Earning a Master’s in School Counseling Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in School Counseling Online?

Graduates of online school counseling programs help children achieve academic, emotional, and career success. The ideal student to pursue a master's in school counseling enjoys working with children and adolescents and has a strong sense of compassion. Candidates should also possess excellent listening, speaking, interpersonal, and analytical skills. A variety of people decide to pursue a master's in school counseling, including students coming straight from undergraduate studies, education professionals who want to pursue counseling, and workers from completely different industries who want to change careers.

Earning a school counseling degree prepares graduates to work in counseling, education, and social services as school and career counselors, early intervention specialists, social services case managers, developmental psychologists, and other professionals. Many students find earning an online master's in school counseling more flexible, convenient, and affordable than pursuing a degree on campus.

Employment Outlook for Master's in School Counseling Graduates

Master's in School Counseling Salary

Earning an online master's in school counseling from one of the best accredited universities prepares graduates for a variety of well-paying professional positions. The typical salary for those who hold an online school counseling degree varies depending on the type of job they take, where they live, and their level of experience. The following charts outline the top paying states and pay by experience level for school counselors. Counselors in top-paying states can make more than $10,000 more per year compared to the national average. Additionally, school counselors can expect to make an additional $20,000 annually on average once they gain 10-20 years of experience.

Top Paying States for Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey 6,960 $72,190
Alaska 640 $69,820
California 30,050 $68,000
New York 22,430 $67,100
Massachusetts 7,410 $66,640
United States 271,350 $58,620

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for School Counselors

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $44,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $50,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $57,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $64,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in School Counseling Careers

Graduates of online school counseling programs can follow a variety of career paths in education, counseling, and social services. They often find work as school and career counselors, developmental psychologists, social services case managers, and early intervention specialists. Some of these careers require additional education or licensure. The school counseling field typically appeals to compassionate people who enjoy working with children and young people. Counseling students need excellent listening, speaking, and interpersonal skills, which allow them to enter fields like the following.

School Counselor

Annual Median Salary: $55,410

Projected Growth Rate: 13%

School counselors typically need a master's in counseling and a state-issued license. They help students succeed academically and socially in school. Most school counselors specialize in elementary, middle, high school, or college counseling. They evaluate students' interests and abilities and help them deal with behavioral issues, develop skills, and achieve goals.

Career Counselor

Annual Median Salary: $55,410

Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Most career counselors hold a master's in counseling, and some states require career counselors to also hold a license. These professionals help people find suitable career paths. They usually work in career centers, schools, and private practices. Career counselors evaluate people's interests and skills, help them create career goals, and teach them job search skills.

Developmental Psychologist

Annual Median Salary: $77,030

Projected Growth Rate: 14%

Developmental psychologists usually need a Ph.D., but in some cases a master's may be sufficient. They study the way that individuals interact with each other and the environment to try to understand the brain and individual behavior. They conduct research, write articles, and create treatment plans.

Case Manager, Social Services

Annual Median Salary: $37,620

Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Social services case managers help individuals facing life difficulties. They help meet client needs by hosting workshops and trainings, providing one-on-one support, and providing follow-up. They write reports, help clients fill out applications, and create educational materials. Most need at least a bachelor's, but some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree.

Early Intervention Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $38,500

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Early intervention specialists work with children experiencing developmental delays to help them achieve academic, social, and emotional success. They conduct evaluations, create plans, educate parents, analyze progress, and write reports. They usually need at least a bachelor's degree, but job candidates with a master's receive better compensation and qualify for more positions.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in School Counseling Program?

Online school counseling programs prepare graduates to succeed as school counselors. Candidates learn how to help students with emotional, social, academic, and career development and goals. See below for a sample curriculum for a master's in school counseling online program. Specific details vary depending on the school and department.

Curriculum for an Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling

School Counseling Program Planning

This course teaches learners to plan, implement, and evaluate school counseling programs based on current data. The class approaches program planning in the context of current education reform issues and school improvement plans. Students also learn to use the American School Counselor National Model. Future school counselors often find this course particularly helpful.

