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Top 15 Online Master’s Programs in Education & School Counseling

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The American Counseling Association (ACA) arrived at a definition of counseling by delegates of an ACA Conference in March 2010. They defined it as: Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. The definition was then submitted to the leaders of the participating organizations, and was approved by 29 of the organizations. This association began working on school counseling legislation more than forty years ago not just because it was of interest to our members who worked as professional school counselors, but because of the impact that elementary and secondary school counseling could have on the lives of students. “We know that working with the “whole child” in terms of academic, social, behavioral, and career issues has been proven to increase the likelihood of success in life,” stated the ACA.

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) would probably concur with the above statement, if he were alive today. Mr. Erikson was a German-born American psychologist who achieved eminence by his theories of development and ego. He opined that the 6-11 years are crucial in establishing industry/competence or inferiority. Mr. Erikson saw the 12-18 years as the questioning of self years. Would the child conclude their own identity or slip into role confusion. Hence, the formative years exceed the first few years of a child’s life. These two age categories are when the school counselor may have the most positive affect.

Ironically, Mr. Erikson lacked even a Bachelor’s degree. Yet, he was been associated with distinguished institutions as: Yale, Harvard Medical School, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Those seeking or contemplating a career as a school or education counselor may have realized that in this profession-more is better with respect to your degree. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) reports the median salary with a Master’s degree being $53,660 as of 2014. The job growth or change through 2024 is expected to be 22,500 jobs or 8% turnover. The BLS states there were 273,400 employed in the profession in 2014. The majority of positions are in elementary and secondary schools and the highest incomes are paid in major cities, such as Trenton, NJ (average $90k), Tuscon, AZ (average $68k), and Dallas, TX ($67k), according to the U.S. News & World Report in 2015.

An assortment of criteria has been used in this ranking; for example, the school’s history and academic standards, professional reviews (U.S. News), the curriculum as it pertains to this topic, and our assessment of the respective programs in totality.

1.  Capella University

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The Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science offers an online Master of Science School Counseling program. This degree will prepare you to take on an expanded role in assisting vulnerable K-12 populations. This state-approved, CACREP-accredited program is built on the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model. The program is part of the NCATE-accredited Professional Education Unit. This accreditation covers advanced educator preparation programs at Capella. However, the accreditation does not include individual education courses that the institution offers to K–12 educators for professional development, relicensure, or other purposes. This master’s program includes the following integrated components: online coursework, residencies, and field experiences. Each facet of your education builds on the others to take you through your program and prepare you for state licensure eligibility.

This master’s program requires the completion of 2 residencies and the corresponding courses (COUN5910 and COUN5911). Residency allows you to interact with fellow students and faculty in person, to gather important information to help you through your program, and to learn and practice basic skills in your specialization area. Each residency begins with an online course, including self-paced modules, assignments, and assessments. The course opens approximately 3 weeks prior to the residency. Next in the process is an in-person weekend residency experience, followed by completion of a companion course in the following quarter, providing the opportunity to use the skills acquired at residency. During your residency you can expect to consult with faculty to receive direction, feedback, and help as well as participate in peer review sessions.

Tuition: $487 per credit; may transfer up 10 12 credits

2. University of Texas-Tyler

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The University of Texas at Tyler is part of the prestigious University of Texas System that includes 14 institutions located throughout the state. Founded in 1971, UT Tyler today enrolls more than 8,500 students and consists of seven colleges. The College of Education and Psychology offers three bachelor’s degrees, eight master’s degrees (school counseling), a post-master’s superintendent’s certification program, and a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.

The Master of Arts in School Counseling program at UT Tyler prepares proficient, creative, and multi-culturally competent school counselors to: (a) assume an active role in counseling, consulting, and leadership, (b) promote academic excellence and equal learning opportunities for all students, and (c) base their work on a fundamental understanding of comprehensive developmental school counseling programs, including methods of planning, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. The program curriculum is designed to align with the Texas School Counselor standards and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) guidelines. This degree meets the requirements for counselor certification set forth by the Texas State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC).

