Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

An affordable master's in school counseling can advance or launch your career in education. Learn more about this in-demand degree.
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Most Affordable Online Master's Programs in School Counseling

To become a school counselor at a public school, you need a master's degree and state licensure. Part-time and hybrid master's in school counseling programs can offer you a flexible and affordable way to earn your degree.

A master’s in school counseling provides students with foundational knowledge in counseling methods, development across the lifespan, and professional ethics. Learn more about online master's in school counseling programs, including the typical costs, courses, and admission requirements.

Featured Online School Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

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#1 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

Texas A & M International University

  • Laredo, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Texas State Board for Educator Certification

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $367

Out-of-State | $1,030

Credits to Graduate: 48

TAMIU's online MS in school counseling prepares licensed teachers for the TExES school counselor exam and state certification. Admission into this program requires a valid Texas teaching certificate and two years of teaching experience.

Enrollees learn about child and adolescent counseling, group counseling, and addiction counseling theories and practices. This affordable master's in school counseling program features a 100-hour practicum, as well as a 300-hour supervised internship in a school setting. The degree offers a flexible learning format, and no thesis is required to graduate.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$3,818
Out-of-state
$13,610
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$3,350
Out-of-state
$10,694
Retention Rate
74%
Acceptance Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
8,455
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

Florida State University

  • Tallahassee, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: State of Florida Department of Education

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $444

Out-of-State | $1,076

Credits to Graduate: 60

FSU's online counseling and human systems program offers master's students a major in school counseling. Enrollees specialize in counseling K-12 students from diverse backgrounds. The curriculum reflects this emphasis with courses such as urban and rural schools and ESOL instruction in the content areas.

Students receive hands-on experience during a 100-hour practicum in counseling and rehabilitation. The practicum prepares enrollees for a 600-hour internship, including 240 hours in direct service with clients. Graduates simultaneously earn an MS and Ed.S. in education.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,640
Out-of-state
$19,084
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,684
Out-of-state
$24,116
Retention Rate
94%
Acceptance Rate
37%
Students Enrolled
45,130
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
58% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

Wake Forest University

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $1,650

Out-of-State | $1,650

Credits to Graduate: 60

Wake Forest University's MA in counseling program offers a school counseling specialization that prepares graduates for certification and licensure. Core courses teach enrollees clinical counseling theories, techniques, and best practices, while advanced practice coursework focuses on the school counseling specialty.

Students complete this affordable master's in school counseling online, except for supervised practicum and internship components. Participants can complete internships with the school's industry partners. Recent Wake Forest graduates boast a 95% pass rate on the National Counselor Exam. Students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of their in-state or out-of-state residency status.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$58,708
Out-of-state
$58,708
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$38,650
Out-of-state
$38,650
Retention Rate
94%
Acceptance Rate
25%
Students Enrolled
8,947
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#4 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $2,244

Out-of-State | $2,244

Credits to Graduate: 49

USC's M.Ed. in school counseling leads to California's Pupil Personnel Services credential. Students choose full-time or part-time enrollment options, completing their degree online in 2-3 years.

The curriculum focuses on three key areas: college and career readiness, restorative justice, and trauma-informed practice. Participants apply their training during a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship at K-12 schools. USC works with students to find site placements for this experiential component. The program enrolls students from anywhere in the United States.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$60,446
Out-of-state
$60,446
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$60,446
Out-of-state
$60,446
Retention Rate
96%
Acceptance Rate
13%
Students Enrolled
49,318
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#5 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

University of Massachusetts Global

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $709

Out-of-State | $709

Credits to Graduate: 48

The University of Massachusetts' online MA in counseling program trains future K-12 school counselors and paves the way for the Pupil Personnel Services credential in school counseling.

Enrollees learn advanced counseling and intervention techniques, best practices in counseling, and group leadership and intervention skills. Faculty also provide instruction in tele-therapy and virtual counseling. 

Participants complete a practicum and receive supervision and mentoring in school counseling. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition for this affordable online master's in school counseling.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$12,000
Out-of-state
$12,000
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$12,240
Out-of-state
$12,240
Retention Rate
19%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
9,798
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#6 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

Arkansas Tech University

  • Russellville, AR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $315

Out-of-State | $315

Credits to Graduate: 45

The hybrid M.Ed. in school counseling and leadership at ATU features a blend of extensive hands-on training and online coursework. The degree prepares graduates to earn Arkansas school counselor licensure.

