For individuals who are interested in playing an integral role in helping students in elementary or secondary schools navigate their academic goals, it is essential to earn a Masters in School Counseling degree. According to the American School Counselor Association, school counselors must complete a Master's degree and meet the requirements for certification to practice in one of the best social service careers. Since the different degree options available can be overwhelming, the following is a guide to the differences between the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling to find the right program that fits your academic background and career objectives in the profession.
Master of Arts (M.A.) in School Counseling
In most cases, graduate students who choose to pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) in School Counseling typically are determined to improve their professional practice skills, develop research methodologies, study underlying theoretical foundations, further understand counseling interventions, and possibly pursue a doctoral degree. This degree is often best suited for students who have earned a general bachelor's degree in psychology, English, social work, or another unrelated field. Therefore, the Master of Arts degree programs usually involve general counseling courses focused on therapies and behavioral modification techniques for individuals with little or no prior experience in the counseling field.
Earning a Master of Arts in School Counseling typically requires around 50 to 60 credits of graduate coursework within about two years full-time or three years part-time. Since the degree is not completely focused on preparation for academic environments and instead deals with diverse counseling strategies, these programs include a required Master's thesis or research project for completion. Graduating with the Master of Arts often is beneficial for individuals who are considering work as school or career counselors, but are also open to the idea of working in private practices, mental health clinics, or even hospital settings.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling
Generally offered through a higher education institution's school of education, the Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling is a graduate-level degree that is mostly pursued by professionals with experience in the teaching or counseling fields who wish to improve their current practices in educational settings. Since the M.Ed. is designed for professionals seeking additional licensure, these programs are highly focused on applying coursework on theoretical foundations to their present work responsibilities within the school system. Therefore, instead of analytical and research components, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling program will provide extensive supervised field-based practice and internship experience specifically for preparation in academic K-12 settings.
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No matter whether you decide to pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the weekly median pay for those with an advanced graduate degree is almost 20 percent more than with only a bachelor's degree. Even more importantly, the job outlook for certified school counselors with a Master's degree will be the most promising as the field is projected to grow faster than average to respond to the developmental and academic needs of more diverse students. More than the degree itself, it is most important that aspiring school counselors choose a Master's in School Counseling degree that fits their own individual learning style and has been properly accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).