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

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Student affairs and counseling graduate programs train students for careers in secondary and higher education. College counselors help high school learners select colleges and prepare them for entrance exams. Student affairs counselors work with college students in campus settings, such as new student orientation, career placement, crisis centers, housing, and advising.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% increase in school and career counseling positions from 2019-29 and reports a median annual salary of $57,040.

Distance learners entering student affairs and college counseling master’s programs can expect to take foundational classes in counseling theory and methods, along with courses focusing on diverse populations and cross-cultural counseling. Each enrollee completes 100-600 hours of supervised internships or practicums at a local school or college. Most programs take 2-3 years to finish.

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.

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

  1. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    North Carolina State University at Raleigh has Best Online Counseling Degrees' No. 1 online master's degree for student affairs and college counseling. Belonging in the College of Education, this M.Ed. program produces graduates who can connect theory, development, and the execution of preventive interventions to a professional counseling practice. This program takes a multicultural approach in every aspect..

    Graduates from this student affairs program qualify to pursue licensure in North Carolina for the K-12 school environment. This online program requires a three-year, year-round commitment, plus some on-campus weekend classes in the final year. The curriculum reflects the importance of cross-cultural viewpoints in the study and practice of student counseling.

    Prospective learners must submit an official transcript for all postsecondary education, a completed online application, three recommendation letters, and GRE or GMAT scores.

    Courses Include

    Theories and tech of counseling
    Strategies and clinical assessment in counseling
    Special problems in guidance
    Multicultural counseling
    Career counseling and development

    Unique Features

    Cost: $11,702/year
    Credits Required: 60 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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  2. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Southern California offers one of the best online master's degrees in school counseling through its nationally ranked Rossier School of Education. In as little as two years, students learn to make a positive difference in the lives of young learners in an evolving and multicultural society.

    The live online classes and self-paced coursework give working individuals a more manageable path to becoming school counselors.

    The curriculum focuses on college and career readiness, problem-solving, overcoming setbacks, and dealing with traumatized students. Graduate students can expect challenging, team-oriented coursework, with plenty of hands-on experiences. Applicants must supply transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 GPA, a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university, a resume, a letter of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and two short-answer responses.

    Courses Include

    Interrogating systems of equality in professional practice
    Human development theory
    Learning and individual differences
    Counseling and collaborative consultation in the school setting
    School connectedness, climate, and classroom management

    Unique Features

    Cost: $29,630/semester
    Credits Required: 49 credits
    Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

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  3. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The MA in school counseling from Wake Forest University produces graduates who are equipped to start careers as school counselors in K-12 schools. This program combines a stellar group of faculty thought leaders with a rigorous curriculum to produce graduates with a 95% passing rate on the National Counselor Examination.

    This master's degree in school counseling gives graduate students the advantage of a career-advancing internship program with a network of industry partners. As part of its 60-credit curriculum, this program uses internships and practicums to provide in-depth clinical instruction. It covers eight areas, including helping relations, appraisal, and research and program evaluation.

    Aspiring students must present proof of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, a minimum 2.5 GPA, and a minimum 300 GRE score. Applicants must also submit a personal statement and three letters of recommendation.

    Courses Include

    Lifespan development: implications for counseling
    Family counseling
    Group procedures in counseling
    Advanced counseling skills and crisis management
    Theories and models of counseling

    Unique Features

    Cost: $90,600/program
    Credits Required: 60 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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  4. University of Missouri
    Location

    Columbia, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of Missouri-Columbia offers one of the best low-cost online master's in student affairs and school counseling. This M.Ed. with an emphasis in school counseling equips learners to become school counselors capable of helping young students in multicultural, economically diverse educational settings. From 2019-2029, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects an 8% increase in employment for school counselors.

    After successfully completing this student affairs master's degree, graduates qualify for licensure for school counseling in Missouri and most other states through reciprocity. The 100% online class format eliminates campus visits. Students taking one course at a time can finish this master's in student counseling in three years. Applicants must submit official transcripts showing a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Courses Include

    Diversity issues in school mental health
    Child and adolescent development in schools
    Foundations of educational and psychological measurement
    Foundations of career psychology
    Theories and techniques of counseling

    Unique Features

    Cost: $20,298/year
    Credits Required: 60 credits
    Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

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  5. Harding University
    Location

    Searcy, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Harding University offers a top low-cost online MS in professional school counseling. Presented by the Mental Health and Wellness department, this master's in student affairs provides graduate students with systematic, cognitive, behavial, and systematic strategies to address the challenges facing elementary to high school students. This program's academic content and hands-on skills training meet CACREP and ACA guidelines

    Graduates for this program qualify for licensure in Arkansas. This program's internship and practicum activities allow students to use counseling principles to find and implement solutions to problems faced by young K-12 students in their learning environments. Candidates must provide official transcripts showing a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution, plus entrance exam scores.

    Courses Include

    Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
    Tech-assisted and distance counseling
    Individual and group assessment
    Childhood trauma grief
    Advanced play therapy

    Unique Features

    Cost: $34,500
    Credits Required: 60 credits
    Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

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Applying to an Online Master’s Degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling Program

Master’s in student affairs and college counseling programs typically require a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. Most institutions request transcripts, 2-3 letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and a resume. Some student affairs graduate programs require GRE or MAT scores, interviews, criminal background checks, and writing samples.

While many programs accept students with a bachelor’s degree in any field, some require a degree in behavioral science or psychology. Undergraduate coursework, such as introductory counseling, abnormal psychology, counseling and mental health, and educational statistics may be required or recommended. Similarly, admission may not require counseling or teaching experience, but institutions often recommend it.

Licensing requirements vary among states. Most programs prepare graduates for professional counselor licensure and national certification.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is licensing required to be a college counselor?

    College counselors need licensure and certification. State boards often require a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), along with two years of supervised clinical experience and a passing score on an examination.

  • What does it mean for a program to be accredited?

    CACREP accredits the top student affairs master’s programs to ensure each school’s curriculum complies with state licensing requirements, national certification criteria, and high academic standards. Colleges and universities also hold regional or national accreditation. Regionally accredited schools undergo a more rigorous review that signifies academic quality.

  • Is there a demand for college counseling?

    Graduates of a master’s in college counseling program can anticipate an 8% projected increase in employment over the next eight years. The BLS forecasts a rise in college counselor hiring in response to a demand for career counseling and an increase in campus career centers. The industries with the highest employment levels include secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

  • What types of skills are important for student affairs and college counselors?

    The BLS lists suggests student affairs and college counselors possess and develop several important skills and qualities. These professionals must hold analytical skills to interpret students’ abilities, assessments, and interests, along with compassion for students facing stressful or difficult situations. Counselors must develop their interpersonal skills to work with diverse students. Regarding communication, they should maintain strong listening skills to grasp students’ problems and issues.


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