Participants complete school counseling specialty courses and core school leadership coursework. Experiential learning requirements include 600 hours of direct services completed during an internship, as well as group counseling sessions with K-12 students.

Learners can pursue LPC credentialing by completing an additional 15 credits of community counseling. Recent graduates of this master's in school counseling program boast a 100% pass rate on the Professional School Counselor Praxis exam.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,736
Out-of-state
$11,472
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$5,414
Out-of-state
$10,827
Retention Rate
63%
Acceptance Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
9,640
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

Lehigh University

  • Bethlehem, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $590

Out-of-State | $590

Credits to Graduate: 48

Lehigh University's hybrid M.Ed. in international school counseling focuses on developing counselors for international schools. However, U.S. citizens and residents can still pursue Pennsylvania school counselor certification. 

This affordable online master's in school counseling covers topics like counseling and therapeutic approaches, helping skills in international settings, and culture-centered career intervention. Participants apply their learning during 100 hours of fieldwork and a culminating two-semester internship.

The M.Ed. supplements asynchronous and synchronous online classes with in-person summer classes in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or at international locations. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$56,980
Out-of-state
$56,980
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$27,000
Out-of-state
$27,000
Retention Rate
94%
Acceptance Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
7,263
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#8 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Fairbanks, AK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $539

Out-of-State | $1,105

Credits to Graduate: 60

UAF's online M.Ed. in school counseling leads to certification in Alaska. The degree prepares aspiring school counselors to meet the needs of Alaska's rural communities. Enrollees learn counseling theories and their applications, along with specialized skills such as counseling for addictions and advanced school counseling. 

A licensed counselor oversees the M.Ed.'s required practicum and internship experiences, which are completed in a school or community setting. Students can participate in service-learning projects and work with faculty on research projects. Participants complete the coursework for this affordable master's in school counseling through synchronous and/or asynchronous classes.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,296
Out-of-state
$23,087
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,265
Out-of-state
$23,095
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
6,826
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
79% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#9 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

University of Louisiana at Monroe

  • Monroe, LA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $500

Out-of-State | $500

Credits to Graduate: 60

The MS in counseling program at ULM offers a school counseling track that puts graduates on track for K-12 school counselor certification and LPC licensure in Louisiana. The degree features a fully online cohort model and small classes to facilitate personalized learning. 

Students can supplement required courses with electives like child-parent play therapy, trauma counseling, and behavior modification to match their coursework with their career interests. Enrollees also build hands-on experience during practicum and internship activities. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,788
Out-of-state
$17,888
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,490
Out-of-state
$18,590
Retention Rate
69%
Acceptance Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
8,718
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#10 Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling of 2024

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

  • Raleigh, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $553

Out-of-State | $1,663

Credits to Graduate: 60

Learners seeking a part-time counseling curriculum may want to consider NCSU's M.Ed. in school counseling. The degree meets the course requirements for professional school counselor licensure in North Carolina. Students enroll as part of an online cohort, earning their degree in three years by taking fall, spring, and summer classes.

The curriculum emphasizes developmental theory and clinical counseling theory and practice. It also utilizes scientist-practitioner and school-college-community collaboration models. Faculty supplement coursework with a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship in a K-12 school.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,535
Out-of-state
$27,320
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,095
Out-of-state
$27,082
Retention Rate
94%
Acceptance Rate
47%
Students Enrolled
36,831
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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  • Reputation (20%)
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In addition, we only included colleges with graduation rates in the top third of all online colleges.

How Much Does an Online Master's in School Counseling Cost?

Master’s degrees in psychology and related fields, like counseling, cost a higher median than those of master’s degrees in all subjects. Yet, attending a public school or an online program can help cut costs.

Public schools offer in-state tuition to residents of their state. Sometimes, out-of-state students qualify for out-of-state tuition waivers because of online enrollment or military service.

Total vs. Public | Median Tuition and Fees Paid Per Year for Master’s in Psychology Programs in 2020

All Programs
$10,040

Public Institutions
$9,500

Source: NCES

Online programs can help you save on true program costs because they do not require many in-person expenses. With an online program, you save on room and board, eliminate in-person-only fees, and lower your transportation costs. Remember that many programs include in-person internships, practicum, or residencies.

Online vs. On-Campus | Median Tuition and Fees Paid Per Year for Master’s in Psychology Programs in 2020

On-Campus Programs
$11,740

Online Programs
$9,300

Source: NCES

How Do I Pay for an Online Master's in School Counseling?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

All students must submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal student financial aid, such as federal grants, scholarships, and loans. Some schools require that you fill out the FAFSA when you apply.

