Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees

Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees

School counselors usually work in K-12 schools, helping students cope with academic, social, family, and personal difficulties. In addition to developing general counselling skills, school counselors receive special training to work with children and young people.

Most Affordable Online Master's in School Counseling Degrees Badge

While counselors who work with adults may base their practice on a preferred counseling philosophy or methodology, school counselors address specific problems. School counselors often help students with problems related to mood and behavioral issues, substance abuse, cyberbullying, and peer pressure. School counselors need emotional intelligence, a strong sense of ethics and boundaries, and advanced communication skills.

State counseling licensure and counseling jobs typically require at least a master’s degree in counseling. This guide explores school counseling careers and master’s degrees. The following sections outline common job duties, program rankings and curricula, licensure requirements, and financial aid options for counseling students.

Accredited Online College Programs

Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees

The following list ranks some of the most affordable online school counseling programs. Students researching academic options can use this list to efficiently compare programs. Learners should consider factors including program format and concentration options to choose the educational path that best fits their interests, goals, and needs.

  1. Southeastern Oklahoma State University

    Durant, OK



    Part of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, Southeastern hosts students on its six campuses and online. The Durant-based school offers an accelerated, fully online M.Ed. in school counseling. The 42-credit program prepares teachers to work as school counselors and career advisors. Multiple annual start dates facilitate schedule flexibility.

    Learners earning the master's in school counseling online study counseling theories, practices, and ethics. Courses on topics like child and adolescent development, career counseling, and assessments build essential career skills. In addition to coursework, students complete a 100-hour practicum, gaining hands-on experience in the field. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a valid teaching certificate.

    Southeastern is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, which houses the school counseling program, is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  2. The University of Tennessee-Martin

    Martin, TN



    UT Martin serves over 7,300 students annually through diverse on-campus and online programs. Part of the University of Tennessee System, the school offers an MS in education with a major in counseling. Students take most classes online, but they must attend one mandatory, three-day residency. Full-time learners can complete the six-semester program in two years.

    Counseling majors choose a concentration in clinical mental health or school counseling. The 48-credit school counseling track covers topics including multicultural issues, professional ethics, and administration. Students without prior teaching experience must take a course in learning theories and complete 30 hours of classroom observation. Applicants must submit a personal essay, a resume, and letters of recommendation.

    UT Martin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The school counseling program is approved by the Tennessee Department of Education and accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  3. Lamar University

    Beaumont, TX



    Located in Beaumont, Texas, LU offers an M.Ed. in counseling and development with a specialization in professional school counseling. LU is a member of the Texas State University System, which boasts the lowest system-wide tuition in Texas, making this program one of the most affordable online school counseling programs in the state.

    Full-time students typically complete the 60-credit program in 30 months. Multiple start dates, asynchronous course delivery, and pay-by-the-course tuition provide convenience and flexibility. Coursework in counseling, child development, research methods, and professionalism prepares learners to sit for the School Counseling Certification and Licensed Professional Counselor exams in Texas. In addition to coursework, students must complete residency, practicum, and internship requirements.

    Applicants need a teaching certificate and two years of classroom experience. LU's College of Education and Human Development is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  4. Angelo State University

    San Angelo, TX



  5. University of Massachusetts-Boston

    Boston, MA



    At UMass Boston, students can earn a master's in school counseling online that prepares them to sit for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education licensure exams. The 60-credit M.Ed. in counseling offers an optional concentration in adjustment counseling that prepares students for an additional license.

    After completing a required two-week summer residency at the UMass Dartmouth campus, students take the rest of their classes online. The program combines live sessions with asynchronous coursework. Classes in subjects like group and individual therapy, psychopathology, and trauma build students' competencies in counseling theory and practice. Students also develop skills in college counseling, career advising, and aptitude testing. Students culminate the degree with fieldwork at an approved local site.

    Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GRE scores. UMass Boston is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

  6. Fort Hays State University

    Hays, KS



    A public university in Kansas, FHSU enrolls over 15,000 students annually, including around 7,000 online learners. A gold-level military-friendly school, the Hays-based university is a top choice for both military and civilian students who want to earn a master's in school counseling online. FHSU's online MS in school counseling trains students to enter the field as well-rounded counselors with the skills and experience needed to serve diverse student populations.

    This program prepares graduates to seek licensure as school counselors in Kansas. Emphasizing ethical conduct, self-awareness, and critical thinking, the 48-credit curriculum instructs learners in both general counseling practices and issues specific to school settings. Comprehensive exams test students' knowledge before they undertake their practicum and internship. Learners usually complete the program in three years.

    The school's counseling MS program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. FHSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. North Carolina Central University

    Durham, NC



    Part of the North Carolina University System, NCCU is ranked among the nation's top Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Durham-based school's online MA in school counseling prepares graduates to sit for North Carolina licensure exams.

    Focused on graduating data-oriented, culturally aware professionals, FCCU's program is an endorsed member of the International Registry of Counselor Education Programs. The 51-credit program offers classes on topics like multicultural and gender issues, special needs students, and vocational theory. The program includes a practicum and internship in the student's local community. Applicants must submit GRE scores and hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    NCCU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its school counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  8. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus

    Magnolia, AR



    A public university located in Magnolia, SAU offers a 48-credit hybrid M.Ed. in school counseling. Adhering to standards put forth by the American School Counselor Association, the program prepares students to work as licensed school counselors in Arkansas. Taking two classes per semester, students can finish their master's in under three years. Residents of neighboring states and children of alumni may qualify for in-state tuition.

    The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, information literacy, and personal and social responsibility. While students take most of their classes online, a limited number of courses require 2-4 days of on-campus attendance per semester. In addition to a practicum and internship, learners participate in a weeklong on-campus summer learning intensive focused on in-person instruction and networking opportunities.

    SAU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its College of Education is accredited by Council for the Accreditation of Educational Providers.

  9. University of West Alabama

    Livingston, AL



    Founded in 1835, UWA offers one of the lowest tuition rates in Alabama. Its affordable online school counseling program prepares graduates to sit for certification exams in Alabama. The M.Ed. in school counseling includes one five-day residency on the school's Livingston campus.

    Accredited by the Alabama State Department of Education and the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the program begins with nine credits of foundational courses on human development, research techniques, and educational statistics. Students then explore topics including crisis intervention, diagnostic techniques, and vocational counseling.

    Students enjoy access to online mentorship that helps them navigate the program and develop professional connections. Current teachers enrolled in the online school counseling program may qualify for UWA's Teacher Connect scholarship program. UWA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission.

  10. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

    Jonesboro, AR



    A public university located in Jonesboro, A-State serves over 14,000 students annually, with more than 5,000 earning their degrees online. Adhering to standards put forth by the Arkansas Department of Education, the online MSE in school counseling trains students for careers as school counselors. Learners can complete the accelerated 48-credit program in 16-18 months. Multiple start dates enhance the online school counseling program's flexibility.

    A-State's school counseling curriculum emphasizes ethical, research-driven practice in a multicultural context. Online learners enjoy access to academic advising, career counseling, library resources, and tech support. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA, but they do not need teaching experience. All online students pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency.

    A-State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The College of Education and Behavioral Science, which houses the school counseling program, is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  • Our Methodology, Explained

    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 30%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%

    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question Answer
What is school counseling? School counselors provide students with emotional and academic support, career and personal guidance, and various types of education.
How long does it take to earn a master’s in school counseling? Traditional counseling master’s programs take about 21-24 months to finish, but learners who choose accelerated programs may graduate more quickly.
Can I earn a master’s degree in school counseling online? Yes, many schools now offer master’s degrees entirely online. Additionally, some institutions offer mostly online programs that require at least one brief campus residency.
Do you need a master’s degree to work in school counseling? Yes, school counselors typically need a master’s degree in school counseling or a closely related field. State boards may stipulate specific coursework requirements.

