Best Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

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Those that seek a career in counseling usually have a strong desire to help people through challenging situations. Specifically, school counselors work with the K to 12 population and help students make the best educational and other personal decisions in what can be a confusing and emotionally-charged period in life.

A school counselor doesn’t just work with children, but across lines with faculty, administration, parents, and other students. Responsibilities vary depending on the age group with which a counselor works, but certain skill sets remain important across the K to 12 spectrum.

School counselors learn how to evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses, their academic skills, and other interests in order to form a holistic picture of the individual. Outside of the classroom, most social, behavioral, mental, and emotional occurrences are addressed by counselors; situations that arise in an educational setting include academic struggles, bullying, and abuse or other problems at home, to name a few. School counselors’ often sit in on meetings with parents and teachers, and their advice and evaluations are taken into consideration when creating Independent Education Plans (IEPs), 504 plans, or other academic plans.

Many online Master’s in School Counseling programs still require internships and other practicum experiences. Some programs may require final projects or dissertations. Other programs may not be fully online, but may be a hybrid form that combines minimal on-campus time with virtual learning. Choosing an online program is often an optimal option for students working full-time in the field of education or another related field and are planning a change in career. Increased flexibility often allows students to schedule their coursework around other life priorities.

To help students sift through the best program options for them, we’ve collected and ranked the best online Master’s in Social Counseling programs. The list below provides students with an idea of tuition rates, coursework structure, and any unique offerings or requirements of a particular program.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Lehigh University

 5/587.39%Bethlehem, PA


Lehigh's online master’s in school counseling incorporates an international cultural focus. Distance learners study multicultural perspectives and therapeutic approaches, and are introduced to family counseling techniques. Students also learn about comprehensive intervention theory and methods. The degree includes a professional seminar course as part of the core requirements, and culminates with two master’s internships in the program’s final term.

Lehigh requires applicants to have earned a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or better. Courses are offered online through regular consecutive fall and spring semesters; students may enroll twice per year ahead of these bi-annual terms. Full-time students may complete the degree in as little as two years, including face-to-face summer sessions. With this school counseling program, Lehigh strives to uphold its strong commitment to cultural diversity and inclusion policies.

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Wake Forest University

 5/588.22%Winston Salem, NC


Wake Forest's MAC degree is offered in a school counseling concentration. Distance learners pursuing an online master’s in school counseling take courses in elementary, middle school, and high school counseling. The master’s level curriculum prepares students for state licensure as a school or professional counselor. Requirements include a practicum course, a school counseling internship, and a capstone project.

Applicants are required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, and they must also have earned a 2.50 GPA or better. Courses are offered asynchronously or synchronously, depending on the course. Among the many available financial aid awards and grants, Wake Forest offers several merit-based scholarships and federally funded financial aid for military veterans.

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University of Missouri – Columbia

 2/569.48%Columbia, MO


Missouri’s M.Ed. in educational, school and counseling psychology program includes an emphasis in mental health practices in schools. Distance learners study mental health issues—including delinquency, stress, and substance abuse—as they apply to adolescents and children. Students earning their online master’s in school counseling also learn communication techniques for these age groups, along with behavioral and crises management methods. Students must finish a capstone integrative paper to graduate.

Applicants to UM should have earned at least a 3.0 GPA in college. Courses are delivered through Blackboard and, like on-campus courses, are generally offered once per year. Online courses covering mental health practices in schools are semester-long sessions. Transfer credits are considered on a case-by-case basis.

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Seton Hall University

 5/566.45%South Orange, NJ


Seton Hall's online master’s degree in school counseling emphasizes an ethnically diverse, global perspective in the field. Distance learners leave school prepared to work as counselors in elementary, middle, or high schools. Seton Hall also offers a dual degree option in school and professional counseling. In addition to online coursework, the degree requires students to complete a supervised experience comprising a practicum and two internship courses.

Applicants must have earned a GPA of 3.0 or better to be admitted into the master’s program. Courses are delivered online through Blackboard. Seton Hall requires distance students to attend a one-time, on-campus residency as they start the program.

