The field of mental health spans a variety of settings and specializations, of which a growing demand is seen in school counseling. Pursuing a graduate degree in school counseling offers individuals with specialized training and even opportunities for dual licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a certified school counselor which adds to job prospects and potential income at the end of your educational journey.
What do school counselors do?
School counselors work in educational institutions, typically K-12 schools to ensure the academic, social, emotional, and career development of students. Some common components of the role include:
- Academic support: Counselors assist students in developing effective study and time management habits, along with training in academic goal setting. They assist with academic planning and provide support in overcoming challenges.
- Personal/social development: Assistance in developing social skills, intelligence, resilience, and positive relationships. Counselors address bullying, peer pressure, conflict resolution, and self-esteem. They may also provide individual and group counseling to students.
- Career development: Assistance in exploring career options, through identifying strengths, and interests, and setting career goals. Counselors provide guidance on college admissions, scholarships, vocational training, and other employment opportunities.
- College and post-secondary planning: Help students navigate the college application process. This includes the application process, interview preparation, and resources for entering the workforce in areas like the military.
- Crisis intervention: Handle crises to provide support to students in times of distress, trauma, or other emergencies. Counselors work with parents and the family to provide students with a positive and supportive school environment. They also provide teachers and staff with training and collaborate to address student needs.
Accreditations for school counseling programs
When deciding to pursue a graduate degree, various factors such as location, time commitments, and personal obligations must be carefully considered. In the field of mental health, obtaining a master’s degree provides a wide range of career opportunities, particularly for those aspiring to work as counselors or clinicians at the master’s or doctoral level. To ensure the best path toward this goal, it is recommended to enroll in an accredited program.
Accreditation is a distinguished recognition granted to educational institutions by accrediting bodies, signifying that the program adheres to established standards and guidelines for promoting excellence in education and training. Upon completion of a master’s program, most states require specific criteria to be met to obtain licensure as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LPA (Licensed Psychological Associate), or LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), along with certifications such as those pertaining to School Counseling. Choosing an accredited program ensures that students fulfill these requirements upon graduation, facilitating a smooth transition into the professional sphere.
The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the accrediting body responsible for overseeing education and training requirements for psychology programs at the master’s level. CACREP holds global recognition and encompasses a diverse range of mental health-related programs, including counseling, marriage and family therapy, addictions counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and school and educational counseling.
The following article highlights some top accredited online school counseling programs, along with features that make each program unique.
Online School Counseling programs
Liberty University provides a diverse range of accredited online degrees, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Students have the option to pursue a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health or a Master of Education in School Counseling among other programs. These online programs are designed with an 8-week term structure, allowing for shorter completion times compared to traditional on-campus programs. The curriculum consists of a 48-credit-hour course plan, including the practicum and internship requirements to graduate. The program is designed for dual licensure and certification in school counseling.
Affordability is a primary focus at Liberty University, as its online programs are known for being cost-effective. Around 80% of online students receive financial aid to support their education. The tuition rate is set at $615 per credit hour, and the program curriculum typically consists of 60 credit hours. As a result, students can expect to graduate within a two-year timeframe.
Walden University‘s Counseling Department is dedicated to offering accredited Master of Science degrees in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling, ensuring students are fully prepared for state licensure upon graduation. As an added advantage, the institution provides a dual degree option, which enhances students’ qualifications and gives them a competitive edge in the job market.
With a comprehensive curriculum spanning 90 credit hours, students can expect a robust educational experience that covers all essential aspects. The average cost per credit hour is approximately $505, and the typical duration for program completion and graduation is 33 months. To further specialize their expertise, students have the opportunity to focus on various areas such as addictions, forensics, marriage, and family counseling, military families and culture, and trauma and crisis counseling.
Walden University values its graduate students and offers a scholarship valued at approximately $7,000, along with other financial aid options and scholarships. This support significantly eases the financial burden associated with pursuing a graduate degree.
Adams State University
Adams State University is renowned for its accredited counseling education programs, which include a Master of Arts (MA) degree and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education, both recognized by CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs). The MA degree, requiring 60 credit hours, satisfies the academic and training criteria for professional licensure in Colorado. Students can specialize in either Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling. The MA program is offered entirely online, except for two mandatory week-long lab sessions. Similarly, the Ph.D. program is delivered online but mandates four one-week summer residencies.
The cost of attending the MA program is $435 per credit hour, while the Ph.D. program is priced at $575 per credit hour. Financial aid is available to 91% of full-time students, and the university offers over 100 scholarships annually. Furthermore, full-time students can take up to 16 credits without incurring additional costs after surpassing the 12-credit limit. To assist students further with their attendance expenses, a variety of grants, scholarships, loans, and special programs are offered.
