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The Best Online Master’s Degrees in Student Affairs and College Counseling

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Online Master's Programs

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By Staff Writer
Last Updated: May 19, 2020

A master's degree in student affairs and college counseling can lead to a position as a school or career counselor at a higher education institution. These counselors help college students determine a career path or search for jobs before graduation. They may give students aptitude assessments, help them hone resumes or cover letters, or offer advice on juggling the demands of college life.

Some candidates seeking academic advising master's programs choose to pursue a distance learning degree. Online college counseling programs allow students to complete coursework at their convenience. Many distance learners are able to keep their jobs while enrolled in graduate school. However, individuals who wish to earn a master's in college counseling online should seek a degree from an accredited program.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Online Master's Degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling
Rank University
1 Vanderbilt University
2 University of Southern California
3 NYU Steinhardt
4 Wake Forest University
5 North Carolina State University at Raleigh
6 University of St Thomas
7 Creighton University
8 Oregon State University
9 Salem College
10 St Bonaventure University

 

What to Expect From a Master's Degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling

While every online master's in college counseling features a slightly different curriculum, most include foundational courses that address counseling theories and techniques. Curricula often feature at least one class on cross cultural counseling, or working with diverse populations. More advanced courses concentrate on specialized topics, such as vocational counseling, clinical assessment, and crisis intervention.

Individuals pursuing careers as college counselors may also need to complete a certain number of supervised work experience hours to obtain state licensure. Many master's programs meet these guidelines by incorporating some sort of supervised work requirement into the curriculum. This might consist of a practicum, an internship, or both. Students may spend anywhere from 100-600 hours in a field placement at a college or a similar institution. Most full-time students graduate in around two years, although part-time candidates might take longer to graduate.

Career Outlook for Student Affairs and College Counselors

These days, students who obtain an academic counseling master's degree enjoy a bright career outlook. As long as colleges and universities continue to enroll learners, student affairs officers and college counselors can secure jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of school and career counselors to increase by 8% from 2018-28, faster than the average rate for all occupations combined.

According to the BLS, these professionals enjoy a median annual wage of about $56,310. On average, they earn more than their peers who work as marriage and family therapists ($50,090) and rehabilitation counselors ($35,630).

Salary and employment figures depend on many factors, including geographic location and education level. Student affairs and college counselors earn the highest salaries in California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, with the average earnings in California reaching $74,530.

Top Online Master's Degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling 2020

25

Concordia University-Irvine

Irvine, CA

CUI offers one of the best online academic counseling master's degree programs in the United States. The school counseling program prepares students to pursue careers as K-12 counselors in both public and private schools. Learners can enroll in the program through an online or blended format, depending on their scheduling needs.

Each enrollee must complete 48 units of coursework, which prepares them to work in diverse school settings focusing on career, academic, social development, and personal guidance and counseling. Online students can follow the traditional track to complete their degrees in 33 months, or the fast track, satisfying their program requirements in about 26 months.

During each term, students in the cohort program complete one course every eight weeks, with online classes meeting synchronously for four sessions during weeks one, three, five, and eight. Students complete the other four courses asynchronously, allowing them to finish their program requirements on their own schedules and from any location.

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24

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Kearney, NE

A degree-seeker at UNK can pursue an academic counseling master's degree through a flexible, blended format. Fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Nebraska State Department of Education, the specialized program meets the State Department of Education's academic requirements for endorsement.

To graduate, students must complete 43 credits of coursework, covering topics such as research methods in psychology and education, school counseling organization and practice, and career and lifestyle development. All learners must complete an exit survey during their final semester.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 2.75 minimum GPA. During the admissions process, a prospective student should provide a completed application, along with payment for the $45 application fee, official transcripts, a current resume, an admissions essay, and three letters of recommendation.

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23

University of the Southwest

Hobbs, NM

Located in Hobbs, New Mexico, USW offers one of the top academic counseling master's degrees in the nation. Throughout the rigorous coursework, learners prepare to pursue licensure as school counselors in elementary, middle, and high school settings.