The School Counseling program is a cohort program that begins each Summer. There is no Fall or Spring entry into this 39-hour program that can be completed in a few as 18 months. Their TExES passing rates among the best in Texas with 99% pass rate for school counseling students, putting our graduates among the best prepared in Texas.

Tuition: The tuition rate is based on $50 per semester credit hour for Texas Residents and $440 per semester credit hour for Non-Texas Residents. Designated Tuition Fee is a required fee based on a $222 per graduate semester credit hour  for Texas Resident, and a $225 per graduate semester credit for Non-Texas Residents.

3. Walden University

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The university was founded in 1970 by two teachers who sought a way for adults in the workforce to pursue their doctoral degrees. Bernie and Rita Turner laid the groundwork for the university, in collaboration with Harold “Bud” Hodgkinson, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2015, Walden becomes only the sixth institution with direct assessment approval by the U.S. Department of Education.

This Master of Science in School Counseling program  is tailored to the actual needs and challenges of school counselors today, including the use of technology and preparing pre- K to grade 12 students for college and careers. There is an optional accelerated track allows you to complete your coursework faster and earn your degree sooner. This option requires a strong time commitment and is best suited for students who can dedicate themselves full time to their studies. This degree also has two mandatory residencies: first one is in the 3rd or 4th term and the second face-to-face is before COUN 6401S practicum.

The 75 total quarter credits (66 core courses and 9 field experience) degree is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).  As a recognized standard of excellence in professional education for the preparation of teachers, administrators, and other pre-K to 12th grade school professionals, NCATE accreditation ensures that the institution has met rigorous national standards set by the profession and members of the public. The MS in School Counseling program is not accredited by CACREP, but according to the latter’s site, Walden is in the process of having its Masters in School Counseling accredited. Program accreditation requirements for licensure as a school counselor vary from state to state.

Tuition: $425 per quarter credit + 2 Pre-practicum labs ($1,450 each: travel, lodging & expenses)

4. University of Central Arkansas

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Located 30 miles from Little Rock, and founded in 1907, UCA is considered one of the best and most affordable options for higher education in the South. Thus, it has become  a premier learner-focused public comprehensive university, a nationally recognized leader for its continuous record of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, scholarly and creative endeavors, and engagement with local, national, and global communities. It has flourished under the core values of: intellectual excellence, community, diversity, and integrity.

Currently, the tally of certificates and degrees offered is: 150 (2 Certificate of Proficiency, 2 Technical Certificates, 3 Associate’s Degrees, 84 Undergraduate, 10 Graduate Certificate, 31 Master’s Degrees, 11 Post-Master’s Certificates, 1 Specialist Program, and 6 Doctoral).

The School counseling Program offers a Master’s of Science (MS) in Professional School Counseling. The program of study consists of 48 semester hours including practicum and internship field experiences. The program is offered in an online format that includes primarily synchronous class sessions with occasional asynchronous and face-to-face sessions at the UCA main campus in Conway, AR. The purpose of this program is to prepare professional school counselors for creating, implementing, and maintaining comprehensive developmental school counseling programs based on state and national standards. The program curriculum aligns with the American School Counselor Association, National Model, and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education Standards.

There are two tracks available to gaining licensure as a professional school counselor in Arkansas. This program prepares students in each track:

Initial Licensure Track – Prepares individuals without an Arkansas teaching license to become professional school counselors

Add-on Licensure Track – Prepares those individuals that possess an Arkansas teaching license for additional licensure in the area of professional school counseling

Tuition: $300 per hour

5. Fort Hays State University

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Founded in 1902, the school was housed in one building, Picken Hall, in 1904. Since then, Fort Hays State University has grown to an enrollment exceeding 13,000, of which 6300+ are enrolled in their Virtual College. They provide hands-on learning with expert faculty members that take pride in making personal relationships that last beyond your college years. Located in the heart of Kansas, is a true world leader in distance education, offering over 40 online degrees specifically designed for adult learners. It has been recognized as a “Best Online” (U.S. News & World Report 2014 and 2015) for their associates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They’ve been helping students fit life-enhancing college courses into their busy lives for more than 20 years. Today, more than 6,000 students in over 20 countries make up their virtual student body, and our online courses. All online classes are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Their innovative online programs allow you to fit your degree around your busy schedule. At FHSU, online doesn’t mean impersonal. Once you are admitted into the program, an expert in your area of interest will guide you throughout your studies.