Work-Study Programs

You can enroll in a federal work-study program to lower your cost of attendance (COA). This program lets you work part time on or off campus. You can qualify for federal work-study by filling out the FAFSA.

Scholarships

Apply for college scholarships to lower your affordable online master's in school counseling's COA. Some scholarships limit applicants to graduate degree-seekers. Check all eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application materials closely before applying.

Grants

Grants are sums of money, usually awarded by a government or a school, given to you for a particular purpose. While several organizations advocate for increased grant funding for school counselors, there aren't many grant options for funding your education.

Loans

You should only turn to student loans after exhausting all other financial aid options. Before loans, try to find scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities. If you must take out loans, you can seek loan forgiveness programs after graduation. Federal loans offer lower interest rates and more payment options than private loans.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?

The most affordable online master's in school counseling programs require 48-60 credits and take two years to finish. You complete the same core classes as on-campus degree-seekers, such as program development, theories of counseling, and legal and ethical issues.

Although your program may feature asynchronous online coursework, expect to complete many in-person experiences. They include field observations and practicum at different schools. You need this experience to qualify for a state-issued school counseling license.

Your affordable master's in school counseling may require a final paper or capstone experience. Requirements vary by program but may require extensive research at a practicum site.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?

  • Minus

    Counseling Methods

    During this survey course, students delve into case studies, current research, and established theories to learn best practices, strategies, and techniques for school counseling.
  • Minus

    Professional Ethics

    This course covers several ethical challenges that school counselors might face, using case studies as examples. Any career that involves parents, students, and an imbalance of power is delicate. Covered topics may include reporting laws.
  • Minus

    Development Across the Lifespan

    This course dives into modern biological, psychological, and sociological theory and research to cover how students develop during different stages of their lives. Covered topics may include personality development, identity, and intelligence.
  • Minus

    Multicultural Counseling

    This course prepares future school counselors to meet the needs of learners from various backgrounds. Possible topics include self-identity and communication strategies.
  • Minus

    Practicum or Internship

    To qualify for state licensure, prospective school counselors must complete supervised hours in the field. Your program can usually help you arrange an approved placement site with a licensed school counselor.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?

At most schools, graduate admission requirements for on-campus and online master's in school counseling programs are similar, if not the same. Some common requirements to enroll in a graduate program include an application and application fee, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a resume showing relevant work experience, essays, and official transcripts. Some schools may also require an admissions interview.

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    Application

    All online master's in school counseling programs require applicants to submit an application form, usually through a school portal. This form captures basic contact and background information. You will likely have to complete a separate form for each school you apply to. Application systems like the Common App and Coalition App primarily serve undergraduate learners.
  • Check Circle

    Test Scores

    Sometimes, online master's in school counseling programs may ask you to submit GRE scores. These programs usually don't list score minimums that you can work to meet by taking GRE practice tests or investing in GRE prep. However, many online programs have eliminated this requirement to attract students with diverse experiences or made GRE scores optional for students with a high enough GPA.
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    Letters of Recommendation

    Most graduate school counseling programs require applicants to submit 1-3 letters of recommendation. In most cases, you should ask former undergraduate professors to write these letters on your behalf. If you have relevant work experience, you can ask your manager to write one. Ask them several months before the deadline so they have enough time to write thoughtful letters of recommendation.
  • Check Circle

    Resume and Work Experience

    Affordable master's in school counseling programs want applicants dedicated to the field and its mission. You can make your resume stand out if you hold teaching or other education experience. Volunteer experience with a youth-oriented organization can also help boost your resume.
  • Check Circle

    Essays

    Many affordable online master's in school counseling programs require a statement of purpose. This essay lets you outline your educational and professional goals. Admissions advisors and faculty use your statement of purpose to judge your writing skills.
  • Check Circle

    Official Transcripts

    Submit official graduate transcripts if you hold transfer credit. Relevant transfer credit may shorten your time in school significantly and save you thousands of dollars on your affordable master's in school counseling. Do not forget that programs also require official undergraduate transcripts.
  • Check Circle

    Admissions Interview

    Some competitive programs may use admissions interviews to select the best candidates. These interviews may take place in person or online. Expect to answer questions about your skills, weaknesses, and professional aspirations.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in School Counseling Degree?

Career Outlook

Between 2022 and 2032, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% job growth for school counselors due to rising student enrollment rates, two percentage points higher than the projected growth rate for all careers.

