If the idea of counseling young people is appealing but the educational path is unclear, then earning one of several affordable online school counseling degrees might be the first step to take.
Counselors in educational settings are declining in numbers while the demand for their services is increasing. Today, school counselors are more important than ever, going beyond traditional roles to help students navigate an increasingly complex world by using appropriate strategies and coping skills. In view of this, the best programs offer flexible, innovative, economical ways that encourage interested candidates to earn counseling degrees.
Our comparison of online programs offering master’s degrees in school counseling were based on several factors. Choices were first culled from rankings such as U.S. News and World Report’s list of the best online graduate education programs. A total of 166 schools were evaluated. Next, only programs recognized by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, which holds programs accountable for professional standards with regard to curricula and quality, were considered. Finally, the average in-state tuition for graduate programs was compared and sorted from high to low for the top 10 schools.
Ranking the Tuition of the Top 10 CACREP Accredited Online School Counseling Master’s Degrees
#10. Regent University: Virginia Beach, Virginia
School of Psychology and Counseling
Master of Arts in Counseling with Professional Counselor Eligibility
Regent University offers a spiritually-based Christian approach to the field of counseling. The degree readies graduates for licensure eligibility and employment in a number of settings, including public and private schools, mental health facilities, public agencies and private organizations. In addition to CACREP accreditation, Regent’s also holds accreditation by the American Psychological Association and is a member of the Quality Matters Program, which oversees quality assurance for online education. Coursework requires 60 credit hours of classes and is completed in two years on average.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 36
#9. Kansas State University: Manhattan, Kansas
College of Education
Master of Science in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling (M.S.)
Kansas State, or K-State, has grown into one of the nation’s most recognized institutions of higher learning. Its graduate programs are highly regarded and the M.S. with an emphasis in School Counseling provides students with a conceptual framework to develop the knowledge and 21st century skills required to mentor and guide students in educational settings. The program consists of 48 credit hours covering foundational counseling principles, research and assessment protocols, and clinical experiences.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 72
#8. Jacksonville State University: Jacksonville, Alabama
College of Education and Professional Studies
Educational Specialist in School Counseling
Jacksonville State has built a school counseling program designed to prepare graduates with the skills to develop counseling programs within schools, coordinate consultation and intervention efforts, and provide counseling services for children and adolescents in groups and individual sessions. The program’s flexible format allows currently employed personnel to complete a professional degree. Alternatively, students may take an on-campus program for a Master of Science in School Counseling.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 96
#7. Auburn University: Auburn Alabama
Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling
Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling
Auburn’s counselor education program strives to address the psychological, environmental and social barriers that affect educational achievement and personal growth. Combined with meaningful clinical experiences, this master’s degree delivers the foundational counseling concepts required for graduates to work as professional counselors in public or private school settings. The program of study requires a minimum of 48 credit hours and the completion of a practicum and an internship in career-related settings.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 6
#6. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania: Edinboro, Pennsylvania
School of Graduate Studies and Research
M.Ed in Educational Psychology
Edinboro is a well-known regional university regarded for its dedication to educating students who will give back to their communities through their careers. The Master of Educational Psychology provides a pathway for graduates to become diverse practitioners in the field by combining theoretical and practical approaches to the integrated disciplines of psychology and education. The degree spans 30 credits of core and elective courses and requires satisfactory completion of a comprehensive examination.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 72
#5. Old Dominion University: Norfolk, Virginia
Darden College of Education
Master’s Degree in Counseling (M.S.Ed.): School Counseling and College Counseling Specializations
ODU is recognized for its rigorous academic programs, dynamic public research, and preparing students for leadership roles in their careers and communities. The diversified M.S.Ed in Counseling offers several specializations, including one in School Counseling and one in College Counseling. Students are required to complete 60 course credits, a practicum of 100 hours, an internship of 600 hours, and a comprehensive examination. Successfully completing the specialization in school counseling results in licensure by the Virginia State Department of Education as a counselor in the public school setting. Completion of the college counseling specialization enables graduates to work at institutions of higher learning or prepares them to continue with further professional studies in the field.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 42
#4. University of Alabama at Birmingham: Birmingham, Alabama
Department of Human Studies
Master of Arts in Counseling: School Counseling Concentration
The M.A. with a school counseling concentration embraces the holistic involvement of parents, teaching staff, administrators, and students to encourage positive educational experiences that enhance academic achievement and personal growth. From this perspective, school counselors act as academic mentors, program facilitators, and resource coordinators. Program candidates take 49 credit hours in foundational courses related to counseling, psychology, group dynamics, vocational and career planning, and educational issues for all public school settings. Twelve semester hours will be spent in two supervised practicums and an internship.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 123
#3. University of Mississippi: University, Mississippi
Department of Leadership and Education
Master of Education (M.Ed.): School Counseling Track
Since 1848, Ole Miss has grown from a starting class of 80 students to a university of more than 21,500 degree seekers. The school counseling track for the M.Ed. covers 48 credit hours and focuses on development and application of basic counseling skills, demonstration of clinical competencies, and participation in supervised practicum and internship experiences. Upon program completion, graduates will have the minimum requirements necessary to hold a job as a licensed public school counselor.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 79
#2. University of Montana: Missoula, Montana
College of Education and Human Sciences
School Counseling (M.A.)
The University of Montana realizes that school counselors play an important role in the education of youth. To facilitate interested degree candidates, UM offers a hybrid program of online and on-campus coursework for completion of its master’s in school counseling. The degree encompasses 51 credits of study coordinated with CACREP standards, and 700 hours of school counseling experience under supervision, of which 600 hours must be within a qualified school setting. At the end of the program, graduates will be eligible for Montana state licensure.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 145
#1. University of Louisiana at Monroe: Monroe, Louisiana
College of Health and Pharmaceutical Sciences
School Counseling, M.S.
UL’s school counseling program engenders a collaborative environment in which students can learn the skills, attitudes and knowledge necessary to become counseling practitioners. Graduates will find a variety of employment opportunities in K-12 schools and other public agencies as counselors, administrators or consultants. The curriculum entails 60 credit hours which include core classes in counseling theory and techniques, classes in the concentration area of school counseling, and supervised practicum and internship experiences.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 103
Honorable Mention – The George Washington University: Washington, D.C.
Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Master of Arts in Education and Human Development
GWU’s graduate school and its online educational programs consistently rank among the best in the country. The M.A. in Education and Human Development continues that trend by preparing graduates to be knowledgeable, ethical counseling professionals who can work with diverse populations in all educational settings. Coursework covers such topics as human development, psychology of adolescent behavior, career counseling and interview skills. In addition, students participate in supervised on-site practicum and internship experiences.
Ranking by U.S. News and World Report: 16
School counseling can be a fulfilling career choice that offers a variety of employment opportunities in diverse educational settings. The demand for qualified school counselors is on the rise, so consider some of these affordable online school counseling degrees to start a counseling career and make a difference today.
Additional Resource: Ultimate Online Guide to Becoming a School Counselor