FHSU offers a Master of Science in Counseling with the choice of School Counseling or Clinical Mental Health specializations. Applicants to this master’s program require a 3.00 on last 60 undergraduate credit hours, 2 letters of recommendation, an acceptable MAT score or combined verbal and quantitative score on the GRE (waived if student holds a Master’s). You must also supply a personal statement of goals and professional experience.  The Counseling program accepts applications throughout the year.  The School Counseling curriculum mandates three, 4-day on-campus courses:

  • COUN 827 Counseling Skills Development
  • COUN 838 Group Counseling: Theories and Procedures
  • COUN 847 Professional and Ethical Issues in Counseling

Each of these courses is 3 credit hours. There are total of 45 hours needed for completion of the degree. However, this is not a CACREP accredited program.

Tuition: $272.71 per credit hour

6. University of Tennessee-Martin

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The University of Tennessee at Martin provides high-quality undergraduate and graduate educational programs to West Tennessee and beyond. From the founding in 1900 of Hall-Moody Institute, through the establishment in 1927 of UT Junior College, to today’s status as a comprehensive public university, UT Martin is committed to preparing students for success in the global economy. The main campus is located in Northwest Tennessee about 125 miles northeast of Memphis, 150 miles northwest of Nashville and 60 miles north of Jackson. UT Martin is home to UT Online, the University of Tennessee’s online programs for both undergraduate and graduate education. The Princeton Review has named UT Martin a “Best College in the Southeast” for 14 consecutive years. Also, the university is tied for 16th among public, southern, master’s level institutions in the 2017 edition of the “Best Regional Universities,” compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

The school offers four different concentrations within their fully online counseling program: School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health, Addictions, and Student Affairs and College Counseling. The Master of Science in Education with a Major in School Counseling is a 48 credit hours (minimum) curriculum. The primary parts to the course are: Graduate Core (6-9 hours), Concentration (24 hours), School Counseling Specialization (12 hours), and Culmination Experience (6 hours). In addition, there are numerous suggested electives to chose.  In order to be recommended for licensure as a School Counselor, the State Department of Education stipulates that candidates without teaching experience will have a semester-long orientation experience in a (preK-12) school as an early part of the preparation program. Students will meet this requirement by successful completion of Counseling 712 Learning and Instruction and 30 hours of observation (15 hours in Elementary K-6; 15 hours in Secondary 7-12 setting).

Tuition: $563 per credit (in-state); $670 (out-of-state)

7. Texas A&M University

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The Department of Educational Psychology (EPSY) is the largest producer of special and bilingual education teachers in the State of Texas. EPSY was established in 1969, during the creation of the College of Education. This department strives to promote and maintain collaborative teaching and research activity within the department and across the College and University. The 1977 Strategic Plan established a four-fold plan for the college in the areas of international activity, diversity, technology and high impact research and instructional programs.

TAMU’s Department of Educational Psychology offers a 100% online 36 hour Master of Education degree with a School Counseling track. Classes are offered in both asynchronous and synchronous formats, and the program should be completed in two years. Practicum experience takes place during the second year with both beginning and advanced placements. A thesis is not required. The curriculum uses a scholar-practitioner approach that integrates the use of current technology, on-site practicum experiences, and intellectual and creative resources to work with an increasingly diverse and global society. The school counseling curriculum educates well-rounded counselors who demonstrate competence included in the high standards as set forth by the Texas Education Agency and the American School Counselor Association.

The program requires two semesters of practicum at a K-12 school (public or private). To be eligible for the practicum sequence, all courses on the degree plan must be completed. Practicum hours cannot be accrued until students are enrolled in the practicum courses. Students are responsible for arranging the practicum with a school near their location as well as supervision from a certified school counselor. Students who cannot make arrangements for practicum completion will not be permitted to graduate from the program. The practicum phase  is intended to provide students with the opportunity to develop basic counseling skills, as well as to integrate theoretical understanding into practical counseling application.