What Do School Counselors Do?

School counselors provide therapeutic support to students. These professionals keep records of counseling sessions, research relevant issues and treatments, and provide information and resource referrals to students’ families and teachers. School counselors may also coach students in social and academic skills, provide career counseling, and conduct evaluations related to psychological issues and learning disabilities. On occasion, school counselors may resolve peer conflicts and report crises such as parental abuse.

School counselors meet periodically with social workers, faculty, and school administrators to clarify student issues and report progress. Experienced school psychologists, including doctorate-holders, may help design school-wide programs to improve student wellbeing and learning. Experienced school counselors may also train teachers and counseling staff.

Responsibilities and methods vary based on employment context. For example, elementary school counselors use therapeutic techniques designed specifically for children and may communicate frequently with students’ families. School counselors at public high schools often provide career counseling, while private schools often hire a dedicated career counselor.

School counselors should demonstrate commitment, personal resilience, and kindness. These counseling professionals must be able to connect with young people and navigate privacy issues and tense situations between families, schools, and students.

Career and Salary Outlook for School Counselors

As student enrollment grows, schools hire more school and career counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% increase in school and career counselor positions during the 2019-2029 period, more than double the average for all occupations.

According to the BLS, school and career counselors earned a median annual salary at $57,040 in 2019. However, school counselor salaries vary considerably based on education, experience, and employer. Doctorate-holders may become clinical, counseling, and school psychologists who earn an average annual salary of $87,450.

Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
$34,380 $57,040 $96,090

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Master’s Degrees in School Counseling

Accreditation is a voluntary quality-verification process that helps students safeguard their educational investments. Accredited schools meet the standards set by third-party accrediting agencies, which must hold approval from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Only students at accredited institutions can receive federal financial aid.

Each of the six regional accrediting organizations evaluates schools within a particular U.S. region. Because regional accreditation requires higher academic standards than national accreditation, learners cannot typically transfer degrees or credits from nationally accredited schools to regionally accredited institutions. Therefore, aspiring Ph.D. students should attend a master’s program at a regionally accredited school.

Counseling programs usually hold programmatic accreditation from the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council or the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Students comparing counseling programs can use programmatic accreditation status as an indicator of academic quality.

Licensing for School Counselors

School counselors must hold licensure from their state’s school counseling board. Most states require candidates for licensure to have a clean record, a counseling-related master’s degree from an accredited school, and at least two years of supervised experience. Candidates may also need to pass a licensure examination or obtain a teaching license.

Required coursework and testing spans foundational topics including human growth and development, counseling theory, individual and group counseling, and testing and appraisal. Many states require candidates for licensure to have a 3.25 minimum GPA.

School counselors in Arizona need at least a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. Arizona also requires candidates for school counseling licensure to have completed either a supervised counseling practicum through an accredited school, two years of full-time school counseling experience, or three years of teaching experience.

State requirements vary, so prospective counselors should understand the licensure requirements for their state. The American School Counselor Association provides a detailed list of licensure requirements by state. Many states maintain reciprocity agreements that allow school counselors to transfer their license between states.

Courses in a Master’s in School Counseling

School counseling programs typically include core coursework and classes in specialized counseling theory. Core courses often cover general counseling theory, ethics, and practice. Learners in the field typically study educational assessment, human development, and child and adolescent counseling.

Master’s students generally complete a supervised practicum or internship experience to fulfill requirements for state licensure. During experiential components, students develop key clinical skills including active listening, assessment, and rapport building. Most graduate-level counseling programs also require a thesis or project, during which students build skills in research, analysis, writing, and presenting.

School counseling is often a concentration within general counseling programs, but some school counseling programs offer specialization options in subfields, such as special education and career counseling. Course requirements vary based on program and specialization. However, the following courses are common to many on-campus and online school counseling programs.

