Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs 2020

Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs 2020

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Best CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs 2020
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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.


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Top CACREP-Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs for 2020

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.

  11. Auburn University

    Auburn, AL

    As one of the largest universities in the southern United States, this Alabama-based public research institution boasts an enrollment of 30,000 students in 140 programs across 13 colleges and schools. Auburn University's College of Education offers an M.Ed. in school counseling in both traditional campus-based and online formats.

    The 60-credit degree features two options. The traditional approach only enrolls students who have already earned bachelor's- or master's-level professional education certification in a teaching field or an area of instructional support. Applicants who do not hold professional educator certificates or those with out-of-state professional educator certificates should enroll in the expanded option. This program prepares graduates for Class A Alabama professional educator certification.

    Specialty coursework in school counseling includes counseling children and adolescents, crisis intervention, and instructional classroom management. Distance learners take most coursework entirely online, except for in-person, week-long sessions scheduled at the beginning of each semester.

  12. Gallaudet University

    Washington, DC

    Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University is a federally chartered private university providing barrier-free education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. As an officially bilingual university, Gallaudet uses American Sign Language (ASL) and written English for instruction.

    The summers and online school counseling program trains counselors to work with deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students in K-12 settings. The 63-credit hybrid degree takes three years to complete, requiring in-person campus-based classes over three summers, and online courses for four semesters.

    Designed for professionals seeking a career change or an additional education credential, this program admits applicants who have two years of prior educational experience, preferably with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adolescents. Other admission requirements include four essays related to the field of school counseling, two in written English and two in ASL. Applicants must possess sufficient ASL proficiency to complete in-person or video interviews with program faculty.

  13. Malone University

    Canton, OH

    Malone, sponsored by the Evangelical Friends Church, offers affordable, career-oriented education that reflects the university's holistic approach to Christian faith and learning. The CACREP-accredited MA in education in counseling and human development features a 48-credit school counseling track. This program requires 27 credits in foundational courses, nine in clinical experiences, and 12 in school counseling.

    School counseling coursework includes foundations of school counseling, consultation and advocacy in school counseling, program development and coordination, and exceptional children and youth. The hybrid format combines fully online classes and in-person meetings at the campus in Canton, Ohio. Students typically finish all coursework, practicum, and internship requirements in 3-3.5 years.

    The degree prepares graduates for the specialty examination in school counseling required for licensure by the Ohio Department of Education. Malone reports an 85% pass rate for this exam and a 75% employment rate after graduation in school counseling positions.

  14. Union Institute & University

    Cincinnati, OH

    Union, with its main campus in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a private university specializing in undergraduate and graduate programs designed to fit the educational needs of working professionals, blending hybrid, online, and traditional classroom formats. The CACREP-accredited MA in clinical mental health counseling features part-time and full-time options, with start dates in January, May, and August.

    The curriculum combines fully online courses and three weekend in-person meetings each year. Degree-seekers can complete the 60-credit program in 36 months or six consecutive terms. The program, based on the scholar-practitioner model, requires a capstone project, practicum, and two internships in addition to foundational and specialized counseling coursework.

    Each applicant must take part in an interview and provide transcripts demonstrating a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA from a regionally accredited institution, a personal statement, three professional references, and a resume or CV.

  15. Colorado Christian University

    Lakewood, CO

    As the only evangelical Christian institution of higher learning in the eight-state Rocky Mountain region, CCU offers more than 100 degrees. The College of Adult and Graduate Studies features an online MA in clinical mental health. The CACREP-accredited degree, designed for working professionals, requires 60 credits.

    Students move through the program in cohorts, taking the prescribed courses together in sequence in seven- or 14-week blocks. In addition to online coursework, degree-seekers must attend three five-day in-person trainings at the Lakewood campus.

    The curriculum anchors the university's Christian perspective through two required courses on theoretical and spiritual foundations in counseling. In addition to the online courses, each distance learner must complete 100 clock hours in a practicum and 600 hours in an internship. Most students complete all degree requirements in 2.5 years. The online master's degree meets all the requirements for graduates to test for licensure in Colorado.