Tuition: $257.64 per semester hour (TX resident)

8. Lamar University

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Home to 15,000 students, Lamar University, located near Houston in Beaumont, TX, is among the fastest growing Texas colleges and universities, and is a member of The Texas State University System. LU offers more than 100 programs of study leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Their  online master’s degree programs have been ranked third in the 2015 Rankings of the 50 Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools for Master’s Degrees by College Choice, an independent online publication.

The school’s 48-hour Master of Education in School Counseling is designed to prepare educators to provide professional school counseling services. This master’s degree program is specifically for certified teachers who possess at least a bachelor’s degree and are interested in becoming part of a school’s professional support services team. This non-thesis program is designed to prepare educators to meet the requirements of School Counselor credentialing articulated by national and state standards and the Texas State Board for Educator Certification standards. Graduates will be prepared to address the needs of K-12 students for academic, social/emotional, and career development. Also, they will be able to Implement a comprehensive developmental guidance plan for elementary and secondary schools. However, in order to be considered for this degree, 2 years teaching experience in a K-12 setting is required.

All students in the School Counseling Program are required to attend one residency during the course of the program and will not be able to move into field experience without the completed residency. The residency course is essential for program faculty to evaluate students’ skills in individual counseling and group counseling. You are required to attend the entire residency and to complete all online components to receive credit. Residency is typically offered each term. Field experience courses (Practicum and Internship) require a placement with a site local to the student in order to gain further school counseling experience prior to graduation.

Tuition: $705 per 3-hour course + $120 fee per 3-hour course

9. Salem College

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Salem College traces its history to April 1772, when the Moravian community of Salem, North Carolina, founded a school for girls and appointed Sister Elisabeth Oesterlein as its first teacher. Under the supervision of Salem’s boards and thanks to the teaching of the Single Sisters, the school flourished and provided the girls of late-eighteenth century Salem with as rigorous an education as the boys of the town received. Today, the four-year liberal arts school for women is an intimate learning community of 1,100 women from all over the world and is one of our nation’s most distinguished private liberal arts colleges.

Money magazine has named Salem one of the top 10 “Best Buys” among women’s colleges seven years in a row. They were also ranked in the top 150 “Best Buys” for all colleges and universities in the US and one of the top 25 “Best Buys” among liberal arts colleges in the Southeast. It is ranked one of the top “Character-Building Colleges” in the nation by the John Templeton Foundation.

Their online Master of Education in School Counseling (MEd – SC) program prepares passionate educators who want to make a difference in the lives of students. As one of the top Master of Education degree programs in North Carolina, this online graduate program meets the expectations and needs of the most sophisticated and demanding educators. Through a research-driven program, Salem’s online MEd – SC degree program allows students to gain the knowledge and skills required to become licensed school counselors. The program is comprised of online classes, internship experiences and two weekend seminars on the beautiful Salem College campus. The 48 credit hours degree can be completed in 36 months.

Tuition: $1,440 per three-credit hour class

10. Angelo State University

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San Angelo Junior College opened its doors in 1928 on North Oakes Street near downtown San Angelo. When classes began, 112 students enrolled with city students paying $75 tuition and out-of-town students $115. In May 1929, six students walked across the stage in the institution’s first commencement exercise. Today, ASU has more than 27,000 alumni around the globe. Their graduate nursing and education programs have each been ranked among the top programs nationally for their online degree offerings by U.S. News and World Report for its 2017 edition of “Best Online Programs.” Currently, there are more than 100 majors and concentrations that lead to 42 undergraduate degrees, 21 master’s degrees and one doctoral degree.

The Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Guidance and Counseling program is designed for those interested in careers as public school counselors, college and university counselors, and other positions in counseling. Candidates have the option upon completion of the degree to take the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES) for the Professional Certificate for School Counselors. You must complete a minimum of 36 semester credit hours of graduate work, including all academic requirements, for the Professional Certificate for School Counselors exam. The program is offered in 8-week courses that are 100-percent online, allowing students to complete the program in less than two years.