  • Counseling Children and Adolescents

    This foundational course explores counseling theories, strategies, and tools specific to young people’s needs. Students learn techniques related to child and adolescent behavior assessment and counseling interventions. Coursework often incorporates cognitive, behavioral, social, and developmental perspectives and approaches. This class emphasizes ethical and legal concerns related to counseling minors.

  • Counseling Ethics

    Learners in this class study the American Mental Health Counseling Association’s code of ethics. Students explore ethical principles including commitment, respect, confidentiality, and clear boundaries. This crucial course prepares counseling students to face ethical issues that can arise in the field.

  • Diversity in Counseling

    This course focuses on interventions and approaches used to counsel minority clients. Coursework discusses diversity in regard to race and culture, gender and sexuality, social class, and physical ability. Students practice techniques for respecting and counseling individuals from various backgrounds.

  • Counseling Clients in Crisis

    This course surveys theories, interventions, and skills that can help clients cope with addiction, sexual assault, abuse, or accidents. The curriculum highlights the counselor’s role in providing support and connecting clients to emergency services and resources, including hotlines and child protection agencies.

  • Addiction and Substance Abuse

    This essential course reviews theories and methods for defining, assessing, and treating common behavioral issues, substance addictions, and comorbid conditions. Students learn to identify addiction and destructive patterns in young people and to offer appropriate treatments and recovery resources. The curriculum explores approaches involving medications, 12-step programs, and treatment centers.

Financial Aid

Graduate student financial aid often comes in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and fellowships. Students should begin by completing the FAFSA form to determine whether they qualify for federal grants and loans. Private and institutional scholarships may also require students to demonstrate financial need through their FAFSA. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships do not require repayment.

Graduate students may qualify for fellowships, which typically provide tuition remission and a stipend in exchange for fulfilling university teaching or research duties. Master’s students can also apply for graduate-level psychology and counseling scholarships, such as those listed below. Organizations typically award fellowships and scholarships based on academic merit. However, some scholarships are reserved for students who demonstrate financial need or belong to an underrepresented group.

Students earning their master’s in school counseling online often reduce the financial burden of graduate school by working full time while earning their degree. Online learning can also eliminate costs associated with relocating or commuting, and distance learners may qualify for reduced tuition rates.

Scholarships for School Counseling

Scholarships are ideal funding options since they do not require repayment. Organizations may select scholarship recipients based on financial need, merit, or background. Many scholarships are reserved for students in a specific field or level of study. Below are several scholarships available to learners pursuing a master’s in school counseling online.

Beinecke Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: This award supports college juniors who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need. Applicants must plan to attend graduate school and must receive a nomination from their undergraduate institution. Candidates must be studying a field in the social sciences, arts, or humanities. The funds are disbursed over the course of the recipient’s graduate studies.
Amount: $34,000

Ruth G. and Joseph D. Matarazzo Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Psychological Association offers this scholarship to graduate students. Candidates must receive a nomination from a psychology department belonging to the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology.
Amount: $3,000

Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Financial Need Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants for this award must be full-time graduate students who have completed significant community service. Candidates need a minimum 2.5 GPA and must submit a resume, three recommendation letters, a financial needs analysis, and a two-page description of a research project or scholarly pursuit.
Amount: Varies

Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Merit Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award supports full-time graduate students who demonstrate community involvement. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and must attend an accredited school. Required application materials include letters of recommendation, a description of a scholarly pursuit, and a resume.
Amount: Varies

Ohio School Counselor Association Graduate Student Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The association awards two graduate scholarships to OSCA members enrolled in school counselor master’s programs in Ohio. Candidates may not be in their first six hours of graduate study or in their final semester. Applicants must submit a one-page essay, a letter of support, and official transcripts.
Amount: $1,000

Our Picks for the Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Degrees

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