  16. Concordia University-Irvine

    Irvine, CA

    Sponsored by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, CUI joins eight other institutions in the nationwide Concordia University System. The university offers undergraduate and graduate programs at its main campus in Southern California and online, including the MA in education track in school counseling, designed for working educators.

    This cohort-based master's degree offers two fully online options and a blended option. The traditional online option, which requires approximately 33 months, and the fast-track 26-month option combine asynchronously delivered classes with synchronous meetings at fixed times.

    The blended format takes 33 months or less to complete. Cohorts enroll in one course every eight weeks, attending four classes in-person at the Irvine campus and four online classes. This option includes summer session courses offered in an asynchronous online format. In addition to the coursework, all three formats require practicum experience, supervised fieldwork, and a capstone project.

  17. Lock Haven University

    Lock Haven, PA

    LHU, located in central Pennsylvania, is the state's only public university to offer an online MS in clinical mental health. This CACREP-accredited program features several specializations, including a child and adolescent counseling track.

    Degree-seekers may enter the cohort-based program as full-time students taking three courses each semester, or part-time enrollees with two courses each term. Both options include summer courses but do not require in-person campus residencies. The 60-credit master's features both asynchronous and synchronous courses, providing working professionals with added flexibility and the benefits of collaborative learning.

    The curriculum consists of 51 foundational core credits in assessment, differential diagnosis, and treatment planning, nine credits in the specialization area, and a comprehensive final examination. Distance learners may fulfill their 100-hour practicum and 600 internship hours in supervised placements at approved local sites.

  18. Wright State University

    Dayton, OH

    This public research institution enrolls over 13,700 students in 144 undergraduate programs and 148 graduate programs from its main campus in Dayton, Ohio, a branch campus in Celina, Ohio, and online. Wright State's M.Ed. in school counseling has been CACREP accredited since 1989. The program emphasizes counseling approaches, lifespan development, and comprehensive school counseling program models.

    The 60-credit curriculum prepares students for K-12 school counseling positions, providing training in core counseling areas that include child development, crisis counseling, counseling exceptional students, student problematic behaviors, and family systems. All degree-seekers must complete a one-semester practicum and two-semester internship. The program prepares graduates for the Ohio Assessments for Educators licensure examination. Wright State boasts a 92% pass rate for the exam.

    An interested candidate must submit official transcripts from a regionally accredited bachelor's program demonstrating either a minimum 3.3 GPA or a 2.7 GPA and GRE or MAT scores, a statement of educational and professional goals, and three letters of recommendation. Each applicant must also take part in a group interview with faculty.

  19. Lindsey Wilson College

    Columbia, KY

    Established as a training school for the southern division of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1903, this United Methodist institution currently enrolls over 2,500 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. LWC offers an online M.Ed. in counseling and human development based on a practitioner- and community-centered model.

    This CACREP-accredited program meets eligibility requirements for provisional or temporary licensure in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The 60-credit master's consists of 30 credits in core counseling areas, 21 credits in specializations, and nine credits in clinical experiences.

    Distance learners take eight-week classes delivered almost entirely in an asynchronous format. The program requires one in-person orientation for three days, held at the A.P. White campus in Columbia, Kentucky. In addition to coursework, a practicum, and an internship placement, each degree-seeker must pass a culminating comprehensive professional counseling examination to receive their degree.

  20. Bellevue University

    Bellevue, NE

    BU, located just outside of Omaha, Nebraska, has pioneered affordable undergraduate and graduate programs for working professionals since its beginnings in 1966. As one of the first regionally accredited universities to provide online degrees, BU now offers over 75 distance-learning programs in high-growth career areas.

    The online MS in clinical mental health counseling requires 60 credits. The curriculum consists of 24 credits in foundational courses, 24 credits advanced courses, three credits of electives, and nine in practicum and internship experiences. The program allows each online learner to fulfill their 600 required internship hours in their home community at an approved placement site under the supervision of a licensed counseling professional.

    Admission requirements include six prerequisite credits in the behavioral sciences, a 2.5 undergraduate GPA or 3.0 GPA in previous graduate work, official transcripts, and a current resume. Each candidate must also submit two letters of reference written by professors/employers from the counseling field and a 1,000-word statement of interest.

