School Counseling Master’s Programs

Master Degree Programs in School Counseling

In most states, completion of a master’s degree program in school counseling is the minimum requirement for becoming a certified school counselor.

School counselors need a solid foundation in student psychology and theory to contribute to their schools’ overall mission and to help their schools and school districts meet their goals.

The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) has identified the key concepts and competencies covered in school counseling master’s programs across the nation.

  • Human Growth and Development
  • Theories
  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Testing/Appraisal
  • Research and Program Evaluation (Assessments)
  • Professional Orientation
  • Career Development
  • Supervised Practicum
  • Supervised Internship

Master’s programs are accredited by specialized accrediting agencies, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Professional accreditation aligns with the ASCA Specialized Professional Association standards for school counselors licensed to work with students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

These standards include:

  1. Foundational Knowledge
  2. Core Theories and Concepts
  3. Student Learning Outcomes
  4. Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Comprehensive School Counseling Programs
  5. Professional Practice
  6. Ethical Practice

The ASCA’s standards are one set of standards for master’s degree programs in school counseling. CACREP has also established standards for these programs:

  • Section 1: The Learning Environment
  • Section 2: Professional Counseling Identity
  • Section 3: Professional Practice
  • Section 4: Evaluation in the Program
  • Section 5: Entry-Level Specialty Areas
  • Section 6: Doctoral Standards for Counselor Education and Supervision

These standards exist to assure the quality of school counselor preparation programs offered by higher education institutions across the nation and to verify that these programs can provide students with a comprehensive education that includes the foundation and concepts of school counseling.

us department of education

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a School Counselor?

You will need a master’s degree to become a school counselor. Higher education institutions across the United States offer on-campus, fully online and hybrid master’s degree programs with titles such as:

  • School Counseling
  • Counseling with a Concentration in School Counseling
  • Human Service Counseling
  • Counseling and Guidance
  • Educational Psychology
  • Counselor Education
  • Educational Counseling
  • Counseling Psychology, School Counseling Track

An accredited master’s program that covers approved topics and standards will typically meet the educational requirements for becoming a school counselor in most states. Additionally, these programs will require the practicum and internship criteria that align with state standards and the recognition standards of accrediting bodies, including:

  • American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP)
  • American Counseling Association (ACA)
  • U.S. Department of Education (DOE)
  • Most states’ education departments

Remember, a master’s degree is the minimum qualification for school counselors in primary and secondary schools, which include pre-K through grade 12. Most counselors who work on university and college campuses are licensed as mental health counselors and psychologists.

If you are interested in becoming licensed for a broader range of ages and student populations, you should consider enrolling in a dual degree program. This will allow you to attain your mental health counseling license and certification as a school counselor for pre-K through 12.

students listening to lecture

How Long Will it Take to Earn My Master’s Degree in School Counseling?

Master’s degree programs for aspiring school counselors generally take at least two years to complete for full-time students. In addition to relevant coursework, school counselor master’s programs include a practicum and internship, each comprising a set number of hours during which students have the opportunity to work in a real-world school setting under the supervision of an experienced school counselor and mentor.

Some colleges and universities offer accelerated—or “fast track”—programs, both online and on-campus, and some allow students to enroll on a part-time basis, so it is difficult to say exactly how long it will take you to earn your master’s degree in school counseling.

The length of time required to earn a master’s degree will be unique to your situation. But regardless of time it takes, earning a master’s degree will set you up for success when it comes to your career goals. Once you have accomplished this worthy achievement, you can begin the process of attaining school counseling certification in your state and enjoy extraordinary growth potential from there.

How Much Does a School Counseling Master’s Degree Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “In academic year 2021-22, the average amount of tuition and required fees for full-time graduate students at public postsecondary institutions operating on an academic year calendar system was $10,949. This is based on 1,594 institutions.”

Tuition for a school counseling master’s degree program varies based on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student, whether you enroll in a public or private institution, and the duration of the program.

For example, the University of Florida offers a 72-credit-hour Master of Education and Education Specialist dual-degree program that takes an average of 2.5 to 3 years to complete. This school counselor preparation program is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and costs $12,740 per year for in-state students, whereas out-of-state students pay an additional $17,394 every year.

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School Counseling Programs in Your State

You can learn more about other schools offering a master’s level school counseling program by searching your state’s Department of Education website or by contacting a certification representative.