Master’s in School Counseling Degree Guide

Earning a master’s in school counseling is an important step towards launching a career as a school counselor, as a master’s degree is the educational requirement to become licensed as a school counselor in most states. School counselors focus on students’ social/emotional wellness, academic performance, and/or college and career readiness. On this page, you’ll learn more about school counseling program requirements and rankings, school counseling employment options, and more.

Table of Contents

Master’s in School Counseling Degree Overview

A master’s in school counseling includes:

  • An educational master’s degree, such as a Master of Education (M.Ed.), with a concentration in school counseling.
  • A mental health counseling degree, such as a Master of Science in Counseling (MSC) with an emphasis in school counseling.

Common titles include a master’s in school counseling, a master’s in mental health counseling with a specialization in school counseling, and a master’s guidance counselor degree. It is important to note that some states accept various types of school counselor degrees for licensure, while others only recognize one type. All types of master’s programs in school counseling teach the skills and knowledge needed to work with children and adolescents in K-12 schools.

Quick Facts

  • There are 458 not-for-profit colleges and universities with counselor education/school counseling and guidance services programs.1
  • 3 schools offer a certificate in school counseling.1
  • 1 school offers an associate’s degree in school counseling.1
  • 3 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in school counseling.1
  • 456 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in school counseling.1

Top-Ranked Master’s Degree in School Counseling Programs

We have included two proprietary lists for best-value on-campus and online school counseling programs that leverage graduation rate, net price, and other variables. A high graduation rate is typically an indicator of overall student success, and a low net price is an important consideration for many students. We have also included Forbes’ top list of online school counseling programs.

Top Schools With On-Campus Master’s in School Counseling Degree Programs

The following table was designed to help you find the not-for-profit colleges and universities with the best value based on the net price and overall graduation rate. We included schools that offer a school counseling master’s degree with an undergraduate graduation rate of 80% or better and an undergraduate net tuition cost under $20,000 per academic year.

SchoolSchool Counseling Graduate Degree(s)US News National Rank2Grad Rate*1% Tenured Faculty3Net Price**1
University of FloridaM.Ed./EdS and MAE/EdS in School Counseling#34 tie90%50%$11,313
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillM.Ed. in School Counseling#29 tie89%43%$11,649
Florida State UniversityMS/EdS in School Counseling#57 tie83%45%$13,318
North Carolina State University-RaleighM.Ed. in School Counseling#84 tie81%43%$14,771
University of GeorgiaM.Ed./EdS in Professional Counseling (School Counseling)#50 tie86%53%$15,539
College of William and MaryM.Ed. in Counseling-School Counseling#40 tie91%46%$15,622
Rutgers University-New BrunswickEdM in School Counseling#62 tie80%26%$16,295
University of Maryland-College ParkM.Ed. in School Counseling#64 tie86%44%$16,790
James Madison UniversityM.Ed. in School CounselingNR84%41%$17,753
University of VirginiaM.Ed. in Counselor Education#28 tie94%52%$17,845
Virginia TechMAEd in Counselor Education#74 tie84%56%$18,349
Clemson UniversityM.Ed./EdS in School Counseling#70 tie83%45%$19,508

Top Schools With Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Programs

The below table provides a comparison of not-for-profit colleges and universities that have online school counseling programs, based on overall undergraduate graduation rate and average undergraduate net tuition cost. We included schools with a graduation rate of 60% or better and a net price of $20,000 or less per academic year.

SchoolOnline School Counseling Graduate Degree(s)US News National Rank2Grad Rate*1% Tenured Faculty3Net Price**1
Truman State UniversityMA in School CounselingNR72%49%$12,351
Central Michigan UniversityMA in Counseling: School Counseling#240 tie62%41%$14,372
North Carolina State University-RaleighM.Ed. in School Counseling#84 tie81%43%$14,771
Fitchburg State UniversityMS in Counseling: School CounselingNR61%29%$15,309
Salem CollegeM.Ed. in School CounselingNR60%19%$15,560
University of ArizonaMA in Counseling: School Counseling#117 tie64%56%$15,594
College of William and MaryM.Ed. in Counseling-School Counseling#40 tie91%46%$15,622
University of MaineMS in Counseling: School Counseling#202 tie60%38%$16,984
Grand Valley State UniversityM.Ed. in School Counseling#228 tie66%38%$17,184
Kansas State UniversityMS in School Counseling#162 tie64%44%$18,002
Oregon State UniversityMCoun in School Counseling#139 tie67%36%$18,625
Johnson UniversityMA in School CounselingNR63%N.Av.$18,684
Lewis UniversityMA in School CounselingNR64%15%$18,899

Forbes Top 10 Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Forbes surveyed nearly 60 not-for-profit schools offering online programming for a master’s degree in school counseling on 16 data points. Following is the top 10 list:4

  1. University of Southern California
  2. Wake Forest University
  3. Lehigh University
  4. Bradley University
  5. Salem College
  6. Concordia University-Chicago
  7. Concordia University-Nebraska
  8. University of the Cumberlands
  9. Our Lady of the Lake University
  10. Concordia University-Irvine

Other Notable School Counseling Programs

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in School Counseling?

