Online Master’s Degrees in School & Guidance Counseling

As the name suggests, school and guidance counselors work in schools. They often work directly with individual students to help them cope with issues that might affect their home life, and hence their school productivity. School and guidance counseling in later years might be more focused on helping individual students prepare for and achieve their post-high school education and career goals.

In addition to helping individual students, school and guidance counselors also apply their training to the school as a whole, to institute policies and effective learning environments that benefit the general school population. School and guidance counseling may take place in individual or group settings in K-12 schools or universities or in any setting in which emotional development affects a person’s school and career opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in school and guidance counseling are projected to rise 8 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations during the same period (4 percent).

School and guidance counselors need at least a master’s degree or significant relevant educational experience to be able to work in that field. Achieving that degree means core coursework, specialized coursework, and several hundred hours of supervised clinical experience before being eligible for state licensure as a counselor.

Getting an online master’s degree in school or guidance counseling is a convenient way for many modern students, who may already have family life or professional career obligations, to achieve their degree and launch their careers or enhance a career they already have within a school setting.

Typical Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in School & Guidance Counseling

An online master’s degree in school and guidance counseling offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals.

Many schools require a graduate admissions test score as part of their admissions process. Some don’t, so that is one of the first decisions that a student has to make. Studying for and taking a GRE can add weeks or months to a student’s timeline.

Admission to a master’s program requires that a student have a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum. While in many cases there are no requirements for the type of bachelor’s degree that a potential master’s student can have, many programs will give more consideration to an applicant who has a degree related to or complementary to counseling or education in some way such as psychology or sociology. Volunteer experience within a school setting or career or vocational setting would also be beneficial.

Typical admissions requirements for online master’s degrees in addiction counseling include:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A minimum GPA, often 2.7 or 3.0
  • Official transcripts from the student’s previous school
  • An essay outlining interest in the program
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume or CV outlining relevant work and volunteer history
  • A GRE, MAT, or another standardized test score, if required
  • A completed official application including the above information is submitted, typically with an application fee

During a master’s degree, students will complete many hours of supervised direct experience. Licensure is different in each state. However, the general standard for licensure is the completion of a 60-credit hour major with two years of post-degree supervised work and passing a state licensure exam. Students should determine the requirements for licensure in the state or states they would like to practice in the future.

Courses in Online Master’s Degrees in School & Guidance Counseling

Some common courses include:

  • Abnormal Behavior and Psychopathology
  • Advanced Group and Family Counseling
  • Qualitative Methods of Research
  • Human Sexuality
  • Analysis of Behavioral Data
  • Theories and Practice of Counseling Supervision
  • Counseling Leadership and Advocacy
  • Ethics and Legal Aspects of Counseling
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Grant Writing
  • Introduction to Secondary School Counseling
  • Introduction to Elementary/Middle School Counseling
  • Multicultural Issues in Counseling and Related Fields
  • Parenting and Parent Consultation
  • Psychosocial Development and Disability
  • Assessment in Schools
  • Career Counseling and Development
  • Anger Management
  • Counseling Boys and Men
  • Crisis Prevention
  • Grief, Death and Bereavement Counseling
  • Advanced Behavior Intervention
  • Psychological and Educational Measurement
  • Advanced Issues in Professional School Counseling
  • Substance Abuse and Society
  • Current Trends and Legal Issues in Educating Special Populations
  • Prevention and Intervention within Public Schools
  • Theories & Strategies for Counseling School-Aged Children
  • Career Development and Vocational Appraisal
  • Counseling Children and Adolescents
  • Counseling Applications of Lifespan Development
  • Counseling Diverse Populations
  • Crisis Intervention in Counseling
  • Basic Methods in Education Research
  • Group Processes in Counseling
  • Research Design and Writing
  • Supervised Practicum in School Counseling
  • School Counseling Internship

Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships – Online Master’s Degrees in School & Guidance Counseling

There is no national licensing or certification body for counseling education, which means that each state has its own procedures, requirements, and even levels of licensure. It is up to each state to determine its requirements for licensure and educational minimums, so it is of the utmost importance to research the standards in the state in which you wish to practice to be sure that your choice of schools and programs meets their needs.