You must complete a minimum of 36 semester credit hours of graduate work, including all academic requirements, for the Professional Certificate for School Counselors exam. In addition to coursework, students must complete a Comprehensive Program Review (CPR). Prospective graduates must apply for the Comprehensive Program Review (CPR) no later than the first day of the last semester of coursework.

Tuition: $458 per credit hour

11. Southern Arkansas University

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The mission of Southern Arkansas University is to educate students for productive and fulfilling lives in a global environment by providing opportunities for intellectual growth, individual enrichment, skill development, and meaningful career preparation. In 2010, Southern Arkansas University ratified our long-standing commitment to continuous improvement in higher education by adopting the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) model of accreditation. The AQIP program is a quality-based, continuous improvement model of accreditation promoted by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school has been accredited by the HLC since 1929. Today, they offer more than 358 online courses each year, through which students can earn credits toward a degree, minor, or certificate program. You would join over 1,208 students who are currently enrolled in online courses.

The university’s online Master of Education in School Counseling Program prepares knowledgeable, self-aware professional school counselors and fulfills the licensure requirements for school counseling K-12 for both advanced and initial credentials in Arkansas and most other states. With an appropriate balance of theoretical emphasis and practical application,graduates are trained to address the developmental needs of children and adolescents and to implement Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Programs that are consistent with the American School Counselor Association’s National Model and National Standards. All candidates for the master’s degree with specialization in school counseling will be required to complete 48 semester hours. The curriculum consists of Professional Education Core Courses (6 hours), Counseling Core Courses (33 hours), Supervised Experience (9 hours), plus 12-18 hours of courses leading to School Counseling Graduate Certificate. Applicants to the M.Ed. in School Counseling are required to submit a letter of application to the Director of Counselor Education prior to admission to the program.

Tuition: $279 per hour (in-state); $414 (out-of-state)

12. Gwynedd Mercy University

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Founded by the Sisters of Mercy of Merion in 1948, Gwynedd Mercy University has a long history of helping students make a difference—in their lives and in the lives of others. It is one of the 16 Catholic colleges and universities that comprise the Conference for Mercy Higher Education. Our heritage is based on the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic order founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland in 1831. Her mission was to serve people who were suffering injustices due to poverty, sickness, and a lack of education, especially women and children. Today, the university carries on this spirit by infusing the Mercy charism into our teaching and learning community.

Currently, the school offers 40+ undergraduate and graduate programs with an 84% retention rate of 1st year students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1-who teach 2,035 undergraduates (Fall 2016) and 632 graduates. They have been honored with the Military Friendly Award 2017, Catholic Colleges Distinction Award 2016-17, and Top 20 Schools in Pennsylvania for Return on Investment in 2016.

The School of Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) offers a variety of online and accelerated programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Their online Master’s Degree in School Counseling can help you pursue certification as an Elementary and Secondary School Counselor, (PreK-12) within the state of Pennsylvania. The curriculum emphasizes helping processes and behavioral sciences, equipping you to provide students support with social, academic, emotional, and career development issues. And you can do it in a format that respects your career and family obligations. You’ll complete your coursework online, taking each class in seven-week blocks, using industry-leading interactive collaboration tools. You’ll carry out in-person practicum experiences with support and personal guidance from our expert faculty members.

Tuition: $525 per credit

13. National University

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The Department of School Counseling and School Psychology offers a graduate degree leading to the Master of Science in Educational Counseling and a recommendation for a Pupil Personnel School Counseling Credential (PPSC). This program is aligned with national standards and prepares candidates for the position of school counselor. Graduates of this program generally seek employment as school counselors in P-12 schools and employment in a institution of higher education.

Candidates enrolled in the degree and/or credential program are not awarded the master’s degree until they have successfully completed all coursework, the action research project and the PRAXIS exam. All coursework must be completed prior to the PPSC credential recommendation. To receive this master’s degree, students must complete at least 81 quarter units of graduate work. Credentialed teachers may waive the CED605 course. A total of 13.5 quarter units of graduate credit may be granted for equivalent graduate work completed at another institution, as it applies to this degree and if the units were not used in earning another advanced degree and provided the coursework was completed within the past 7 years.