  • Credentialing and Licensure: In most states, a master’s degree is a requirement for obtaining licensure or certification as a school counselor, which is necessary to practice in public school settings and ensures professional standards are met. Exceptions include Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and North Dakota, though in all cases some graduate work is required.
  • Career Opportunities: A master’s degree in school counseling opens up various school counseling opportunities in educational settings. Employment for school counselors through 2031 is expected to grow by 10%, which is 2.5 times faster than average for all occupations of 4%.5
  • Professional Development: The advanced education and training provided in a master’s program enhance counseling skills, knowledge of human development, and understanding of psychological theories and interventions.
  • Advancement Opportunities: With a master’s degree, school counselors may have opportunities for advancement, such as moving into leadership roles, supervisory positions, or pursuing doctoral studies.
  • Job Satisfaction: Helping students navigate academic, social, and emotional challenges can be deeply rewarding.

School Counseling Admission Requirements

Admission requirements to a school counseling master’s program include:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a history of strong academic performance In some states and programs, this degree should be in education as you will need to become licensed as a teacher prior to pursuing school counselor licensure. In other states and programs, the bachelor’s degree can be in any subject.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 or better.
  • Passing scores on a graduate admissions exam such as the GRE (unless waived by your school).

Master’s in School Counseling Coursework

Depending on state requirements, master’s in school counseling programs are typically 48 credit hours in length. Some states require 60 graduate credit hours for licensure, so programs in those states may be longer. Master’s degrees in school counseling typically take between two and three years of full-time study to complete. To fulfill licensing requirements, the coursework will almost always include a local practicum and internship experience. Other courses you can expect to see in such a program include:

  • Assessments and Testing
  • Career Counseling and Development
  • Counseling Children and Adolescents
  • Counseling Theories and Techniques
  • Diagnostic Techniques in School Counseling
  • Group Counseling Theory
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research and Statistics in School Counseling
  • Strategies for Crisis Intervention

Professional Certifications for Degree Holders

Although licensure requirements for school counselors differ from state to state, the minimum requirement for full licensure is an advanced graduate certificate in school counseling or, more commonly, a master’s degree. Most states have also instituted experience requirements; these can include experience as a classroom teacher, experience working in school counseling while under supervision during the master’s program, and experience under a provisional license after graduating from a master’s program.

Beyond licensure, earning your master’s in school counseling can qualify you for professional certifications. These include:

What Jobs Can You Get with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling?

A master’s degree in school counseling is a highly-targeted degree path that typically leads to a school counseling career. However, counselors who follow this pathway are not limited to working in public K-12 schools. Private and charter schools, colleges and universities, and trade schools and adult education programs all need qualified counselors.

If you live in a state that recognizes the master’s in mental health counseling as a pathway to school counselor licensure, it is possible to become dually licensed in school counseling and mental health counseling. With dual licensure, you may have career opportunities in private counseling or group counseling that are the same as a traditional mental health counselor in addition to school counseling career possibilities. Some graduate programs even offer coursework in both areas to meet the licensure requirements simultaneously.

School Counseling Licensure by State

School counselor licensure and requirements vary widely by state. Check with your state below for more licensure information.

Other Degrees in Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I earn a school counselor degree online?

Yes! Many school counseling programs are offered online and can provide you with the preparation needed to pursue a career as a school counselor. These programs may be fully online or hybrid, meaning they include a mix of online and in-person courses. Note that some programs may be almost entirely online but require an on-campus residency for a limited time, typically a week. In addition, the internship and practicum experiences of the program will almost always take place in person.

What can I do with a PhD in school counseling?

A PhD in school counseling is excellent preparation for a career in school administration, planning school counseling and guidance programs, and supervising school counselors. It can also prepare you for careers in research as well as higher education, such as working as a faculty member or administrator in a college or university. Candidates for PhD programs in school counseling should have years of experience working as a school counselor. People should not pursue a PhD program in school counseling before having worked as a school counselor, experience is a requirement.

Is there a difference between a guidance counselor degree and school counselor degree?

While individual programs may use different titles and have differing coursework, a master’s in school counseling and a master’s in guidance counseling will have significant overlap. Both are designed to prepare graduates for school counselor licensure, which means that both will have similar core courses meant to prepare you to work with the mental health and academic needs of school-age children.

Is school counseling the same in every school or district?

The duties of school counselors vary by work setting, district expectations, and the ages of the students served. Your graduate program will help you develop the skills needed to work with young people, and your personality traits and unique skills can help guide the age group you serve. You can learn more on the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) website.

1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities3. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
4.. Forbes Best Online Master’s In School Counseling: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/education/psychology-and-counseling/best-online-school-counseling-degrees/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, School and Career Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm