Most Affordable Online Master's in School Counseling Programs

Learn about the degree, in-person, and coursework requirements for online master's degrees in school counseling. Also, explore the school counselor career, including salary information and professional licensure. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Most Affordable Online Master's Programs in School Counseling

There is a wide range of schools that offer online master's degree programs in school counseling. To make our list of the top schools, we took into consideration program cost, flexibility, accreditation, and program length.

1. University of Nebraska at Kearney

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Kearney, NE $7,187

The University of Nebraska at Kearney has an online Master of Science in Education in School Counseling degree program that requires 43 credits and offers coursework in the following subjects:

  • Group counseling
  • Marriage counseling
  • Child development
  • Counseling techniques

This program features a mixed format with some 100% online classes and some blended classes that require some face-to-face instruction. Students are also required to complete internships and practicums in school counseling. The University of Nebraska at Kearney's master's program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This program makes students eligible for the Nebraska School Counselor Endorsement (they must pass the Praxis School Counselor Assessment to get the endorsement). For the 2019-2020 academic year, online in-state graduate students pay $309 per credit.

2. East Carolina University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Greenville, NC $7,485

The online Master of Science in Counselor Education degree program at East Carolina University features 3 specialization areas:

  • Student affairs and college counseling
  • Professional school counseling
  • Clinical mental health counseling

This 60-semester-hour program requires coursework in the subfields of career development, group counseling, and family counseling. Students must also complete a supervised practicum in counseling as well as a counseling internship. As of 2019-2020, in-state, distance education graduate students paid a tution rate of $233 per credit.

3. Fort Hays State University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Hays, KS $4,266

Fort Hays State University has a Master of Science in School Counseling degree program that offers most of the required courses online, though some in-person classes might be required as well. This 48-credit hour program prepares students for a school counselor career with classes that center on elementary school counseling, human development, and group counseling. Additionally, students are required to complete a school counseling internship. This program also offers several pathways for students to earn their Initial School Specialist License in the state of Kansas. The 2019-2020 price per credit for graduate students in the online virtual college was $288.

4. University of Mississippi

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
University, MS $8,660

The University of Mississippi offers a Master of Education in Counselor Education with a track in School Counseling degree program that features an online/hybrid format. Further, this program allows students to choose a specialization in school counseling or college counseling. Within this 60-credit hour program, students take classes on counseling skills and theories as well as specific coursework related to their concentration. Internships and practicums in their specialization area are also required. This program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and prepares students to become K-12 licensed school counselors. For the 2020 academic year, the price per credit was $465 for online graduate students.

5. Kansas State University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Manhattan, KS $11,069

Kansas State University's Master of Science in School Counseling degree program is offered in an online hybrid format with some classes available online and others on-campus. This 48-credit hour program requires coursework in the following subjects:

  • Managing counseling programs
  • Secondary school counseling
  • Lifespan development
  • Theories of counseling

A practicum and an internship at the elementary and secondary school level is also required. This Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited program helps students achieve the Kansas School Counselor Endorsement as well. Online graduate students paid a $574 per-credit rate for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Rank School Name Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 Sul Ross State University Alpine, TX $2,850
7 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS $8,624
8 Montana State University-Northern Havre, MT $7,201
9 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO $10,017
10 Arkansas Tech University Russellville, AR $6,485
11 Arkansas State University-Main Campus Jonesboro, AR $6,210
12 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND $9,697
13 Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley, PA $11,286
14 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR $14,331
15 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $10,593
16 Concordia University-Nebraska Seward, NE $9,250
17 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX $11,490
18 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC $11,495
19 Angelo State University San Angelo, TX $66,96
20 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID $10,320

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Online Master's in School Counseling Program Overview

Online master's programs in school counseling typically lead to either a Master of Science (MS), a Master of Arts (MA), or a Master of Education (MEd) degree.

Each of these master's degrees has a similar focus on school counseling. However, the MS puts a larger emphasis on the scientific aspect of counseling and psychology. In contrast, the MA is more researched- and practice-based and usually requires a thesis, unlike the MS. The MEd is an educational-focused degree that aims to prepare students for professional educational careers.

No matter the kind of master's degree, school counseling programs require around 43-60 total credits and can take about 2-3 years to complete. Many programs prepare students to become K-12 school counselors, and some programs help students earn a state school counselor endorsement or teacher license. Other master's programs have a focus on college counseling.

Some master's degree programs in school counseling feature 100% online classes. However, many programs feature a blended or hybrid format that requires on-campus or face-to-face classes in addition to online classes.

In-Person Master's in School Counseling Requirements

Most, if not all, master's degree programs in school counseling require rather extensive in-person requirements in addition to online coursework. These in-person, real-world experiences, including practicums and internships, are typically required to earn your master's degree.

Practicums

Practicums are supervised counseling experiences that usually take place in a school or agency setting. These practicums are designed to give students direct counseling experience while also requiring them to perform self-evaluations and get critical feedback from supervisors. Typically, programs require students to complete 100 hours of practicum experiences.

Internships

Internships also give students direct counseling experience with students and families in a school setting. Students are usually supervised by a school counselor. Programs require that students complete 600 internship hours over the course of several semesters. The standards for the number of hours for practicums and internships are set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

On-Campus Residencies

A limited number of programs also require around 2 short, on-campus residencies. These residencies usually last about a week or two. They include mandatory:

  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • Orientations
  • Classes on online learning methods and college writing
  • Opportunities to get to know faculty and fellow students

What You'll Learn in an Online School Counseling Program

Students in school counseling master's programs study a range of different counseling subjects. Although exact coursework varies by university, below, you can explore some common core classes that make up the curriculum of school counseling master's programs.

  • Lifespan Development - Students learn about theories of how humans develop in social, emotional, intellectual, and physical ways as they age.
  • Group Counseling - This class focuses on the theory, practice, and techniques for conducting group counseling. Main concepts include group dynamics, member roles, and leadership roles.
  • Multicultural Counseling - This course centers on how to approach, understand, and counsel diverse populations. There is an emphasis on learning about the social, political, and cultural factors that affect clients as well as how to develop counseling strategies and skills that address those factors.
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling - Students learn about the standards and guidelines for the counseling profession. They also examine ethical and legal issues that could occur and how to navigate them professionally and properly.
  • Counseling Skills - This class develops students' techniques in terms of the entire counseling process, including establishing relationships, making diagnoses, and creating treatment plans.

How to Apply to an Online Master's in School Counseling Program

To apply to a master's program in school counseling, you must already hold a bachelor's degree. Most programs have no requirements as to the type of bachelor's degree, but some prefer a degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. Many programs also require that you have a 3.0 GPA in your undergraduate coursework.

You might also need to submit the following materials:

  • Transcripts
  • 2-3 Letters of recommendation
  • A resume or CV
  • An application fee

You will also usually need to write an essay or a personal statement that speaks to why you want to pursue a master's degree and/or become a school counselor. Most, but not all, programs require that you submit MAT or GRE scores as well. Last, a limited number of programs require a pre-admissions interview, which can typically be done online.

How Much an Online Master's in School Counseling Program Costs

The total cost of an online master's degree program in school counseling depends on total tuition cost, university fees, and other costs associated with earning your degree.

Tuition

Typically, the tuition for online master's degree programs in school counseling are calculated on a per-credit basis. Depending on the university, these programs charge anywhere from $200 to $1,900 per credit. That means that total tuition price for an entire program could range from $15,600 to $94,000 with most programs falling somewhere in between those numbers.

Fees

In addition to the base tuition price, universities also charge a variety of different fees. These fees can range from as low as $10 to as high as $500. Examples of some common fees include:

  • Online program fees
  • Library fees
  • Technology fees
  • Distance education fees
  • Test proctoring fees

Sometimes these will be one-time fees while other times you might have to pay the fee every semester or with every credit. It's important to check with your program and school about which fees apply to you and your program.

