional educational experience. CACREP standards are organized into six sections including The Learning Environment, Professional Counseling Identity, Professional Practice, Evaluation in the Program, Entry-Level Specialty Areas, and Doctoral Standards for Counselor Education. School counseling programs and institutions are evaluated in each of these areas to ensure the highest of standards are being kept before being accredited by CACREP.  

State Licensure and Certification for School Counselors

All states have different requirements for obtaining certification as a school counselor. Some require that school counselors pass a test in order to become certified, while others require a certain number of hours in an internship or practicum setting. Many states require that school counselors have a license, although licensure is not always necessary for positions outside of the K-12 school system. The American School Counselor Association provides more information about each state's specific requirements. States may also provide higher salaries or additional stipends to counselors who receive certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates Inc. (NBCC) or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

School Counselor Jobs 

There are a variety of different career options within the school counseling field. Key job titles include guidance counselor and school psychologist. Guidance counseling is needed at the elementary level as well as the junior/high school level. The primary function of a school guidance counselor is to provide students with counseling based on their learning, social, personal, career, and vocational needs. Some day-to-day tasks that a guidance counselor will perform are: scheduling students in appropriate courses, conducting career and educational planning activities, advocating of behalf of students and taking reasonable precautions to protect them, assisting students with college entrance as well as scholarship and financial aid applications, and submiting all required reports on time and with accuracy. Applicants for guidance counselor positions must possess a master's degree in school counseling as well as a current license based on the state requirements for the state they are applying in. Most employers also expect a minimum of three years experience in teaching or counseling.  


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