Barry University presents a comprehensive Master of Science degree in Psychology that thoroughly prepares students for professional licensure upon graduation. This is a prerequisite for students’ acceptance into the Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) program. This online program offers the added advantage of encouraging students to engage in valuable professional networking opportunities. Students have the flexibility to choose between online or in-person classes and can embark on their educational journey in the Spring, Summer, or Fall terms. Typically, students complete the program within a span of two and a half to three years. The completion of the master’s and specialist program requires 71 credit hours.
With a commitment to affordability, Barry University strives to lower the cost of attendance, with tuition amounting to approximately $800 per credit hour. To further support students financially, the university provides various options such as graduate assistantships, scholarships, and financial aid opportunities. Additionally, students have the flexibility to maintain external employment while pursuing their education, allowing them to balance their professional and educational endeavors.
Capella University presents an extensive Master of Science degree in School Counseling, equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge for professional licensure upon completion. This program offers the flexibility of both online and in-person formats and comprises ten core courses and seven specialized courses. With a curriculum encompassing 90 credit hours, including valuable residencies and internships, students gain practical experience in the field. Additionally, the option to transfer credits from an accredited university provides a cost-effective approach to education.
The program’s tuition stands at $497 per credit hour, with a maximum of 20 transferable credits. To further support master’s students, Capella University offers the exclusive Capella Progress Reward scholarship, which can potentially reduce tuition costs by $2,500. This scholarship serves as an invaluable opportunity for students pursuing their master’s degree, alleviating financial burdens and making education more accessible.
East Carolina University
ECU presents a comprehensive Master of Science degree program in Counselor Education that aims to enhance students’ professional identity as counselors. The core curriculum focuses on three specialization areas: professional school counseling, student affairs and college counseling, and clinical mental health counseling.
All courses within the program are offered in a fully online format, ensuring flexibility for students. Faculty members provide support for experiential learning opportunities and training requirements. The curriculum consists of approximately 60 credit hours, encompassing educational core requirements, practicum training, and internship hours. Successful completion of the program prepares students for professional licensure upon graduation.
The average yearly tuition and fees for resident students amount to $5,213. One significant advantage of distance education is that it eliminates additional costs related to housing and transportation. ECU offers various opportunities for students to secure scholarships and graduate assistantships, providing additional financial support and resources.
Fort Hays State University
The FHSU College of Education presents enticing opportunities with its Master of Science degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling, delivered through flexible online or hybrid formats.
The School Counseling program prioritizes student flexibility by offering a balanced mix of online and on-campus courses. Students can conveniently complete 50% of the required courses online, while the remaining classes are scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays for face-to-face interaction. This comprehensive program comprises a 60-credit-hour curriculum, with certain courses overlapping with the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Students gain specialized knowledge and training, preparing them for licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors in Kansas.
The School Counseling program provides the convenience of fully online learning, catering to both full-time and part-time enrollment options for either an MS or EdS degree. While primarily designed for Kansas-based students, the online program welcomes students from across the nation. With a curriculum spanning approximately 60 credit hours, students can choose from a variety of program tracks to align with their interests and goals.
Notably, the cost per credit hour is remarkably affordable, averaging around $319.45. This makes the FHSU College of Education an ideal choice for working professionals seeking to advance their education without financial strain.
North Carolina Central University
NC Central University equips students pursuing the Master of Arts Degree in School Counseling with the necessary preparation for professional licensure and certification in educational and clinical settings. This program enables students to pursue licensure not only in North Carolina but also in other states. Additionally, students have the opportunity to qualify for licensure as a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, further expanding their career prospects.
As part of the program’s comprehensive 60-credit-hour curriculum, students are required to complete a practicum and internship, providing valuable hands-on experience in the field. The graduate tuition for this program typically ranges around $297 per credit hour. To support students financially, NC Central University offers various options such as graduate assistantships, scholarships, and additional sources of financial aid.
North Carolina State University
NC State University presents a comprehensive Counselor Education Program, offering specialized degrees in School Counseling, College Counseling and Student Development, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students have the flexibility to choose between online and in-person formats, enabling them to effectively balance their schedules and meet life’s demands. The program is specifically designed to equip students for licensure as an LMHC and School Counselor. Graduates are prepared for the National Counselor Examination. Students are offered a 1:1 ratio, with each student provided with a personal iPad for the duration of their program.
The online option follows a part-time, three-year program structure, allowing students to continue their education throughout the year. The annual tuition costs typically amount to around $12,041. NC State University takes pride in providing ample scholarship and financial aid opportunities, often covering a significant portion of students’ expenses. This commitment to financial support ensures that students can pursue their educational aspirations without undue financial strain.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
UAF’s School of Education offers Master of Education programs in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling, both of which are accredited. The program offers students the options of several certification and endorsement options. The programs provide flexibility for working professionals by offering courses through a combination of web-based synchronous meetings and asynchronous online modules.