Developmental Counseling Psychology

In this class, students learn about human behavior over the lifespan. Learners explore behavior using cognitive-structural, biological-maturation, developmental counseling, and social-contextual theories of personality development and learning. They look at issues such as multicultural awareness, behavior change over time, the impact of the family culture and environment on individual growth and development, and developmental challenges. Future developmental psychologists gain necessary skills in this course.

School Counseling Research

This class prepares students to work as school or career counselors. Students learn to use evidence-based models for practicing school counseling. This increasingly popular model requires counselors to evaluate interventions using high-quality research. The course covers statistical analysis, program evaluation, research methods, and needs assessment.

Counseling Adolescents

This class focuses on challenges that adolescents and young adults often face, including eating disorders, relationship conflict, suicide, and substance abuse. Degree candidates learn to develop appropriate intervention techniques. Through this class, students gain the skills to work as school and career counselors.

Group Process and Practice

This course explores group behavior and dynamics. Students learn how to choose, use, and evaluate group counseling materials and methods. They also discover how to create group programs effectively and develop basic group interviewing skills. This class prepares graduates for school and career counseling jobs.

Certifications and Licenses for Master’s in School Counseling Graduates

  • State Certification: Public school systems in most states require school counselors to meet minimum standards and obtain certification. These requirements vary by state, but most require applicants to hold an advanced degree, complete professional experience, and pass a background check. The American School Counselor Association maintains a website outlining state certification requirements for the profession.

  • National Certified School Counselor: The National Board for Certified Counselors offers the NCSC certification for school counselors. The voluntary certification demonstrates a high level of proficiency in school counseling. NCSC-certified counselors meet education, experience, supervision, exam, and ethical requirements. This includes a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Students and recent graduates of online school counseling programs receive access to many opportunities when they join professional school counseling organizations. Many groups offer significant membership discounts to students and early career counselors. Benefits include access to professional development opportunities, industry publications, career centers and job boards, mentorship programs, and networking events. Becoming a member of a school counseling organization also presents an excellent way to keep up with new developments in the profession.

  • American School Counselor Association: ASCA provides professional development opportunities, researches best practices, and advocates for the school counseling profession. The association leads initiatives to improve school counseling practices, develops ethical standards, and participates in policy work supportive of school counseling.

  • Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling: ACAC advocates for the right of all children to access mental health services, regardless of ability to pay. The association offers professional development opportunities, advocates for the counseling profession, and disseminates educational materials.

  • American Counseling Association: The world's largest professional counseling organization, ACA dedicates itself to improving the counseling profession. The association hosts a conference, performs legislative advocacy, provides ethics consultations, and offers professional development opportunities.

  • National Education Association: NEA focuses on advancing public education. The association's three million members work at every level of education, from preschool to university. Members receive access to exclusive news, resources, and information.

  • American College Counseling Association: ACCA represents mental health professionals who work in higher education. To obtain membership, individuals must hold a master's degree. Members gain access to a job board, professional development opportunities, and discounted conference rates.

  • School Counselor Magazine: ASCA publishes this magazine for school counselors, available online and in print. The publication focuses on contemporary issues within the profession.

  • American Counseling Association Code of Ethics: School counselors can consult ACA's Code of Ethics to ensure their professional practice meets ethical standards. The guide includes sections on confidentiality and privacy, the counseling relationship, and working with other professionals.

  • The National Board for Certified Counselors: NBCC provides credentialing services to counselors. The board makes sure that counselors meet educational, experience, and ethical standards. NBCC also works to advance the counseling profession.

  • Council of National School Counseling and College Access Organizations, Resource Database: This database compiles professional resources for school counselors, including reports, webinars, trainings, and other publications.

  • College Board Counselor Resources: School counselors can help their students find information about college and career readiness, achievement for underrepresented minorities, and applying to and paying for college. School counselors can also consult resources on how to advise their students on College Board programs.