The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 13% job growth rate for school counseling positions through 2026, with professionals earning an average annual salary of $56,310. While bachelor's degree-holders may qualify for some entry-level roles, most school counseling positions require a master's degree and state-issued certification. An online master's degree in counseling education can enhance your career opportunities and earning power.

What to Expect in an Online Master's in School Counseling Program

Before selecting an online master's degree in counseling education, it is important to consider factors like degree length, cost, delivery format, curriculum, accreditation status, and internship components. While program details often vary considerably between schools, most master of education in school counseling online programs include some common courses and features.

Sample Courses for an Online Master's in School Counseling

Every online master's in school counseling features a slightly different curriculum and structure. However, many include courses on integral topics such as school counseling theory, lifespan development, child and adolescent counseling, and group counseling. Regardless of which program you choose, you are likely to encounter one or more of the classes described below.

Most online master's degree in counseling education programs also include an internship component. Providing valuable hands-on experience, internships allow students to apply course concepts to real-life scenarios and meet clinical hour requirements for certification. Program advisors typically help students find qualifying internships at approved local facilities.

Counseling Theories and Techniques

This course surveys the history and development of counseling theory, exploring the respective strengths and weaknesses of each. Candidates also examine current theories and professional techniques as they learn to form their own theoretical approaches to a variety of real-life counseling scenarios.

Lifespan Development

Lectures explore human development, placing special emphasis on the prenatal, childhood, and adolescent stages. Coursework covers developmental processes and current theories related to developmental milestones in the human lifespan. Students may also cover topics such as research methods, ethical considerations, and social factors impacting human development and behavior.

Child and Adolescent Counseling

Coursework provides an overview of current child and adolescent counseling theories and techniques while addressing related legal and ethical issues. Candidates learn to identify developmental, educational, behavioral, and multicultural factors affecting children and adolescents and address or mitigate any resulting negative consequences.

Group Counseling

Using a practitioner-based approach, this class examines current group counseling theories, processes, and dynamics. Students gain a broad understanding of group therapy and its important role in patient treatment and recovery. Other common class topics include ethics, culture-based approaches, and resources used to facilitate and effectively lead group counseling sessions.

Career Development and Counseling

In this course, candidates survey career development theories, techniques, and decision-making models. Students acquire the assessment, research, and job-planning skills needed to help individuals set and attain their educational or career goals. Coursework also addresses influential factors in the decision-making process, such as family, culture, gender, religion, and personal values.

Online Master's in School Counseling Completion Time

A program's length can impact your budget, personal life, and career timeline. The average online master's in school counseling consists of 60 credit hours and requires around two years of full-time study. However, many factors can influence program length, including total number of required credits, internship or practicum components, and student enrollment status.

While asynchronous programs take less time to finish, they require strong organizational and time management skills.

A degree's delivery format can also affect its duration. Asynchronous programs allow learners to complete coursework when and where they prefer, without attending scheduled online classes. Some asynchronous degrees use a self-paced format, which allows students to complete courses as quickly as they like. While asynchronous programs take less time to finish, they require strong organizational and time management skills. Other online programs use a cohort learning model, in which a group of students move through courses together at a prescribed pace. Although cohort-based programs provide an interactive, structured learning environment with many collaborative opportunities, they typically take longer to complete than their asynchronous counterparts.

Skills Gained in an Online Master's in School Counseling Program

Master of education in school counseling online programs build foundational knowledge and impart new concepts, presenting current professional theories, techniques, and tools. Simulated scenarios and internships challenge candidates to apply course concepts in practical situations, while lectures and assignments develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • Practical Clinical Skills

    Students gain applied clinical skills by participating in mock counseling sessions. Using theory, they evaluate situations to develop effective treatment plans. Internships and practicums further hone candidates' practical competencies, providing insight into the average school counselor's professional duties and daily activities.

  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills

    Strong interpersonal skills are vital to school counselors, who must communicate with students, teachers, parents, and district officials. To establish trust-based client relationships, counselors must be compassionate listeners with excellent communication skills.

  • Research and Analysis Skills

    School counselors need to observe, analyze, and research solutions to many complicated situations and issues. Master's-level coursework presents common counseling scenarios and challenges, honing candidates' assessment skills.

Online vs. On-Campus Programs: What's the Difference?

Convenient and affordable, online programs allow busy professionals to earn a degree while maintaining career, family, and personal obligations. While most online degrees follow the same curricula as their on-campus counterparts, web-based programs typically feature flexible schedules, with some schools providing accelerated options. Like traditional master's programs, online degrees often include an internship requirement. Although details vary by school, students must typically complete a certain number of supervised practical hours in an approved facility. Distance learners usually work with an advisor to arrange an internship at a location near their home.

Career and Salary Outlook for Online Master's in School Counseling Graduates

School counselors work with students across all grade levels. Successful counselors possess strong analytical, interpersonal, listening, and communication skills. They must also be compassionate and patient. Counselors assist students dealing with sensitive situations and must ensure students feel comfortable when approaching them for help. Most positions in the field require a master's degree, and many graduates with an online master's in school counseling work as school counselors, career counselors, school psychologists, or postsecondary teachers. Learn Psychology provides further details on education and careers in the field.

School and Career Counselor

Counselors use assessments and interviews to identify student learning difficulties and behavioral issues. They evaluate school performance, provide instruction on topics such as bullying and drug use, and help learners plan for college and employment. School and career counselors are typically required to hold a master's degree and state licensure or certification.

Median Annual Salary: $56,310

Postsecondary Teacher

These instructors teach at the college level. They plan lessons, develop curricula, administer exams, and maintain student records. While a master's degree is typically the minimum requirement to teach at community colleges, most universities expect candidates to hold a doctoral degree.

Median Annual Salary: $78,470

School Psychologist

A school psychologist's primary tasks include observing students, conducting tests, and using interviews to develop instructional or therapeutic plans to help students succeed. They typically work with special needs students or learners with other behavioral issues. School psychologists must hold at least a master's degree and state certification to practice in public institutions.

Median Annual Salary: $60,161

Licensed Professional Counselor

These professionals serve clients with mental disorders and illnesses by conducting individual or group therapy sessions, developing patient treatment plans, and managing client records. This career path is popular among graduates with a master's in school counseling online who want the flexibility to work in a private practice. Along with state licensure, professional counselors must hold a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $46,496

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators develop and implement school curricula, reviewing course materials to ensure they meet current standards. Coordinators also train teachers and district staff on new programs or procedures as needed. While the position requires a master's degree and work experience, some states may also require specialized certification.

Median Annual Salary: $64,450

Education and Training Beyond a Master's in School Counseling

While earning a master of education degree in school counseling online opens up many lucrative and rewarding career paths, some positions in the field require additional state-issued certification. The American School Counselor Association provides information on each state's certification requirements. Typically, candidates must complete a designated number of supervised clinical hours and pass an exam. Most certifications must be renewed every few years, requiring professionals to stay informed of industry trends and research.

Some graduates choose to increase their career opportunities by earning a doctoral degree. There are two doctorate options available in the field of school counseling. Candidates who earn a clinically focused Psy.D. can become counseling psychologists or go into private practice. The Ph.D. is a research-focused degree, best suited to professionals interested in research careers or becoming postsecondary instructors. Learn Psychology provides additional information and resources on the benefits of earning a doctorate and what each program entails.

Before selecting an online masters degree in counseling education, it is important to research school counseling careers and ensure that your chosen program suits your lifestyle and professional goals. Along with each position's educational requirements, be sure to assess key factors like job advancement opportunities and earning potential.