During an online master's in school counseling program, students gain the skills to pursue state licensure and careers in public K-12 schools. Graduates can also pursue counseling careers in many fields and professional settings.

Career Paths

School Counselor

School counselors work in K-12 schools, helping students apply to college and overcome academic, social, and emotional challenges. They also help these students develop social and academic skills. School counselors must first earn state licensure to work in public schools, which requires a master's degree.

Career Counselor

Career counselors help people struggling to choose a career find their best fit. These professionals can work for nonprofit organizations, career centers, or their own private practices. While a master's degree isn't always required for these positions, an advanced degree can help you stand out.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors work with groups and individuals, helping them face issues like substance use, addiction, stress, and anxiety. They can work in various professional settings, including healthcare facilities, nonprofit organizations, and private practice. To practice, they need a state license, which requires a master's degree.

Principal

Some school counselors may want to become principals after working at a school for several years. These leaders manage the big picture and day-to-day school operations, overseeing budgets, curricula, school direction, and student discipline. They typically need at least a master's degree.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers help employees develop skills and knowledge in the corporate world. They can work for companies or as consultants or freelancers. Beyond education, they need significant relevant experience.

Continuing Education

Graduates with master's degrees in school counseling generally do not pursue additional formal education because a master’s degree in school counseling is all you need to qualify for licensure and roles in school counseling.

If you want to teach the next generation of counselors or perform research, you can earn a Ph.D. in counseling.

Counselors working in public schools must complete several professional development hours each year set by their state. This is the most common form of continuing education for master's degree holders in school counseling.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?

Cost

Many universities charge graduate students a higher per-credit tuition rate than undergraduates. Although you can expect to pay more per credit for a degree, you can save money by attending an in-state public university.

An affordable master's in school counseling program can lower your COA in ways besides reduced tuition. Many online degrees offer cost savings compared to on-campus degrees. You can also save money by not commuting or living on campus. Some schools waive campus fees for online degree-seekers.

Program Format

If you enroll in an online program, you’ll choose between asynchronous or synchronous learning. Synchronous learning involves scheduled, live online course sessions, while asynchronous learning does not. You should also determine whether or not you can enroll full time.

Location

Even if you enroll in an online master's in school counseling program, choosing a school close to you may still make sense. School counseling programs require supervised experiences in the field to prepare you for state licensure. It may be easier to arrange these experiences if you live closer to campus and can participate in fieldwork at the school’s partner site.

Accreditation

Limit your school search to universities with proper institutional accreditation. Institutions with this accreditation provide learners in all programs with a rigorous educational experience. Your state's school counselor licensing board may not accept diplomas from unaccredited schools.

Your affordable online master's in school counseling program should also hold programmatic accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accreditation means that the program prepares you to become a licensed school counselor.

Student Support

Student services may boost success in graduate school, especially if you enroll online. Before you commit to a program, check to see if the school offers mentorship opportunities, internship placements, career services, tutoring, and advising.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in School Counseling Programs

Is a master's in school counseling worth it?

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A master's in school counseling can often be worth it if you enjoy working with students and helping them succeed.

School counseling positions in public K-12 schools require state licensure, which requires a master's degree. For students who know they want to become school counselors, this degree is worth it because it is required for their desired career. School counselors earn $13,830 more than the median salary for all occupations.

What can I do with a master's in school counseling?

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An affordable online master's in school counseling gives you the education and training needed for school counseling licensure, a requirement at all public and some private schools.

Responsibilities vary between primary and secondary schools but may include referring students to support services, advocating for children, and collaborating with teachers and administrators. These professionals also develop school-wide counseling programs affecting all students.

Are school counseling graduates in high demand?

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Yes, school counseling graduates are in high demand. Between 2022 and 2032, the BLS projects a 5% job growth for school and career counselors. This rate is two percentage points higher than the growth rate the agency projects for all careers during that period. BLS projects 18,400 job openings per year for school counselors.

How much money can I make with a master's in school counseling?

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According to the BLS, school counselors earn a median annual salary of $61,710. Remember that salary potential depends on employer, experience, and location. School counselors who work in public schools can usually determine how much money they'll make based on their district's salary schedule.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in school counseling?

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The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in school counseling are outside the counseling field. For example, as of May 2023, corporate training and development specialists earned a median annual salary of $64,340, according to the BLS.

While these positions require relevant experience, usually in business, master's degree-holders in school counseling can apply many of the skills they learn during their programs toward teaching corporate employees new skills and knowledge.


Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed February 7th, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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