The Internship Requirements for Masters Degree with PPSC Credential Students (4 courses; 16.5 quarter units) are as follows: a minimum of 600 clock hours is required. The candidate will draft a plan with the Site Supervisor and University Supervisor, meet weekly with Site Supervisor for supervision, keep weekly logs of each 200 hours of internship, and submit logs to University Supervisor. In addition, candidates are required to complete 100 hours of practicum prior to starting internship.

Tuition: $416 per quarter unit; $1,872 4.5 Quarter Unit Course    

14. NYU-Steinhardt

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Their mission, maintained since founded in 1890, is to advance knowledge, creativity, and innovation at the crossroads of culture, education, and human development. The university offers  both undergraduate and graduate programs in applied psychology, education, the arts, health, and media. In this endeavor, the school has partnered with 2U, Inc. to power and support Counseling@NYU. Founded in 2008 by a team of education and technology veterans, 2U enables leading colleges and universities to deliver their high-quality degree programs online to qualified students everywhere. This allows students in their online Master of Arts in counseling programs access a virtual campus for their classes, course work, and networking.

The Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance is designed for aspiring school counselors who are passionate about working with students and families – in both public and private school systems – to help children achieve their personal and academic goals. Through a comprehensive curriculum of core and elective courses, you will learn the foundations of school counseling, counseling theory and process, group dynamics, cross-cultural counseling, and program development and evaluation. Their program uses the American School Counseling Association National Model.

Field learning is integral to school counselor training. The practicum occurs in your first year of the program, and it will be your first hands-on experience in school counseling. You are required to complete 100 hours of practicum training before your internship. After your complete the practicum, you will begin your internship and develop a professional identity by training with a certified professional counselor at schools in or near your community. You are required to complete 600 hours at your internship location. This degree can be completed full-time or part-time basis enabling the 49 credit program to be finished in 18 to 33 months.

Tuition: $1,596 per credit

15. University of the Southwest

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The university began as Hobbs Baptist College was chartered as a two-year junior college in 1956, and changed to New Mexico Baptist College when the school became a four-year college in 1958. In 1962, to reflect the expanded vision of the entire community that had now embraced this fledgling institution as their own, College of the Southwest was founded as an independent, non-denominational, four-year liberal arts college. Today, it is an accredited member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Master of Science in Education, School Counseling is a 42-credit, fully online degree program designed to prepare you for licensure as a school counselor in primary, elementary, middle, and high school settings. The curriculum consists of 12 hours of COre Courses, 24 of Major Requirements, and 6 hours of Electives. With coursework in counseling theories and techniques; counseling ethics; career development; and group, family and child/adolescent counseling, you will develop the knowledge and skill set to interact with students from varying backgrounds and serve as an advocate for their academic, career and personal success.

You will learn how to:

  • focus on the relations and interactions between students and their school environment with the expressed purpose of reducing the effect of environmental and institutional barriers that impede student academic success.
  • assist students with evaluating and considering future educational and career paths.
  • provide an atmosphere where all students can learn.

Practicums and an internship are required and can be completed in a variety of settings. Also, a minimum of 60 hours of supervised counseling experiences in a school counseling setting is required. This course includes working with diverse populations, experiences in varied types of counseling, and appropriate supervision.  Plus, a minimum of 300 hours of supervised placement in a school counseling setting is required. This course includes working with diverse populations, experiences in varied types of counseling, and appropriate supervision.

Tuition: $599 per semester hour

Editor’s Note:  The word “practicum” has been stated numerous times; for some this may require clarification as to what a practicum is. A practicum is a graduate level course, often in a specialized field of study, that is designed to give students supervised practical application of a previously or concurrently studied theory. These are common in graduate programs of education, psychology, counseling, and social work. As compared to practicums, internships take on the characteristics of a real job focusing on independent application of skills and knowledge in the workplace setting. Students are placed with on-site professionals who manage their workload and oversee their performance much as an administrator in an actual employment setting would.

Find The Right Degree Now!

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