  21. Regent University

    Virginia Beach, VA

    This evangelical Christian university enrolls 11,000 students in more than 135 undergraduate and graduate programs at its main campus in Virginia Beach and online. Regent University is one of a handful of Christian schools offering a CACREP-accredited counseling program.

    The online MA in school counseling provides science-based training within a Christian-based perspective to prepare graduates for K-12 school counselor and advocacy positions. The program meets requirements for school licensure in Virginia. Students residing outside Virginia should check with their home state licensing board to verify licensing eligibility.

    The 60-credit program offers multiple enrollment types for learners to balance with their personal and professional needs. In addition to the online course component, all distance learners must attend two week-long residencies during the first term. These intensive in-person sessions provide an orientation to Regent and help prepare training in graduate-level writing and technological applications.

  22. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    Liberty University, as one of the nation's largest evangelical Christian institutions, boasts an enrollment of over 110,000, including nearly 100,000 learners in online programs. With over 30 years of distance-learning experience, Liberty currently offers 450 undergraduate and graduate programs online.

    The CACREP-accredited online master's in school counseling combines flexible course delivery with a rigorous academic curriculum and a Christian perspective. This 48-credit program offers eight start dates. Students take asynchronously delivered classes in eight-week sessions and must attend several on-campus intensives held at the Lynchburg campus in week-long or weekend formats. Each distance learner must also complete a practicum and internship.

    Liberty maintains a strong commitment to accessible and affordable education. Its tuition rates, among the lowest in the country, have not increased in five years, and military personnel receive substantial discounts. Students can transfer up to 50% of previously earned credits from other graduate schools into the master's program.

  23. Lamar University

    Beaumont, TX

    As one of the fastest-growing schools in Texas, LU enrolls over 15,000 students in 139 campus-based and online programs. The university offers several affordable online graduate programs, including an M.Ed. in school counseling.

    This degree, which prepares counselors to work in K-12 settings with culturally diverse student groups, requires 60 credits, delivered in five-week course sessions completed over 30 months. In addition to foundational and specialized school counseling classes, each distance learner must participate in one 15-week practicum and one 15-week internship.

    Graduates of the program fulfill the educational requirements for the school counseling certification and licensed professional counselor credential for Texas. Applicants seeking certification in Texas must conduct their practicum and internship experiences in a Texas Education Agency-approved public or private school.

    Acceptance into the program requires a valid teaching certificate, a reference from a supervising principal or assistant principal, and two years of teaching experience.

  24. University of the Cumberlands

    Williamsburg, KY

    This Baptist-affiliated, comprehensive private institution based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, boasts the lowest tuition rate among all schools in the state. UC offers more than 20 affordable online graduate programs that fit the needs of working professionals.

    The 60-credit online master's in clinical mental health counseling admits students at multiple start dates throughout the academic year. The program, based on a traditional 16-week semester, allows distance learners to complete two classes in each eight-week bi-term.

    The curriculum consists of core foundational courses in psychological assessment in clinical practice, theories in counseling, multicultural counseling, and group counseling. Students also pursue electives in specializations such as child and adolescent counseling and marriage and family counseling. Each degree-seeker must complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 internship hours.

    Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university demonstrating a 3.0 GPA.

  25. Grace College

    Winona Lake, IN

    Grace, located near the city of Warsaw in northern Indiana, began as a theological seminary in 1937 affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Today, this private college offers more than 70 fields of studies in residential and online formats.

    The CACREP-accredited online MA in clinical mental health counseling integrates a spiritually grounded approach to counseling throughout its rigorous curriculum. The 60-credit master's program offers six-, seven-, or eight-semester curriculum maps designed to fit the needs of learners who need to manage their studies with personal and work schedules.

    The curriculum features fully online coursework offered in eight-week sessions, along with an annual residency requirement. All online students must attend three in-person residencies, offered in week-long sessions every summer at the Winona Lake campus. Degree-seekers must complete semester-long practicum and internship clinical experiences. The program also requires students to pass the counselor preparation comprehensive examination.

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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