The fully online program teaches enrollees to focus on the interactions and relations between students and their school environment to reduce the effect of institutional and environmental barriers that negatively affect academic success. Throughout the rigorous curriculum, degree-seekers explore psychoeducational assessment, counseling families, and career development.

Along with the required coursework, each student must complete a practicum and internship at a private or public K-12 school. A candidate must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA. Each prospective student must also provide a completed application, official transcripts, a personal essay, and a professional resume.

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22

Fort Hays State University

Hays, KS

FHSU offers an academic counseling master's program that prepares students to identify the trends, ethics, philosophy, and professional standards of the counseling profession. During their coursework, degree-seekers learn about the cultural and social characteristics of various groups.

The three-year program prepares students to pursue school counseling licenses in Kansas. Coursework equips learners with the academic and social skills needed to succeed in diverse environments, exposing them to real-world situations during their practicum and internship requirements. Practicums and internships allow degree-seekers to integrate skills and knowledge for competent counseling practice.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Along with a completed application, a candidate needs to provide official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a professional goals statement. All applicants must complete a background check and a group interview.

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21

University of Central Arkansas

Conway, AR

UCA offers an online academic counseling master's degree to prepare students for school counseling careers in K-12 settings. Approved by the Arkansas Department of Education, the program offers two tracks: an add-on track for enrollees who hold valid teaching licenses and the initial license track for learners who do not.

The rigorous curriculum comprises 48 semester hours of coursework, along with practicum and internship field experiences. The online format includes synchronous and asynchronous course delivery methods.

A master's degree applicant must meet the general requirements for graduate school admission, including holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Each candidate must provide a completed application, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. All applicants must meet the graduate school's policy of 24 credit hours.

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20

Lincoln Memorial University

Harrogate, TN

LMU, located in Harrogate, Tennessee, offers one of the best opportunities for students to earn academic counseling master's degrees. The counseling program prepares degree-seekers to pursue counseling positions in school and non-school settings.

The counseling program emphasizes helping and interpersonal relationships to cultivate successful counseling careers. Upon admission, students must meet with their faculty advisors to determine the appropriate sequencing for their courses and licensing requirements.

Counseling students can pursue concentrations in preK-12 school or mental health. In both concentration areas, degree-seekers must complete counseling core courses, comprising 36 credit hours. Throughout the program, learners complete case studies, research papers, coursework, and other assignments.

During the master's program, learners explore the psychology of human development, crisis intervention and consultation, and social and cultural aspects of counseling. Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and submit a completed application, official transcripts, a background check, a professional statement, and GRE test scores.

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19

University of Mississippi

University, MS

Students at Ole Miss can pursue an academic counseling master's degree. The program offers professional tracks in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling. During the curriculum, enrollees focus on psychotherapy through a practical, problem-solving approach.

The school counseling track comprises 48 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, and an internship. School counseling students can complete their coursework on-campus, online, or in a hybrid format. The track provides enrollees with field and academic experiences needed to pursue careers as professional licensed school counselors at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA. A prospective student must provide a completed application, official transcripts, GRE scores, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and three letters of recommendation. Learners with GPAs of at least 2.7 in their last 60 credit hours of coursework may qualify for admission on a probationary basis.

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18

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC

ECU offers one of the best online academic counseling master's degrees in the nation, featuring concentration options in clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, and student affairs and college counseling.

The counselor education program allows degree-seekers to work closely with instructors to deepen their skills and knowledge of professional counseling. Counseling students enjoy access to the latest technology as they participate in experiential learning opportunities.

Boasting specialized accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the program requires an applicant to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Along with a completed application, each candidate must provide official transcripts, GRE or MAT scores, and three letters of recommendation. Learners can enroll in the program during the fall or summer semesters.

The program includes courses in techniques, theory, and assessment in student affairs and college counseling; clinical mental health counseling; and professional school counseling.

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17

Monmouth University

West Long Branch, NJ

Students can earn an academic counseling master's degree at Monmouth through hybrid, online, and traditional classroom formats in the evenings. This rigorous program, accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program, prepares learners to pursue careers as professional school counselors.

The 48-credit graduate program focuses on professional and personal development. Along with practical and theoretical coursework, students participate in experiential learning experiences and supervised counseling experience.

Learners can pursue courses through on-campus, hybrid, and online formats, enrolling part time or full time. During the curriculum, learners explore social justice and diversity concepts. The program features an integrative 700-hour supervised practice experience that spans several semesters and includes three individual placements.

Students can apply to the program through the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Along with completed applications, prospective students must provide official transcripts and GRE scores.

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16

Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ

Seton Hall offers one of the best online academic counseling master's degrees in the nation. The combined 60-credit master's and education specialist program prepares students for careers as professional mental health counselors. The curriculum comprises 20 three-credit courses across ten semesters.

Enrollees must also complete two on-site residencies, allowing them to connect face-to-face with their peers and professors. Throughout the curriculum, learners explore the psychology of human development, career development and counseling, and appraisal and assessment in counseling.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA. A prospective student must provide a completed application, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a professional resume, a personal statement, and GRE test scores. Applicants do not need to complete any prerequisite courses or previous counseling experience. Potential students can receive a waiver for the GRE requirements if they hold GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

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15

Concordia University-Nebraska

Seward, NE

Concordia offers an online academic counseling master's degree that prepares enrollees for careers as school counselors to help students academically, personally, and socially. The comprehensive program teaches students how to work with administrators, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders.

During the rigorous program, learners gain the training and credentials they need to accomplish preK-12 certification in Nebraska, aligning with American School Counselor Association expectations for counselors. Throughout the program, learners explore ethical and legal considerations of counseling, comprehensive school counseling program management and delivery, and trauma and crisis intervention.

The unique program offers a track for certified teachers, requiring 50 credit hours of coursework, along with a path for those without teaching licenses, which calls for 62 credit hours. In addition to the required coursework, each degree-seeker must complete a 100-hour practicum and a 450-hour internship.

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14

Gallaudet University

Washington, DC

Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University offers an academic counseling master's degree. The master's program follows a hybrid format to combine online and on-campus courses. Students attend on-campus courses for three summers and take courses online for four semesters. During their final year, each degree-seeker must complete a semester-long practicum and a semester-long internship.

Featuring programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the program allows students to explore courses in abnormal psychology, human development, and child and adolescent psychology. Learners usually complete their program within eight semesters.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a 3.0 minimum GPA. During the admissions process, a candidate must provide a completed application, official transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. All prospective students should complete a minimum of two years of work experience and a student interview.

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13

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND

The online academic counseling master's degree at UND features a flexible program format for working professionals. Completing the program provides learners with the skills and knowledge for licensure in North Dakota. Boasting specialized accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the rigorous program typically takes students about 2.5 years to complete.

Comprising 60 credit hours of coursework, the curriculum teaches students how to focus on cultural responsiveness and social justice. Learners complete courses in school counseling and program management, multicultural counseling, and educational collaboration.

Before applying to the master's program, each prospective student must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. An applicant must provide a completed application, a statement of goals, official transcripts demonstrating a 2.75 minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.

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12

Concordia University-Wisconsin

Mequon, WI

CUW offers one of the top academic counseling master's degrees in the nation. The rigorous program focuses on the role faith plays in the counseling process. School counseling students can earn Christian counseling certificates after graduation.

Degree-seekers must complete 45-60 credits, including courses in counseling theory, group work, appraisal, helping relationships, and professional orientation, among others. Students can pursue specializations to tailor their program to their career goals and interests, with tracks in professional counseling or school counseling.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Along with a completed application, each candidate needs to provide official transcripts, a one-page statement of purpose essay, a current resume, and two letters of recommendation.

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11

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Valley, PA

Located in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, GMercyU offers an academic counseling master's degree that follows a scientist-practitioner model to prepare learners to provide guidance and support to students and their families. Enrollees act as working professionals who must meet academic and clinical standards for ethical behavior.

Each degree-seeker must complete 60 credits of coursework, including 30 credits of core courses and 30 credits of school counseling certification courses. Coursework covers intervention techniques in school counseling, disabilities in the school counseling setting, and group counseling and facilitation skills for the school setting.

Along with their coursework, degree-seekers must complete 100 hours of practicum experience and 600 hours of a supervised internship. Graduates can apply for certification as K-12 school counselors in Pennsylvania.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. During the admissions process, all prospective students must provide a completed application, official transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA, and two letters of recommendation.

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10

St Bonaventure University

Saint Bonaventure, NY

The flexible academic counseling master's degree at SBU does not require applicants to provide GMAT or GRE scores to gain admission. The online program boasts accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and implements an experiential and interactive learning environment.

During their second year, each student focuses on a 100-hour practicum requirement, satisfying 40 hours of direct contact with clients. After their practicum, each degree-seeker must complete two 300-hour internships, along with two four-day residencies on campus.

Students complete their coursework primarily online, following an asynchronous format that allows them to work at their own pace while simultaneously networking with other enrollees and instructors. The 60-credit hour program includes seven-week courses and affordable tuition rates of $755 per credit hour, resulting in a total tuition of $45,300.

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9

Salem College

Winston-Salem, NC

Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Salem College offers one of the best academic counseling master's degree options in the U.S. During the unique curriculum, learners focus primarily on research-driven practices exploring concepts of ethics, advocacy, and legal issues.

In addition to flexible online classes, students must complete two weekend on-campus seminars and internship experiences. Degree-seekers follow a cohort model, beginning and ending their degrees with the same group of students. The cohort keeps learners on track to complete their master's program in 36 months.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or complete at least 12 credit hours of graduate work. Prospective students need to provide a completed application, transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA, writing samples, and professional references. Applicants must also complete and pass a criminal background check.

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8

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Students can pursue an academic counseling master's degree at OSU. The hybrid program features a part-time format, combining on-campus and online courses with classroom meetings held two weekends during each term in Wilsonville, Oregon. Several internship and online practicum course requirements feature synchronous delivery, requiring learners to participate in real-time class sessions from a distance.

The master's program prepares learners to increase college-going rates within underrepresented populations and deliver comprehensive school counseling services. Boasting specialized accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the program requires each learner to complete 75 credits of rigorous coursework.

Master's students can begin their program in the summer or fall, enrolling in a quarter-term system that includes four quarters each year with 11-week classes. Degree-seekers enjoy affordable tuition rates of $560 per credit, excluding the cost of fees, textbooks, and course materials.

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7

Creighton University

Omaha, NE

Students at Creighton can enroll in an academic counseling master's degree to prepare for counseling careers within school systems. The school counseling program goes beyond the administrative aspects of counseling, focusing on a Jesuit model that emphasizes reflection, compassion, and relationship-building.

Throughout the program, learners complete hands-on, project-based learning experiences through a flexible online format that allows them to continue working as they earn their degrees. Students who already hold teaching certificates can complete their program in about 36 credit hours, while those without certificates must complete 48 credit hours.

The online program offers specialization options such as preK-12 guidance counseling, elementary school counseling, and secondary school counseling. The rigorous program includes a 600-hour internship, meeting Nebraska's state-approved school counseling certification requirements.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA, provide official transcripts, a current resume, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Each candidate must also undergo a background check during the admissions process.

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6

University of St Thomas

Houston, TX

UST in Houston, Texas, features one of the top academic counseling master's degree options in the nation. Students can pursue a fully online program or a hybrid format that combines online and on-campus classes. Online learners select from specializations in special education leadership, bilingual/dual language, instructional technology, special education/exceptionality, teaching English to speakers of other languages, and more.

