Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

| Staff Writers

Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs
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Online master’s in school counseling programs prepare graduates to help K-12 students overcome academic and social challenges. School counseling degrees typically require 2-3 years of study, including a field experience. Online course delivery may be asynchronous, allowing learners to study at their convenience; synchronous, on a set schedule; or a combination of the two. Field experiences must be completed in-person.

Master’s in school counseling curricula cover topics like abnormal psychology, group counseling, school counseling program management, multicultural counseling, and professional practice. Programs may culminate in a capstone project and a presentation, or a thesis.

Applicants should ensure that their prospective program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP-accredited programs meet rigorous academic standards, and some state licensing boards require CACREP-approved degrees. Check out our guide to CACREP-accredited programs to learn about our ranking methodology and find the best school for you.


View ranking methodology here.

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Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Top CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Rank School Location
1 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
2 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC
3 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
4 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
5 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN
6 University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY
7 Bradley University Peoria, IL
8 St Bonaventure University Saint Bonaventure, NY
9 University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI
10 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
  1. Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    Established in Evanston, Illinois, in 1886, Northwestern now ranks as one of the best private research institutions in the U.S. The Family Institute at Northwestern, in collaboration with the graduate school and Office for Research, administers one of the nation's best CACREP-accredited online master's in school counseling programs.

    This relationship-based behavioral health degree offers two program tracks. The standard program requires 24 graduate-level courses, a practicum, and an internship. The bridge program, ideal for enrollees without an undergraduate psychology degree, begins with a three-course orientation to graduate-level studies and clinical training.

    The curriculum in both tracks features courses that emphasize specialized techniques for working effectively with children and adolescents. Distance learners may choose to enroll in an accelerated, full-time six-credit format, a traditional nine-credit format, or a part-time 12-credit option. Students can choose from four start dates per year in January, April, June, and September for added flexibility.

  2. Wake Forest University

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Wake Forest, a private institution located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serves a student population of 8,500 in six colleges and schools. The MA in school counseling presents a comprehensive curriculum that balances practicum and internship experiences with coursework in human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, career and lifestyle development, and advanced therapeutic techniques.

    The 60-credit online program, which takes three years to complete, requires 12 credits in foundational courses, 18 credits in core counseling topics, and 12 credits in the school counseling concentration.

    One of the best accredited online school counseling master's programs, coursework includes school guidance and counseling; counseling children; consultation and program development; and professional, ethical, and legal issues.

    This CACREP-accredited degree prepares students to sit for the national counselor examination. Wake Forest boasts a 95% pass rate for its graduates on the national exam. Graduates typically enter careers in school and career counseling and social service.

  3. North Carolina State University

    Raleigh, NC

    The College of Education at NC State offers an online master's in school counseling focusing on educational leadership, policy, and human development. Based on a school-college-community collaboration model, this degree prepares graduates to work as school counselors with K-12 students.

    The curriculum consists of 15 courses in human development, preventive interventions, and counseling theory and practice, with an embedded emphasis on cross-cultural perspectives. Degree-seekers who plan to acquire a North Carolina school counseling license must complete their practicum and internship in a North Carolina public school.

    Once admitted, online learners progress through the program in cohorts, taking two classes each term together over three years, including summer sessions. Some classes in the final year of study may require weekend components on campus.

    Each applicant must submit GRE or MAT scores, three letters of recommendation, and official undergraduate transcripts, along with evidence of academic achievement, leadership activities, and work experience.

  4. Messiah College

    Mechanicsburg, PA

    Messiah, a private Christian institution, administers over 150 undergraduate and 27 graduate programs at its southern Pennsylvania campus and online. Messiah's MA in school counseling, one of a handful offered by Christian colleges to hold CACREP accreditation, integrates a faith-based orientation with online training suited to the needs of working professionals.

    The degree's distinct format combines the convenience of distance learning with personalized instruction. The program features flexible start dates throughout the academic year, fully online eight-week courses, and one week of face-to-face sessions on campus in January and July that emphasize counseling skill development. Most students complete the 60-credit master's in two years.

    In addition to foundational coursework and electives, the curriculum requires a 100-hour practicum and a 300-hour internship in placements that provide experience with students from diverse backgrounds. The degree prepares students to sit for the Praxis II examination, which all certified school counselors in Pennsylvania must pass.

  5. Freed-Hardeman University

    Henderson, TN

    A private institution affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Tennessee-based FHU offers undergraduate and graduate programs that integrate academic training with Christian teachings.

    The online M.Ed. in school counseling requires all degree-seekers to complete an introduction to Christianity course that presents an overview of the Bible as a foundation for personal conduct and ethical behavior. The program also requires an introduction to graduate studies class, which provides an orientation to graduate-level work, library resources, portfolio preparation, and advising. The 52-credit program delivers all courses via web conferencing, allowing students to access classes in real time or at their convenience.

    Each applicant must submit official transcripts indicating a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, a criminal background form, and GRE or MAT scores. FHU's College of Education reserves the right to deny admission based on conduct or perceived potential as a counselor or educator.

  6. University at Buffalo

    Buffalo, NY

    The largest campus within the State University of New York System, UB is a research-intensive public university with an enrollment of almost 32.000. The university's highly ranked Ed.M. in school counseling trains its graduates to apply helping strategies and techniques, implement a comprehensive school counseling program, and engage in evaluation and appraisal.

