Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

A master's in college student counseling and personnel services can lead to a role as a college-level administrator. Learn about the 10 best programs.
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A master's in college student counseling and personnel services prepares students for a career in education, working in various areas of student affairs in higher institutions. Some programs focus on counseling, while others emphasize student affairs and administration. Graduates may pursue roles such as academic advisor, assistant director of career development, and associate director of admissions.

Most programs require 40-60 credits and take two years of full-time enrollment to complete. Because of the hands-on nature of these programs, many require on-campus participation. Experiential learning requirements include internships, practicums, and graduate assistantships.

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Tuition costs range from $270-$1500. In-state students attending public colleges tend to find the lowest tuition rates. The true program costs include fees, books and supplies, transportation, and more. Some top online schools do not charge nonresident fees.

According to PayScale, individuals with a master of education in higher education administration earned an average yearly salary of $56,000 as of June 2022. When deciding to go to graduate school, students should consider their return on investment. This includes the cost of education, student debt, and potential earnings after graduation.

Our Top Pick

The University of Georgia - Athens, Georgia

Why It's #1: The University of Georgia (UGA) ranks number one on our Best Master's in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs list. This university has one of the highest graduation rates, with 87% of students earning their degree. Additionally, graduate tuition falls below average for in-state students, coming to about $8,878. About 97% of students receive financial aid. UGA also has a high 41% admission yield, which is the percentage of students who decide to enroll.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

#1 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University of Georgia

  • Athens, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $417
Out-of-State | $1,082

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UGA's cohort-based M.Ed. in college student affairs administration program prepares graduates to serve students in higher education institutions. The curriculum focuses on student development, group leadership, administrative practices, and student affairs. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and submit GRE test scores and a resume.   

The program includes a practicum and a full-time summer internship after the first year. Students may also gain additional experience by working in UGA's student affairs. Graduates work in academic and career advising centers, admissions offices, and other higher learning settings.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,790
Out-of-state
$28,830
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
38,920
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Indiana University-Bloomington

  • Bloomington, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $444.27
Out-of-State | $1515.17

Credits to Graduate
61

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

IUB's MS.Ed in higher education and student affairs focuses on higher education administration and student counseling. Some courses include career and multicultural counseling and professional development in student affairs. 

Students complete one capstone project. The thesis requirement is optional. Learners must secure an approved graduate assistantship or full-time position for the length of the program. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum GPA of 3.0. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,575
Out-of-state
$35,140
Retention Rate
90%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
43,260
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Appalachian State University

  • Boone, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $268.83
Out-of-State | $1,102.72

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

App State's MA in student affairs administration program prepares students for academic and student affairs with an emphasis on applied learning. Participants must complete at least three practice-based experiences, including a practicum, internship, and graduate assistantship. Applicants must secure a graduate assistantship to gain admittance. 

Past graduates work in numerous higher education positions, including career development, fraternity and sorority life, student activities, and study abroad. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and submit their GRE score, three references, a resume, and transcripts. A GPA of 3.0 is required unless students have GRE scores at the 25th percentile level.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,242
Out-of-state
$19,049
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
19,280
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#4 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University of Dayton

  • Dayton, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $715
Out-of-State | $715

Credits to Graduate
39

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UD's MS.Ed. in higher education and student affairs emphasizes traditional student affairs content and creative classes in assessment and learning design. The program is open to full-time and part-time students and offers evening classes. 

Participants complete three 100-hour internships — unless working professionally full time, and a research project. Admission requirements include a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 2.75. Applicants with lower GPAs may achieve admittance with acceptable MAT or GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$44,100
Out-of-state
$44,100
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
72%
Students Enrolled
11,473
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#5 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University at Buffalo

  • Buffalo, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $471
Out-of-State | $963

Credits to Graduate
42

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UB's M.Ed. in higher education and student affairs program focuses on practical experience, student development, and multicultural issues. The program features exposure to relevant topics via speakers, conferences, and journals. Additionally, students gain valuable experience through internships and assistantships at the network of higher institutions in Western New York. 

Students may enroll in part-time or full-time options, which end in a capstone seminar. Admission requirements include unofficial transcripts from all colleges attended. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$24,740
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
61%
Students Enrolled
31,923
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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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#6 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University of South Carolina

  • Columbia, SC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $572.25
Out-of-State | $1,240

Credits to Graduate
39

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UofSC's M.Ed. in higher education and student affairs program offers two 18-hour concentrations. The higher education administration concentration focuses on leadership, ethics, and the financial aspects of postsecondary education. 

The student affairs administration concentration explores current student affairs issues and trends. This concentration requires an internship or practicum. Both programs culminate with the creation of an online portfolio. UofSC's holistic application requirements include official transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,288
Out-of-state
$33,528
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
35,364
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#7 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University of Redlands

  • Redlands, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $813
Out-of-State | $813

Credits to Graduate
48 for preK-12 and college counseling pathways; 54 for a combined pathway

Program Information
Program Accreditation | California Commission of Teacher Credentialing

Redlands' MA in education, school, and college counseling program offers three tracks: preK-12 counseling, college counseling, or both. These tracks prepare students for general counseling in public and private schools and higher education settings. In addition to counseling and consultation, the program focuses on educational justice. Students must complete about 600-800 hours of fieldwork.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Additional requirements include an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Students applying to the preK-12 or combined track must also meet the basic skills requirement.