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University of Massachusetts – Boston

 5/542.08%Boston, MA


UMass Boston’s M.Ed program prepares students to pursue licensure as a school counselor in the state. Distance learners in the school counseling program study abnormal psychology, family therapy theories, and collaborative consultation in schools. Students pursuing an online master’s in school counseling are encouraged to follow a schedule that allows them to graduate in six semesters, spanning two years, including summer terms. As part of the program, they must complete a practicum in their first year and two internships in their second.

UMass requires applicants to have worked or interned in human services for at least one year. Prospective students should also have completed their undergraduate studies with a 3.0 GPA or better. Students must attend a one-time on-campus residency during their first term.

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Gallaudet University

 3/545.81%Washington, DC

Gallaudet's online master’s in school counseling promotes multiculturalism and ethical counseling practices in diverse school environments. Distance learners are trained to counsel students with hearing impairments. Courses cover forward-thinking topics including play therapy, lifespan development, helping skills, and simulated society. Students are required to complete advanced internships and a practicum experience to complete the degree.

Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree from an accredited university with a 3.9 GPA or higher. Students should also have taken a minimum of nine credit hours in psychology, and have at least two years of work experience with children or teens. Online courses are delivered through Blackboard, though students are required to attend three consecutive summer sessions on campus in between six semesters of distance coursework. Students typically complete the degree in three years.

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Oregon State University

 2/563.07%Corvallis, OR

Oregon State's counseling program emphasizes developing the comprehensive counseling skills that allows graduates to work effectively with both children and young adults. Courses explore lifespan development and cultural diversity concepts from a global perspective. To graduate, distance learners earning an online master’s in school counseling must complete a practicum.

Applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree with a cumulative B-grade average; the university offers 12 spots per year in its cohort program. Courses are delivered synchronously in Canvas as part of a 50/50 hybrid schedule—meaning that students are required to attend some classes in Salem, Oregon.

The graduate school application fee is $75.

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University of North Dakota

 2/555.49%Grand Forks, ND

UND offers an emphasis in K-12 school counseling within its online counseling program. Distance learners pursuing an online master’s in school counseling learn how to develop programs for K-12 students while helping them build critical thinking skills and other cognitive abilities. Graduates are eligible to pursue school counselor licensure in North Dakota. Students are required to complete a practicum, supervised internship experience, and independent research project to graduate.

To apply, candidates must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, with an overall GPA of at least 2.75 (or a 3.0 over their last two years of undergraduate courses). Classes are offered in Blackboard to full-time online learners; the degree can usually be completed in three years. Though most classes are held online, students are required to attend four brief on-campus sessions held over two summer semesters. UND offers in-state tuition to all distance students.

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Concordia University – Wisconsin

 4/561.19%Mequon, WI

Concordia’s online master’s in school counseling offers a K-12 school counselor track, leading to state licensure in Wisconsin. Distance learners take courses in human development, tests, and measurement and consultation strategies. Students may also pursue optional electives in psychopharmacology and family counseling, among other choices. Mandatory coursework includes two practicums, totaling 600 professional hours, and a professional portfolio.

Applicants should have earned a 3.0 GPA or better in college. Courses are offered both synchronously and asynchronously in Blackboard, and online students may choose a convenient location near their residence to complete required practicum courses. As a Lutheran school, Concordia strives to integrate faith-based learning into all of its online programs.

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University of the Cumberlands

 3/535.56%Williamsburg, KY

UC's online MA offers a concentration in P-12 school counseling. While the degree does not directly lead to state licensure, the program does offer additional certification options for prospective counselors. Distance learners study multicultural counseling and advanced clinical assessment techniques, while also learning how to teach students with disabilities. Students earning their online master’s in school counseling are required to complete either a practicum—for teachers—or an internship—non-teachers—to finish the degree. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate.

Students must have earned a 2.75 GPA or better in their bachelor’s program in order to be admitted into UC. Online graduate students may take up to two courses during each eight-week term, and full-time students can complete the degree in just 10 months. Enrollment for the school counseling degree is open during six eight-week terms per year; two-each in every fall, spring, and summer term at UC.

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Our Lady of the Lake University

 4/537.58%San Antonio, TX

OLLU's online master’s in school counseling focuses on primary and secondary school students. Distance learners study ethics and multicultural issues in schools, disabilities training, and vocational and aptitude assessment techniques. The degree prepares graduates to sit for the TExES school counseling exam, and to pursue national school counselor licensure and certification. Students must complete two practicums and a seminar in school counseling to complete the degree.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. They should have earned a 2.75 cumulative GPA or better, or have finished their final 60 credits with at least a 3.0 GPA. All courses are offered asynchronously. The M.Ed. degree can be completed in just two years, or eight semesters. OLLU offers a 10% tuition discount to military students, and also extends additional benefits to veterans as part of the post-9/11 GI Bill.