In addition to academic coursework, most online master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling include supervised hands-on experiences in the form of practicums (100 to 150 hours) and internships (600 to 700 hours). While most state requirements are similar, they are different enough that the requirements that are met in one state will not necessarily be valid in another state.

The American School Counselor Association maintains an updated list of each state’s requirements for licensure. Alabama, for instance, requires a 100-hour practicum including a minimum of 40 clock hours of supervised, direct service work in individual and group counseling with early childhood/elementary and secondary school students. They also require a 600-hour school-based internship.

Alaska, on the other hand, has no experience requirements but does require completion of three semester-hours of Alaska studies, and three semester-hours in multicultural education or cross-cultural communication.

Connecticut, a state with more traditional experience requirements, has specific standards. They require a minimum of 30 semester-hours of credit in a planned program in school counseling services as part of (or in addition to) the master’s degree required coursework. Also, they require completion of a minimum of 36 hours of study in a special education program for gifted and talented children and special-needs children in the regular classroom. Following that, a 10-month, 700-hour minimum supervised school counseling internship is also required.

Check out the specialized requirements for credentialing within each state on the school counselor career and licensure page.

Program Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in School & Guidance Counseling

The benefit of attending a college or university school and guidance counselor program that is nationally recognized is that the student can be sure they are attending a program that meets certain respected educational parameters. An accredited school has comprehensive educational programs, experienced faculty members, and plenty of student resources. Schools, school districts, and other settings that employ school or guidance counselors generally look more favorably on applicants who have graduated from a nationally recognized program.

Program accreditation for online master’s degrees in school and guidance counseling is overseen by the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) Specialized Professional Association (SPA) under the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which was formerly known as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Another program, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs, or CACREP, certifies counseling education programs.

CACREP standards address faculty requirements, credit-hour and internship requirements, student and faculty evaluation, and other issues. CAEP SPA standards address student knowledge only. The ASCA’s FAQs explain that while there are some similarities between the two sets of standards, the ASCA standards focus on the essential knowledge and skills necessary to be a successful school counselor. CACREP standards do not differentiate between school counselors and clinical counselors.

CAEP standards are written for different fields of teaching (e.g., elementary, special education, secondary mathematics) and for other school professionals (e.g., principals, librarians, school psychologists). To earn the ASCA national recognition, colleges/universities must be accredited by CAEP.

Another council, the Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), accredits master’s programs that have been vetted specifically for their mental health offerings.

Featured Online Master’s in School & Guidance Counseling Programs

Albany State University – College of Business, Education, and Professional Studies

Within Albany State University’s three concentration areas of their counseling education program is the 63-semester-hour school counseling program. Applicants do not have to be certified teachers to be admitted to the program.

Students who earn the master of education in counselor education with a concentration in school counseling are eligible for Georgia T-5 Certification in School Counseling. Online students are required to complete at least 2 four-day on-campus residencies.

  • Location: Albany, Georgia
  • Duration: 63 semester-hours, two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC), Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP),
  • Tuition: $300 per credit plus fees, online program

Bradley University

Bradley’s program is an online master of arts in counseling with a specialization in professional school counseling. This program prepares students for the National Counselor Exam and though it is online, allows students to complete practicums locally.

To graduate with this degree, students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework, including one practicum, two internships and two, 1-week-long in-person residencies. The first residency will take place during the student’s first term, and the second will occur in the eighth term.

  • Location: Peoria, Illinois
  • Duration: 60 credits, two years
  • Accreditation: Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Tuition: $930 per semester plus fees

Auburn University – Department Of Special Education, Rehabilitation And Counseling

Auburn’s school counseling master of education program is offered both on-campus and online. This degree provides graduates with the ability to apply for a Class A Alabama professional educator certification.

  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • Duration: 60 hours, two years
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Tuition: By semester: $5,898 plus fees Alabama resident; $15,978 plus fees non-resident

Adams State University

Adams State University has an online counseling education program leading to a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. Online program students are required to attend two one-week sessions on the Adams State campus in each of the two summer sessions, usually in June.