The cost of attending these programs is $539 per credit hour. Most students enrolled in the program are eligible for scholarships and additional financial aid, making it more accessible. The curriculum follows a standard 60-credit-hour course plan, equipping students with the competencies needed for professional licensure upon completion of their studies.
Marshall University provides an exclusively online Master of Arts degree in School Counseling, enabling students to pursue a career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). The courses are offered in a hybrid or distance education format. The program typically allows students to graduate within two and a half years, depending on their enrollment status. Students are provided with hands-on support in finding appropriate internship sites, and eventual licensure and certification processes as they near graduation.
One notable advantage for students is the ability to count an approved counseling-related job towards their internship hours, enhancing their practical experience. The average cost per credit is approximately $509, and a significant number of students benefit from financial aid options, including federal grants and institutional scholarships, further easing the financial burden of pursuing the degree.
Northern State University
The School Counseling Program at Nothern State offers a Master of Science in Education degree aimed at preparing students for professional licensure and work in schools K-12. It features a comprehensive curriculum consisting of 60 credit hours, and students have the option to specialize in forensic counseling, which expands their professional capacities and opens up diverse opportunities.
As part of the program, students are required to complete a practicum and internship, during which they receive guidance from the program to choose from a variety of settings and available opportunities, ensuring a well-rounded practical experience.
The institution is committed to making education affordable and accessible, with approximately 95% of enrolled students receiving some form of financial aid. The cost of attendance is relatively low, with tuition averaging around $470 per credit hour. Students are encouraged to explore scholarships, grants, and loans, as well as student employment opportunities, to help offset the cost of attendance.
Regent University offers a Master of Arts degree in School Counseling that can be taken online or in person. The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours and students typically graduate in three years on average. Students are prepared for work in schools K-12 in public, private, and charter school environments.
Tuition rates are typically around $730 per credit hour and students have the option of being enrolled full-time or part-time, which enables maintaining a job alongside pursuing an education a cost-effective option. 81% of students receive some type of financial aid, and this college has a Yellow Ribbon program for service members.
Central Michigan University
The School Counseling program at CMU offers a Master of Arts degree in Counseling with a School Counseling Concentration. The program prepares students for work in K-12 populations, at elementary, middle, or high school levels. The program can be taken online or in person, and students may be enrolled in a full-time or part-time status.
The curriculum consists of a 60-credit hour course plan, which takes roughly three years to complete. Tuition ranges from around $758 per credit hour. Military members and spouses have special rates, along with at least 85% of students being eligible for scholarships or some type of financial aid.
William and Mary University
This Master of Education degree in Counseling with concentrations in either School Counseling or the Clinical sequence prepares students for professional licensure and additional certifications. The degree consists of a 60-credit-hour curriculum including the practicum and internship requirements, students typically graduate in two years.
Annual tuition rates range around $17,000. Students are offered many scholarship opportunities, along with graduate assistantships, and even employment opportunities, that help lower the cost of attendance.
George Fox University
George Fox University’s School of Education offers a Master of Education degree in Special Education. Students can enroll throughout the year and can complete the program in little as two years. The program itself consists of a 40-credit-hour curriculum for the Special Education specialization.
The cost is around $810 per credit hour with the total cost for the program being around $32,400. Further, students have other specializations including principal licensure, ESOL, reading, and special education, all of which lead to endorsements.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan offers a Master of Arts degree with a specialization in School Counseling that prepared students for professional licensure. This program incorporates a spiritual basis into its curriculum and prepares Professional School Counselors for work from pre-kindergarten to high school.
The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours, including the internship and clinical experience hours. Tuition on average is around $632 per credit hour, and financial aid is available in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, veterans benefits, and employer reimbursement. There are additional scholarships available specifically to counseling students.
The Master of Arts in Counseling program offers a School Counseling track that prepares students for professional licensure. This accredited program has flexible start dates, with an 8-week course structure. Students are offered a two, three, and four-year degree completion timeline.
The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours and is predominantly online coursework. Messiah offers no-fee tuition which is around $755 per credit hour. Graduate students are eligible for financial aid and other forms of scholarship opportunities available.
St. Bonaventure University
The Master of Science in Education School Counseling is designed to prepare students for a career as licensed school counselors. Students will be prepared to work in primary, middle, and high school environments. The program assists students in picking a local placement for their internship, and graduates have an 88% pass rate on the certification exam.
The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours, and students complete the program completely online. Tuition rates are at $829 per credit hour, and students qualify for several federal and state financial aid packages, along with scholarships and graduate assistantships. Students are also encouraged to maintain their full-time or part-time employment to help with the cost of attendance.