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University of Central Arkansas

 2/544.67%Conway, AR

UCA's online master’s in school counseling program helps students build professional skills and experience in the field. Distance learners may choose either an initial licensure track or an add-on licensure track, depending on whether they already have an Arkansas teaching license. School counseling students at UCA learn how to develop and implement counseling programs appropriate for students from a variety of backgrounds. Master’s students must complete a practicum and field internship to graduate.

Applicants must have earned a 2.70 or a GPA or better as undergraduates, or obtained a 3.0 over their final 60 hours of coursework. Courses are offered synchronously over an online learning platform, though occasional asynchronous sessions and on-campus meetings may be required.

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University of Tennessee – Martin

 2/547.04%Martin, TN

UT Martin's online master’s degree in school counseling prepares students for licensure in school counseling. As part of the program, distance learners may pursue a concentration in school counseling or student affairs and college counseling. Innovative course offerings include:

  • Helping Relationships
  • Social and Cultural Diversity
  • Career Development

Student affairs and college counseling students must complete a practicum and two internship experiences to graduate.

Admission into the school counseling program at UT Martin may be conditional or unconditional. Unconditional admission requires students to have obtained at least a 2.70 cumulative GPA as undergraduates, while conditional admission applicants must have earned a GPA of at least 2.5 or a 3.0 GPA during their senior year. A one-time, four-day residency is required on campus for all students.

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Missouri Baptist University

 4/544.22%Saint Louis, MO

MBU's online master’s in school counseling program meets certification standards in Missouri for counselors in elementary and secondary schools. Students may choose one of three concentrations: K-8, 7-12, or combined K-8 and 7-12 counseling. Regardless of specialty, distance learners study child and adolescent therapy, teaching methods, and inclusion for cross-categorical disabilities and multicultural counseling. Students are required to complete a practicum, an internship, or both to graduate.

Applicants to MBU’s K-8 and 7-12 school counseling programs must be certified teachers prior to admission, whereas combined K-12 applicants do not need to be certified. All students are required to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 throughout their time in school and are encouraged to study at their own pace, either part-time or full-time.

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Regent University

 3/550%Virginia Beach, VA

Regent's school counseling degree combines biblical perspectives with modern counseling techniques. Courses teach students to diagnose and treat psychological disorders, and prepare distance learners to work with students from all backgrounds. Graduates with an online master’s degree in school counseling are also prepared to pursue school counselor certification in Virginia. Required coursework includes a practicum, an internship, and three annual one-week residencies on campus. Regent also offers a school counseling certificate for students who already have their degree.

Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or better. Regent offers rolling admission and, once accepted, students may begin coursework in the fall or spring semesters. Online courses are taught synchronously and asynchronously depending on the class, and are offered in a cohort format in Blackboard.

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Angelo State University

 2/529.75%San Angelo, TX

Angelo State's online master’s in school counseling degree prepares students to sit for the TExES certification exam and to pursue a career in school or college counseling. Distance learners study social and cultural influences, lifespan development, and the latest curriculum and methodology trends in the field. They must also complete a comprehensive program review to graduate; those planning to pursue the TExES certification process are required to complete an additional practicum in school counseling.

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree, a Texas Teacher Certificate, and two years of teaching experience. They should also have earned a GPA of at least 2.75 over their last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework. Courses are eight weeks long and are taught in an accelerated format; full-time students can graduate in just two years.

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University of West Alabama

 2/532.9%Livingston, AL

UWA's school counseling degree offers certification and non-certification options online. Distance learners in both concentrations study educational statistics, strategies for crisis intervention, and multicultural counseling techniques. Certification students must complete a practicum and two internships. Non-certification students must also complete two practicum courses, with no internship requirement. All students earning an online master’s in school counseling have to maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate. Applicants are also required to hold a valid teaching certificate and to have taught full-time for two years.