Students can explore scholarship opportunities in the educational leadership, special education, or bilingual/dual language specializations. Enrollees enjoy a student-faculty ratio of just 11-to-1 and access to an online success coach, taking advantage of a more individualized learning experience.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree or advanced degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Along with a completed application, all prospective students must provide their official transcripts, pay the $35 application fee, and submit a 250-300 word essay explaining their career goals.

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5

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Raleigh, NC

NC State adopts the school-college-community collaboration model to feature one of the best academic counseling master's degrees. Enrollees focus on career, personal, social, and academic development for K-12 students.

Coursework emphasizes clinical counseling practice and theory, along with multicultural diversity. The unique program holds specialized accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Students can consider online or on-campus formats. Both program formats offer the same curriculum.

The rigorous program holds approval from the state of North Carolina. Graduates who complete their practicums and internships at K-12 schools in the state can pursue North Carolina school counseling licenses. The program does not ensure licensing eligibility for other states, so out-of-state students must research their state's licensing requirements.

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4

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC

Wake Forest offers an academic counseling master's degree for students interested in serving the social, academic, and emotional needs of children and their families. The extensive curriculum prepares enrollees to pursue licensure after graduation, with graduates boasting a 95% pass rate on the national counselor examination.

During the 60-credit hour curriculum, degree-seekers explore advanced therapeutic techniques in professional orientation, appraisal, group work, and helping relationships, along with career and lifestyle development.

In addition to the required coursework, learners participate in practicum and internship experiences. The specialized coursework covers topics such as career development and counseling, school guidance and counseling, and appraisal procedures for counselors.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Along with a completed application, each candidate must provide official transcripts demonstrating a 2.5 minimum GPA, GRE scores, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

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3

NYU Steinhardt

New York, NY

Offering one of the best academic counseling master's degree programs in the nation, the counseling and guidance program within the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU prepares students to pursue certification and employment as preK-12 school counselors. The advanced curriculum emphasizes concepts of social justice and equity, with courses exploring how to help K-12 students from diverse backgrounds academically, socially, and personally.

The rigorous program allows enrollees to pursue concentrations in bilingual school counseling or school counseling. Holding specialized accreditation from the Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council, the program includes 48 graduate-level credits, a counseling lab, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship component.

Depending on their start date, degree-seekers can earn their school counseling master's degrees in as little as six terms or 18 months. NYU Steinhardt features rolling admissions, accepting applications all year, with program start dates in January, June, and September.

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2

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

USC offers an academic counseling master's degree for students who want to become K-12 school counselors. The program explores the relevant changes that impact today's schools, emphasizing the well-being of children by supporting their emotional, academic, and social needs. Graduates can pursue school counselor credentials.

During the rigorous curriculum, each learner must complete 49 units of coursework focusing on three key focus areas. Students can enroll in full-time or part-time pathways to best fit their schedules. Learners can complete their master's program in as little as five terms, with most taking 2-3 years to satisfy their program requirements.

School counseling students focus on college and career readiness, restorative justice, and trauma-informed practice. Enrollees explore advanced topics, including legal and ethical issues in counseling, human development theory in school counseling, and learning and individual differences.

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1

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt offers an online academic counseling master's degree program. The online master of education with a school counseling specialization features a humanistic training model to prepare students to become successful K-12 school counselors. The extensive curriculum readies learners to pursue counseling licensure in private and public schools.

Each degree-seeker must complete 48 credit hours of coursework, typically graduating in about three years. The program includes three terms of field experiences, along with two on-campus immersions. The curriculum emphasizes the academic, psychological, social, and emotional needs of K-12 students.

Throughout their coursework, enrollees focus on the following key areas of study: ethical practice, career development, research and assessment, helping relationships, human growth, and social and cultural diversity. Degree-seekers enjoy the combination of online learning and in-person experiences during their unique curriculum, engaging in weekly online class sessions that include group discussions and a guided learning environment.

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