Other Costs

For master's degree programs in school counseling, you should also factor in any cost involved with on-campus residencies. Typically, you will have to pay for your own lodging, travel, airfare, some food, and learning materials costs.

In addition, many programs require you to have a computer with certain specs and a fast, reliable internet connection, which can add to your online program's total cost.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online School Counseling Programs

By attending an accredited program in school counseling, you have a better chance of receiving a high-quality education. Accreditation is a process that requires programs to meet high standards in terms of curriculum, faculty, and program outcomes. Also, accreditation can be necessary for some forms of financial aid, scholarships and future licensure.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)

CACREP is the leading agency that accredits master's and doctoral counseling programs. To achieve accreditation by CACREP, a program must meet the following standards:

  • Must provide resources in the form of technical support, a student handbook, assistantships, learning support, and financial aid
  • As of July 1, 2020, require 60 credits
  • Must meet 8 core coursework areas, such as career development and group counseling
  • Must have policies for student enrollment, retention, and dismissal
  • Must have core faculty with doctoral degrees and experience and internship/practicum coordinators
  • Must include 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship
  • Must complete program and student assessments

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

School counseling programs can also be accredited by CAEP. CACREP only accredits counseling programs, while CAEP has a broader focus, accrediting both teacher and educational programs.

CAEP accreditation requires schools and programs to include a curriculum that has a pedagogical focus on the key areas of teaching assessment methods, core teaching areas, and leadership skills. Additionally, a program must offer clinical experiences in the realm of student teaching or internships. The program must also have a plan for self-assessment and improvement.

The School Counseling Profession

With a master's degree in school counseling, you may be prepared to become a school counselor in an elementary, middle, or high school setting. You could also become a career counselor.

Job Duties

While the exact job responsibilities of school counselors depend on their work environment, typical duties include:

  • Counseling students with behavioral or social issues
  • Assessing students through interviews or aptitude tests
  • Conducting group counseling sessions
  • Teaching students coping, learning, and study strategies
  • Interacting with teachers, parents, and administrators

High school counselors may have a larger focus on helping students prepare for college by assisting them with applications and financial aid, while elementary and middle school counselors could focus more on helping younger students develop social and academic skills.

Career counselors have a special set of job duties that include:

  • Administering aptitude and career assessment tests
  • Helping students make career decisions based on their preference and skills
  • Teaching students how to conduct job searches
  • Teaching students interview skills
  • Helping students build a resume

Some career counselors work in a college setting while others might work with adults already in the workforce.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school and career counselors earned a median salary of $56,310 in 2018. Additionally, the number of school and career counselor jobs is expected to increase by 8% from 2018-2028.

Professional School Counseling Licensure or Certification

All school counselors must obtain state licensure, certification, or endorsement in order to practice in a public school.

School Counselor Licensure or Certification

This process varies by state, and it's best to check with your state's department of education for exact requirements. However, common school counselor licensure or certification requirements include:

  • Holding a master's degree in school counseling
  • Completing supervised practicum or internship hours
  • Passing an exam, such as the Praxis exam
  • Passing a background check

National Certified School Counselor (NCSC)

The National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) is an optional credential offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. To earn this certification, you must first earn the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential.

To receive the NCC, you must:

  • Hold a master's degree in counseling
  • Complete coursework in specific content areas, such as human development and group counseling
  • Complete 100 hours of supervised post-graduate school counseling
  • Obtain a professional endorsement
  • Complete 3,000 hours of professional experience
  • Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)

Then, to earn the NCSC, you must (some of these requirements overlap with the NCC):

  • Complete coursework in specific content areas, such as counseling children and family counseling
  • Complete 10 quarter hours of field experience
  • Complete 100 hours of supervised post-graduate school counseling
  • Obtain a professional endorsement
  • Complete 2 years of professional experience
  • Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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