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Fort Hays State University

 1/543.01%Hays, KS

Fort Hays State's online master’s in school counseling degree emphasizes contemporary issues in school counseling. Courses cover social and cultural foundations, counseling appraisal, and managing counseling programs. Students are required to complete a practicum, internship, and three four-day courses on campus. The curriculum trains students to provide practical counseling experience in a diverse school environment.

Applicants must have obtained a bachelor’s degree and earned a 3.0 GPA or better in their final 60 credit hours. Courses are offered both asynchronously and synchronously. Fort Hays offers rolling admission for fall, spring, and summer semesters. In an effort to cater to active-duty military and veterans, the university extends financial aid and student discounts to qualifying military servicemen and their spouses.

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Indiana Wesleyan University

 4/562.53%Marion, IN

IWU's online master’s in school counseling degree applies a service-based, Christian perspective to contemporary counseling theory and practice. Students take courses that integrate Christian principles into school counseling, while also studying the legal, ethical, and professional issues inherent in human growth and development. Distance learners must complete a supervised practicum and two internships. Graduates are prepared for licensure or certification exams in their state.

Applicants must have already earned a baccalaureate degree, and graduated with a 3.0 GPA or better. Students also have to meet prerequisites in psychology and Bible studies to begin the program. Courses are offered online, though all distance learners must attend one four-day, on-campus intensive each semester.

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Southwestern Assemblies of God University

 3/541.03%Waxahachie, TX

SAGU's online master’s in school counseling program integrates a research-based curriculum into its courses. Distance learners take innovative classes in research literature and technology, differentiated learning strategies, and classroom management. All coursework is grounded in traditional Christian values and principles. Students must complete an internship in school counseling to complete their degree.

Applicants should have evidence of a born again spiritual experience. They are required to have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord and adhere to a virtuous Christian lifestyle. A Christian character reference is also required for admission. Online courses are offered through Blackboard.

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School counselors are an imperative part of an effective and proactive school team. Employment opportunities are available across institution types, from traditional public schools to independent schools to private schools, from the elementary to secondary levels.

Cory Notestine, the American School Counselors Association’s 2015 Counselor of the Year, talks about how he and his team address the needs of students on a daily basis:

“…We have an idea of what type of services are needed for any given year and work to develop small groups and classroom guidance lessons to address these issues that are affecting multiple students. Additionally, we will meet with students one-on-one who are referred to our offices, self-report or indicate on our needs assessment that they would like to speak to us. We also operate under an open door policy, so when the door is open, we welcome students to come in, and we make an effort to keep doors open unless we are with another student.”

In what is sometimes an unpredictable environment, school counselors may find themselves responding to challenging or stressful situations in which they need to intervene and diffuse conflicts. Valuable skills include interpersonal skills and the ability to work with people from a diverse number of backgrounds, communication skills, as well as past teaching experience (though this is not a requirement). Participating in practicums and internships and networking with other counselors and teachers can help students decide the age group with which they’d like to work.

Elementary school counselors help students develop foundational academic and emotional skills, and routinely work with teachers to assist in modifying curriculum for specific developmental and academic needs. Middle school counselors foster a caring and open environment and often help students refine the learning scaffolds that best help them succeed academically and socially. High school counselors are involved in helping students choose classes or other extracurricular opportunities and advising on other plans that align with students’ goals for after college. While secondary counselors are still involved in helping to mitigate personal issues, their duties are likely more rooted in academic planning.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2014 median salary for a School Counselors with Master’s degree certification was $53,370. Growth projected from 2014 to 2024 is 8%, which is average compared to other occupations. As educational enrollment at all levels increases, the demand for school counselors at all levels is likely to increase.


Financing Your Online Master’s in School Counseling

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, the need for financial aid is still a reality for most students. But rest assured, loans aren’t your only option. Explore our collection of financial aid resources or dig into one of the following guides to read more about financing your education.

An Overview of Financial Aid

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Understanding the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and most crucial step for any student seeking financial aid. Follow our step-by-step guide for answers to frequently asked questions.

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Financial Aid for Online College Students

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place and funding opportunities for online students.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for single parents looking for a more secure financial future for their children. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships for these hard-working parents.

Financial Aid for Veterans and Active Military

Millions in education benefits are available for veterans and active members of the military. Unfortunately, much of this goes unused. Find out if you’re entitled to help with college and start planning for your future.