Completion of the school counseling curriculum leads to the student being qualified to apply for licensure as a school counselor in the State of Colorado. Adams State University accepts students in the fall, spring, and summer.

  • Location: Alamosa, Colorado
  • Duration: 60 credits, seven to eight semesters
  • Accreditation: Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $435 per credit plus fees

Capella University

Capella’s online master of science in school counseling follows the traditional GuidedPath course of study, meaning the coursework is based on the quarter system of one to three courses per ten-week quarter (1 semester-credit = 1.5 quarter-credits).

Courses are online, with two in-person residencies required. Each residency is embedded within a six-week online course. The course opens approximately three weeks prior to the five-day in-person residency, with two days allotted for travel. All of Capella’s core faculty hold doctorates.

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Duration: 72 quarter-credits (48 quarter-credits)
  • Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Tuition: $487 plus fees per credit

The College of William & Mary – School of Education

The College of William & Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after Harvard University. It was founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II. William and Mary’s online counseling program offers a master of education with concentrations in clinical mental health counseling, military and veterans counseling, and school counseling.

The online MEd in counseling programs require that students participate in two on-site residencies which will take place before students begin their practicum and again before starting their internship. The two, 3-day residencies take place at William & Mary’s historic campus in Williamsburg, Virginia. Each program is 60 credit hours and includes a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of an internship.

  • Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Duration: 60 credits
  • Accreditation: William & Mary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Tuition: Contact the school for a customized tuition assessment.

Edinboro University – School of Graduate Studies

Edinboro offers an online master of science in education with a specialization in school psychology. School psychologists are similar to school or guidance counselors in that they offer a variety of services to schools including classroom and overall school consultation, observation, assessment, and testing.

This is a unique hybrid program in which courses are offered online and weekends with face-to-face classes once a month during the fall and spring semesters. Students can graduate within three years by following the program of coursework the first year, coursework and fieldwork the second year, and a full-time internship the third year.

  • Location: Edinboro, Pennsylvania
  • Duration: 63 credits, thre years
  • Accreditation: Edinboro University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. All school personnel programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Tuition: $516 plus fees, Pennsylvania resident, off-campus, online; $774 plus fees, non-resident

Emporia State University – Department of Counselor Education

Emporia’s master’s program is designed for students who do not already hold a teaching license or have no teaching experience. About half of the program is available online. Candidates may complete the program at the Emporia campus or at the Overland Park, Kansas, campus.

All courses in Overland Park are offered in late afternoons, evenings, or online during the spring, summer and fall semesters. This program prepares students for licensure in Kansas. There are both thesis and non-thesis options for this program.

  • Location: Emporia, Kansas
  • Duration: 48 hours, 2.5 to three years
  • Accreditation: Emporia State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Tuition: $17,545 estimated program cost

Hampton University

Hampton Online offers a master of arts in counseling with a concentration in general counseling, along with an educational specialist in counseling program. The MA in counseling qualifies students for certification in Virginia as a Qualified Mental Health Provider. Hampton University offers the master’s in counseling online and on campus. Hampton also offers counseling degrees with concentrations in school counseling.

The master’s in counseling, in Virginia or online, consists of 30 semester-hours with the requirement of a comprehensive examination. Admission requirements are the same for all programs. The online educational specialist degree in counseling program is designed for students who have completed a master of arts degree in counseling and want more career-specific specialization.

  • Location: Hampton, Virginia
  • Duration: 30 or 31 semester-hours
  • Accreditation: Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The programs are accredited by the Council of Accredited Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP).
  • Tuition: $695 plus fees per credit

Professors to Know in Online Master’s in School & Guidance Counseling Programs

Mark Manzanares, PhD

Chair of the Department of Counselor Education
Adams State University

Dr. Mark Manzanares received his PhD in education and human resources studies from Colorado State University and his master’s in community counseling and his BA in psychology from Adams State University. 