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,630
Out-of-state
$50,630
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
4,931
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
11% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

University of Iowa

  • Iowa City, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $349
Out-of-State | $1,264

Credits to Graduate
40

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UI's cohort-based MA in higher education and student affairs program emphasizes counseling and administration. Students must complete a graduate internship at UI while taking courses. These internships offer paid work experience, where students can typically earn $15,000 per year. Approved internship programs also cover 50% of tuition and provide health benefits.

Integrative experiences also include a professional seminar, capstone project, and practicum. Application requirements include a bachelor's from an accredited college and a minimum GPA of 3.0. The program does not require a GRE score.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,073
Out-of-state
$30,036
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
31,240
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

  • Slippery Rock, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $516
Out-of-State | $774

Credits to Graduate
42

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

SRU's cohort-based MA in student affairs in higher education program prepares graduates for leadership roles in student affairs. The blended learning format includes in-person and online classes. The program's experiential learning approach incorporates visits to the campus and professional guest speakers. The field experience consists of a practicum and a capstone or internship. 

Though not required, students are encouraged to gain additional hands-on experience through a graduate assistantship. According to SRU, 95% of their graduates acquire a position in higher education within three months after graduating. For unconditional admission, applicants require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,716
Out-of-state
$11,574
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
8,778
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#10 Best Master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Western Carolina University

  • Cullowhee, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $416
Out-of-State | $994

Credits to Graduate
39

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

WCU's M.Ed. in higher education student affairs program focuses on issues in higher education, such as finance and diversity. Students also work with college employees to gain an understanding of the roles and opportunities that exist on campus. 

The program offers a paid graduate assistantship to all full-time students that qualify and culminates in an internship and a capstone course. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The GRE score is not required for those with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,000
Out-of-state
$5,000
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
12,167
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Popular Online Master's in Student Counseling Programs

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

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 78 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a master's degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About College Student Counseling and Personnel Services Programs

Is a master's in college student counseling and personnel services worth it?

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Yes, an on-campus or online master's in college student counseling and personnel services can be worth it for students interested in working as postsecondary education administrators. Many of these positions require a master's degree. Additionally, the BLS projects an 8% job growth for postsecondary administrators, amounting to an average of 14,500 job openings yearly.

An online degree may be worth it for students with full-time jobs or other responsibilities. These offer greater flexibility than on-campus programs. When choosing an online program, consider internship requirements and if the school provides help finding local opportunities. Some students also use a master's as a stepping stone to a doctoral degree.

What can I do with a master's in college student counseling and personnel services?

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This degree leads to numerous opportunities in educational institutions. Many graduates pursue roles in administration at the postsecondary level. A few of the many positions at colleges and universities include admissions officers and registrars. Graduates may also work as administrators in student affairs for housing, student activities, or residential life.

If you graduated from a program emphasizing school counseling, you might also pursue roles at the preK-12 or college level as a school or career counselor. Most states require that school counselors hold a master's degree, and public school counselors require a state-issued credential. These roles require internship or practicum experience and passing a test.

What continuing education is available for college student counseling and personnel services graduates?

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College student counseling and personnel services graduates may continue their education and pursue a Ph.D. or a doctorate. These students may earn a doctorate in higher education and qualify for high-level administration roles, such as provosts or deans. Other students may pursue a doctorate in school counseling and work with school districts or communities.

After earning a master's in school counseling, students may enroll in one of the top doctorate school counseling programs. These graduates may work in academia and research, searching for ways to improve counseling methods. They may also go on to teach at the postsecondary level.

How much money can I make with a master's in college student counseling and personnel services?

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Those who pursue roles as postsecondary administrators earn significantly more than the national median annual wage for all workers, which was $45,760 as of May 2021. The BLS reports that these professionals earn a median yearly salary of $96,910, with the top 10% boasting earnings of more than $190,770.

A master's in college student counseling and personnel services leads to many different roles. Pay varies by the employer, position, years of experience, and location. For example, the BLS reports that school and career counselors earn a median annual salary of $60,510. Comparatively, kindergarten through secondary level education administrators boast median yearly earnings of $98,420.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in college student counseling and personnel services?

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In May 2021, postsecondary education administrators working at colleges, universities, and professional schools earned some of the highest wages, with a median wage of $98,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those working at junior colleges made $94,120. The BLS reports that California employs the largest number of these administrators, who earned an average yearly wage of $129,030 in the Golden State in 2021.

Postsecondary education administrators working in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Washington boasted even greater earnings in 2021, with average wages of $159,800, $145,920, $138,150, and $136,570, respectively.

Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

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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