    Degree-seekers typically complete the 36-credit master's in school counseling in three full semesters. The curriculum combines 300 experiential contact hours working with K-12 students in school settings with courses in theory-based cases in school counseling, career development, and counseling theory and practice.

    Additional classes include multicultural counseling; counseling with children and adolescents; introduction to school counseling; and individual guidance project: portfolio development.

    The degree meets New York State standards for school counselors for the provisional certificate and the permanent certificate. New York requires 60 credits for permanent school certification, including the 36 credits earned in the Ed.M. degree.

  7. Bradley University

    Peoria, IL

    This private, independent institution of higher learning, located in the central Illinois city of Peoria, offers more than 130 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs to over 5,800 students. Bradley's CACREP-accredited MA in professional school counseling has also received approval from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Illinois Board of Education.

    Professional school counseling candidates enroll in 51 credits of core counseling courses and 9-10 credits in either the teaching or non-teaching concentration. The program delivers most courses entirely online, in asynchronous and synchronous formats, and requires two week-long campus-based residencies in the first and eighth terms. The curriculum includes one practicum and two internships totaling 750 contact hours, which distance learners can complete at nearby locations.

    This master's in professional school counseling program prepares graduates to take the National Counselor Examination during the academic term when they graduate.

  8. St Bonaventure University

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

    This Catholic private university, located in the southwestern corner of New York, offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. St. Bonaventure currently administers six graduate degrees online, including the MS in education in school counseling.

    This CACREP-accredited degree meets the requirements for professional teacher certification in New York and the criteria for certification as a school counselor in both New York and Pennsylvania. The program boasts a 98% pass rate on the National Counselor Examination.

    The online asynchronous format offers students added flexibility, typically finishing the 48 required credits in 12 months. Each distance learner must also participate in two campus-based residencies, a 100-hour practicum, and two 300-hour internships.

    Admission to the program does not require GRE scores. Each applicant must submit official transcripts of previous college work demonstrating a 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of intent.

  9. University of Hawaii at Manoa

    Honolulu, HI

    The oldest institution in the University of Hawai'i system, UH Mānoa currently sponsors over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, including the only online CACREP-accredited master of counseling program in the state.

    This affordable degree, ideal for students who cannot commit to full-time on-campus programs, delivers online courses in a part-time, hybrid format. Degree-seekers can access asynchronous classes at their convenience, while synchronous courses take place at 4:30 pm to accommodate working students.

    The program requires 48-60 credits. Online learners enroll in 6-9 credits each term, typically finishing all degree requirements in 36 months. The curriculum includes three fieldwork components that students may complete in their own communities. Graduates of the program become eligible to take the National Counselor Examination for licensure and certification.

    Each applicant must submit official undergraduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of objectives. The program does not require GRE scores.

  10. Oregon State University

    Corvallis, OR

    OSU enrolls 32,000 students in over 200 academic programs as the state's largest university. The university's top-ranked e-campus division offers more than 70 online and hybrid programs, including a master of counseling with a school counseling option.

    This 75-credit degree for working professionals and others unable to attend full-time campus-based programs delivers courses in a hybrid format. Enrollees complete half of the coursework entirely online and the rest via in-person classes held two weekends each term on its campus in Wilsonville.

    Distance learners take two three-credit courses each term to complete their degrees in 36 months. The online practicum and internship component requires enrollees to participate in synchronously delivered courses during the second and third years of the program. The comprehensive curriculum covers counseling theory and techniques; developmental and cross-cultural perspectives; and legal, ethical, and professional issues.

    This CACREP-accredited program has also received approval from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

Applying to a CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Program

Educational prerequisites for online school counseling programs usually consist of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although schools may prefer a degree in counseling or related fields like psychology, many accept candidates with sufficient prior coursework in psychology, statistics, and biology. Similarly, a program may not define a minimum GPA, but the most competitive applicants maintain a 3.5 GPA.

Programs may also request transcripts, GRE scores, a personal statement, a resume, and letters of recommendation.

Most states require school counselors to be licensed, and some also mandate teaching credentials and/or 1-2 years of school counseling or classroom experience. School counselors obtain licensure by passing a state examination or a standardized exam like Praxis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much do school counselors make?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, school and career counselors earn an annual median salary of $57,040. Elementary and secondary school counselors make $67,670 a year. School counselors earn the highest salaries in California, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, and Washington, D.C.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Many states and employers require or prefer school counselors with a master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program or one approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Accreditation ensures that programs implement uniform standards and uphold rigorous academic criteria. It also facilitates interstate licensing reciprocity.

  • Is a school counselor a good job?

    School counseling appeals to those who want to help young people succeed academically, socially, and developmentally. The pay may not support a lavish lifestyle, but provides a comfortable living. School counselors may even enjoy summers off. Opportunities should increase in the profession, with an 8% projected job growth rate from 2019-29.

  • What can I do with a master's in counseling?

    In addition to school counseling, a master’s in counseling leads to positions as career counselors, marriage and family counselors, mental health counselors, and substance abuse counselors. Other potential occupations include therapist and social worker. Counselors, therapists, and social workers find jobs in healthcare facilities, private practice, and government agencies.

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