Dr. Manzanares has served as the Department Chair for the past five and a half years and will return to the classroom this spring to dedicate his time to working with students. As a chair, the administrative duties kept him from his passion for helping students in the development of being a counselor. He will also return to researching the role of relationships in the therapeutic process. His other interest is exploring how entitlement, self-concept plays a role in anxiety and depression in adolescents young adults.

In addition to his classroom and research pursuits, he will spend his time and expertise supporting the university’s online initiative. Dr. Manzanares has over twenty years of experience in online learning and with the success of Adams State’s Counselor Education online program will work to develop the university’s online degree offerings.

Danielle Nimako, PhD

Assistant Professor of Counselor Education
Coordinator, Undergraduate Internship Program
Emporia State University

Dr. Danielle Dede Nimako earned her bachelor of arts degree in psychology and dance studies from the University of Ghana. She earned her master in arts in rehabilitation counseling from Michigan State University and a PhD in rehabilitation counselor education from Michigan State.

Dr. Nimako is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). She has had administrative, counseling, teaching and research experience in a variety of settings making her a well-rounded professional. Notably, she has worked extensively with individuals with autism and their families and is currently involved in developing, implementin,g and evaluating psychoeducational programs for caregivers of transition-age individuals with autism both in Ghana and the United States.

For two years, she assisted with all program evaluation elements for the grant-funded cooperation between Michigan State University and Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS). Her research focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families in areas where access to resources is limited. She has a keen interest in training and educating rehabilitation practitioners, global disability issues, disability policies in developing countries, and multicultural issues in the field of rehabilitation counseling.

Nancy Sherman, PhD

Professor and Clinical Coordinator for the Counseling program
Bradley University

Dr. Nancy Sherman received her PhD in counselor education from Ohio State University. Prior to joining the department in 1992, she held positions as a professional counselor at Denison University, the Women’s Tri-County Help Center Inc., CompDrug, Inc., and in private practice. Her APA-approved doctoral internship in psychology was completed at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

Dr. Sherman was recently awarded her third Fulbright Award to teach counseling courses at the Immanuel Kant Federal Baltic University in Kaliningrad, Russia. Her second Fulbright in 2008 was a lecturing/research award to teach career counseling at the University of Oradea in Oradea, Romania, and to conduct research on the vocational identity of Romanian University students. Her first Fulbright Award was for teaching at the Higher School of Social Work and Social Pedagogy “Attistiba” in Riga, Latvia, in 2001.

Dr. Sherman teaches primarily the courses assessment in counseling, pre-practicum, and practicum/internship. Since 1995, Dr. Sherman has served as faculty advisor to the Beta Phi Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the International Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society. Dr. Sherman is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois, and an Approved Clinical Supervisor.

Jobs for Those With an Online Master’s Degree in School & Guidance Counseling

Jobs for those with an online master’s egress in school and guidance counseling can vary depending on the age level of the students.

School and guidance counselors who work with young children are typically more focused on ensuring academic success and personal development. School counselors who work with older students may be more focused on ensuring the requirements for graduation are met and preparing a student for their post-high school education or career path.

Elementary counselors often deal with the social challenges students may be facing. They may spend a lot of time developing programs to support the school as a whole such as an anti-bullying program or support for LGBTQ+ students, as well as working with individual students and their parents. Elementary school guidance counselors support teachers and consult with the school’s principal to address any systemic problems.

Middle school guidance counselors also help students with personal, social, and academic development. They may do more to support the peer acceptance of students, through support groups and extracurricular activities. Middle school counselors do work that is similar to that of an elementary school guidance counselor.

A high school guidance counselor will also do work to support the school as a whole and individual students, but their focus may be more on preparing students for college or helping them choose and prepare for a career. They may coordinate college-campus visits and help students who are applying to schools for financial support.

School counselors may also work in career or technical vocational schools helping students determine if that path is right for them. Colleges and universities also employ career counselors who do similar work.

Vanessa Salvia

Vanessa Salvia


Vanessa Salvia is an Oregon-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As fun as rigorous studies in math and science were, Vanessa took an independent path and developed a prolific career covering lifestyle and healthcare topics for magazines and newspapers, important industries such as concrete construction and building waterproofing, and even hard science. You can get in touch at Sage Media and Marketing.